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Balochistan Insurgency - Third conflict 1963-69

led by Sher Mohammad Bijarani Marri

After the second conflict the Federal government sent the Army to build new garrisons in the key trouble areas of Balochistan. Sher Mohammad Bijarani Marri led like-minded militants to start a guerrilla warfare against the establishment of these posts by creating its own posts of insurgency spreading over 45,000 miles (72,000 km) of land from the Mengal tribal area in the south to the Marri and Bugti tribal areas in the north. The insurgents bombed railway tracks and ambushed convoys. The Army retaliated by destroying vast areas of the Marri tribe. This insurgency ended in 1969 when Yahya Khan abolished the "One Unit" policy and the Balochs agreed to a ceasefire. This eventually led to the recognition of Balochistan as the fourth province of West Pakistan (present-day Pakistan) in 1970.

Pakistan was conscious of developments in and around Baluchistan. The revolt in Oman, the coup in Iraq, Soviet influence in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Yemen had caused great anxiety to the Pakistan Government particularly about the vulnerable province of Baluchistan. Baluchistan had always been important in Moscow's Central Asian Policy. It had made inroads into the province and found fertile ground for achievement of its strategic goals. Baluch "progressive" elements, mostly students and the educated middle class - often sons of feudal chiefs were more susceptible to communism than other classes of people in Baluchistan.

Likewisr, growing Soviet influence in the northern highland Afghanistan was of special concern to Pakistan. The politics of Pakistan, more so of the provinces of NWFP and Baluchistan, could not remain uninfluenced by what happened in Afghanistan. In Kabul Premier Mohammad Daoud, a cousin of King Zahir Shah was a leading protagonist of Pakhtoonistan and up against Pakistan. He demanded self-determination for the Pashtoons and Baluch. Despite his Royal Family origin, it seemed, he had the support of some Soviet-backed "radical" groups.

In 1955 both Premier Marshal N.A. Bulganin and President N.S. Khrushchev endorsed the Afghan stand on Pakhtoonistan. It could be argued that the Soviet and Afghan interests coincided in seeking an outlet to the Indian Ocean, through Baluchistan. And on this side of the fence in Pakistan, Abdul Wali Khan of NWFP and Abdus Samad Khan Achakzai of Baluchistan were agitating for Pakhtoonistan.

The Baluch Sardars too were demanding autonomy. Sultan Ibrahim Khan, maternal uncle of the Khan of Kalat and Prince Karim solicited support from Premier Daoud of Afghanistan to equip a large Baluch army of 80,000 fighters. According to Selig Harrison "the central govenment charged that Abdul Karim and an uncle of the Khan had been secretly negotiating with Afghanistan for support of a full-scale Baluch rebellion and had assembled a force of 80,000 tribesmen., However, the only evidence put forward to substantiate these charges was the fact that the Khan's Afghan wife had gone to Kabul for a holiday". The Khan's wife, the niece of Begum Syed Jamal Uddin Afghani and relation of the royal family of Afghanistan had visited Kabul. As regards Sultan Ibrahim it is not known whether he went on his own or was directed by the Khan. Sultan Ibrahim, like Daoud, was a Mohammadzai. In 1948 he had opposed accession to Pakistan. In late 1950's he probably thought that the situation was ripe to make a bid for autonomous Baluch homeland with the active support of Premier Daoud.

By June 1962, President Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan ended the Martial Law and gave a new constitution to Pakistan. He reconciled with the view probably at the exhortation of Mr Z A Bhutto that it would be expedient, even if not legally correct, to release the Khan of Kalat from house arrest in Hazara district. The Khan returned to Kalat and his people, once again.

But things had changed a great deal during the intervening years. The Pakistan Army was there in strength in the interior of Baluchistan, not only in the cantonments. Many Baluch leaders like Nawab Mohammad Akbir Khan Bugti, Mir Chaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, Sardar Ataullah Khan Meigal and Khair Bakhsh Marri were serving different terms of imprisonment for having supported Nawab Naoroze Khan's rebellion. Some of them were released and booked again on other charges. They eventually engaged themselves in organising and supporting guerrilla activities against the government of Pakistan.

Among them was Sher Mohammad Marri, a towering, hulk of a man, who already had undergone a total of fourteen years imprisonment for "seditious activities". He claimed to be a Marxist. His nickname was Sherov. On release from imprisonment he organised a powerful guerrilla force. He had two "commands", the Northern and the Southern. The Northern Command of Marri-Bugti area was under his personal supervision. Here he was assisted by Mir Hazar Ramkhani who was in charge of recruitment and training. The Southern Command in Jhalawan district was headed by All Mohammad Mengal.

The southern Command was further sub-divided into Northern and Southern Sectors. The Northern Sector comprising Kalat and M astung districts was under the command of Laung Khan. The Southern Sector covered Khuzdar and Wad. It was under the direct command of All Mohammad Menga1. Each of the two Headquarters were manned by a command force of 400 persons. They could also call hundreds of reservists on short notice.

It was believed that by July 1963, Sher Mohammad had established 22 base camps in Marri-Bugti and Mengal areas13He avoided pitched battles and resorted to harassment of the Arm) in the classical guerrilla warfare fashion. He laid ambushes on army convoys, army engineers engaged in road construction and army signals deputed on telephone maintenance.

