BALUCHISTAN i. Geography, History and Ethnography

Baluchistan is generally understood by the Baluch and their neighbors to comprise an area of over half a million square kilometers in the southeastern part of the Iranian plateau, south of the central deserts and the Helmand river, and in the arid coastal lowlands between the Iranian plateau and the Gulf of Oman.



i. Geography, History, and Ethnography

This article is divided into the following sections: 1. introductory review of problems in the history and ethnography of the Baluch, i.e., the present-day inhabitants of Baluchistan; 2. geography; 3. the origins of the Balōč, i.e., the people who brought the name into the area; 4. the early history of the area between Iran and India (Baluchistan); 5. the eastward migrations of the Balōč; 6. the establishment of the khanate in Kalat; 7. the autonomous khanate, 1666-1839; 8. the period of British dominance, 1839-1947; 9. the Baluch in Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan since 1947; 10. the diaspora; 11. ethnography. [Note: place names in Pakistan have not been transliterated.]

1. Introduction.

The total number of Baluch in Baluchistan (in Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan), the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, and elsewhere in Asia and Africa is variously estimated at between three and five million. Their history up to the time when they were drawn into Western colonial history in the 19th century is poorly known. A copious literature has been produced on them since then, especially in English, but also in Persian and several other European and regional languages. But so far there has been no attempt to synthesize and interpret all the available material (FIGURE 16, FIGURE 17).

Baluchistan is generally understood by the Baluch and their neighbors to comprise an area of over half a million square kilometers in the southeastern part of the Iranian plateau, south of the central deserts and the Helmand river, and in the arid coastal lowlands between the Iranian plateau and the Gulf of Oman. Its boundaries are vague and not consistent with modern provincial boundaries. It appears to have been divided throughout history between Iranian (highland) and Indian (lowland) spheres of influence, and since 1870 it has been formally divided among Afghanistan, Iran, and India (later Pakistan). It is unclear when the name Baluchistan came into general use. It may date only from the 12th/18th century when Naṣīr Khan I of Kalat during his long reign in the second half of the 12th/18th century became the first indigenous ruler to establish autonomous control over a large part of the area.

The origins of the Balōč and of their name are similarly unclear. They appear to have lived in the northwestern part of the area (southeast of Kermān) at the time of the Arab conquest. But their activities may even at that time have extended a considerable distance to the east. They appear to have migrated farther east, and beyond Makrān, beginning around the time of the arrival of the Saljuqs in Kermān in the 5th/11th century, and continuing intermittently for the next five centuries, up to the spread of Safavid power in the 10th/16th century, with major movements probably in the 6th/12th and 9th/15th centuries.

How and when the Balōč arrived in the region of Kermān is unknown. Their claim (in their epic poetry; see baluchistan iii) to be Arabs who migrated from Aleppo after fighting at Karbalāʾ cannot be taken at face value. The various inconclusive theories concerning their origins are reviewed by Dames (1904, pp. 7-16).

The scanty evidence for them between the Arab conquest and the arrival of the Saljuqs is also difficult to evaluate, partly because of the authors’ characteristic urban prejudice against nomadic tribes. But it suggests that they numbered in the tens of thousands at most; that they were pastoralists, herding sheep and goats; and that, like other Middle Eastern pastoralists, they were highly mobile, if not entirely nomadic, living in tribal communities (in the sense that they construed their social relations according to genealogical—patrilineal—criteria); and that they were poorly integrated into the settled polity, which they continually harassed.

In terms of general cultural values and world view, the Baluch in recent times resemble neighboring Muslim tribal populations in both the historical and the ethnographic records. What has emerged as distinctively Baluch, beside the language, Baluchi, is the structure of their social and political relations. But this structure is more likely to be a product of their recent pluralist experience in Baluchistan than a heritage of their earlier history. (It has not yet been changed significantly by their incorporation into modern state structures.) Baluch identity in Baluchistan has been closely tied to the use of the Baluchi language in intertribal relations. Modern Baluchi has a clear pedigree, with a number of grammatical features and vocabulary of the “Northwest” Iranian type (see baluchistan iii). But Baluch ethnicity today cannot be so clearly defined. On the one hand, many communities generally recognized as Baluch by themselves and by others are of alien origin and have been assimilated over the last four centuries. On the other hand, there is no evidence that all the considerable number of scattered communities known as Baluch in other parts of Iran, Afghanistan, and Soviet Turkmenistan (most of which are not presently Baluchi-speaking) are in fact historically related, or, if they are related, that they separated from each other in Baluchistan.

Within Baluchistan the population is not ethnically homogeneous. Some communities are identified (by themselves and others) as Balōč (see 10 below), with the implication that they are descended from those who entered the area as Balōč; while others, though considered members of Baluch society now and identifying as Baluch in relation to the outside world, are known within Baluch society by other tribal (e.g., Nowšērvānī, Gīčkī, Bārakzay) and subethnic (e.g., Brahui, Dehwār, ḡolām, Jaḍgāl, Mēd) designations, with the implication that they have adopted Baluch identity relatively recently—but not that they are for that reason in any way outsiders. Some of these “Baluch” predate the arrival of the Balōč. Others (e.g., the Bārakzay, q.v., who are of recent Afghan origin) postdate them. There are also remnants of what were (under autonomous Baluch rule, as well as under the British, 1666-1947) larger non-Muslim communities, mostly Hindu, Sikh, Ismaʿili, or Bahai traders, who are not considered Baluch. The Baluchi language was the language of interethnic as well as intertribal relations. Although participation in Baluchi intercourse generally seems to have led to assimilation, being Muslim appears to have been a necessary precondition. However, the Baluch in the Makrān who became Ḏekrī (Zikri) in the 10/16th century did not for that reason cease to be Baluch. The Baluch generally claim that all Baluch are Hanafite Muslims, although, apart from the Ḏekrīs (who are known but rarely discussed), there are some small Shiʿite communities on the northwestern fringes of Iranian Baluchistan, a fact which is unknown farther east.

