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Chapter 36

The Beluch-Afghan boundary--Substantial advantages obtained--The
Afghans driven from Chagai--Who owns Beluchistan?--How
Beluchistan is subdivided--Treaties and engagements with the Kahn
of Kelat--The Brahui and Nhauri--When British political
connection with Kelat began--Intrigue--The treaty of 1839--The
treaty stolen--Kelat stormed by the British--A
revolution--Protection of caravans--Treaty of 1841--At the death
of Nasir Khan--Boundary matters settled in 1887--A Brahui
rebellion--British mediation--A state of chaos--The Marris and
Bugtis--Reconciliation of the Sardars with the Khan of
Kelat--Treaty of 1876--British agents at the Khan's
court--Railways and telegraphs--Subsidies--British troops
stationed in the country--Major Sandeman, agent to the
Governor-General--The agreement of 1883--Transfer of dues and
tolls--The chiefship of Kharan--The chief of Las
Bela--Troublesome Marris--British Beluchistan--The occupants of

A few details of how the British Government came to make the Nushki-Robat road may interest the reader.

After the Afghan war was over, it was supposed that our boundary extended as far north as the river Halmund, but we let things slide for many years and took no steps to extend our influence so far, and the result was that the Amir of Afghanistan--who very rightly regarded Chagai as a most important strategical position, in fact, almost the key to the Halmund--took possession of the place. In 1896 a commission was sent out to define the Perso-Beluch frontier properly, and Major MacMahon, a most thorough and conscientious officer, was placed in charge of the mission.

On looking at the map, one might, if unaware of certain important circumstances, be led rashly to believe that the natural geographical boundary between Beluchistan and Afghanistan is along the course of the river Halmund, or else that it should follow the watershed of the chain of mountains extending, from west to east, from the Malek Siah, the Lahr Kuh, the Kacha Kuh, Mirjawa or Saindak Mountains, to the mountain mass extending as far as the Sultan Mountain. One cannot at first grasp why, when two such excellent natural boundaries exist, the boundary has been drawn right across the desert between the Halmund and these ranges--where there is nothing to mark a division except the whitewashed pillar-posts put up by the boundary commission.

This is what would appear, but here is what really happened. While we were taking no trouble to spread our influence in that portion of the country, the Afghans claimed as theirs a considerable portion of what to-day makes part of N. Beluchistan. A point which it is well not to lose sight of is that, after the Sistan Mission of 1872, when General Sir Frederick Goldsmid, assisted by General Sir Richard Pollock, acted as arbitrators between the Persian and Afghan Governments, it was agreed that the Kuh-i-Malek-Siah (mountains), close to where the Ziarat has been erected, should mark the most south-westerly point common to the two countries. This point being given, when the Beluch-Afghan Boundary Commission began its work in March, 1894, they found that the Afghans claimed a great deal more land as theirs than was expected.

The line of boundary to be defined from Gomal to the Persian frontier was some 800 miles, and during the two years which it took to complete the laying down of the boundary line the Mission is said to have had very great trouble with the Afghan Commissioners.

And here one can hardly forbear comparing the magnificently thorough manner in which this frontier was fixed, with the shoddy, confused method in which the Perso-Beluch frontier was "demarcated"--if the word can be used in this case--by Sir Thomas Holdich at the same epoch.

In the case of the Afghan-Beluch frontier, 800 miles of frontier line was carefully laid down under the direction of Captain (now Major) A. H. MacMahon, to whom Great Britain may be grateful for possessing to-day several hundred square miles of land more than she would have done; and, mark you, these additional square miles are--in a way--strategically the most important portion to us of Beluchistan. I am referring to that zone of flat territory, north of the Mirjawa, Saindak and Sultan Mountains, which forms a southern barrier to the Afghan desert, and along a portion of which we have now built the Nushki-Robat route.

Strategically, more particularly if a railway is to be constructed, the advantages in gaining that strip of land on the north side of the mountainous region cannot be over-estimated, and only a fearless, but extremely tactful, well-informed and, above all, able officer like MacMahon could have scored such an unexpected success against the very shrewd Afghan Commissioners. The latter well knew the political value of the concession, and so did the Amir at Cabul--who, angered at hearing of the advantages gained by the British Commissioners for their own country, is said to have treated his representatives in a summary way on their return to the Afghan capital.

But the line of boundary was laid in an unmistakable manner. The final agreements and really accurately drawn maps were signed on May 14th, 1896, by both the Afghan and British Commissioners, and there was no going back on what had been done.

