Shahzavar Karimzadi spoke to MedyaNews and shared his perspectives about the Baloch, the partition of Balochistan and statelessness. He also emphasized the closeness the Baloch feel towards the Kurds.
Karimzadi is a Baloch economist, human rights activist and Senior Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire in England. He is the author of several books, including ‘Methodology of Deception’ (Humgaam Press, 2015), ‘Dialectic of Regressive Errors’ (Humgaam Press, 2015) and ‘Money and its Origins’ (Routledge, 2015).
Who are the Baloch and do they have any historical and linguistic connections with the Kurds?
Balochistan is the homeland of the Baloch nation, which is situated in the plateau of Iran. Baloch is one of the nations in Iran that have the same root as other nations in Iran, i.e., the Fars, Pashtu, Kurds, Lurs, Mazandarani, Gilaki and Talysh. The Balochi language is one of the north-western Iranian languages and it is closest to the Gilaki, Talyshi and Kurdish languages (as also noted by D. L. Stilo in his 1981 Iranian Studies journal article ‘The Tati Language Group in the Sociolinguistic Context of Northwestern Iran and Transcaucasia’, Vol. 14, 3/3, 137-187). The Baloch regard Kurds as their closest cousins. This sentiment about the Kurds is universal amongst the Baloch population.
Balochistan covers a large area in the southern Plateau of Iran. The Balochistan landmass, all together, is about 560,000 square kilometres. The entire southern part of Balochistan is a seacoast line of about 1,300 kilometres. There isn’t an accurate account of the Baloch population worldwide but, roughly, it is estimated to be between 15 to 25 million. Apart from living in their main homeland, a significant proportion of the Baloch population lives in the Arabian Peninsula, in particular in Oman. There are also some communities of the Baloch diaspora in Turkmenistan, India and East Africa.
What is the difference between Iran as a plateau and Iran as a nation?
Let me clarify a couple of points to the reader with regard to this question. As I indicated in my answer to your first question, Iran is a plateau where several nations exist. Iran is not a nation. What is incorrectly called Iran today is the product of Pahlavi regimes that ruled Iran from the 1920’s up to the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Reza Mir-panj (1878-1944) began his career at the age of fifteen by joining the Cossack brigade. A Russian officer led this brigade. Reza rose through the ranks with the help of the British and deposed the Qajar dynasty. He seized power in 1921. In 1923, he made himself the prime minister of Persia and in 1925, the king of Persia. By the 1930’s, he occupied parts of non-Persian nations that are currently within the boundary of Iran. Then he decided to change the name of Persia to Iran.
Inspired by the fascist movement in Europe, he renamed Persia to Iran on 21 March 1935. Iran means the land of the ‘Aryan race’. But his main aim with this gimmick and manoeuvre was to assimilate all other nationalities into the Farsi nation, with one language, one culture, one religion, one history, one race, and one king. The successor of Reza Khan, Mohammed Reza, issued another statement in 1959 declaring that Iran means Persia.
Has the Baloch nation ever had an independent state?
It was in 1666 that various Baloch tribes in different regions of Balochistan were amalgamated and formed their first united confederacy of Balochistan. The Baloch independent state lasted until the British occupation of Balochistan in 1839. In the first battle with the British imperial army, Mehrab Khan (the king of Balochistan) and many Baloch soldiers were killed. The Baloch National Remembrance Day is 13 November. It is the day that the British army invaded Balochistan. Balochistan preserved its semi-colonial status with Britain until 1947.
To weaken the Baloch resistance against British occupation, the British used their usual policy of ‘divide and rule’ and subsequently divided Balochistan into three parts. The first artificial line dividing Balochistan into eastern and western parts was drawn in 1871. This line is known as the ‘Goldsmid Line’. As a result of this line, the western part of Balochistan was given to the Qajar rulers of Persia. The Eastern part of Balochistan remained under the control of the British until they drew another artificial line, called the ‘Durand Line’, in 1893. With this line, the British divided the Pashtun and the Baloch land. As a result of this line, the northern part of Balochistan was annexed to Afghanistan and a large segment of the Pashtun area was given to British India.
What happened to the Western part of Balochistan which was given to the Qajar rulers of Persia?
