The Pashtun issue in the so called Balochistan province

The Chief Commissioner’s Province of British Balochistan was a misnomer. An overwhelming majority of the population was Pashtun and the territories that comprised the province had been largely annexed from Afghanistan in the aftermath of the Second Anglo Afghan War (1878-1880). In the vein of territories annexed by the British empire in other parts of the world, a more apt name for the province would have been British Pashtunistan/ British Afghanistan.

The area which comprised British Balochistan conforms to the present districts of Quetta, Pishin, Killa Abdullah Khan, Ziarat, Killa Saifullah, Zhob, Sherani, Musakhel, Loralai, Sibi, Harnai, Nushki, Chagai, Kohlu, Barkhan, Dera Bugti, Nasirabad, Jaffarabad and parts of the current Bolan district.

The British had occupied Quetta in 1876. The areas of Sibi and Pishin were taken over by the British from Afghanistan as Assigned Districts as a result of the Treaty of Gandamak May 26, 1879. It is to be remembered that Sibi included Sibi tehsil, Harnai, Shahrag, Khost, Ziarat, Thal-Chotiali, Duki and Barkhan. The relevant section of the treaty is as follows:

In consideration of the renewal of a friendly alliance between the two States which has been attested and secured by the foregoing Articles, the British Government restores to his Highness the Amir of Afghanistan and its dependencies the towns of Kandahar and Jelalabad with all the territory now in possession of the British armies, excepting the districts of Kurram, Pishin and Sibi. His Highness the Amir of Afghanistan and its dependencies agrees on his part that the districts of Kurram and Pishin and Sibi, according to the limits defined in the schedule annexed, shall remain under the protection and administrative control of the British Government: that is to say, the aforesaid districts shall be treated as assigned districts, and shall not be considered as permanently severed from the limits of the Afghan kingdom. The revenues of these districts, after deducting the charges of civil administration, shall be paid to His Highness the Amir.

On November 1, 1887 the areas under British control were designated as the Chief Commissioner’s province of British Balochistan. Loralai (including Sinjavi and Musakhel) was added to the province in 1886. Zhob (then Appozai renamed Fort Sandeman) was incorporated in 1890. All of this formerly Afghan territory, renamed as the Chief Commissioner’s Province and Administered Agencies of British Balochistan, were ruled by the Agent to the Governor General (Chief Commissioner) at Quetta.

Some Baloch areas also became part of this entity. These are the Marri-Bugti tribal area, Bolan Pass tract (1883), Chagai and West Sinjrani (1896), Nushki (leased from Kalat in 1899) and Nasirabad (leased from Kalat in 1903).

Thus although occupied by the British government, the Brahui-Baloch land (Kalat State) and Pashtun (Afghan) lands were ruled altogether as separate political and constitutional units, the Agent to the Governor General as the resident in Kalat State and as Chief Commissioner for predominantly Pashtun (Afghan) Chief Commissioners Province, with the Khan of Kalat working as the ruler of Kalat while Shahi Jirga led by Pashtun Nawab (Jogezai) functioning as a legislative, judicial and executive house for the Chief Commissioner’s Province.

It is also interesting to note that British Balochistan became a Chief Commissioner’s Province much before NWFP which gained this status in 1901 when it was separated from Punjab. While NWFP was made a Governor’s province in 1932, the same reform was not enacted in British Balochistan.

Point 10 of Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s famous 14 1 points of 1929 states: Reforms should be introduced in the NWFP and Balochistan on the same footings as in the other provinces. It should be noted that Balochistan here refers to the Chief Commissioner’s Province of British Balochistan, which had an overwhelming Pashtun majority population. Since Kalat was a princely state and not a province, Jinnah’s reforms were exclusively aimed at the Pashtun majority part of the current province.

The status of British Balochistan remained intact even after the creation of Pakistan in 1947. Like other provinces of Pakistan, it ceased to exist with the enactment of the One Unit Scheme in 1955 when all of West Pakistan was consolidated into a single province with its capital at Lahore. The area of the Chief Commissioner’s Province of Balochistan was declared as Quetta Division while the Balochistan States Union was declared as Kalat Divison. It is interesting to note that the first Chief Minister of West Pakistan, Dr Khan Sahib, contested and won his seat from Quetta Division (formerly British Balochistan). Adult franchise had not been extended to Quetta Division and he was elected by the Shahi Jirga (council) of selected elders.

The National Awami Party (NAP) stood for the creation of linguistic and cultural provinces as part of its party manifesto. While the other provinces were restored after the dissolution of One Unit in 1970, the incorrectly named Pashtun-majority Chief Commissioner’s Province of British Balochistan (Quetta Division) was neither amalgamated with the contiguous Pashtun province of NWFP according to the NAP manifesto nor was it upgraded to a full Governor’s province like NWFP in 1932. Instead, it was merged with the Kalat States Union (composed of the states of Kalat, Kharan and Las Bela which had a Baloch/Brahui population) to form the current province of Balochistan. This combined Pashtun-Baloch province has since then been a bone of contention between the two brotherly communities which had historically been allies. This is the crux of the disagreement which led to the parting of ways between Samad Khan Achakzai and his longtime Pashtun and Baloch colleagues.