One of the important results of this Boundary Commission was that we definitely drove the Afghans out of Chagai, north of which place the frontier now extends eastwards to the Sarlat Mountains. The first thing that directed attention to these remote regions was Nushki, a little district some 90 miles from Quetta--a place most conveniently situated for strategical and trade purposes. This was an outlying portion of the Khan of Kelat's territory.

As a matter of fact these people were always fighting among themselves; they had a bitter enmity with one another, and their feuds had accumulated on an ever increasing scale for centuries. They merely acknowledged the Khan's authority when it suited their ends.

The Government first requested the Khan or Kelat to keep the district in order, being a frontier district, not far from the Afghan boundary, and notified him that trouble there might involve trouble with the British Government. The Khan, however, was helpless, and the ultimate result was that the Government came to terms with the Khan and agreed to give him a quit rent of 9,000 rupees a year--a sum much larger than he ever got out of it for himself--and took over Nushki from him.

One question frequently asked is: "Who owns Beluchistan?" To which one might almost answer: "Yes, who does?"

Like Afghanistan, Nepal, and other such buffer states, Beluchistan is going through a somewhat slow but sure process of absorption. Beluchistan is a mere expression of political geography, and the country called by that name has on the west a semi-mythical boundary with Persia; on the north a real boundary with Afghanistan; to the south the Arabian Sea, and to the west, the Brahuic and Lukhi Mountains, bordering with Sindh and the lower Dejarath.

Beluchistan may be subdivided as follows:--

British Beluchistan, with the assigned districts of Quetta and
the Bolan; territories under the immediate rule of the Khan of

Sarawan and Thalawan, the lands belonging to the two leading
Brahui clans.

The Chiefship of Las Bela.

Makran, Kharan, and the country of the Beluch tribes, such as the
Marris and Bugtis, along the Punjab and Sind borders.

Bori and Zhob.

We have certain treaties, engagements and Sanads with the Khan of Kelat and the other chiefs, and the country--again I have to use a paradoxical expression--may be regarded as a sort of "dependent independent" state. I can find no better way of describing it. We have bought up all the rights held by the chiefs that were worth buying for our purposes, and while, theoretically, the country is supposed to be merely under our "sphere of influence," we might with our fast-absorbing qualities practically consider it absolutely our own.

The Brahui Khan of Kelat is the most powerful ruler in Beluchistan, and the city of Kelat may be looked upon as the Beluch capital of Beluchistan. Quetta, of course, is the capital of British Beluchistan.

The Beluch may be roughly divided into two great classes, the Brahui and the Nharui, the latter to be subdivided again into the Rinds and the Numris. These classes, however, are again to be split up into a great many tribes of different names.

The meaning of the word Brahui is said to be "inhabitants of the desert," and of Nharui "men of the plains." The Nharui profess to be of Arab origin, and to have come from the west; and they despise the idea that they are akin to the Afghans or the Turkomans. Their features and habits would support this view, and their language undoubtedly bears traces of strong western influence if not of actual western origin. Their being such much finer specimens of men than the average Persians, may be accounted for by the fact that during the Arab invasion only the fittest and finest survived to get as far as this, and that of these men the Beluch are the present descendants.

Like all nomads the Beluch are most wonderful linguists. I met a great many men who knew three, four or five languages, such as Brahui, Nharui, Persian, Afghan, and even Hindustani, and on experiment they showed remarkable facility for picking up and correctly retaining words of any foreign language.

The theory that the Brahui--the most numerous class in Beluchistan--are Tartar mountaineers is, to my mind, incorrect. They believe themselves to be the aboriginal people of Beluchistan, and this, I think, is more likely the case. Their language is quite different from any of the Nharui dialects. The Nharui tribes are much given to raids and warfare, and even last year, when I was going through Beluchistan, a small war had just been settled by a British force, sent to suppress the rebels, in conjunction with a Persian force from Kerman on the other side.

I cannot speak of the southern tribes as I did not visit them, but the Brahui with whom I came in contact, although very fond of a life of adventure, I invariably found extremely gentlemanly, hospitable and dignified in every way. They were men of a splendid type who, combined determined bravery with the quietest, softest, most considerate and graceful manner.

The Khan of Kelat is the most powerful ruler, and with him we have several important treaties. From the time of Abdullah Khan, in the eighteenth century, Kelat had been a state independent of the Delhi Empire, and had incorporated several provinces. To understand fully the evolution of Beluchistan into its present condition I will give a hasty historical review of the most important occurrences.

