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Sardar Ibrahim Khan Sanjrani, Iranian Baloch Khans in Qajar era, c. 1884
|Approx. 10 million (2013)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Pakistan||6.8 million (2017)|
|Iran||1.5 million–2 million (2013)|
|Balochi, Brahui, Jadgali |
Persian, Arabic (spoken by locality)
The Baloch (Balochi: ?, romanized: Bal; or Baluch) are an Iranian people who live mainly in the Balochistan region of the southeastern-most edge of the Iranian plateau in Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan. There are also diaspora communities in neighboring regions, including those in India; and having a significant diaspora in the Arabian Peninsula.
They mainly speak Balochi, a Northwestern Iranian language, in contrast to their location on the Southeast of the Persosphere. About 50% of the total Baloch population live in Balochistan, a western province of Pakistan; 40% of the Baloch population are settled in Sindh; and a significant number of Baloch people in Punjab in Pakistan. They make up nearly 3.6% of Pakistan's population, about 2% of Iran's (1.5 million), and about 2% of Afghanistan's.
The exact origin of the word 'Baloch' is unclear.
Some writers suggest a derivation from Sanskrit words bal, meaning strength, and och meaning high or magnificent. An earliest Sanskrit reference to the Baloch might be the Gwalior inscription of the Gurjara-Pratihara ruler Mihira Bhoja (r. 836-885), which says that the dynasty's founder Nagabhata I repelled a powerful army of Valacha Mlecchas, translated as "Baluch foreigners" by D. R. Bhandarkar. The army in question is that of the Umayyad Caliphate after the conquest of Sindh.
According to Baloch lore, their ancestors hail from Aleppo in what is now Syria. They claim to be descendants of Ameer Hamza, uncle of the prophet Muhammad, who settled in Halab (present-day Aleppo). After the fight against second Umayyad Caliph Yazid I at Karbala (in which Ameer Hamza's descendants supported and fought alongside Husayn ibn Ali) in 680, descendants of Ameer Hamza migrated to east or southeast of the central Caspian region, specially toward Sistan, Iran, remaining there for nearly 500 years until they fled to the Makran region following a deception against the Sistan leader Badr-ud-Din.
Dayaram Gidumal writes that a Balochi legend is backed up by the medieval Qarmatians. The fact that the Carmatians were ethnic Baluchis is also confirmed by the Persian historian in the 16th century Muhammad Qasim Ferishta. Based on an analysis of the linguistic connections of the Balochi language, which is one of the Western Iranian languages, the original homeland of the Balochi tribes was likely to the east or southeast of the central Caspian region. The Baloch began migrating towards the east in the late Sasanian period. The cause of the migration is unknown but may have been as a result of the generally unstable conditions in the Caspian area. The migrations occurred over several centuries.
By the 9th century, Arab writers refer to the Baloch as living in the area between Kerman, Khorasan, Sistan, and Makran in what is now eastern Iran. Although they kept flocks of sheep, the Baloches also engaged in plundering travellers on the desert routes. This brought them into conflict with the Buyids, and later the Ghaznavids and the Seljuqs. Adud al-Dawla of the Buyid dynasty launched a punitive campaign against them and defeated them in 971-972. After this, the Baloch continued their eastward migration towards what is now Balochistan province of Pakistan, although some remained behind and there are still Baloch in eastern part of the Iranian Sistan-Baluchestan and Kerman provinces. By the 13th-14th centuries waves of Baloch were moving into Sindh, and by the 15th century into the Punjab. According to Dr. Akhtar Baloch, Professor at University of Karachi, the Balochis migrated from Balochistan during the Little Ice Age and settled in Sindh and Punjab. The Little Ice Age is conventionally defined as a period extending from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, or alternatively, from about 1300 to about 1850. Although climatologists and historians working with local records no longer expect to agree on either the start or end dates of this period, which varied according to local conditions. According to Professor Baloch, the climate of Balochistan was very cold and the region was inhabitable during the winter so the Baloch people migrated in waves and settled in Sindh and Punjab.
The area where the Baloch tribes settled was disputed between the Persian Safavids and the Mughal emperors. Although the Mughals managed to establish some control over the eastern parts of the area, by the 17th century, a tribal leader named Mir Hasan established himself as the first "Khan of the Baloch". In 1666, he was succeeded by Mir A?mad Khan Qambarani who established the Balochi Khanate of Kalat under the Ahmadzai dynasty.[note 1] Originally in alliance with the Mughals, the Khanate lost its autonomy in 1839 with the signing of a treaty with the British colonial government and the region effectively became part of British Raj.
