1970s operation in Balochistan

The 1970s operation in Balochistan was a five-year military conflict in Balochistan, the largest province of Pakistan, between the Pakistan Army and Baloch separatists and tribesmen that lasted from 1973 to 1978.

The operation began in 1973 shortly after then-Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto dismissed the elected provincial government of Balochistan, on the pretext that arms had been discovered in the Iraqi Embassy ostensibly for Baloch rebels. The ensuing protest against the dismissal of the duly elected government also led to calls for Balochistan's secession, met by Bhutto's ordering the Pakistan Army into the province. Akbar Khan Bugti, who would be killed in a later operation in 2006, served as provincial governor during the early stages of the conflict. The operation itself was led by General Tikka Khan and provided military support by Iran,[3] against the resistance of some 50,000 Baloch fighters coordinated by Baloch sardars, or tribal chiefs, that most notably included Khair Bakhsh Marri and Ataullah Mengal.

Sporadic clashes were intermittent throughout the conflict, with hostilities climaxing in 1974 with drawn-out battles. The Bhutto regime was overthrown by General Zia-ul-Haq on 5 July 1977, and martial law was imposed. A general amnesty was declared by military governor Rahimuddin Khan. All army action was ceased by 1978, and development and educational policies were refocused on to assuage the province.

The conflict took the lives of 3,300 Pakistani troops, 5,300 Baloch, and thousands of civilians. This period forms a pivotal chapter in the longstanding Balochistan conflict, and is often cited as creating deep divisions between Balochistan and Islamabad that persist to the current day.

Baloch insurgency
Part of the Balochistan conflict
Two cobra helicopters at Multan

Pakistan Army Attack Helicopters Huey cobra AH-1S Cobras at AVN Base, Multan.
DateFebruary 1973 – December 1978

Pakistani victory

Supported by:
 United States
Baloch separatists
Supported by:
Commanders and leaders
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Tikka Khan
Akbar Bugti
Armed by:
Mohammed Reza Pahlavi
Patrick Simpson
Rahimuddin Khan
Khair Bakhsh Marri
Ataullah Mengal
Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo
Armed by:
Ahmed al-Bakr
Saddam Hussein
145,000 20,000
Casualties and losses
~3,000 killed[2] ~5,300 killed[2]
~6,000 civilians killed[2]

Calls for independence

The 1971 Indo-Pakistani War had ended with the defeat of Pakistan at the hands of India. East Pakistan declared 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 large part in the independence of Bangladesh by arming and financing the separatist group Mukti Bahini which rebelled against the Pakistani State after the injustice done to the then East Pakistan. Most importantly, India sent its troops into East Pakistan to aid the Bengali separatists in suppressing the Pakistan army.

This greatly influenced Balochistan's leading political party, the National Awami Party. Led by ethnic nationalists and feudal leaders such as Sardar Ataullah Mengal and Khan Wali Khan, the party dominated the province due to the large amount of individual political influence its leaders held. Emboldened by the secession of Bangladesh, the party demanded greater autonomy 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 that might have involved a reduction in his powers, with chief minister Ataullah Mengal in Quetta and Mufti Mahmud in Peshawar. The already significant civil unrest now turned volatile as tensions between the NAP and Bhutto erupted.

Launch of Bhutto's military operation

The ethno-separatist rebellion of Balochistan of the 1970s, the most threatening civil disorder to 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 Balochistan's political oligarchs.

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 ethno-separatists against the central government, and army. 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 ethno-separatists fought the Pakistani Army and the Air Force. Sensing the seriousness of the conflict, Pakistan Navy dispatched its logistic units under the command of Vice-Admiral Patrick Simpson—Commander of the Southern Naval Command—provided its logistic and intelligence support to Army and Air Force from the Sea. The Navy had applied an effective naval blockade in Balochistan's water and stopped the illegal arm trade and aid to Baloch rebel groups. In a separate naval operations led by navy, the navy had seized and destroyed vessels that were trying to aid the Baloch rebel groups. The army suffered more than 3,000 casualties in the fight while the rebels lost 5,000 people as of 1977.[2]

Iranian aid of operation

It was after visiting Iran in 1973 that President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto dissolved Balochistan's provincial government. When the operation was begun, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran and Bhutto ally, feared a spread of the greater ethnic resistance in Iran. The Imperial Iranian Army began providing Pakistan with military hardware and financial support.[4] Among Iran's contribution were 30 Huey cobra attack helicopters and $200 million in aid. The Pakistan government declared its belief in covert Indian intervention just like the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. However, India claimed that it was fearful of further balkanisation of the subcontinent after Bangladesh and stated it had not interfered. After three years of fighting the separatists were running out of ammunition and so withdrew by 1976.