The political connection of the British Government with Kelat commenced during the time of the grandson of Nasir Khan, Mehrab Khan, a weak ruler who became Khan in 1819. He was disliked by the chiefs of the various tribes for being under the influence of a man of low extraction called Daud Mahommed, for whom Fateh Mahommed, the hereditary Minister, was sacrificed. Fateh's son, Naib Mulla Mahommed Hasan, however, murdered the intruder and was himself placed in the position his father should have occupied, but his hatred for the Khan never ceased to crave for revenge. In 1838 this treacherous Minister, in the Khan's name, but without his knowledge, incited the tribes to rise and harm the British troops in their march to restore Shah Shujia to his dominions.

Sir Alexander Burns had to be deputed to Kalat to prevent hostility and attempt to negotiate a treaty. The treaty contained the following stipulations.[7]

"(Art. 1.) The descendants of Nasir Khan, as well as his tribe and sons, shall continue in future to be masters of the country of Kelat, Kachki, Khorstan, Makran, Kej, Bela and the port of Soumiani, as in the time of the lamented Ahmad Shah Durani.

"(Art. 2.) The English Government will never interfere between the Khan, his dependants and subjects, and particularly lend no assistance to Shah Nawaz Fateh Khan, and the descendants of the Mahabbatzai branch of the family, but always exert itself to put away evil from his house. In case of H. M. the Shah's displeasure with the Khan of Kelat, the English Government will exert itself to the utmost to remove the same in a manner which may be agreeable to the Shah and according to the rights of the Khan.

"(Art. 3.) As long as the British Army continues in the country of Khorasan, the British Government agrees to pay to Mehrab Khan the sum of 150,000 of Company's rupees from the date of this engagement by half yearly instalments.

"(Art. 4.) In return for this sum the Khan, while he pays homage to the Shah and continues in friendship with the British nation, agrees to use his best endeavours to procure supplies, carriage and guards to protect provisions and stores going and coming from Shikarpur by the route of Rozan Dadar, the Bolan pass, through Shal to Kuchlak from one frontier to another."

With assurances of fidelity to the Saddozai family and friendship to the British Government--and stipulation that all supplies and carriage obtained from the Khan must be paid for "without hesitation"--the treaty was duly concluded on March 28th, 1839.

Everything seemed satisfactory and the Khan promised to visit Quetta to pay his salaams to Shah Shujia. Sir Alexander Burnes, who had preceded him, was robbed on the way of the draft of the treaty signed by the Khan. Treacherous Mulla Mahommed Hasan did not fail to impress upon the British that the Khan had given directions to have the treaty stolen, and had, furthermore, prevented Mehrab from proceeding to Quetta. The hostility of the Khan being evident, it was resolved to send a punitive expedition to Kelat to give the Khan a lesson.

On the 13th of November, 1839, the town was stormed and taken by a detachment of General Wiltshire's brigade, Mehrab Khan was killed and his son fled, while the Khan's Minister was made prisoner and his treachery proved.

Shah Nawaz Khan--a youth of fourteen, a direct descendant in the male line from Mahabat Khan--was set up by the British as the future Khan of Kelat. The provinces of Sarawan and Kach Gandava were annexed to the dominions of the Amir of Afghanistan.

Mehrab's son, Nasir Khan, the rightful successor to the rule of Kelat, headed a revolution; Shah Nawaz was deposed, the British representative at Kelat was killed, and Nasir Khan was eventually established in power by the British, the two provinces restored to him, and a new treaty concluded with him on October 6th, 1841.

This treaty acknowledged Nasir Khan and his descendants the vassals of the King of Cabul; allowed if necessary, the Honourable Company's or Shah Shujia's troops to be stationed in any positions they deemed advisable in any part of his territory; and declared that a British resident officer's advice should always be followed. Caravans into Afghanistan from the Indus as well as from Soumiani port were to be protected from attacks, and no undue exactions imposed on them; the British Government undertook to afford Nasir Khan protection in case of attack; while Nasir Khan bound himself to provide for the support of Shah Nawaz whom he had deposed.

This treaty became useless after the retirement from Cabul, and it was found necessary to negotiate a new agreement dated 4th of May, 1854, which annulled the treaty of October 6th, 1841, enjoined perpetual friendship between the British Government and the Khan of Kelat, his heirs and successors, and bound Nasir Khan and successive Khans "to oppose to their utmost all enemies of the British Government with whom he must act in subordinate co-operation, and not enter, without consent, into negotiations with foreign States."

