The cohesive bases of the Baloch Nationalism

The subject has been taken from book of Taj Mohammad Breseeg “Baloch Nationalism, its origin and development”.

 Resistance in Western Balochistan:

In 1896, the assassination of the Qajar king Nasir-al-Din Shah prompted the Baloch chiefs to take the balochistan-mapopportunity for re-establishing their rule in western Balochistan. In 1897, the Baloch rose again in Sarhadd, Saravan and Bampur under the leadership of the chief of the Narui tribe, Sardar Huossein Khan. In 1897, Hossein Khan attacked Pahra (Iran shahr) and led a general rebellion against Persian rule in the Sarhadd, Saravan, and Bampur, demanding a reduction of taxes, from one third to one tenth, and autonomy. The revolt spread to Sarbaz, Dezzak, Lashar, and Bamposht. Hossein Khan occupied Bampur, Pahra, and Bazman and other places, which had small Persian garrisons, and controlled most of the northern part of Balochistan. Several Baloch groups, which had hitherto remained neutral in troubles between ruling families and the Gajars (as the Baloch called Persians), joined him.

In 1897, the Baloch defeated a large Persian force that was sent from Kerman to restore order. The uprising lasted for nearly two years but eventually Hossein Khan was defeated in 1898. However, according to Pikulin, a Soviet scholar who studied Western Balochistan, the revolt continued and spread and was only crushed when Hossein Khan was bought off by being made ruler of a Boluk (district), with the right to collect taxes. The widespread revolt in Western Balochistan, according to Pikulin was due to heavy taxation and the “tyranny and oppression” of the Qajar governors as the cause of rebellion.

The Baloch kept up their struggle during the reign of the Qajar dynasty, which ended ignominiously in 1921, in the process the Baloch lost effective control of most of their land. In spite of all this bloodshed and atrocities against the Baloch, the wishful designs of the Persian Government to annihilate them did not materialize. The Baloch with their usual tenacity and resolute determination maintained their political influence and semi-independent position, in spite of these military moves, Hosseinbor, the Baloch nationalist writer, wrote, “the Qajar rule in the country was more nominal than real and was directly limited to Bampur, then the capital of Balochistan. The rest of the country remained independent or semi-independent to be disturbed only by periodical military expedition sent for levy taxes.”

 Even though, the revolt of 1896-1898 was crushed, it weekend and effectively minimized the rule of Qajar in Balochistan. Hossein Khan, the leader of the revolt, as mentioned above was defeated in 1898, and died in the same year. But his son Syed Khan succeeded to retain the control of the forts of Geh, Bent, Kaserkand and the ports. At the same time he was recognized by the Persians as the ruler of Geh, with the right to collect taxes. Meanwhile, he decided to expand, and took Sarbaz. Next, he joined with Mir Bahram Khan Baranzai, who ruled Dezzak. However, as the Iranian constitutional of 1906 weakened the central government, the Baloch began to expand their raiding activates.

Having consolidated his power in Dezzak andSarbaz, Mir Bahram Khan turned his attention in 1907, against the Persian. In the same year he recaptured the plains of Pahrah and Bampur. By 1910, he controlled as for as the seaports of Gwatr and Chabahar. Being defeated and lost the fort of Bampure, the Persian used a new tact. They bought off Sardar Syed Khan, by giving him the governorship of Balochistan. Syed Khan was officially given the title of “Sardar-e-Nizam”, and the right and duty to collect taxes from the whole of Balochistan with in Persia. In return, Sayad Khan acknowledged the Persian claims over the region. Thus, Sayad Khan betrayed his ally Mir Bahram Khan, and sided with the Persian. But in spite of all, the Persian never succeeded. The real power in Iranian Balochistan remained with Mir Bahram Khan. In 1910, another Qajar force sent by Sardar Nosrat Isfanduyari, the commander of Kerman Garrison, attempted to regain control of Bampur, but Bahram Khan too defeated them.