Gold ornaments such as necklaces and bracelets are an important aspect of Baloch women's traditions and among their most favoured items of jewellery are dorr, heavy earrings that are fastened to the head with gold chains so that the heavy weight will not cause harm to the ears. They usually wear a gold brooch (tasni) that is made by local jewellers in different shapes and sizes and is used to fasten the two parts of the dress together over the chest. In ancient times, especially during the pre-Islamic era, it was common for Baloch women to perform dances and sing folk songs at different events. The tradition of a Baloch mother singing lullabies to her children has played an important role in the transfer of knowledge from generation to generation since ancient times. Apart from the dressing style of the Baloch, indigenous and local traditions and customs are also of great importance to the Baloch.
Baloch Culture Day is celebrated by the Balochi people annually on 2 March with festivities to celebrate their rich culture and history.
Traditionally, Jalal Khan was the ruler and founder of the first Balochi confederacy in 12th century. (He may be the same as Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu the last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire.) Jalal Khan left four sons - Rind Khan, Lashar Khan, Hoth Khan, Kora Khan and a daughter, Bibi Jato, who married his nephew Murad. Traditionally, these five are claimed as the founders of the five great divisions of the Baloch:
-The Lashari (Laashaar)
As of 2008 it was estimated that there were between eight and nine million Baloch people living in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. They were subdivided between over 130 tribes. Some estimates put the figure at over 150 tribes, though estimates vary depending on how subtribes are counted. The tribes, known as taman, are led by a tribal chief, the tumandar. Subtribes, known as paras, are led by a muquaddam.
Five Baloch tribes derive their eponymous names from Khan's children. Many, if not all, Baloch tribes can be categorized as either Rind or Lashari based on their actual descent or historical tribal allegiances that developed into cross-generational relationships. This basic division was accentuated by a war lasting 30 years between the Rind and Lashari tribes in the 15th century.
There are 180,000 Bugti based in Dera Bugti District. They are divided between the Rahija Bugti, Masori Bugti, Kalpar Bugti, and Daiga sub-tribes.[full ]Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti led the Bugti as Tumandar until his death in 2006. Talal Akbar Bugti was the tribal leader and President of the Jamhoori Watan Party from 2006 until his death in 2015.
There are 98,000 Marri based in Kohlo district, who further divide themselves into Gazni Marri, Bejarani Marri, and Zarkon Marri.Hyrbyair Marri has led the Balochistan Liberation Army since his brother's death in 2007.
The Zehri are based in Zawa, Jhalawan where they are the largest tribe.Sanaullah Zehri, the Chief Minister of Balochistan, is the Zehri's tribal chief. The Zehri have Sasoli and Zarakzai subtribes.
Violent intertribal competition has prevented any credible attempt at creating a nation-state. A myriad of militant secessionist movements, each loyal to their own tribal leader, threatens regional security and political stability. Nationalist groups like the Baloch Students Organization, composed of armed rebels, and the Baloch Council of North America, made up of educated expatriates living in the United States, have simultaneously denounced Balochistan's traditional rulers and Pakistan's national government. In 2020, a separatist movement attacked but failed to gain entry to the Pakistan Stock Exchange, which was 40% owned by China.
Virtually all Baloch in Pakistan are Muslims, with the towering majority being Sunnis (Shia's stand at 0.59%), including 64.78% belonging to the Deobandi movement, 33.38% belonging to the Barelvi movement, 1.25% belonging to the Ahl-i Hadith movement, and, while criticizing the "myth of Baloch secularism", scholars Christine Fair and Ali Hamza found out during their empirical studies that, when it comes to Islamism, "contrary to the conventional wisdom, Baloch are generally indistinguishable from other Pakistanis in Balochistan or the rest of Pakistan", that "there are virtually no statistically significant or substantive differences in levels of support for liberating Kashmiris from Indian rule, protecting Muslims outside of Kashmir from Indian oppression, making Pakistan a sharia-compliant state, ridding Pakistan of apostates and hypocrites, or liberating Muslims from oppression."
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Baluchis number between 1.5 million and 2 million in Iran. They are part of a wider regional population of about 10 million spread across Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
However, the total number of Baloch people has increased from 4 million in 1998 to 6.86m in 2017. The count does not include the population of two districts -- Quetta and Sibi -- where people of various ethnicities, including Baloch and Pashtun also reside.
In the absence of comprehensive census data, an estimate by Professor Abdul Sattar Purdely puts the population of Afghan Baloch at about two million.
An estimated 500,000-600,000 Baloch live in southern Afghanistan, concentrated in southern Nimroz Province, and to a lesser degree in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
The Baloch tribes rise up from their original home in Aleppo, all sons of Mir Hamza (generally taken to be the uncle of the prophet Muhammad) to fight against the second Ummayad Caliph Yazid I at Karbala in 680. After Hoseyn is slain, the angered Balochi tribes wander way eastwards