The cohesive bases of the Baloch Nationalism

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

Continued from previous….

Describing Mir Dost Mohammad Khan’s military ability, in 1958 Mohammad Sardar Khan wrote, “He was balochistan-mapable to muster up 10,000 fighting men equipped with martini Peabody rifles.” According to Sardar Khan Baloch, Bampur in his time was well guarded and well administrated as a free strong hold of the Baloch, it served as an asylum for all insurgents who absconded from Kalat state. Hossein Makki, a Persian historian, however, numbers Mir Dost Mohammad Khan’s regular army to 5000 men. The revenues from produce, which was 1/10, and the Khani-Arziat (crown land) were the main sources of income to treasury of the Hakomat. The custom posts of Chabahar, Gwatr and the other part of Balochistan constituted another imported source of the state treasury. On demand each tribe had an obligation to provide Lankbandi (troops). Of course, those tribes who provided Lankbandi were exempted for paying taxes.

Having defeated the revolutionary movements in Azerbaijan (1920), and Gilan (1921), in northern Iran, Reza Khan formulized his doctorial rule to become the Shah of Iran. Supported by the British, he overthrew Ahmad Shah, the last king of Qajar dynasty in 1925. On December 12, 1925, he proclaimed himself as Raza Shah Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. Raza Khan was shrewd politician; any force that stood in his way was mercilessly attacked and, so for as possible, destroyed. With Ahmad Shah thus deposed and dictatorial powers handed to Raza Khan, he adopted a policy to crush sub-nationalism in Iran. In 1925, he annexed the British-protected Arab principality of Khuzistan or Arabistan, as it used to be called, which was ruled than by an Arab ruler, Shaikh Khazal. The Baloch Sardar, and especially Mir Dost Mohammad Khan, were informed that they would no longer be treated as independent rulers and that they were to surrender to Iran’s rule.

Consequently, a Perso- Baloch war, led by Mir Dost Mohammad Khan started. In early 1928, Iranian troops invaded Balochistan with artillery and aero planes. Various hotly contested battles were fought between the two sides for seven months. Describing the intensity of resistance, and the bravery of the Baloch forces in the battle with Iranian army in 1928, the commander of the Iranian armed forces, General Amanullah Jahanbani stated, “in my opinion the reason for such [Balochs’] historical legends,….” While acknowledging that none of the defenders surrendered, he said that they had to be eliminated one by one in order to secure the fort of Dezzak.

What feelings did stimulate such a sacrifice in the Baloch? The most likely explanation for this lies in the Baloch desire to preserve their independence and to resist political control by the none-Baloch. It may also be of some interest to note that to undermine the resistance morale of the Baloch, Iranian planes dropped leaflets over Bampur, Pahrah, and Dezzak, the major cities of western Balochistan, printed in Persian and English. These leaflets told the Baloch that the Iranian and English. These leaflets told the Baloch that the Iranian forces would soon liberate them from the tyranny of the sardars and that after their liberation the Baloch could decide their own destiny.

Being defeated in Dezzak and Bampur, Mir Dost Mohammad resorted to guerrilla tactics against the Iranians. In spite of numerical superiority and the sophistication of their armament, the Persian did not succeed in subjugating the Baloch. Seeing no other way, Raza Shah reverted to the traditional treachery of Persian Monarch and sent a word to Mir Dost Mohammad expressing the desire to reach a peaceful settlement with the Baloch. Raza Shah sent a delegate carrying the Muslim holy writ, the Koran, to Mir Dost Mohammad, along a letter in which the Shah gave a solemn committed that he wanted to negotiate with Mir Dost Mohammad in Tehran. He promised that Mir Dost Mohammad would remain ruler. The letter said Balochistan would be allied with Iran only in the conduct of external affairs. The Shah, the letter promised, was keen to have a settlement on the same lines arrived at between the British government and the Khan of Kalat.

Taking Raza Shah’s assurances for granted Mir Dost Mohammad not only stopped the hostilities, but also set out for Tehran along with some of his trusted colleagues. But soon after his arrival in Tehran he was arrested and put in jail. A region of terror was let loose, killing and maiming hundreds of people in Balochistan. To continue the freedom movement of his country, Mir Dost Mohammad managed his escape, but returning to Balochistan was arrested and executed in 1931 by the Iranian government. According to India office Records, before his defeat, Mir Dost Mohammad sent a delegation headed by Abdul Karim and Arz Mohammad Bozorgzadeh from Dezak, to British Balochistan’s capital Quetta, to meet the agent to the Governor General for help against the Persian, but with no success.

His first hope was king Amanullah of Afghanistan. It said that Amanullah wanted to help the Baloch, because of having common religious faith and common anti-Persian feeling. It may also be of some interest to note that a pro-Dost Mohammad Khan lobby in Kabul including Amanullah Khan himself were propagating that the Baranzais of Balochistan, were ethnically the same as the Barakzais of Afghanistan, a Pashtun tribe to which Amanullah and other members of the royal family belonged. Perhaps the reason then was to justify the Afghan claim over the Baloch country. But in 192, the king himself was struggling for his own survival and was not in a position to support Mir Dost Mohammad.

