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"It depends on how far you want to go into history." History mixed with politics is lethal. It becomes worse when the battle turns into a war in Quetta.
QUETTA: The evolutionary nature of Pashtun and Baloch people's coexistence in Balochistan has transcended to a new complicated level, and in the process spawning a whole new range of complications with pronounced ethnic overtones.
In the numbers game, more people mean greater territorial claims. Indigenous Baloch appear loath to accept Baloch from Punjab as their own but at the same time are willing to own up local Christians and Hindus. It is common to come across Andrew Baloch or Madan Lal Bugti but many Baloch from Multan have been killed after being deemed Punjabi settlers. Brahui may have been a Dravadian language with a different history and roots but it is almost blasphemous to dub it as different from Baloch.
Pashtuns too do not lag behind in this competition to own fringe tribes and religions. Back home in Khyber Pakhtunkwa, at times, they tend to reject the non-Pashto speaking Niazis of Punjab as their own or accept the Pashto-speaking ‘kharay' people of Peshawar as genuine Pashtoons. But here in Balochistan, they gladly own up tribes like Khetran, Bangalzai, Satakzai and Alizai as Pashtuns, even against the will of these tribes. Pashtuns make it a point that the champions of Baloch nationalism - the Khans of Kalat-are Qambrani Ahmadzai Pashtuns. And so are the Nawabs of Sarawan-Raisanis (Pashtun Tareens).
Politicians pick and choose selectively from glorified versions of history to maximize their claims in the upcoming battle for the division of Balochistan. Interestingly, both Pashtuns and Baloch agree on the division-at least on the surface.
Pashtuns maintain that the abolition of the West Pakistan as One Unit in 1970 created a Balochistan that had never existed in history. The unity of the British Chief Commissioner's province-largely Pashtun territory except the leased Baloch areas of Kohlu-Bugti agencies, Naseerabad and Naushki-Chagai-was kept intact even after 1947. It was acknowledged as a separate entity from the Kalat states--which Pashtun nationalist call as Baloch-Brahui confederacy-in the Independence Act of 1947 as well as in all constitutional formulas until 1970.
Baloch do not disagree, as yet. The late Khan of Kalat, Ahmad Yar Khan protested in a letter to Yahya Khan in 1970 that the Kalat states and the leased areas "do not want to be forced to become part of the rest of the Quetta division with which they do not desire to be merged." Baloch Republican Party's Brahmadagh Bugti has recently echoed support for similar boundaries, saying that ‘Azad Balochistan' will incorporate only Baloch areas of Balochistan.
Here lies the catch: Which are the Baloch areas? one may ask.
Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party's President Mahmood Khan Achakzai names 12 districts out of total 30 as Pashtun dominated. Baloch might not have a problem if Pishin, Killa Abdullah, Killa Saifullah, Zhob, Loralai, Musakhel, Harnai and Ziarat are mentioned as Pashtun districts. But they will have a big issue with Barkhan and Bolan dubbed as Pashtun districts. Tempers will further rise over Sibi and a complete war will be on cards if Quetta is conceded as Pashtun area.
Baloch quote record from the days of the mythical doyen of the Baloch identity, Chakar Khan's great migration to these lands; how that epitome of Baloch glory, Naseer Khan Nouri established his independence from Afghan kings and how the successive Khans of Kalat leased Baloch lands to the British under duress.
Pashtuns counter with a matching reference from history-starting from Ahmad Shah Abdali, if not from the Mughal era: How Abdali conferred "the rule of Kalat" on Nouri in 1749; How the British acquired the Afghan domains of Pishin, Sibbi and-controversially-Quetta from the Khan of Kalat instead of its rightful owner, the Afghan king. They pile up records from the original royal decrees and revenue records of tribes, water rights and taxes from the British Gazette.
Bolan Pass being strategically crucial to both designs is critical. Pashtunkhwa's former Senator Dr. Hamid Achakzai says the Pashtuns have a claim on the northern part of the Bolan Pass. Balochistan National Party (Mengal) leader Dr. Jahanzeb Jamaldini scoffs at the idea: "Pashtuns' claim that their territory runs from Chitral to Bolan is funny- the fact is that neither do they have Pashtuns in Chitral nor in Bolan."
The issue over Barkhan is even more interesting. It lies in the middle of the mineral rich Kohlu-Bugti agencies and Pashtun districts of Loralai and Musakhel. Pashtuns claim that the largest tribe of Khetrans in Barkhan is Pashtun. Ask a Khetran -- he will introduce himself as a Baloch. Pashtuns counter with a historical argument that the royal tribe of Khetran in Wahova (Punjab) say they are Pashtuns. Now who will decide the ethnicity of Khetrans, history or people?
The battle intensifies when the debate extends to Sibi. The lingua franca in the ancient town of Sibbi is Sindhi, seconded by Saraiki; the MNA and MPA are Baloch (Ahmadan Bugti on the national seat of Nawab Akbar Bugti and his son-in-law Bakhtiar Domki on the provincial), the locals in Sibbi town are a mix of Pashtuns, Baloch, Sindhis and Saraikis.
Pashtuns allege that the ethnic ratio of Sibbi is being changed. A Pashto dominated Harani has been made a district only to separate it from Sibi while the Baloch dominated tehsil of Lehri has been added to turn Sibi into a Baloch majority district.
Pashtunkhwa Party has already gone to the courts on this issue.
Pashtuns claim that Sibi was an Afghanistan district occupied by the British in the last century. It is house to the Pashtun tribes Barozais, Lunis and Khajjaks. But the Pashtun majority gets upset from the rigged voting in Dera Bugti and Kohlu, which are part of the national constituency. "They got as many votes from Lehri as there were total voters," alleged Kabeer Afghan, President of Pashtun Students Organisation. "They have cut off Harnai from Sibi by closing down the historic railway line connecting the two."
Baloch say that Sibi was always a Baloch territory even if it may have been under the Afghans at some stage. "But then boundaries have been overlapping among various empires in history," says former Senator Manzoor Gichki. "It depends on how far you want to go into history." History mixed with politics is lethal. It becomes worse when the battle turns into a war in Quetta.