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Balochistan under British admin system

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Frontiers have always been regarded as a chicken neck for almost all the states of the world. Analyzing the very importance of frontiers in nation’s history Lord Curzon; Viceroy of India, had succinctly wrote, “Frontiers are like a razor’s edge on which hangs suspended the modern issues of war or peace, of life or death to nations”. This very statement narrates the unobtrusive proclivity of British in Balochistan. Likewise, British administration in Balochistan was commenced on same footings, helping guarding the frontiers in case of any external threat.
British administrative system in Balochistan had been formulated after a considerable time, taking in view all possible threats and opportunities. External threats and internal feuds remained the key issues to be handled accordingly. British never remained static in their policy of handling Balochistan’s affairs. For some time Close Border Policy (the stationary policy/scientific border) was enacted that followed the principle of “Masterly Inactivity”. It ensured guarding of borders and suppression of any emerging raids and riots. But when needed and become inevitable, the British policy in Balochistan was changed. It adhered to as per the militarily situation demands.
Sometimes it pursued the masterly inactivity that confined the troops to forts largely interconnected with network of roads and railways. It declared Indus River as a borderline. The policy lasted from 1849 to 1879. Afterwards, it opted for forward policy that mainly stressed upon a need to westward advance across the river Indus. It created room for Baloch tribes and directed at showing respect for Khans. That policy was declared as human, sympathetic and civilized.
Furthermore, British introduced that administrative system in Baluchistan which coupled with stringent handling of external menaces marked a harsh response to internal political developments therefore, resulting in non-permanent institutional setup in the province.
In order to get their cherished goals achieved and pacifying the tribal lords British divided Balochistan into four political divisions as per details given below: (1) The British Balochistan: It consisted bordering areas of Pishin, Chaman, Dukki, Shera Rud, and Shahrig; (2) The Leased Areas: These comprised of Quetta, Noshki, Nasirabad and Bolan – the corridor connecting British Balochistan with Sindh and Punjab; (3) The State Territories: Kalat, Kharan, Makran and Lasbela came under this category commonly known as Balochistan Agency Territories; and (4) The Tribal Areas: These included Zhob, Kohlu, Marri-Bugti, Chaghi, Sanjrani areas. These areas were knows as Chief Commissioner’s Province.
The British Balochistan was governed by Agent to Governor General (AGG) and leased territories and tribal areas came under Political Agents (PAs) administration. States were governed by Khans who administered tax system while the real power laid in the hands of AGG.
During World War I, British realized its strong position in the wake of controlling adjacent areas. It never wanted its fortification of bordering areas going insular. Therefore, it developed a wide network of road and railway linkages to those areas. It was during that time, Quetta emerged as the most important garrison and the biggest cantonment of British India. It was the biggest to that extent that it accommodated 0.1 million army men at a time.
Additionally, on a prior call of ten days, it further could assemble 0.1 million more soldiers in the vicinity. Such giant military station was Quetta at the time. Its militarily supremacy can be gauged from the fact that British got control of all possible routes of penetrating into Iran and Afghanistan. This strategic maneuver gave it a hedge over Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR), Germany and Turkey.
Additionally, to make easier the access to rest of the Subcontinent, British constructed roads and railway tracks up to Punjab and Sindh. It aimed at bolstering feasible connectivity between British Balochistan and Sindh and Punjab in order to overcome any difficulty during the times of war. It went for a dry and deserted territories rather than fertile and more feasible areas for constructing road network. It had a far most fascinating road facility from the fertile areas of Loralai, Ziarat to Dera Ghazi Khan known as Thal Chotiani Route towards whole Punjab, but it didn’t consider it. For the sake of sabotaging Khan of Kalat’s power and possibility of an attack along with Marri-Bugti tribes, British preferred a more arduous task of making a way through Bolan Pass. It served two main interests of British. Firstly, it segregated Marri-Bugti tribes from Kalat state. Secondly, it connected Balochistan with Sindh and Punjab. British sacrificed comfort and ease of travel for the sake of long term political privileges.
Besides balkanization of Balochistan, administratively, it was divided into two parts i.e. The British Balochistan and Balochistan’s States. The British Balochistan comprised leased areas, tribal areas of strategic importance and areas occupied by British. It was administered by AGG. Tribal areas felt under Political Agent while Deputy Commissioners monitored settled and urbanized districts. These PAs and DCs were usually commanders of the army stationed there. Contrary to that, states of Kalat, Kharan, Makran and Lasbela comprised another administrative unit where Khans were the administrative heads of states. Khan collected taxes, and ruled through tribal Sardars. They were entitled to settle inter-tribal and intra tribal feuds and squabbles.
The States administrative units were called Nazimats and their head was addressed as Nazim who was helped by Mustawafis and Naibs in collection of taxes. To further curtail the power of Khan of Kalat, British declared Lasbela, Makran, and Kharan as separate entities. This move cleared a way in controlling the power of Khan of Kalat. It directed at benefiting the British; the most.
Similarly, education system in Balochistan was not directed to educate the masses rather it served the vested interests of British. Before the advent of British in Balochistan, the traditional way of imparting education through Masajid and Madaras existed. It was not before 1881 when the first Anglo Vernacular Middle School for boys in Quetta was opened. Later it was renamed as Sir Robert Sandman School. After a considerable period of eight years, Lady Sandman established a Primary School for girls. In 1904, Khan of Kalat established a Primary School for Boys at Mastung. Prior to this no school system based on Western educational style prevailed in Balochistan. Even there existed no separate Department of Education before 1920.
The British didn’t pay any attention in educating the people of Baluchistan because it understood the stringent implication of education among people. It lacked a dare to confront people’s popular demand for their rights and outfits. Therefore, deliberatively, British left Baluchistan with meagre educational facilities.
On the whole, British left no stone unturned in order to get maximum benefits from British Balochistan. It hampered its economic progress, discouraged politicization of people, discarded modern education system and paid no heed to the development of strong administrative setup resulting in economic deprivation, social backwardness and bad governance. It spent least on programs of sociocultural mobilities that in turn brought about deterioration of social fabric. It did nothing to ameliorate the standard of lives of downtrodden. British put its economic gains a top priority at the stake of Balochs advantages.
Regrettably, this was not the land and people of Balochistan who were to be benefited from British’s militarists, educational, and social policies but the British concerns that were to be served by hook or crook. British administration in Balochistan was designed in a highly prudent manner. It served British’s vested interests. It never met up with public needs and demands. According to a native Baloch writer what essentially did matter was the enterprise of alien rulers. They never bothered to consider what Balochs needed the most.
Evidently, it is fair to write that it Balochistan remained under the tight control of British administrative machinery. Its representatives such as AGGs, APs, DCs enjoyed inclusive powers. They were entitled to act as the real power holders in militarist and political spheres. They discouraged political education of masses even at a minor level. It is therefore necessarily sufficient to see political development of Balochistan from the magnifying glasses of British policies in Balochistan. Eventually, the things changed with the promulgation of act of 1935, outbreak of World War II and All India Muslim Leagues popular demand of political reforms in Balochistan.