The vast territory of greater Baluchistan has been divided historically into a number of areas, among which Makrān (in the south), Sarḥadd (in the northwest), and the area known earlier as Tūrān that includes the modern towns of Kalat and Khuzdar (Qoṣdār/Qozdār; in the east), have been the most significant. Stronger Iranian and Indian political centers to the west, north, and east (particularly, Kermān, Sīstān, Qandahār, Delhi, Karachi), and even the sultan of Oman to the south, have intermittently claimed suzerainty over parts of these areas, and considered them as their legitimate hinterland. The idea of one Baluch community in a politically unified Baluchistan may have originated in Naṣīr Khan’s successes in the 12th/18th century. His successors were unable to maintain control of the part of the area he claimed to rule as khan, let alone continue to pursue what appear to have been his ambitions to incorporate all the Baluch into one nation. But the policy of indirect rule pursued by the British, who began to encroach in the area during the following generation, and maintained the khan irrespective of internal processes that would either have destroyed or transformed the khanate, kept alive the idea of a unified Baluchistan—against considerable odds—at least up to the borders that the British negotiated with the Qajar government in Iran, and the Afghan government in Kabul in the second half of the 13th/19th century. By 1947, the idea of Baluchistan was too firmly established to be superseded or transcended by the new concept of Pakistan. The political activities of the Baluch in Pakistan (who constitute probably two thirds of the total Baluch population) reinforce and confirm Baluch identity in Iran, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

The Balōč appear to have become culturally dominant in the area in the late medieval period, along with the spread of Baluchi as a lingua franca—though the details and causes of each process are unclear. It was not until much later that the majority of the population of the area came to identify themselves as Baluch, probably as a result partly of the success of Naṣīr Khan’s policies, and partly because of the later British administrative classification. The assimilation of almost the whole population to Baluch identity and the dominance of Baluchi (at least for public, political purposes) is difficult to explain, since the tribesmen who established the khanate of Kalat (and therefore also the political autonomy and identity of the area) in the mid-11th/17th century spoke not Baluchi, but Brahui, and conducted their administration in Persian by means of a bureaucracy recruited among the Dehwār, who were Tajik peasants. Immigrant Baluchi speakers (Balōč) were probably not numerically dominant except in non-agricultural parts of the area.

Baluchistan remains a palimpsest of cultural and linguistic discontinuities. Although the existing literature is much greater than for other comparable tribal areas of the Iranian world, the underlying heterogeneity raises a number of problems for any systematic account of Baluchistan and the Baluch. These problems cannot yet be definitively treated. Far more historical and ethnographic research is needed. What follows is only a preliminary synthesis.

2. Geography.

Baluchistan has received relatively little attention from geographers. Apart from the initial descriptions provided by scholars like Vredenberg for the Gazetteers, and by Harrison for the Admiralty Handbook (Persia), Snead worked along the Makrān coast in 1959-60, and Vita-Finzi worked in western Makrān in the mid-1970s—both geomorphologists—and Scholz, a cultural geographer, conducted short studies from Quetta. The standard work on the geography of Afghanistan (Humlum) devotes a few pages to the Baluch areas in the southwest of the country. The following description is based mainly on the Gazetteers and the author’s field notes.

Throughout most of Baluchistan the topography is extremely broken and mountainous, varying in altitude from 1,500-2,000 m (the steppe on the edge of the Iranian plateau, at the base of mountains) to over 3,500 m in the north and northeast and to sea level on the coastal plain. In the part that is now southwestern Afghanistan, and here and there in the 500 km-wide zone between the Afghan border with Pakistan and the coast, the land opens out into vast expanses of featureless semidesert and desert. Temperatures are continental in the highlands with bitterly cold winters and extreme diurnal and seasonal ranges; the lowlands and coastal areas are subtropical. Extremes of summer heat (with high humidity during the monsoon) occur at low altitudes away from the coast in the Kacchi-Sibi plain and the larger Makrān valleys. High winds are also regularly recorded, related to the well known bād-e sad o bīst rūz phenomenon in Sīstān.

Rainfall varies mainly according to altitude. Though rare in summer on the Iranian plateau, it may come at any season, but may fail altogether for several years in succession, especially at the lower altitudes. The highlands and high mountains in the east and northeast receive up to 400 mm, even more in places on the eastern escarpment. Most of the rest sees an average of 100 mm or less—though averages are misleading because of wide annual fluctuations. Rain falls mostly in winter (as snow at high altitudes). The monsoon brings summer humidity and occasionally significant rain to the coast and lowlands. For example, in 1964 it rained heavily every day for two weeks in August over a large area of Makrān (see below, on baš). Sometimes such weather edges up the escarpments and marginally affects the Iranian plateau. Summer rain can be torrential and in the mountains flash floods may cause sensational damage. Heavy rain turns the coastal plain into a morass of clayey mud, impassible for human, animal, or motorized traffic until it dries out, possibly as much as a week. In the southern mountains some rivers flow continuously for stretches; elsewhere occasional pools often last till the next flood. In the Nahang and Sarbāz rivers some of the deeper pools contain crocodiles. (Game generally has become scarce except for ibex in the higher mountains, and the ubiquitous partridge and smaller game birds, such as chikara, sisi, pigeon, and some sandgrouse and quail. Wild sheep, deer, black bear, wild pig, wolf, jackal, hyena, fox, and porcupine also occur.) Here and there pools provide a trickle of water to irrigate a nomad’s garden plot. Water is nowhere abundant or (with few exceptions) perennial, but in the mountains soil is the limiting factor for agriculture. On the coastal plain on the other hand, the soil is often good but there is no water except from rain or runoff, and the ports have no reliable water supply.