End of action

Although major fighting had broken down, ideological schisms caused splinter groups to form and steadily gain momentum. On 5 July 1977, the Bhutto government was overthrown by General Zia-ul-Haq and martial law was imposed. With the civil disobedience in Balochistan remaining widespread, the military brought in Lieutenant General Rahimuddin Khan as governor under martial law. Rahimuddin declared a general amnesty for belligerents willing to give up arms and oversaw military withdrawal. Ataullah Mengal and Khair Bakhsh Marri, sardars that had been active in the conflict, were isolated by Rahimuddin from provincial affairs, and left the province for foreign countries. Marri later said the Baloch independence movement was 'at a virtual standstill',[5] and Marri tribesmen granted amnesty laid down their arms. Akbar Bugti, having sided with Tikka Khan and now being marginalised by Rahimuddin Khan, went into self-imposed seclusion.[6] Civil disobedience movements and anti-government protests died down.

Rahimuddin's tenure also ushered in sustained development.[5] Following the Soviet invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan in 1979, Rahimuddin used the resultant foreign attention on Balochistan by introducing an externally financed development programme for the area.[7] Forty million dollars (USD) were committed to the programme by the end of 1987, by which time Rahimuddin had resigned.[8] He expedited the regulation of Pakistan Petroleum Limited, the exploration company charged with the Sui gas field. He consolidated the then-contentious integration of Gwadar into Balochistan, which had earlier been notified as a district in 1977. Addressing the province's literacy rate, the lowest in the country for both males and females,[9] he administered the freeing up of resources towards education, created girls' incentive programs, and had several girls' schools built in the Dera Bugti District. As part of his infrastructure schemes, he also forced his way in extending electricity to vast areas with subsoil water.[10]

Tensions have resurfaced in the province with the Pakistan Army being involved in attacks against ethnic Baloch separatists groups like Balochistan Liberation Army, Baloch Liberation front and Baloch Republican army. Attempted uprisings have taken place as recently as 2006.


  1. ^ "Discovery of Arms in the Iraq Embassy, Islamabad – 1973". Archived from the original on 9 March 2011. Retrieved 27 April 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d "Twentieth Century Atlas – Death Tolls". Retrieved 12 December 2014.
  3. ^ Foreign Policy Centre, "On the Margins of History", (2008), p.35
  4. ^ BBC, News page (17 January 2005). "Pakistan risks new battlefront". BBC News. Retrieved 8 April 2006.
  5. ^ a b "Balochistan- Separate Ways". Indus Asia Online Journal (iaoj). Retrieved 12 December 2014.
  6. ^ "Akbar Bugti". Retrieved 12 December 2014.
  7. ^ Emma Duncan, Breaking the Curfew, (1989), p. 155
  8. ^ Emma Duncan, Breaking the Curfew, (1989), p. 156
  9. ^ "Balochistan home to lowest-literacy rate population in Pakistan". Daily Times. 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2009. Balochistan is home to the largest number of school buildings that are falling apart. It also has the least number of educational institutions, the lowest literacy rate among both males and females.
  10. ^ "Tribal Politics in Balochistan 1947–1990" Conclusion (1990) p. 7

External links

Baloch Students Organization

The Baloch Students Organization (BSO; Urdu: بلوچ اسٹوڈنٹس آرگنائزیشن‎) is a student organisation that campaigns for the students of Pakistan's Balochistan Province. It was founded as a student movement on 26 November 1967 in Karachi and remains the largest ethnic Baloch student body in the country. It got divided due to ideological differences. BSO Pajjar and BSO Mengal affiliated itself with the parliamentary framework of Pakistan. Dr Allah Nazar, founder of pro independence wing, In 2002 while he was studying in college, he created a breakaway faction — BSO–Azad — that advocated struggle for an independent Balochistan based on pre-colonial Baloch country. The Pakistani government banned the BSO Azad on 15 March 2013, as a terrorist organisation, an action condemned by the Asian Human Rights Commission.There is an alleged link between BSO and India, with Pakistan accusing the Indian intelligence agency RAW of having "assets" within BSO, an allegation denied by India and activists in BSO.

