Monday, June 29, 2015

Daily Times Editorial June 30, 2015

The Khan factor The Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleman Dawood Jan, has reportedly agreed reluctantly to meet a Balochistan government delegation in London where he has been in self-imposed exile since 2006. The Khan, like many of his Baloch friends and even other astute observers of the Balochistan scene, has serious reservations about the mandate of such a delegation as well as the prevailing situation in the province. In addition, the Khan said before meeting the delegation he would consult the Grand Baloch Jirga that had sent him abroad after the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti to seek the restoration of the historical Kalat State through the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the UN. Although it is not known what if any efforts the Khan of Kalat has put in to that end, there is no visible evidence that either the ICJ or the UN have taken cognizance of the case of Kalat State. Prince Mohyuddin Baloch, a son of the late Khan of Kalat Mir Ahmed Yar Khan, is in London since some weeks to persuade the present Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleman Dawood Jan, to return and play a role in resolving the conflict in Balochistan. The delegation proposed to meet the Khan is likely to include members of the Balochistan Assembly. The biggest reservation the Khan harbours is that the Balochistan government of Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch has no authority to take any decision relevant to the prevailing ground situation in the province in the grip of a nationalist insurgency, a military operation against the insurgency through the Frontier Corps (FC) in different areas of Balochistan, target killings, the ‘kill and dump’ policy and missing persons. Meanwhile reports from Kalat speak of the looting of precious artifacts from the Khan’s palace by a group of armed men who crashed through the gates of the palace and whisked away the items in their vehicles. While the authorities feign ignorance about the incident, locals report the looting did take place. Intriguingly, the Khan’s son, Prince Mohammad has claimed the items were taken from the palace with the consent of his parents. He denied it was a theft and added that he had ‘preserved’ the precious items. There are reports about a move by the powers that be to install Prince Mohammad as the Khan of Kalat in the absence of his father. Although Prince Mohammad has denied the speculations, the sinister move is not without precedent in Balochistan’s chequered history. Prince Mohyuddin has expressed regrets at the reported looting of Kalat palace and the rumoured move to install Prince Mohammad in place of his father, saying such moves would spoil the reconciliatory efforts. Senior Balochistan Minister Sanaullah Zehri has confirmed the incident of looting and called it contrary to Baloch traditions. He has expressed his dismay to the Khan on the telephone. The Kalat State emerged in the eighteenth century as a tribal confederacy. Historically it remained a tributary state of successive monarchies in Afghanistan and Iran. However, it became the symbol around which Baloch resistance to encroaching British colonialism was waged throughout the nineteenth century. Only when a treaty was signed between the British crown and the Kalat State confederacy towards the end of the nineteenth century did relative peace come to prevail. During the independence struggle in the subcontinent, Kalat State sought to convince the British crown that it was a treaty state that did not fall into the category of other princely states in colonial India. To argue Kalat’s case, the Khan of Kalat then, Mir Ahmed Yar Khan, engaged one of the most distinguished constitutional lawyers in India, Mr Mohammad Ali Jinnah to plead Kalat’s case upto and including the Privy Council. However, the events of partition and independence overtook these consultations and Balochistan was eventually formally annexed to Pakistan in 1948. Rebellions since have been the intermittent norm in Balochistan ever since, with the present conflict the fifth in the relatively short history of the country. The late Khan, Mir Ahmed Yar Khan, despite having signed the instrument of accession, was himself incarcerated in the 1958 Ayub coup. Although he was ‘rehabilitated’ later and even served as Governor of the province under Mr Bhutto, it is questionable today whether the present Khan, even if he were by some stretch of the imagination to come to an agreement with the present Balochistan government to resolve the conflict in the province, be able to persuade other tribal leaders and non-tribal elements waging the insurgency to lay down their arms. Without addressing long standing Baloch grievances centred on rights and resources, even the Khan of Kalat can do little to change the ground situation of a war between the state and Baloch dissidents.

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