The history of settlement in Baluchistan is reflected in its toponymy. Place names fall into three categories: Names that are of Baluchi origin, or have been Baluchized, are used for most minor natural features: rivers, streams, rocks, mountains; old settlements and major natural features tend to have pre-Baluch names; and new settlements, dating from the middle of the last century in Iran, and the middle of this century in Pakistan generally have Persian or Urdu names. Urban settlement in Baluchistan today is all the result of Persian and Pakistani administrative and (more recently) development activity. The Baluch have never developed an urban way of life, and though many now live in towns, the towns are essentially non-Baluch (Iranian or Pakistani) in character. Most of the major Baluch agricultural settlements, however, have developed on the sites of pre-Baluch towns, known from the time of premedieval prosperity, that was based on investment in agriculture, as well as trade. Since the medieval period, both before and since the Baluch became dominant, up to the beginning of modern development, agricultural settlement has been dependent on the protection of rulers who lived in forts. A few traders clustered around the forts. But the cultural center of gravity of Baluch life was among the nomads who controlled the vast areas between the settlements.

Within the geographical and cultural diversity of Baluchistan a number of districts have emerged historically, each with its own distinctive geographical features. Starting from the Iranian plateau in the north, the following are the significant natural and cultural divisions of Baluchistan (the modern administrative divisions are almost identical): the Sarḥadd, the Māškīd (Maškēl) depression, the Māškīd drainage are of Sarāvān-Panjgur, the northeast highlands of Quetta, Pishin, Zhob, Loralai, and Sibi, the Mari-Bugti hills, the eastern highlands of Sarawan-Jahlawan, the Jāz Mūrīān depression, Makrān, the Kacchi-Sibi lowlands, and the coastal plain including Las Bela and Daštīārī.

“Sarḥadd” appears to have come into use in the medieval period for the southern “borderlands” of Sīstān. It is a high plateau, averaging 1,500-2,000 m in altitude and dominated by the two volcano massifs, Kūh-e Taftān (4,042 m) and Kūh-e Bazmān (3,489 m). Although it is now thought of as coterminous with the šahrestān of Zāhedān, its historical boundaries were not strictly defined and usage of the term varied according to fluctuation in the relative strength of local rulers: It was sometimes considered to extend into the northeastern part of the Jāz Mūrīān depression and into the Māškīd drainage of Sarāvān, and westward through southern Nēmrōz and Helmand provinces and Chagai and even into Kharan. It is characterized by cold winters and moderate summers, with precipitation concentrated in the winters, as snow on the higher ground. There are large areas of sand on either side of the border with Afghanistan. Apart from the general steppe vegetation, there are relict stands of wild almond and pistachio on the plains, especially between Ḵāš (also Ḵᵛāš, Bal. Vāšt) and Gošt (Gwašt), and juniper in the mountains. The area is characterized by isolated hills and depressions that function as internal drainage basins. The larger depressions, hāmūn, are generally saline; the smaller ones, navār, in some cases contain sweet water. Traces of old bands (q.v.) are evident on the plain southwest of Taftān and elsewhere. The only significant agricultural settlement of any antiquity is Ḵāš, which lies to the south of Taftān. A few old villages nestle at the foot of the mountain, mainly on the eastern side. The most notable are Lādīz and Sangān. Ḵāš depends upon irrigation from qanāts, which though probably ancient were redeveloped by entrepreneurs from Yazd under Reżā Shah. There are also a few qanāts across the border in Chagai.

Since the medieval period the Sarḥadd has been divided among a number of tribes. The most important are the Esmāʿīlzay (renamed Šahbaḵš under Reżā Shah), Mīr-Balūčzay, Rīgī, Yār-Moḥammadzay (renamed Šāhnavāzī under Reżā Shah), Gamšādzay, Nārūʾī, and Gūrgēč. Across the modern borders in Afghanistan and Pakistan the major tribes are Sanjarānī, Jamāl-al-Dīnī, Bādīnī, Moḥammad-Ḥasanī, and the Brahui-speaking Mengal. Some ten thousand out of the estimated ninety thousand Baluch in Afghanistan, especially the Nārūʾī, Rīgī, Sanjarānī, and Gūrgēč tribes, are closely related to the groups across the border in Iran and Pakistan. Most Afghan Baluch are presently refugees in the neighboring part of Pakistan.

The hāmūn of the Māškīd river lies on the southwestern side of a large depression of some 15,000 square miles that, although geographically an extension of the Sarḥadd, has generally been controlled separately from a fort on its northeastern side, known as Kharan. In the British period Kharan was a separate principality under Kalat. Earlier it had been dependent on Qandahār. It is mostly desert and includes a large area of sand dunes on the southern side. It is bounded on the north by the range of Raʾskoh which divides it from Chagai, and on the south by the Siahan range which separates it from Panjgur and Makrān. There is a large area of thick tamarisk forest downstream from the seat of the principality (Kharan-Kalat) on a river that was once dammed and supports annual cultivation. On the western side of the Māškīd hāmūn there is a large area of rather poor quality date palms which have been important in the ecology of some of the Sarḥadd tribes to the west in Iran. A number of massive stone dams, now known in the archeological literature as gabar-bands, appear to have supported terraced fields in the hills bordering the main depression (Stein, pp. 7, 15-34, 145-47; Raikes, 1965). This type of engineering continues to be practiced on a small scale throughout Baluchistan (and in other parts of Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan; see below and ābyārī). It was probably more important in earlier periods.

The ruling tribe in Kharan are the Nowšērvānī, who claim Persian origin. Other important tribes are the Raḵšānī, Moḥammad-Ḥasanī, and the Brahui-speaking Sāsolī and Samalārī.

