On the so-called ‘Kalat Independence Day’ on Aug 11, Mir Suleman Dawood, grandson of the last ruler of Kalat, announced the creation of a council of Baloch separatist elements in Pakistan and Iran who will press for the formation of an ‘independent Balochistan’.
Mr Dawood’s demand for an ‘independent’ Baloch state clearly cannot be countenanced; tomorrow marks the 62nd anniversary of Pakistan’s creation and there simply isn’t any room for debate about altering the physical boundaries of the country today. Pakistan’s problems — and, yes, there are many — can only realistically and viably be solved within the framework of Pakistan. Yet, while Mr Dawood’s demand must necessarily be dismissed, it points to ongoing problems in Balochistan that show no sign of abating, and this 18 months after national elections to usher in a new, democratic government in the country.
Mr Dawood’s personal grievances date back to March 1948, when his grandfather, Ahmad Yar Khan, negotiated an agreement with Mohammad Ali Jinnah that brought the State of Kalat, located in the centre and southwest of present-day Balochistan, into the fold of Pakistan. According to the then ruler of Kalat, the agreement had been to accept the state’s unique status and to incorporate it into Pakistan as an independent and autonomous unit along the lines of countries that are part of the European Union today. But this has never been proved and is rejected by Pakistan.
Resultantly, a sense of having suffered a great injustice has continued over the decades, even as the Khan of Kalat’s family receded into relative obscurity. A return to prominence was effected in the wake of Nawab Akbar Bugti’s killing in August 2006 as Mr Dawood convened a grand jirga — the first in approximately 100 years — that brought together virtually all of Balochistan’s tribal leaders.
Even so, what was decided there has been diluted somewhat by the fact that some of the most prominent tribal leaders are today part of the federal and Balochistan provincial governments. But Mr Dawood has continued his dissent against the constitutional status of Balochistan, leading up to the commemoration for the first time of Kalat’s independence on Aug 11 — the day in 1947 that the British allegedly accepted the independence of the State of Kalat.
Whatever the history, the fact is that Balochistan has continued to suffer from the relative neglect of the country’s new leaders. Change has been promised, but in fact the trust deficit between the nationalists and the state has widened. That must change. Whatever the challenges in the rest of the country, the legitimate grievances of the people of Balochistan must be addressed.