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Baloch insurgency
Part of the Balochistan conflict and the History of Balochistan
Date February 1973 - December 1978
Location Balochistan
Result Inconclusive, Pakistan Army withdrawal

Supported by:

Flag of the Balochistan Liberation Army.svg Baloch separatists
Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Iran Shah Reza Pahlavi

Flag of the Pakistan Army Rahimuddin Khan

Flag of the Balochistan Liberation Army.svg Khair Bakhsh Marri
Flag of the Balochistan Liberation Army.svg Ataullah Mengal
Flag of the Balochistan Liberation Army.svg Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo

Flag of the Balochistan Liberation Army.svg Akbar Bugti

Pakistan Army:


Casualties and losses
3,000+ killed[1] 5,000+ killed[1]

The 1970s Baloch insurgency was a separatist movement in Balochistan, the largest province of Pakistan, that engaged in a five-year conflict with the Pakistan Army after then-Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto ordered a military operation in the region in 1973. The movement was largely coordinated by the Baloch Sardars, or tribal chiefs, against Bhutto's operation, which was militarily aided by the Shah of Iran. The insurgency suffered heavy casualties until July 1977, when the Bhutto government was deposed by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who declared an amnesty.

The incoming martial law administrator General Rahimuddin Khan oversaw a complete withdrawal in 1978, by which time he assumed the province's governorship. He then embarked on a series of development policies and indirect military action that both broke the insurgency as well as led to the province's stabilization. This period forms one chapter in the longstanding Balochistan conflict.


Calls for Balochistan's independence

The 1971 Indo-Pakistani War had ended with the defeat of Pakistan at the hands of East Pakistan declaring itself to be independent. It became a new sovereign state called Bangladesh, to be ruled by Bengali leader Shaikh Mujibur Rahman. Mujib had been a major personality in the events that had led to the war, having called for greater provincial autonomy and rights for what was then East Pakistan, only to be met with utter disapproval by the then military ruler Yahya Khan and his West Pakistan-based political opponent Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Despite Mujib's having won the federal elections of 1970, both Yahya and Bhutto refused to let Mujib form the central government. The ensuing unrest gradually deteriorated into civil war, and ultimately the secession of Bangladesh after the India-Pakistan War of 1971. India also played a part in the independence of Bangladesh by arming and financing the separatist group Mukti Bahini which rebelled against the Pakistani State.

This would greatly influence Balochistan's leading political party, the National Awami Party. Led by nationalists and feudal leaders such as Sardar Ataullah Mengal and Khan Wali Khan, the party dominated the province due to a the large amount of individual political influence its leaders held. Emboldened by the secession of Bangladesh, the party demanded greater autonomy and provincial rights from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who had become the new President of Pakistan following his predecessor Yahya Khan's resignation in December 1971, in return for a consensual agreement on Bhutto's Pakistan Constitution of 1973. Bhutto, however, refused to negotiate on any terms whatsoever with chief minister Ataullah Mengal in Quetta and Mufti Mahmud in Peshawar. The already significant civil unrest now turned volatile as provincial tensions erupted.

Nationalists' Rebellion

The Baloch rebellion of the 1970s, the most threatening civil disorder to a United Pakistan since Bangladesh's secession, now began. Surveying the political instability, Bhutto's central government sacked two provincial governments within six months, arrested the two chief ministers, two governors and forty-four MNAs and MPAs, obtained an order from the Supreme Court banning the NAP and charged everyone with high treason to be tried by a specially constituted Hyderabad Tribunal of handpicked judges. Following the alleged discovery of Iraqi arms in Islamabad in February 1973, Bhutto dissolved the Balochistan Provincial Assembly and infuriated Balochis.

In time, the nationalist insurgency, which had been steadily gathering steam, now exploded into action, with widespread civil disobedience and armed uprisings. Bhutto now sent in the army to maintain order and crush the insurgency. This essentially pitted the Baloch people against the capital Islamabad. As casualties rose, the insurgency became a full-fledged armed struggle against the Pakistan Army. The sporadic fighting between the insurgency and the army started in 1973 with the largest confrontation taking place in September 1974 when around 15,000 Balochs fought the Pakistani Army and the Air Force. The Iranian military, fearing a spread of the greater Baloch resistance in Iran, also aided the Pakistani military.[2]Among Iran's contribution were 30 Huey Cobra attack helicopters and $200 million in aid.[3]

The Pakistan government was also afraid of another Indian intervention just like the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War when the Indian Military played a vital part in defeating Pakistan leading to the secession of East Pakistan; however India was fearful of further balkanization of the subcontinent after Bangladesh and did not interfere. After three days of fighting the Baloch tribals were running out of ammunition and so withdrew b 1976.

The army had suffered more than 3,000 casualties in the fight while the rebels lost 5,000 people as of 1977.[1]

Government Change and Stabilization

Although major fighting had broken down, ideological schisms caused splinter groups to form and steadily gain momentum. Despite the overthrow of the Bhutto government in 1977 by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, calls for secession and widespread civil disobedience remained. The military government then appointed General Rahimuddin Khan as Martial Law Administrator and Governor over the province. The provincial government under the famously authoritarian Rahimuddin began to act as a separate entity and military regime independent of the central government.

This allowed General Rahimuddin to act as a dictator, unanswerable to the central government. Both General Zia-ul-Haq and General Rahimuddin Khan supported the declaration of a general amnesty in Balochistan to those willing to give up arms. Rahimuddin then purposefully isolated feudal leaders such as Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Ataullah Mengal from provincial policy. He also militarily put down all civil disobedience movements, effectively leading to unprecedented social stability within the province. Due to Martial Law, his reign was the longest in the history of Balochistan (1977–1984).

Tensions have resurfaced recently in the province with the Pakistan Army being involved in attacks against a terrorist organisation known as the Balochistan Liberation Army. Attempted uprisings have taken place as recently as 2006. The recent uprising has more tod o with Gas Royalty then anything else. Majority of Balochs want to get rid of Nawabs who have exploited them.


See also

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