South of Kūh-e Taftān the plateau drops away to below 1,000 m along the course of the Māškīd river and its tributaries, forming the districts of Sarāvān and Panjgur, before it turns back north into Kharan. Presently the river carries water only after rain. The ecology is transitional with elements from both the temperate plateau and the subtropical south. Where the main tributaries join, the river flows through a deeply eroded gravel plain and peneplain, completely barren except for clumps of pīš (Nanorrhops ritchiana) in the occasional wadis. Kūh-e Berg, a narrow 2,500 m ridge which runs 150 km northwest to southeast, divides Sarāvān from the Jāz Mūrīān depression. Magas (renamed Zābolī under Reżā Shah) at over 1,200 m below the southern end of Kūh-e Berg grows the best quality dates on the Iranian side of the border. East of it two long parallel valleys contain the old agricultural settlements of Paskūh, Sūrān and Sīb in the first, and Gošt, Šastūn (the modern town of Sarāvān), and Dezak (renamed Dāvarpanāh under Reżā Shah) in the second. Other old settlements lie farther downstream and in the mountains on either side: Kallagān, Esfandak, Kūhak, Nāhūk, Jālq, Kant, Hīdūč, Āšār, Afšān, Ērafšān. Bampošt, which is one of the major areas of mountain nomadism and āp-band (āb-band; see below) farming, lies to the south of the Māškīd. Both districts depend upon qanāts and settled populations have probably predominated over nomads throughout the historical period. A large proportion of the cultivators of Sarāvān and Sīb-Sūrān are Dehwār. Other tribes include the Bārakzay, most recently the dominant group, their predecessors in power the Bozorgzāda (of whom one branch, the Mīr-Morādzay, held the forts in Sīb, Sūrān, Paskūh, Kant, Gašt, Hūšak; while another branch, Neʿmat-Allāhī, controlled Jālq and Dezak), Nowšērvānī (in Nāhūk, Kūhak, Esfandak), Ṣāḥebzāda (who are sayyeds), Malekzāda, Lorī, Nātūzay, Sepāhī (who formed the militia of the Bozorgzāda), Arbāb (who are smallholders), Balōč tribes known as Sīāhbor, Čākarbor, ʿAbdolzay, Čārīzay, Dorrazay (in Bampošt and Hīdūč), Kord (in Magas); the Balōč in Salāhkoh and the neighboring mountains are Āskānī, Porkī, Sēpādak; the šahrī in Ērafšān are Raʾīs and Watkār.

In Panjgur, which in many ways is a mirror image of Sarāvān across the border in Pakistan, settlement is more restricted. The Raḵšān has a course of over 150 miles but from Nāg at the northeastern end of the valley down to the confluence with the Māškīd close to the Iranian border (although there are large areas of flood farming) it supports irrigation (either directly or by qanāt) only around Panjgur itself. Remains of a dam dating from the pre-Balōč period were still visible a hundred years ago at a place called Bonestān below Panjgur. Sarāvān has been most closely associated with the Sarḥadd and Bampūr. Panjgur has generally been most closely associated with Kech and therefore considered part of Makrān, but the influence of Makrān has always been disputed by Kharan, which has managed to remain dominant in the border area in Esfandak and Kūhak.

The districts of Zhob, Loralai, Pishin, Quetta in the northeast are based on river valleys that drain out of the mountains around Quetta, which include two peaks over 3,400 m. Until two hundred years ago they had been more closely related to Qandahār than Kalat, and they became part of Baluchistan as a result of the political relationship between Kalat and Qandahār, a situation that was later reinforced by British border interests. Except for Loralai these districts were never settled by Balōč and their population remains mainly Pashtun, unassimilated to Baluch identity. Although they enjoy relatively high rainfall they remained mainly pastoral until the recent commercial development of fruit growing. Important areas of forest survive in the mountains, especially juniper (Juniperus excelsus) between 2,000-3,000 m and wild olive (Olea cuspidata). Major earthquakes were recorded in 1888, 1892, 1900, 1902 (Gazetteer V, pp. 30-31), and again the 1936. The major Pashtun tribes are the Kākaṛ, Tarīn, Panī, Acakzay. The Baluch tribes in Loralai are the Buzdār, Lēgarī and Ḡōṛčānī. In Quetta-Pishin there are only few Baluch pastoralists, mostly Rind (Gazetteer V, p. 77). There are now migrants from many Baluch tribes in the vicinity of Quetta.

South of Quetta a tongue of highland and mountain extends almost to the coast, dividing the lower Indus valley from Makrān. The main rivers are the Hingol, Porali, Baddo, and Hab. This was the medieval Tūrān, and as Sarawan and Jahlawan it has provided the center stage of Baluch history. Sarawan is literally the “above-land” and Jahlawan is the “(be)low-land” (Jahlawan becomes Jhalawan in Pakistani Urdu nomenclature), but the terms derive not from the topography but from the two divisions of the largely Brahui-speaking confederation living there. Kalat is the seat of Sarawan and Khuzdar of Jahlawan. Nal and Wad are other important tribal centers. The 1936 earthquake destroyed the Aḥmadzay fort (Mīrī) in Kalat as well as the city of Quetta (Baluch, 1975, p. 121). Although these districts have slightly higher rainfall than most of Baluchistan south and west of Quetta, they were mainly pastoral and nomadic until the recent extension into them of the national power grid, which encouraged investment in wells and pumps and settled agriculture and led to neglect of the traditional qanāt and band technology (see below). Pastoral transhumance to the lowlands of Kacchi on the west, which was the basis of the political preeminence of the area, remains important. The major tribes are the Raʾīsānī, Šahvānī, Bangalzay, Lēhrī, Langaw, Rostamzay, Mengal, Bīzenjō, Kambarānī (Qambarānī), Mīrwarī, Gorgnārī, Ničatī, Sāsolī, Ḵedrānī, Zārakzay, and the Zēhrī (of which only the last is Baluchi-speaking).

