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Balochistan Insurgency - Second conflict 1958-59

led by Nawab Nowroz Khan)

Nawab Nauroz/Nowroz Khan, commonly known by Balochs as Babu Nowroz, was the head of the Zarakzai tribes of Balochistan. He started an armed struggle against the Pakistani government for liberation of Baloch lands (Balochistan). Nawab Nowroz Khan took up arms in resistance to the One Unit policy designed and initiated by the federal government to eliminate ethnic and provincial divides and prejudices. He and his followers were charged with treason and arrested and confined in Hyderabad jail. Five of his family members (sons and nephews) were subsequently hanged. Nawab Nowroz Khan later died in captivity.

Within two years of the adoption of the Constitution the country had once again lost political equilbrium and was fast approaching yet another impasse. The country was in turmoil. Strikes had become the order of the day. Meanwhile, the economic situation of the country was deteriorating. There was a serious shortfall in food production. At the same time substantial quantities of wheat were being smuggled to India and Afghanistan. The food crisis had been made a "handmaiden of politics - the economic condition of the country further worsened with sharp fall in foreign exchange earnings and bank reserves. The boom in raw cotton market had ended with the culmination of the Korean War. There was, what might be called a total disarray of things.

In these circumstances President Major General Iskandar Mirza proclaimed Martial Law on 7 October 1958. The President had several reasons to act; in order to save the country from chaos, and to assume power by a decree.

It was alleged that the Khan of Kalat and his kinsmen were mustering forces to secede from Pakistan. Indeed, the Khan had acceded to Pakistan under the stress of circumstances and not entirely willingly. Now, when Pakistan was in real trouble, he thought, a show of force would do the trick and get him Independence. Some people say that the idea was suggested to him by Iskandar Mirz. If this version is accepted, the disgruntled Khan readily swallowed the bait. He did it independently, or on the instigation of India, Afghanistan or lskander Mirza himself, the position remains that the Khan of Kalat repudiated Kalat's accession to Pakistan and appealed to the tribesmen to rise in arms. Even so Iskander Mirza invited the Khan to come to Karachi and explain the situation to him. He refused to go to Karachi. Instead, he desecrated the national flag of Pakistan and hoisted his own ancestral standard on the palace in Kalat. The press immediately carried the news of Khan's revolt.

It was stated that the Interior Minister, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti had offered his good offices to the President to fetch the Khan to Karachi and avert a dangerous situation. But Bugti was not allowed to leave the Capital. Two days later, on October 6, 1958 the Pakistan Army arrested the Khan on the chargesof treason.

According to official sources the Khan's palace was cordoned off by troops early in the morning on the day of his arrest. An accompanying civil officer summoned the Khan to surrender. The Khan refused to come out, instead, he invited the Deputy Commissioner (D.C.) for parleys in his palace. Thus he tried to lure the Deputy Commissioner into an ambush. As the Deputy Commissioner (alongwith his escort) came within range he was fired upon by palace guards led by the Khan's son, Prince Mohiuddin. Three persons were wounded. In retaliation a tank fired a volley of shots on the palace wall and the Khan was forced to surrender. He, alongwith his son Mohiuddin, was arrested and flown to Lahore. While the Khan was being whisked away, a crowd collecteJ outside the palace. They refused to disperse. In due course, the troops opened fire killing three and wounding two others. About 50 of the Khan's retainers and some 300 other activists were arrested in Kalat and other towns. It was stated that the Khan had stored large quantity of weapons and food to provide for a large private army.

On the same day, October 6, President Iskander Mirza issued an order, whereby he divested Mir Ahmed Yar Khan of Kalat of all distinctions, privileges and immunities, including his privy purse of Rs 6,00,000 a year. His eldest son, Prince Daud Jan, who was back home from school in Britain was formally nominated as successor. On the day following the arrest of Mir Ahmed Yar Khan, Martial Law was imposed. not only in Baluchistan but in the entire country. The President abrogated the first Constitution of Pakistan, banned all political parties, dissolved the assemblies, dismissed the provincial and central governments, and appointed General Mohammad Ayub Khan, Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army as Chief Martial Law Administrator, CMLA.

It might be said that Major General iskander Mirza was constitu- tionaly competent to act as he did in the precarious set of circumstances. Apparently, he was performing a duty to his country and also had the backing of the powerful Commander-in-Chief of the Army, General Mohammad Ayub Khan. But, Iskander Mirza was both clever and ambitious. These personal attributes had been sharpened by experience in the British Political Service. He thought of depriving Ayub of the "reality of power", by appointing him Prime Minister. The C-in-C saw through the game and tables were turned on Iskander Mirza who was forced to resign. Ayub Khan abolished the office of the Prime Minister and he himself become President of Pakistan. Iskandar Mirza chose to live in London.

The Martial Law of 1958 ushered Pakistan in a new era. Peace returned to all parts of it. Nevertheluss, there were reports that the new order was resisted in some remote and isolated pockets in Kalat. It was clear that the arrest of Mir Ahmed Yar Khan had not helped to appease the Baluch who ever the centuries had cultivated a particularistic outlook and had not liked the proceedings since August 15, 1947. They were a proud people and they loved and obeyed their Sardars more than the Pathans did. And, the Khan was the "Sardar of Sardars", Khan-e-Azam. The insult he had to put up with was regarded by many Baluch as humiliation of all of them. How could they like the presence of an outlandish Panjabi-Pathan Army in their midst.

The Army ordered the tribesmen not to carry arms without licence. They refused to comply with this order. The Army construed this as an affront and brought in armored vehicles and artillery in key paces as a show of force and authority. The Army blocked some mountain passes to check recalcitrant elements in Jhalawan from neighbouring Sarawan. Some skirmishes were reported between the troops and the tribesmen.

Naoroz Khan, ninety years old Chief of the Zehri tribe assembled a Lashkar of some 500 men in the mountains of Jhalawan and demanded (one), unconditional release of the Khan-e-Azam; (two) return of confiscated arms, and; (three), annulment of One Unit. He threatened that rejection of these demands would result in use of violent force.

The Government paid no heed to his demands. On October 10, 1958, four days after the Khan's arrest the army located a Lashkar near Wad, about 40 miles south of Khuzdar and inflicted heavy losses on it. Nevertheless, the power of the rebels could not be broken, In fact they continued to hit whenever an opportunity lent itself to them. The spirit of insurgency grew and a number of guerrilla bands joined Naoroze Khan in the hills. Soon it spread all over Jhalawan district and the army got deeply involved in counter-insurgency measures. On some occasions air straffing too had to be undertaken. The insurgency lasted for about a year. In 1960, the Governmentlaunched a full-fledged military operation inflicting heavy casualities on the guerrillas. Even then no end to hostilities was in sight.

Later the representatives of both the sides met in order to discuss terms for cessation of hostilities. During or after the meeting it is stated, Naoroze Khan and some of his sons and followers, were detained. It was claimed, they had been promised safety and amnesty, and that their detention was a case of breach of trust and truce. Later, 163 persons were tried by a Special Military Court set in Mach Sail near Quetta. Naoroze Khan Zairakzai, his son I3atay Khan and five other members of his family were awarded capital punishment. In July 1960, the rebels were executed in Sukkur Jail but not Nawab Naoroze Khan. His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in view of his old age. He died four years later in Kohlu Prison. Many young I3aluch called him a martyer. He had fought and risked his life for Mir Ahmed Yar Khan of Kalat.


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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:26:55 ZULU