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Humshehri: Thinking Pakistan's History

Thinking Pakistan's History

Yusuf Ali Khan Magsi

Urdu Version

Mir Yusuf Ali Khan Magsi was one of the most instrumental figures in Baloch nationalism (1908-1935).


Born to the prominent Nawab family of the Baloch tribe of Magsi, Mir Yusuf Ali Khan Magsi was one of the instrumental founding figures of Baloch nationalism. In the atmosphere of the anti-colonial Khlilafat Movement that was sweeping the subcontinent, Magsi published an article titled Faryad-e-Balochistan (The Cry of Balochistan) in a newspaper in Lahore in 1929. This article criticized not only the powerful vizier of Kalat, Shams Shah, but also British policy in Balochistan, for which he was arrested by the British and sentenced to a year in prison.

First political party

After his release, he convened with another rising figure of Baloch nationalism, Abdul Aziz Kurd, to recognize their common goals for the future of Balochistan, and formed the first political party of Balochistan, Anjuman-e Ittehad-e Balochan wa Balochistan. The aim of the party was to realize the political and administrative unification of Balochistan, which had been splintered into the Khanate of Kalat, British Balochistan, and the tribal areas leased by the Khan of Kalat to the British. Magsi became the first president of the party, and under him, the Anjuman successfully exerted pressure to ensure the succession of Azam Jan to the throne of Kalat in 1931 after the death of his father Mahmud Khan II, as the first step toward representative government in Balochistan.

When Ahmad Yar succeeded his father in 1933 as Khan of Kalat, Mir Yusuf was sent to Britain in 1934 as his representative to discuss the case for the sovereignty of Kalat, and the return of the leased tribal areas after the departure of the British. Under Magsi’s presidency, the Anjuman was successful in launching the landmark All India Baloch and Balochistan Conference in 1932 in Jacobabad. This brought together all the elements of Balochistan’s political landscape, from the tribal elders and leaders to the pioneers of the Baloch nationalist movement, who themselves were mostly from prominent Sardar families, though critical of the Sardari system.

Political ideology and opposition

As the Anjuman escalated its efforts to demand unification and constitutional reforms against Ahmad Yar’s desire to consolidate his monarchy in the early 1930s, the party met with intense British opposition. Mir Yusuf’s involvement resulted in a yearlong exile to England. Upon his return, political radicalization created great rifts within the Anjuman, with one side favoring cooperation with the British in order to achieve reforms, and more radical elements set on taking more drastic measures to achieve national liberation.

Mir Yusuf is alleged to have belonged to the more radical factions that later went on to form the Kalat State National Party (KSNP), which called for an armed struggle assisted by the USSR to achieve an independent and united Balochistan. Yet scholarly opinion is divided as to Magsi’s political ideology; an alternative opinion held amongst scholars is that while in London his writings became increasingly pan-Islamic, an indication that he was leaning toward all-India Muslim politics rather than just Baloch nationalism.

Magsi died on 31 May 1935 during the devastating earthquake that struck Kalat, Mastung and Quetta, and the Baloch nationalist movement lost its most prominent leader at this critical juncture in the history of the subcontinent. After Magsi’s death, Baloch unity took a turn for the worse and partisan splits within the Anjuman led to the stratification of politics in 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.