East of Sarawan and Jahlawan the terrain drops almost to sea level within some 20 km. This is the piedmont plain of Kacchi (the northern part of it belongs to the district of Sibi that extends up the valleys into the high mountains east of Quetta). Kacchi is about 2,000 km2, sloping from an elevation of about 150 m at Sibi in the north to 50 m at Jacobabad in the south. Since the introduction of a canal from the Indus in the 1930s the southern part has become the most productive agricultural part of Baluchistan. The majority of the year-round population are Jats. Cultivation in Kacchi depends on harnessing the floods that arrive in July and August from the monsoon on the hills—there is less than 100 mm of rain on the plain. The main rivers are the Bolan and the Nari. Seasonal river discharge onto the agricultural land of Sibi, Kacchi, Las Bela, Bāhū, and Bampūr was traditionally managed in the same way (though on a smaller scale than) the discharge of the Helmand into the delta lands of Sīstān. (The annual rebuilding of the barrages in Sīstān is described in Tate, 1909, pp. 224-226.) It was the most important event of the year, using all available labor. Crops include sorghum, pulses, and sesame. There is a nāʾeb for each village, appointed by the khan. The Jats construct huge embankments across the dry riverbeds to catch and divert the torrential floods. As the fields are flooded, they break one dam and let the water rush down to the next. The Nari has more than fifteen such dams. Most of them require repair or reconstruction during winter, for which the labor is provided by the nomads. Nomads also provide the labor for harvesting. The traditional organization has been modified recently by administrative changes (N. Swidler, p. 102). The major tribes are the Rind, Magasī, Dumbkī, Omrānī, Bulēdī, Ḵōsa, Jātōī, Kēbārī, Mugārī, Dīnārī, Čālgrī, Marī, and Būgṭī.

South of Loralai an isolated area of hill country extends southward to the banks of the Indus, bounded on the east by the southern end of the Sulaiman range. These are the Mari-Bugti hills, called after the tribes that have controlled them with a considerable degree of autonomy into the modern period. They consist chiefly of narrow parallel ridges of closely packed hills, which form the gradual descent from the Sulaiman plateau into the plains, intersected by numerous ravines and generally barren and inhospitable. But here and there are good patches of grazing, and a few valleys which have been brought under cultivation. The Marī are the largest Baluch tribe and were estimated at 60,000 (Pehrson, p. 2). They are Baluchi-speaking and identify strongly as Baluch, claiming to be descended from a branch of the Rind tribe. But they speak a distinct dialect of Baluchi, and have always jealously guarded their autonomy from the larger Baluch polity, especially as represented by Kalat. In their political organization they display features that are reminiscent of their Pashtun neighbors, such as tribal councils.

To the northwest the historical boundary between Baluchistan and Kermān is a vague no-man’s land in the Jāz Mūrīān depression. The Jāz Mūrīān is a large hāmūn, about 300 km long and 70,000 km2 in area, into which the Bampūr river drains from the east and the Halīlrūd from the west. A low range separates it from Narmāšīr and the Dašt-e Lūt to the north. A large area of dunes impedes communication on the southeast side, and there is a thickly wooded area, mainly tamarisk, along the banks of the Bampūr river below Bampūr. Most of the rest, except for a varying amount of shallow water in the center, is flat desert, with high summer temperatures, but an open gateway to Kermān in the winter. There is a score of rich agricultural villages around Īrānšahr (previously Fahraj, Baluchi Pahra) and Bampūr (of which the largest is Aptar) depending partly on qanāts and partly on a dam above Bampūr, which is the site of the largest fort in western Baluchistan. The agricultural population is mainly low-status tribesmen and gōlāms. 100 km west of Bampūr, on the northeast edge of the central depression, is the center of the Bāmerī tribe, who breed the best fast riding camels. They engage in a small amount of cultivation based on shallow wells from which they raise the water by means of long counterbalanced poles (Arabic šādūf).

South of the Jāz Mūrīān and Sarāvān the Makrān mountains extend in a 150-220 km wide zone from Bašākerd in the west to Mashkai in Jahlawan in the east. There is a number of parallel east-west ranges and valleys that resemble steps from the Iranian plateau down to the coast. They are rugged and difficult to traverse, though the peaks rarely exceed 2,000 m. The most important rivers are the Jāgīn, Gabrīg, Sadēč, Rāpč, Sarbāz, Kech, and its tributary Nahang. The western rivers cut through the mountains in deep gorges, of which Sarbāz is the most spectacular. In the east the major river is the Kech, which runs 150 km due west between two ranges before joining the Nahang and turning south through a gap to the sea. Rainfall is scanty and irregular, and summer temperatures are high, but the monsoon brings humidity and occasional rain that reduces the temperature and resuscitates the vegetation. The Makrān mountains are the home of Balōč nomadic pastoralists. Natural vegetation is sparse, and they divide their time between their animals (mainly goats) and their āp-band. Where valleys open out and contain soil but no water, a band is built round a terrace of good alluvial soil to catch occasional rain, or water channeled from the river after flood. The few permanent settlements are riverine and small. Most are situated in the sweep of a bend or where a river issues onto desert plains. The main centers are Bent, Fannūj, Geh (renamed Nīkšahr under Reżā Shah), Qaṣr-e Qand, Bog, Rāsk, Čāmp, and Lāšār, Espaka, Mand, and Tump. There are over 50 villages on either side of a long gorge in the Sarbāz river, and an almost continuous string of oases lining the banks of the Kech river with fields and date plantations irrigated from both kārīz and cuts (Bal. kawr-jō; kawr is Baluchi for “river”) taking off from large pools in the river bed. Tump and Mand enjoy similar conditions. Kolwa is an 80-mile natural continuation of the Kech valley to the east separated by an almost imperceptible watershed. It contains by far the greatest dry crop area of the Makrān. The Dasht valley carries the united Kech-Nahang through the coastal range to the sea, irrigating important agricultural land on either side. The Buleda valley north of Turbat has some agriculture, as do some spring-irrigated areas in the Zamuran hills north of the Nahang river. Otherwise, apart from Parom and Balgattar which are saline flats, Makrān supports only pastoralism. The crops in the mountains are rice and dates, though a wide range of fruits and vegetables are grown in small quantities, and mangoes deserve special mention. Dates are par excellence the crop of the Makrān; 109 cultivated (nasabī) varieties are listed in the Makrān Gazetteer, apart from wild (kurōč) varieties. Pīš is the most typical of all Makrān plants. It grows on rocky ground up to 1,000 m, and provides a famine food, as well as fiber. The main tribes of the Makrān mountains are the Gīčkī, Bulēdī, Hōt, Bīzenjō, Nowšērvānī, Mīrwārī, Rind, Raʾīs, Lāndī, Kattawār, Kēnagīzay, Mullāzay, Šīrānī, Mubārakī, Lāšārī, Āhurānī, Jaḍgāl, Sardārzay. The Šīrānī hold Geh, Fannūj, and Bent; the Mubārakī, who are a branch of the Šīrānī, hold Čāmp and Lāšār. The Bulēdī held forts in Rāsk, Qaṣr-e Qand, Bog, and Hīt and their warrior zāt was the Bar. Katrī and Bāpārī are non-Baluch merchants. The cultivators in Makrān are mostly landless.