Pakistan Peoples Party

The Pakistan Peoples Party (Urdu: پاکِستان پیپلز پارٹی‎, commonly referred to as the PPP) is a left-wing, socialist-progressive political party of Pakistan. Affiliated with the Socialist International, Its political philosophy and position, in the country's political spectrum, is considered centre-left, and involves supporting public ownership, egalitarianism, equality, and a strong national defence. Since its foundation in 1967, it had been a major and influential political left-wing force in the country and the party's leadership has been dominated by the members of the Bhutto family. Its centre of power lies in the southern province of Sindh.Since its formation in 1967, the PPP has been voted into power on five separate occasions (1970, 1977, 1988, 1993, 2008). It dominated the politics of Pakistan during the 1970s, suffering a temporary decline during the military dictatorship of Zia-ul-Haq. After the re-establishment of democracy in 1988 following Zia's death, a two-party system developed, with the PPP and IJI (later succeeded by PML(N)) as the two major sides. The party served as the principal opposition to the Musharraf-led liberal government from 1999 to 2008. Until the disqualification of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani by the Supreme Court in 2012, the PPP was regarded as the most influential political party in the country. It emerged as the largest opposition party in the National Assembly (lower house), during the 2013 Elections as well as the governing party of Sindh.

Rahimuddin Khan

Rahimuddin Khan (born 21 July 1924) is a retired four-star general of the Pakistan Army who served as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee from 1984 to 1987, after serving as the 7th Governor of Balochistan from 1978 to 1984. He also served as the 16th Governor of Sindh in 1988.

Born in Qaimganj, United Provinces, British India, Rahimuddin opted for Pakistan at Partition, enrolling as the first cadet of the Pakistan Military Academy. He was part of military action during the 1953 Punjab disturbances, and later commanded 111 Brigade in Rawalpindi, 8th Division in Sialkot, and II Corps in Multan before being appointed Chairman Joint Chiefs. He rejected the future military plan for the Kargil conflict in 1986.As the longest-serving governor of Balochistan in Pakistan's history, Rahimuddin ended the 1973 operation in Balochistan, declaring a general amnesty and military withdrawal in 1978. His tenure saw widespread economic development, the construction of nuclear test sites in Chaghai, and the halting of the Baloch insurgency, but was controversial for suppressing the Afghan mujahideen entering the province during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (Urdu: ذوالفقار علی بھٹو‎‎) (5 January 1928 – 4 April 1979) was a Pakistani politician who served as the 9th Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1973 to 1977, and prior to that as the 4th President of Pakistan from 1971 to 1973. He was also the founder of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and served as its chairman until his execution in 1979.Educated at Berkeley and Oxford, Bhutto trained as a barrister at Lincoln's Inn. He entered politics as one of President Iskander Mirza's cabinet members, before being assigned several ministries during President Ayub Khan's military rule from 1958. Appointed Foreign Minister in 1963, Bhutto was a proponent of Operation Gibraltar in Kashmir, leading to war with India in 1965. After the Tashkent Agreement ended hostilities, Bhutto fell out with Ayub and was sacked from government. He founded the PPP in 1967, contesting general elections held by President Yahya Khan in 1970. While the Awami League won a majority of seats overall, the PPP won a majority of seats in West Pakistan; the two parties were unable to agree on a new constitution in particular on the issue of Six Point Movement which many in West Pakistan saw as a way to break up the country. Subsequent uprisings led to the secession of Bangladesh, and Pakistan losing the war against Bangladesh-allied India in 1971. Bhutto was handed over the presidency in December 1971 and emergency rule was imposed. When Bhutto set about rebuilding Pakistan, he stated his intention was to "rebuild confidence and rebuild hope for the future".By July 1972, Bhutto had recovered 43,600 prisoners of war and 5,000 square miles of Indian-held territory after signing the Simla Agreement. He strengthened ties with China and Saudi Arabia, recognised Bangladesh, and hosted the second Organisation of the Islamic Conference in Lahore in 1974. Domestically, Bhutto's reign saw parliament unanimously approve a new constitution in 1973, upon which he appointed Fazal Ilahi Chaudhry President and switched to the newly empowered office of Prime Minister. He also played an integral role in initiating the country's nuclear programme. However, Bhutto's nationalisation of much of Pakistan's fledgling industries, healthcare, and educational institutions led to economic stagnation. After dissolving provincial feudal governments in Balochistan was met with unrest, Bhutto also ordered an army operation in the province in 1973, causing thousands of civilian casualties.Despite civil disorder, the PPP won parliamentary elections in 1977 by a wide margin. However, the opposition alleged widespread vote rigging, and violence escalated across the country. On 5 July that same year, Bhutto was deposed by his appointed army chief General Zia-ul-Haq in a military coup before being controversially tried and executed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1979 for authorising the murder of a political opponent. While Bhutto remains a contentious figure in Pakistan's history, his party, the PPP, remains among Pakistan's largest, his daughter Benazir Bhutto was twice elected Prime Minister, and his son-in-law and Benazir's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, served as President.

Pakistan Pakistan topics
Student groups
Militant groups
Key figures

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.