British troops might occupy, if necessary, any position they thought advisable in the Kelat territory, and British subjects and merchants from Sindh or the coast to Afghanistan were to be protected against outrage, plunder and exactions. A transit duty, however, was to be imposed at the rate of six rupees on each camel-load from the coast to the northern frontier, and 5 rupees from Shikarpur to the same frontier.

To aid Nasir Khan, his heirs and successors, in the fulfilment of these obligations, and on condition of faithful performance of them, the British Government bound itself to pay to Mir Nasir Khan, his heirs and successors, an annual subsidy of 50,000 Company's rupees. If, however, the conditions required were not fulfilled year by year the Government would stop the payment of the annual subsidy.

When Nasir Khan died in 1857, his brother, his son, and his half-brother claimed the succession, and the latter, Khudadad Khan, a boy of ten, was elected by the chiefs; but had it not been for the support given him by the British Government, who for four successive years paid him an additional 50,000 rupees besides the 50,000 stipulated in the agreement, in order to help him to suppress the rebellious Marris tribe, he could not have maintained his position.

The leading Kelat chiefs, dissatisfied with their ruler, elected Sherdil Khan, Khudadad's cousin, as Khan of Kelat, but he was murdered the following year, 1864, and the banished ruler reinstated in his former position. Previous to his banishment, in 1862, a proper agreement was signed defining the boundary line between British India and the Khan's territory, but it was not till 1887 that matters regarding it were absolutely settled.

One thing may be said for the Beluch, and that is that, barring a few squabbles, they have in the main been friendly and faithful towards the British.

On February 20th and March 23rd, 1863, a convention was entered into with the Khan containing an additional clause for the extension of a telegraph line through such of his dominions as lie between the western boundary of the province of Mekran under the feudatory rule of the Jam of Beyla and the eastern boundary of the territory of Gwadur, for the protection (only) of which line, and those employed upon it, the Khan was to receive an annual payment of 5,000 rupees, the whole sum to be expended among the chiefs and people through whose country the line passed. It was particularly stipulated that the sites on which British Government buildings were to be erected should remain the property of the Khan.

Constant risings took place during the rule of Khudadad, and the Brahui chiefs combined in an open rebellion in 1871. The Khan, being unable to suppress the rising, demanded aid of the British. A mediation took place in Jacobabad, their confiscated lands were restored to the Sardars, the allowances which they customarily received in the time of Mir Nasir Khan the younger were again granted, and the Sardars on their side had to return all the property plundered.

A state of chaos followed this arrangement, the Khan ceased to take an interest in the administration of his country, caravans were constantly attacked and robbed, raids were frequent, and no compensation was ever paid for losses sustained. The Political Agent had to withdraw from Kelat, and in 1854 the payment of the subsidy was withheld until the Khan should stand by his agreement and restore order.

An attempt was made to keep quiet the Marris and Bugtis frontier tribes by additional payments to the chiefs in the name of the Khan, but their attitude was uncertain. Constant attacks occurred on the frontier and a state or absolute anarchy reigned in the Khan's country, when Captain Sandeman was despatched in 1875 as a special Agent for the Government to attempt to bring about a reconciliation between the Khan and the Sardars. At a Darbar held at Mastung in July, 1876, an official reconciliation actually took place between the Khan and the leading Brahui chiefs. On the 8th of December of that same year the Khan was received by the Viceroy of India at Jacobabad, and a new treaty was concluded, which was the actual foundation of the Beluchistan Agency.

The new treaty renewed and reaffirmed the treaty of 1854, and while the Khan of Kelat and his successors and Sardars bound themselves faithfully to observe the provisions of Article 3 of that treaty, viz., "to oppose all enemies of the British Government, and in all cases to act in subordinate co-operation with the British Government; the British Government on its part engaged to respect the independence of Kelat and to aid the Khan, in case of need, in the maintenance of a just authority and the protection of his territories from external attacks."

British Agents with suitable escorts were in future to reside permanently at the Court of the Khan and elsewhere in the Khan's dominions, and a representative of the Khan would in future be accredited to the Government of India.

The British Agent at the Court of the Khan would, in case of dispute with the Sardars, use his influence to bring about an amicable settlement, and if unsuccessful, the dispute was to be submitted to arbitration. At the request of the Khan and of the Sardars, and "in recognition of the intimate relations existing between the two countries, the British Government (by Article 6 of Treaty) assented to the request of H.H. the Khan for the presence of a detachment of British troops in his country, on condition that the troops should be stationed in such positions as the British Government might deem expedient and be withdrawn at the pleasure of the Government."