The coastal plain varies in width from almost zero to as much as 100 km in Daštīārī and more in Las Bela. It contains no reliable supplies of fresh water, but supports considerable forest and woodland of Prosopis, Zyziphus, and Acacia spp. The coastline is deeply indented with bays, which provide good anchorages for Čāhbahār (formerly Tīs, a little to the north of it) and Gwadar, among other ports. In the west the plain is mostly low and swampy or sandy, but farther east there are hills near the coast and headlands. Bare sandstone has weathered into fantastic shapes. At their seaward base some of them have deteriorated into badlands and are difficult to traverse. The main rivers, which only flow after heavy rain, pass between the sandstone massifs, providing the only passages inland. A line of mud volcanoes extends along the coast, of which the largest, Napag (10 miles north of Ras Tank/Raʾs Tang), has a cone built up to 50 m by constant eruptions of greenish mud (Persia, p. 141). There are extensive mangrove swamps intersected by creeks in the Gwatar bay and the rivers to the west. The rivers contain quicksands. The soil in Daštīārī and Bela, like Kacchi and some parts of Makrān such as Parom and along the Dasht river, has unusual moisture-retaining capability. After one good rain it will hold water long enough to obtain a crop of sorghum. Daštīārī relied on the Kājūkawr and Bāhū on the Mazankawr (the continuation of the Sarbāz river) for irrigation. But about a hundred years ago both of these rivers cut back so that except in exceptional floods the water was out of reach of the agricultural land. In both Daštīārī and Las Bela dams were built seasonally from earth and trees, as in Kacchi. Small fishing communities of Mēd live here and there on the beach. Scattered along the plain are mobile villages and camps of Balōč who are mainly pastoral, but practice a little cultivation after rain. All these populations have traditionally depended on rain and rain-filled ponds as the only source of water.

3. The origins of the Baluch.

The earliest extant source (Šahristānīhā ī Ērān-šahr, a Pahlavi text written in the 2nd/8th century, though probably representing a pre-Islamic compilation; see Markwart, Provincial Capitals, pp. 5, 15, 74-76) lists the Balōč as one of seven autonomous mountain communities (kōfyār). Arabic writers in the 3rd/9th and 4th/10th centuries (especially Ebn Ḵordāḏbeh, Masʿūdī, Eṣṭaḵrī, Moqaddasī) mention them, usually as Balūṣ, in association with other tribal populations in the area between Kermān, Khorasan, Sīstān, and Makrān. All these tribes (of which only the Balōč survive in name) were feared by the settled population. The sources also add some detail, but the implications are unclear. The Balōč appear to have had a separate district of Kermān, but they also lived in two districts of Sīstān (Eṣṭaḵrī) and appeared in a tract some distance to the east of Fahraj (the eastern border of Kermān), probably modern Kharan (Ḵārān) or Chagai (Ebn Ḵordāḏbeh). Eṣṭaḵrī also records them as peaceful, though Moqaddasī claims they were more troublesome than the Kūč, with whom they are often paired (for references see Dames, 1904b, pp. 26-33, who also provides a more detailed discussion).

The Balōč are generally considered to have arrived in Kermān from the north (e.g., Dames, 1904b, pp. 29-30). The evidence for this assumption depends on two arguments: the classification of Baluchi as a “Northwest Iranian” language and the fact that in Ferdowsī’s Šāh-nāma (composed at the beginning of the 4th/10th century on the basis of earlier works now lost) they are mentioned in conjunction with Gīlān. According to Ferdowsī (see, e.g., Dehḵodā, s.v. Balōč) the Sasanian kings Ardašīr and Ḵosrow I Anōšīravān fought the Balōč and the Balōč fought for several other Sasanian kings. It has also been argued that the Balōč left traces of their language in the oases of the central deserts of the Iranian plateau as they migrated south (Minorsky, 1957; Frye, 1961). Some of this evidence (e.g., place names), if pertinent, could be the result of later raiding activities on the part of small numbers of Baluchi-speakers. (Such activities have been recorded as late as the 13th/19th and early 14th/20th centuries.) There is no other evidence that could be used either to date or to corroborate the theory of a southward migration by the Balōč.

It is clear that the desert areas east and southeast of Kermān have been generally insecure throughout much of the historical period. The early Muslim writers were preoccupied with the unpredictability of populations not controlled by the government, and by the danger to travelers. Their descriptions tell us little more about the populations of these areas than we might expect. They kept flocks and lived in goat-hair tents. Their native language was not Persian. They seem to have been concentrated in the more fertile mountains southeast of Kermān and to have plundered intermittently on the desert routes to the north and northeast.