However, after 1910, when the Baranzais established their authority in the area, the British influence beyond Makkoran became a source of constant worry in Iranian Baloc-histan. In his speech for allies Bahram Khan maintained close links with foreign government especially with the Germans. Being a devout Sunni-Muslim, he tried also to win the moral support of the Ottomans and Afghans. In the late 1914, Bahram Khan was a powerful position, possessing almost 10,000 rifles. In addition, he was believed to have purchased a considerable number of firearms in Muscat through a weapon smuggler, Mir Kamal Chahani. Armed with his weapons and his grievances, Bahram Khan launched an uprising against the British government. In 1915, he defeated troops under the command of British agent and occupied the whole Kech valley in Makkoran.

During this raid his lashkar number 5000 to 8000 men. Furthermore he was supported by tribal Sardars, Mohammad Shah ruler of Sib and Suran, Shah Sawar Damani from Sarhadd, Sardar Din Mohammad from Dashtiari, Shah Jehan of Magas, Jalal Khan of Hoshagwala, and many others. Moreover, the German activities during the First World War in the region also encouraged him. During the War, the Garman and Ottoman Turks attempted to enter into relations with him with the aim of supporting the Baloch against British.

Impressed by Sayad Jamal al-Din Afghani’s pan-Islamism and supported by Bahram Khan and Barkat Khan of Jask, Khalifa Khair Mohammad, on May 1915, proclaimed Jihad (holy war) against the British. Khalifa from Karawan was Naqshbani sufi. He used his spiritual authority to command the allegiance of his followers, some of whom like Bahram Khan and Barkat Khan were tribal chieftains. Furthermore, Khalifa’s  Fatva was supported by many mollas of Sarhadd and by the chief Qazi (judge) of Dashtiari, Qazi Sayad Ali. Many religious people or mureeds (followers) mostly from Karawan, Bint, Jask and Geyavan, accepted Khalifa’s invitation. Mir Yar Mohammad, the nephew of Barkat Khan of Jask, commanded mureeds. On the 3rd of May 1915, the mureeds attack the British garrison in the fort of Chabahar. After one day’s fighting the mureeds were repulsed with heavy losses. Meanwhile, they cut the telegraph line between Chabahar and Jask. However, the pro-British Sardars, Sardar Sayad Khan of Geh (Sardar-e-Nizam), Nawab Khan Bamari, and Islam Khan Mir Hajee of Bent, were opposed to Khalifa’s call for Jihad (holy war).

Meanwhile Khalifa and his moreeds (disciples) were busy propagating anti-British feelings throughout western Balochistan, Bahram Khan by attacking Kech and attacking in British forces, created a real threat against the British interest in the region. Supporting Bahram Khan’s action, Khalifa declared it as a Jihad against the infidels (the British). The British anxiety was unavoidable. On the 6th of October 1915. Ramsay, AGG in Balochistan to the government of India in the foreign and Political Department, Simla wrote:

And what will Muhammadan opinion say when it is known that the British are retreating before Muhammadans, who are well-known (as they will say) to have German support behind them? Why demonstration that Germans are speaking the truth when they say the British power it perceiving its death-blows in Europe?

Anti-British Baloch chiefs of Kech also supported Mir Bahram Khan. Mehrab Khan Nausherwani of Kuhak and Mehrab Khan Gechki were in close alliance with him. “The common talk is” said Mehrab Khan Gechki to the British authorities, “If Government does not protest us, why should we pay revenue? The power has been taken from our national leaders and, if we must pay, why should we not pay to the stronger party (Bahram Khan), who are Mohammmadans, and obtain their protection?” In western Balochistan, anti-British agitation continued. On 26th of October, Khalifa ordered his followers to cut the Sadeich telegraph line, the most important communication line between Makkoran and Karahi.

To stop Bahram Khan’s further advancement, the pro-British Sardars, Syed Khan Geh, Islam Khan Mir Hajee Mahmud Khan of Dashtiari, Mir Hoti khan of Lashar, Nawab Khan Bamari, Rustam Khan of Champ, Sahib Khan Dehwari and Lalla Khan Bozorgzada were given arms and ammunition to raid inside his territory. The British called these Sardars “Friendly Chiefs”. Not only was Bahram Khan’s advance toward Gwadar and Pasni forts stopped, but by the intrigue of these Sardars, he was compelled to leave Kech and return to Bampur. On December 1915, Bahram Khan made another attempt to capture the border villages, Goumazi, Mand and Tomp, but this time also, retreated with heavy losses, and his brother, Mir Ameen, was killed.  Subsequently, after the retreat of Bahram Khan, Bhalifa came under pressure and gradually his Jihad movement also eased.