The agreement further provided for the construction of railways and telegraphs through the territories of the Khan, and for free trade between the State of Kelat and British territory, subject to certain conditions for the mutual protection of fiscal interests.

The annual subsidy of the Khan's successor was increased by this treaty to 100,000 rupees, plus 20,500 rupees annually for the establishment of posts and development of traffic along the trade routes in a manner agreeable to the British Government.

In compliance with the agreement, British troops were stationed at Shalkot (Quetta) and Mittri, and on February 21st, 1877, Major Sandeman was appointed Agent to the Governor-General, with three assistants, the headquarters to be in Quetta. Afterwards the territories, under the political control of the Agent, were subdivided into distinct Agencies of which Kelat was one. During the Afghan war the Khan behaved most loyally towards the British.

Further developments necessitated a fresh agreement signed on June 8th, 1883, by which the Khan of Kelat made over the entire management of the Quetta district and Niabat absolutely, and with all the rights and privileges, as well as full revenue, civil and criminal jurisdiction, and all other powers of administration, to the British Government, the agreement to take effect from April 1st, 1883, on condition that, in lieu of the annual surplus of revenue hitherto paid to the Khan, the British Government should from March 31st, 1884, pay a fixed annual rent of Rs.25,000, without deductions for cost of administration.

The Khan transferred all his rights to levy dues or tolls on the trade in either direction through the Bolan Pass, as well as from Kachi to Khorassan, and to and from British India and the districts of Sibi, Quetta and Pishin.

For the latter concession the British Government paid the Khan the annual sum of Rs.30,000 net, plus a fixed yearly sum to be paid by the Viceroy of India to the Sarawan and Kurd Sardars for their services in the Pass. The full civil, criminal jurisdiction, and all other powers of administration within the limits of the said Pass, and within the land purchased by the British, were also ceded to the British Government.

The population of the State of Kelat, including Kharan and Makran, was estimated by Aitchison at about 220,500 souls--the area at 106,000 square miles.

The Chiefship of Kharan lies along the northern border of the State of Kelat, roughly from near Nushki, west-south-west to Panjur. The principal tribes are the Naushirwanis, and their Chiefs have at various epochs acknowledged the suzerainty of the Khan of Kelat, and the rulers of Persia and Afghanistan respectively. In 1884 Sardar Azad Khan acknowledged allegiance to the Khan of Kelat, and in 1885 a settlement was made with him by which he undertook to do certain tribal services in consideration of an annual payment of Rs.6,000. Besides Kharan the Sardar holds lands in Panjgur, and lays claim to Jalk, Dizak, and Kohak, the two first being within the Persian boundary.

We have other important agreements, such as the one (1861) with the Chief of Las Bela for the protection of the telegraph, for which he receives a subsidy of Rs.8,400 a year; and a number of agreements with the various chiefs of Makran, mostly relating also to the protection of the telegraph line with subsidies or allowances to each chief.

To the troublesome Marris, a tribe occupying the country from the Nari river and the outskirts of the Bolan as far as the plain of Sham near the Punjab boundary to the east, allowances are paid directly for tribal services and for good behaviour. These people have given considerable trouble on several occasions, but are now friendly.

A petroleum concession was ceded by Sardar Mehrulla Khan to the British Government for an annual cash payment.

The affairs of British Beluchistan (Pishin, Sibi and dependencies) are too well known for me to refer to them again beyond what I have already mentioned in these pages. Till 1878 British Beluchistan formed part of the territories of Afghanistan, and was occupied by British troops during the Afghan war. By the treaty of Gandamak its administration was put into the hands of British officers, but the surplus revenue was paid to the Amir at Cabul. The control of the Khyber and Michui Passes was also retained. In 1887, however, the district was incorporated with British India, and is now known as the province of British Beluchistan.

An agreement of submission and allegiance was made by the Maliks of Zhob, Bori and the Muza Khal, and Sardar Shahbaz Khan, on November 22nd, 1884, and they further undertook to pay a fine of Rs.22,000, to put a stop to further raiding in British territory, and raise no opposition to British troops being stationed in Zhob and Bori. The occupation of Zhob took place in 1889-90, when the Somal Pass was opened up, and the tribes intervening between the Zhob and the Punjab in the Suliman range were subsequently added to the district.


[7] See Treaties, Engagements and Sanads. Aitchison, Office
Superintendent Government Printing, Calcutta.