The situation with regard to the security of travel apparently deteriorated, because in 361/971-72 the Buyid ʿAżod-al-Dawla (q.v.) considered it worthwhile to conduct a campaign against them. The Balōč were defeated, but they continued to be troublesome under the Ghaznavids and the Saljuqs. When they robbed Maḥmūd’s ambassador in the desert north of Kermān between Ṭabas and Ḵabīṣ, Maḥmūd sent his son, Masʿūd, against them (Dames, 1904b, pp. 32-33). Although the eastward migration of the Balōč appears to have intensified soon after this, there are still Balōč in eastern Kermān province.

It is important to note that the sources do not mention any leaders. It is likely that the Balōč at this period were a series of tribal communities not sharing any feelings of common ethnicity. In fact, the name Balōč (Balūč) appears to have been a name used by the settled (and especially the urban) population for a number of outlaw tribal groups over a very large area. The etymology is unclear, as is that of Kūč (also written as Kūfeč, Kōfč or—arabized—Qofṣ), a name generally taken to refer to a comparable neighboring tribal community in the early Islamic period. The common pairing of Kūč with Balūč in Ferdowsī (see, e.g., Dehḵodā, s.vv.) suggests a kind of rhyming combination or even duplication, such as is common in Persian and historically related languages (cf. tār o mār). The Balōč may have entered the historical record as the settled writers’ generic nomads. Because of the significance of their activities at this period they would gradually have become recognized as the nomads par excellence in this particular part of the Islamic world. It is possible, for example, that Balūč, along with Kūč, were terms applied to particular populations which were beyond the control of settled governments; that these populations came to accept the appellation and to see themselves in the cultural terms of the larger, more organized society that was established in the major agricultural territories; but they remained, then as now, a congeries of tribal communities of various origins. There is also ethnographic evidence to suggest that Balūč, irrespective of its etymology, may be applied to nomadic groups by the settled population as a generic appellation in other parts of eastern and southern Iran. The other tribal populations recorded in southeastern Kermān in the early Islamic period, which did not survive in name, may have assimilated to the Baluch identity. An important feature of the history of the Baluch up to the 14th/20th century has been their ability to assimilate numerous and diverse elements. Their history may have begun in the area east and southeast of Kermān around the time of the Arab conquest and their ethnogenesis may have been a product of the insecurity of a vast desert area which the governments of the period did not care to control despite their need for secure communications across it. It must be remembered, however, that such a theory of the origin of the Baluch leaves open the question of how and when the language spread to become the lingua franca (though not the mother tongue) of all assimilated Baluch.

4. The early history of the area.

Throughout its history the area between Iran and India has been strongly affected by influences from the more fertile areas surrounding it, particularly Kermān, Sīstān, Qandahār, Punjab, Sind, and Oman. Sea traffic connected it to the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. Little historical research has yet been focused on it, and the relevant syntheses so far available derive coincidentally from the pursuit of answers to questions arising from primary interests in the civilizations to the east and west.

What is now Baluchistan has long interested scholars as the hinterland of the settled societies of the Indus valley, the Iranian plateau, and Mesopotamia. A number of important archeological sites have yielded evidence of human occupation extending back to the fourth millennium (see baluchistan ii). Archeologists and philologists have sought evidence of overland connections between the early civilizations of the Indus valley and Mesopotamia. Between 3000 and 2000 b.c. Sumerian and Akkadian records indicate trade relations between the Tigris-Euphrates valley and places called Dilmun, Makan, and Melukhkha, which, though their exact location has been a matter for debate, were obviously situated down the Persian Gulf and beyond. Makan is generally assumed to be related to Makrān which in later historical periods is the name of the southern half of the area, the coast, and its hinterland (Eilers, Hansman). Whether or not Makan always included this area, in the early periods the name seems to have applied mainly to the southern shores of the Gulf of Oman. This connection is significant, since it has continued into the present (though in more recent times the close relationship between the populations of what are now Baluchistan and Oman has been reduced by the apparatus of modern nation-states).

From the mid-1st millennium onward the area was divided into named provinces of the Persian empires. Maka and Zranka appear in the inscriptions of Darius at Bīsotūn and Persepolis. Maka here is certainly modern Makrān (the southern half of Baluchistan), and Zranka (NPers. Zarang), the Zarangai of Herodotus, Drangiane of Arrian, etc., was Sīstān, which appears then and later to have included most of the northern parts of the area and sometimes even to have extended into Makrān. More specific information is provided by Greek authors who began to be interested in the Persian Gulf as a result of the Persian wars (Herodotus, 3.93). Alexander’s expeditions beyond the Persian empire late in the 4th century generated more detailed writing. This was further encouraged by commercial interest in the sources of various luxury commodities, mainly spices and dyestuffs, which were already reaching the eastern Mediterranean from the Indian Ocean.

The province Alexander traversed on his return to Iran from India was named Gedrosia. The experience of his army and fleet given by Arrian is interesting because it suggests that (contrary to the assessments of modern ecologists) the natural conditions of Baluchistan have not changed significantly over the past 2,300 years. There were ports in Sonmiani Bay, northwest of modern Karachi, and at Gwadar (Badara) and Tīs (Tesa; earlier Talmena). Population was generally sparse, partly Indian, including the Arbies and Oreitae, partly Iranian, including the Myci (assumed to be related to Maka). Water and provisions were difficult to find without good guides. In the inland valleys agriculture was facilitated by sophisticated engineering of small-scale irrigation, based mainly on the yield from summer rains. The most fertile area was the Kech valley, which was densely settled. A highway to the Indus ran from the capital Pura, probably modern Bampūr, which is the largest area of fertile watered land, though it could have been in Kech, the next largest, or possibly even in one of the narrower river valleys, such as the Sarbāz. Indians, both Hindu and Buddhist, lived in Pura; through it both land and sea trade could pass onto the arterial route to Kermān.