By the dawn of the First World War, the Baloch had recovered control of Western Balochistan. J. Ramsay noted that, on 25 January 1927, there was “not a vestige of Persian authority existing, nor has Persia any means of asserting her theoretical claims to sovereignty over” the Baloch (quoted in I. Baloch’s 1987 book ‘The Problem of “Greater Baluchistan”: A Study of Baluch Nationalism’, p. 33). This situation lasted until Reza Khan, the military dictator, occupied Western Balochistan and annexed it to Persia in 1928. This is the part of Balochistan that is currently within the borders of Iran.
When did Eastern Balochistan regain its independence from Britain?
The Baloch people never stopped the struggle to regain independence from Britain. But the form of the struggle after the Russian Revolution in 1917 took a different direction. It took on a much more organized form. The first Baloch political party in Balochistan was established in the 1920’s. This pioneering political party was Anjuman-e Ittehad-e Balochan (Organization for the Unity of the Baloch). The main demands of this party were to end colonialism in Balochistan, achieve the unification of all parts of Balochistan, restore a free and democratic government in Balochistan, achieve gender equality and establish a modern secular system of education in Balochistan.
The Baloch nation was one of the Nations of the East that was represented in the first Congress of the People of the East that was held in Baku in September 1920. Mir Misri Khan Baloch led the Baloch nation delegation in this Congress.
By the 1930’s, the Baloch tried to regain their independence through British legal means. For this purpose, the Baloch employed an Indian barrister by the name of Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948) who subsequently became the first Governor-General of Pakistan. From about the mid-1930’s to the end of 1946, Jinnah was a paid lawyer of the state of Balochistan. Towards the end of the Second World War, the Baloch became more vocal in their demand to regain their independence. It was because of this pressure that General R. C. Money (1888-1985), in 1944, looked at the constitutional status of Balochistan. He concluded that Balochistan is an independent national entity and the British could not disclaim the constitutional right of the Baloch people.
After the British decided to leave the region, particularly India, the Baloch nation was the first nation that regained its independence. On 4 August 1947, the Standstill Agreement was signed between the government of Balochistan, Britain and Muhammad Ali Jinnah (the representative of the upcoming state of Pakistan), which approved the independence status of the Baloch nation. Soon after this agreement, the Baloch in Eastern Balochistan declared independence from Britain on 11 August 1947. The news of the Baloch regaining their independence was reported on Indian Radio news and on 12 August 1947 in the New York Times.
What happened to the independent state of Balochistan and how did the Baloch become stateless?
This is a long and very agonizing period for the Baloch people. The British divided India and out of the parts of the western and eastern Indian provinces of Punjab and Bengal, they fabricated a new state in the name of ‘Pakistan’. This entity came into existence on 14 August 1947. Jinnah became the first head of this artificial state. As Jinnah had first-hand information about Balochistan and its strategic and economic importance, with the help of the British government, they decided to invade Balochistan.
Subsequently, the Pakistan army invaded and annexed Balochistan to Pakistan in March 1948. The Baloch began their resistance against this illegal occupation and colonization of Balochistan from the first day of the occupation of Balochistan by Pakistan. From that day to the present day, the Baloch have experienced the most bloody and destructive time in their history under the occupation of the Islamic State of Pakistan.
You have described Pakistan as a colonial geopolitical construction that has led to a state that represses many of its peoples. Can you elaborate?
To understand why everything about the artificial state of Pakistan is so extreme, we need to look at the rationale behind its creation. The whole basis of Pakistan is a big lie. Pakistan is not a nation. It was created by dividing India. The Punjabis in West Punjab and the Bengalis in East Bengal (the two parts that were separated from India to create Pakistan) are as much Indian as their brothers and sisters in East Punjab and West Bengal. The whole saga of the division of India was an unforgettable crime against humanity.