Criticizing to king Amanullah Khan’s foreign policy, Syed Mehdi Farrokh, a pro-Iranian writer, pointed out; Amanullah wanted to create some excitations in Iranian Balochistan. Meanwhile, the Persian army arrested one of Mir Dost Mohammad Khan’s messengers, leaving toward Afghanistan; According to Persian source he was carrying a letter from Dost Mohammad Khan to the ruler of Afghanistan. In this letter Iran was mentioned as a mentioned as the neighboring country, which has attacked Balochistan. He was requesting help from his Afghan brethren. Similarly, in 1928, the Khanate of Kalat was experiencing its worst political crises. Under the direct control of the British administration, the rule of the Khan of Kalat, Mir Mohammad Khan’s repeated requests to the Khan of Kalat for ‘come and help us’, according to the nationalist writer Sardar Khan Baluch, were answered “immediately and mercilessly” by a decided no.

On the Soviet Union side, Dost Mohammad Khan was not too optimistic; firstly, because of Reza Khan’s democratic and anti-British gestures, and secondly, because of geographical distance. In the same way he was not expecting any help from the British. The British having their own vested interest, had already sided with Persians, and, as mentioned earlier, they openly rejected his request for help. Without hope of outside help, Mir Dost Mohammad Khan resorted to a new tactic. He tried to attract the attention of the followers of the exiled Shah, Ahmad Shah Qajar. He stated that Ahmad Shah was legitimate King of Iran, and that he would support the Qajar King. On the 9th of June 1928, a report by the British consul at Kerman stated that “Ahmad Shah will shortly land in Balochistan and join Dost Mohammad “, and added, “Ahmad Shah has left Paris for Beirut”. There were also rumors that the Russians were following the events with curiosity. However, nothing is known about the reaction of Ahmad Shah Qajar.

In 1810, as mentioned earlier, Henry Pottinger noted a profound hatred between the Persians and the Baloch in his discussion with Mehrab Khan of Bampur , in Western Balochistan. Expressing such revived old hatreds, on 25th January 1927, about one century later, Sir J. Ramsay, the AGG in Balochistan wrote:

The tracts named are Persian in International law, because the boundary pillars that they are so; but there is not a vestige of Persian authority existing, nor has Persia any means of asserting her theoretical claims to sovereignty over an area in which Persian are aliens and in which they detest and are detest by people…….. not only has the country under discussion slipped out of Persian grasp;  it has been so hostile to Persia that its inhabitants have taken Persian forts and lands and have laid waste districts further west which still own allegiance to Persia, while they have carried off number of Persian subjects into slavery.

Mir Dost Mohammad Khan’s rebellion in the late 1920s was prototype of post-World War nationalist movements. In Harrison’s view, it was a turning point in the history of the Baloch in that nationalism was prime factor. Dost Mohammad Khan based the legitimacy of his rule on ethnic criteria such as Sunni Islam and his tribe alliance. The town folks and Baloch Ulama (clergy) supported him. The fear of Shiism prompted the maulavis to issue a religious fatva, declaring the Persian armed forces “infidel” in order to mobilise popular support for Dost Mohammad Khan against Reza Shah in 1928. His weaknesses, however, were the usual ones: inter-tribal rivalry. The Rikis, the Naruis, the Kurds, and many other tribes made a separate peace with Tehran to guarantee their relative strength vis-à-vis the newly created urban power center of Baranzais. Even in Makkoran, the power base of Mir Dost Mohammad Khan, several tribes would fought the hardest against the Iranian, were willing to make a deal. Another reason for tibal reticence in Sarhadd to be involved in a rebellion was the chieftains’ reluctance to jeopardize the relationships they had cultivated after the British departure from the region and the transfer of the Sarhadd administration to Iranian in 1924. Bampur fell against the overwhelming power of the Iranian army, but it had been weaken the tribal desertion to the other side before the army took a single town.

With Mir Dost Mohammad Khan’s fall, the Iranians succeeded, for the most part, in pacifying the Baloch tribes, occasional revolts, however, continued in Iranian Balochistan throughout the reminder of Reza Shah’s region. Major examples were the revolt of Juma Khan Ismailzai and Jiand Khan Yar-Ahmadzai in Sarhadd in 1931. Being unable to stand against the superior Persian power, Jumma Khan with his forces took refuge to British Balochistan, but was soon extradited to Iran; there he was exiled for life to central Persia, Shiraz. The other rebellious chief, the ninety years old Jian Khan, was arrested and died in a jail in Mash-had northern Iran. The next rebellion was the rebellion of a number of tribes led by Mehrab Khan Nausherwani in Kuhak in 1938, demanding reduction of customs duty on livestock, in which more than 200 Baloch were executed under orders from Persian General Alborz.

To be continued……

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Posted on June 21, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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