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Humshehri: Thinking Pakistan's History

Thinking Pakistan's History

Shahi Jirga Referendum

Urdu Version

A referendum on the question of which new state Balochistan would belong to after the British departure was put to the Shahi Jirga.

Last Updated: 7 Dec. 2013


Following the Sandeman system of relying on the Sardari system, a referendum on the question of which new state the British Balochistan and the leased areas would belong to after the British departure was put to the Shahi Jirga, much to the consternation of leaders of both the Congress and Muslim League. There is much scholarly dispute over the accuracy of details commonly known regarding the referendum in June 1947, mainly due to the complicated administrative set up of the three regions of Balochistan, which complicated the question set forth by the referendum; would the vote determine between Kalat and Pakistan or Pakistan and India, and what would sort of weightage would the Sardar vote have in terms of determining the sovereignty of Kalat? How would the referendum impact the leased and tribal areas?

Accounts of the referendum are heavily colored by partisan biases. Baloch nationalists claim that there was little support from the Sardars to join Pakistan’s constituent assembly, and that a conspiracy theory between the British and the Muslim League was hatched under the guise of the referendum. Some nationalists claimed that in fact the Sardars were not even allowed to vote, holding the referendum a day earlier than announced ensured the absence of key voters, resolving any of the disagreements during session. Pro Pakistani elements cite Congress and British collaboration as the reason for the lack of support for Pakistan.

In spite of the unclear circumstances of the referendum, British Balochistan, and the leased and tribal Marri-Bugti areas that were constitutionally a part of the Khanate, acceded to Pakistan on 15 August 1947, without any settlement regarding constitutional and administrative reforms, and with the status of Chief Commissioner’s Province.

Primary sources

Shahi Jirga Records: A brief overview of the records and pictures put together by Balochistan Archives, Government of Balochistan.

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Books & Articles

Axmann, Martin. Back to the Future: The Khanate of Kalat and the Genesis of Baloch Nationalism, 1915-1955. Karachi: Oxford UP, 2008.