Many Indians converted to Islam after the thirteenth century. It was after the Turkish Ghaznavid’s invasion of India. It was after Shah Tughlaq’s (1351-85) declaration of exempting the Muslims from paying tax in India. He “proclaimed that everyone who … became a Muslim should be exempt from jizya [Tax]” – as noted by A. Dasgupta in his 1993 book ‘A History of Indian Economic Thought’ (p.45). When the British colonized India, they exploited this religious divide in India most effectively. After the 1857 Indian revolts against British colonialism, the British turned to some Indian Muslims to recruit mercenaries for the British Raj army. Indian Muslims from West Punjab became their principal source of recruitment.
The Indian National Congress was set up on 28 December 1885. In opposition to this secular party, the British founded the All-India Muhammadan Educational Conference in 1886. In 1906, the British created special representation for Muslims in provincial legislative councils. This segregated further the Muslims from other Indian populations. Lord Minto’s wife, in her diary, wrote that this policy saved “sixty-two million people [Indian Muslims] from joining the ranks of the seditious opposition” (as recorded by V. P. Menon in his 1957 book ‘The Transfer of Power in India’, p. 10). In December that same year (1906), the British created a political party for Indian Muslims, the All Indian Muslim League. The first article of this party was “to promote among Mussalmans [Muslims] of India, feelings of loyalty to the British government”. This was the same party that the British used to create Pakistan.
Pakistan is not a nation. It is a colonial geopolitical construction, an invention of the British Empire in its dying days. The designation ‘Pakistan’ itself is a bigoted term. It cannot be the brainchild of any moral person but a deranged religious person. Chaudhari Rahmat Ali, an Indian Muslim student in Cambridge, much inspired by Islamic fundamentalism and the fascist movement in Europe coined this term in 1933. The term is borrowed from Iranian languages. Balochistan means the land of a Baloch nation (in the same way that Kurdistan is the land of the Kurdish nation). In the case of “Pakistan”, the state’s name was invented to represent the opposite of ‘Hindustan’, which means the land of Indian nations.
In Iranian languages, “Pak” means clean and “stan” refers to the land of a certain people. So “Pakistan” means the land of the “clean nation”. The whole absurdity of this degrading designation becomes evident when you look at this designation from a fundamentalist Muslim viewpoint – i.e., from that of Chaudari Rahmat Ali or the leadership of the Indian Muslim League who opted for the partition of India. According to this perspective, the Indian Hindus were unclean “filthy” people, and the Indian Muslims were “pak” (clean). Thus, those who called for the creation of “Pakistan” were those who wanted to separate the “clean Indian Muslims” from the “Najis” (filthy) and “inferior” (unclean) Indian Hindus. It is this sick and hate-filled mind-set that was behind the partition of India and the creation of the artificial state of Pakistan. This is what the Punjabi rulers of Pakistan have in their formal curriculum and school textbooks (Refer, for example, to M. S. Pervez’s 2013 book ‘Security Community in South Asia: India-Pakistan’, p.123).
The British, of course, exploited this bigoted and demented mind-set mercilessly. Winston Churchill (1874-1965), the British Prime Minister (1940-45), was a racist deep-down. He believed that neither the Indian nor other non-Europeans were fit to govern themselves. In addressing the Peel Commission in 1937, Churchill stated that no “great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly-wise race … has come in and taken their place” (quoted in A. Herman’s 2009 book ‘Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged our Age’). In 1942, he even described Indians as “a beastly people with a beastly religion” (quoted in D. Dilks’ 2012 book ‘Churchill and Company’, p. 61).
So, for Churchill, ‘losing India’ was a suicidal act for his empire. When Indian independence seemed inevitable, Churchill directed Archibald Percival Wavell (1883–1950), the Raj’s viceroy, on 29 March 1945 to divide India into “Pakistan, Hindustan, Princes, etc.” (as quoted in S. Ghose’s 1993 ‘Jawaharlal Nehru – A Bibliography’, p. 111). On 3 August 1945, Churchill asked Wavell to “keep a bit of India” (quoted in R. Ankit’s 2011 ‘Wavell – The Prophet Maligned, Epilogue’). This is how the theocratic state of Pakistan was created in 1947 and this is how, in 1948, Pakistan was able to invade Balochistan. As a result of this invasion, the Baloch have been experiencing the most violent, destructive, and barbaric period of their entire history. Ever since, they have been subjected to state terror, murder, torture, dispossession of their land, cultural assault, and escalating disappearances.