The army hit back with force to subdue the "Ferraries", outlaws Sher Mohammad was a rich man and owned several large almond orchards. He was not a proletarian even though he claimed to fight for their cause. A Western writer has stated that during anti-insurgency operations the army destroyed his orchards. This, however, is denied by the army. At the beginning of 1968, the Army, under the command of Major General Tikka Khan, GOC 8th Division, struck the "Ferraries". Sher Mohammad Marri put up a stiff resistance. Meanwhile, the government took some adminstrative measures to break the power of the Sardars, and the sons and relatives of the Sardars who, in its view, were behind the apparently populist insurgency. Prominent tribal Sardars, Nawab Mohammad Akbar Khan Bugti, Sardar Ataullah Khan Mengal and Khair Bakhsh Marri were deposed from chieftainships. The governor of West Pakistan Nawab Amir Mohammad Khan of Kalabagh appointed other men in there places who were favourably disposed towards the Government. Even the British had not changed the Sardars in such an arbitrary manner as Kalabagh did.

In 1963 the new appointees, Dodha Khan, an uncle of Khair Bakhsh Marri and Karam Khan Mengal, the uncle of Sardar Ataullah Mengal's father were assassinated by the "Ferraries". The killing of the nominated chiefs was to undermine Government's authority. On this the Government reaction was strong. It immediately ordered the army to deploy troops in strength in the troubled area. The army took punitive action against the "Ferraries" without tangible results. These tactics created hatred against the army and the Punjabis. The Baluch seemed all the more united now. In fact, military operations, supported by the airforce, made them die-hards. Sher Mohammad Marri's movement gained momentum and Baluch youth from the urban centers started joining the "Ferraries" in the hills. The Baluchistan people Liberation Front (BPLF) becamcestronger. The "Ferraries" published an underground newspaper called "Spark" in Baluchi, Urdu and English languages. Strangely enough "Spark" gained currency among the Baluch as well as Bengalis.

In 1967, Governor Amir Mohammad Khan and President Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan fell out. Ayub replaced him with General Mohammad Musa Khan, formerly Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army. He was a respected Persian-speaking Hazara gentleman from Quetta. There was also a change in Government's attitude towards Baluch leaders. The Government announced general amnesty and decided to release Baluch leaders and about 1,300 "Ferraries" in the process of normalisation the Government also reinstated the former Chiefs to Chieftainship. In return for amnesty the Government expected that the "Ferraries" would lay down their arms at a public ceremony. However, it was against the traditions of the Baluch to lay down arms, and that too publically.

Lack of response from Baluch Sardars did not help to improve relations. In May 1968 Mohammad Akbar Khan Bugti, Gul Khan Naseer and Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo were taken into custody once again Abdus Samad Achakzai who had been released after a long term of imprisonment was also rearresfed. Fighting began once again in Eastern Baluchistan. Some places in adjoining Upper Sind were also raided by insurgents. There was trouble in the Pat Feeder Area. The friction stemmed from the overlapping claims on land a of rival tribal groups on instigation of the Sardars.

Meanwhile the political situation in rest of the country had also deteriorated. There were wide spread disturbances and agitation against the Government. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from East Pakistan and Mr Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto from West Pakistan were arrested. The ailing Field Marshal lost his grip on the country. The power had gradually slipped from the iron-fist of the military man to the nimble fingers of sychophants and demagogues. Under the deterioting situation, F.M. Ayub Khan thought it prudent to step down. On 25 March 1969, he handed over the reigns of the country to C-in-C General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan.

During Yahya's rule West Pakistan province was dissolved and former provinces were restored. As for Baluchistan it emerged as a fullfledged governor's province. Baluch nationalists, including Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo and Sardar Ataullah Mengal were released. Baluch nationalists ceased their hostilities when their principal demands including disintegration of One Unit had been met by Yahya Khan. But they did not dismantle their "Command Headquarters". Nor did they disband guerrilla formations. They rather worked harder to expand their Command structure, mustered larger forces and became the defecto authority of Marr-Bugti area. By 1969 Sher Mohammad had developed a strong Command Force of about 900 which was gradually growing innumbers despite some splits in the Mengal area. On the arrest of Sher Mohammad the Command of guerrillas went to his lieutenant Mir Hazar who worked covertly.

In 1970 General Yahya arranged General Election on the principle of "one man, one vote". From Baluchistan, Sardar Ataullah Mengal, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo and others contested the election. Sardar Mohammad Akbar Khan Bugti did not qualify under Yahya's Legal Framework Order (LFO) as he had been in prison for over two years. Abdus Samad Achakzai was also under a similar ban, but it was removed on his personal appeal to the Government. In the meanwhile some prominent I3aluch leaders had formed an alliance with the NAP of Abdul Wali Khan which however, collapsed soon after the elections. The main difference which had developed among them was over the East Pakistan crisis. To begin with the Baluch leaders had generally supported the seditious moves of Mujibur Rahman. The NAP suggested a political solution of the problem on the basis of "five nationalities".

Later, Baluch leaders adopted a wait-and-see attitude and eschewed armed struggle. Possibly, they thought that any armed struggle at this stage would adversely affect their relations with other political parties. Very strong nationalistic feelings had been aroused by Mr Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto the Chairman of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) all over West Pakistan. Another reason for the low profile of Baluch leaders during the East Pakistan crisis and Indo-Pakistan War was rather sympathetic attitude of King Zahir Shah and the Afghan people towards Pakistan. It also seemed that the Soviet Union which had considerable influence on Afghanistan - was not in favor of the complete disintegration of Pakistan. A certain sense of honor among the Baluch people was one of the factors which prevented resurgence of subversion in Baluchistan at that critical point of time.

 



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