To counter Russian, German, and Ottoman designs, the British had to dispatch a mission of their own, headed by Colonel Dew of the political department, to enter into a political arrangement for the peaceful settlement of dispute with Mir Bahram Khan. Dew offered a peace treaty, which was accepted by Mir Bahram Khan. The treaty, which was signed on May 7, 1916, provided for recognition of Baranzai authority in western Balochistan. In justifying Balochistan this agreement, Sir Percy Sykes stated that “in view of the fact that Persian Baluchistan had broken its connection with Persia for many years, and that Bahram Khan, an upstart adventurer had recently led a raid across the British border, Dew deserved much credit”.

Moreover, the agreement also served an additional purpose and that was to distract and neutralize Bahram Khan while the British launched a simultaneous pacification campaign against the tribes of Sardars, which formed, at least nominally, part of his domain. In 1916, the Gamshadzai, Yarahmadzai and Ismalizai tribes of Sarhadd put up the most effective resistance against the British occupation in Sarhadd. One of their leaders Sardar Khalil Khan Gamshadzai was killed in the fighting, while Sardar Jiand Khan was arrested. When the latter was being brought to Quetta a Baloch detachment waylaid the government continued for nearly two years. However, in March 1924 the control of the tribes of the Sarhadd district (which was occupied by General Dyer in 1915-16), was formally surrendered by the British to the Persian government. Meanwhile, the tribes of Sarhadd, the Rikis (Rigis) and the Damanis protested against this British action and demanded to remain as a part of Western Balochistan ruled by Bampur.

Mir Bahram Khan died in Bampur in 1921. Having no son, he was succeeded by his nephew, Mir Dost Mohammad Khan, who was born in the late 19th century in Bampur. Mir Dost Mohammad Khan declared himself “Shah-e-Balochistan. He had become the most powerful ruler in Persian Balochitan, by virtue of personal control over both Pahra-Bampur and Sarawan and by marriage alliances with the rulers of the major principalities of Makkoran. Mir Dost Mohammad Khan extended their frontiers of the confederacy and entered into military alliances with the Baloch tribes of Sarhadd and Sistan, and ruled independently until 1928.

Dost Mohammad Khan successfully pursued the vigorous policies of his predecessor in consolidating the entire Western Balochistan under his rule. In this respect, he launched a centralization campaign, which curbs the immense powers traditionally enjoyed by the hereditary Sardars of various principalities. As stated by the Baloch nationalist writer, Janmahmad, “Mir Dost Muhammad, the ruler of Bampur, did not recognize the boundaries drawn by the Anglo-Persian commission between Persia and Balochistan in 1905, and resisted Iranian hegemony in the country. He declared independence and established close relations with other Baloch rulers in eastern Balochistan, particularly Kalat”. He also tried to establish links with Sultan of Muscat, King Amanullah Khan of Afghanistan and the Soviet Union.

Mir Dost Mohammad Khan established a modern army with regular dail trainings and special uniform. A deserted officer of the Brithish Levies at Khwash, Jamal-Ud-DinSomailzia was appointed as the head of this army.

Simultaneously, a semi-police force called “Kotowal” responsible for the security and revenue collection was also established in all most all the provinces. Moreover, a heavily armed security guard, headed by Hayatan Khan Rind, was keeping guard on the fort of Pahrah, the headquarters of the Khan. His position was so strong that he no longer was merely appointing tribal leaders, but actually naming governors for the area under his control. He appointed one, Mirza Hashom, as his Wazir. It is interesting to note that, according to the India Office Records, to translate the English language newspapers and reports from India, the daughter of Ha Hindu trader from Simla, was recruited as his personal translator.


Posted on May 15, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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