Alexander founded an Alexandria at the principal settlement of the Oreitae in modern Las Bela. As he proceeded westward he was forced to strike inland by the difficulty of the coastal terrain. Between Bela and Pasni was the worst stretch of the whole expedition. Apart from intolerable heat and lack of food, water, and firewood, at one point a flash flood swept away most of the women and children following the army and all the royal equipment and the surviving transport animals. From Pasni they proceeded along the flat coastal plain to Gwadar, then inland to Pura. The experience of the fleet under Nearchos was similar. The daily search for food and water rarely produced more than fish meal and dates, sometimes nothing. Along the beach they found communities of Ichthyophagi (fish eaters), hairy people with wooden spears who caught fish in the shallows with palm bark nets and ate them raw or dried them in the sun and ground them into meal, wore fish skins, and built huts of shells and bones of stranded whales (Arrian, Anabasis 21-26, Indica 23-33).

The next significant information comes from the Sasanian period, when the area was once again integrated into a provincial administration. A king of Makrān paid homage to Narseh (son of the Sasanian Šāpūr I) at Narseh’s accession, who during the reign of his father bore the honorific (?) title of “king of Sakastān, Tūristān, and Hind up to the shore of the sea,” and later Bahrām’s son is called King of Sakas in the Paikuli inscription, which suggests that it was a not insignificant province (Skjærvø, III/2, pp. 10-11). Šāpūr I named four administrative entities within the area—Tugrān (later Tūrān, and presently Sarawan or Kalat), Pāradān (probably modern Kharan), and Hind (presumably Sind, or the land watered by the Indus), as well as Makrān—as appendages of Sakastān (Sīstān). The eastern boundary of the Sasanian province of Kermān was set at the port of Tīs on the coast, and at *Pohlpahraj (Fahraj), modern Īrānšahr, just beyond Bampūr at the far side of the irrigable area of the Jāz Mūrīān depression. Beyond that the kingdom of Makrān stretched along the coast to the port of Daibul at the mouth of the Indus. The kingdom of Pāradān stretched eastward from Bampūr to Tūrān. The kingdom of Tugrān probably extended from Kīzkānān (modern Kalat) and the Bolan pass (that connected Walishtan, modern Quetta, with the Sibi and Kacchi lowlands) through the Budahah district and the Pab and Kirthar ranges to a vague border with Makrān and Hind near Daibul. It appears to have been well populated by people who spoke a non-Iranian language, possibly Brahui as today. The main town was called Bauterna (modern Khuzdar). (For references and more detailed discussion see Brunner, pp. 772-77; Chaumont, pp. 130-37.)

Toward the end of the caliphate of ʿOmar, Makrān was invaded by the Arabs (23/644), who found it as unattractive as most outsiders appear to have done both before and since. After defeating the local ruler and marching almost to the Indus, they reported back to ʿOmar that it was an unattractive region, with the result that ʿOmar ordered that the Arabs should not cross the Indus. A similar sentiment is attributed to another commander: that the water in Makrān was scanty, the dates poor in quality; that a small army would be swallowed up in the deserts and a large one would die of hunger (Bosworth, 1968, pp. 1-25).

After the Arab conquest most of the area soon returned to its more characteristic condition of internal autonomy under alien hegemony. In particular it continued to serve as a refuge for people who had been displaced from the more fertile conditions of Iran and India. Especially, in the next few centuries, since Sīstān was a major center of Kharijite sentiment, many Kharijites found their way into Makrān (Bosworth, 1968, pp. 37-41 ).

In the early 5th/11th century the Ghaznavid empire established a pattern which has continued into more recent history. The geopolitical interests of the Ghaznavids, centered to the northeast of the area, complemented the decline of Sīstān, and brought Qoṣdār (Khuzdar), and through it much of Makrān, into dependency on Qandahār. Since then, although the governments of the western plateau (modern Iran) continued (until the establishment of Zāhedān as the administrative capital of the Iranian province of Baluchistan under Reżā Shah) to see Makrān as an extension of Kermān, governments on the eastern plateau (modern Afghanistan) have seen it as a southward extension from Qandahār.

Over the next three centuries, when first the Saljuqs and then the Mongols ruled in Iran, Iranian influence did not extend very far beyond Kermān, and Makrān became relatively autonomous again. In the 7th/13th century Marco Polo calls it Kesmacoran (Kech-Makrān), suggesting that the agricultural settlements along the Kech river were the most flourishing part of the area. Food was abundant and good (he mentions the full range of staples: rice and wheat, meat and milk). Kech had its own ruler (malek), and the people, who included non-Muslims and lived by commerce as much as agriculture, trading both overland and by sea in all directions, spoke a language Polo did not recognize. It is also worth noting that he identified the kingdom of Kesmacoran as the last in India, rather than the first in Iran (II, pp. 401-03). During this period Balōč migration intensified and the area began to take on the character of Baluchistan, absorbing a succession of immigrant groups, of which the Balōč were neither the first nor the last. But the history of the area cannot be understood as a refuge area or backwater. It is a borderland between India and Iran and a bridge between the Iranian plateau and the Arabian peninsula. Political and economic influences from both Iran (including what later became Afghanistan) and India continually affected the political economy, and local leaders have generally looked in both directions for potential sources of external support in their internal conflicts.

5. The eastward migrations of the Balōč.

Although many Balōč moved into and through Makrān starting in the 5th/11th century, others were probably already present in the general area east of Kermān. Evidence for the migration is sparse. There are two major types: the corpus of traditional Baluchi poetry and later Mughal histories.

The poems claim that the Balōč are descended from Mīr Ḥamza (Mīr is a Baluchi title for leaders, Arabic amīr), the uncle of the Prophet; that they fought with the sons of ʿAlī at Karbalāʾ, whence they migrated to Baluchistan. There are two possible interpretations of this epic history. First, tribal populations in the Muslim world have typically traced their genealogies back to the time of the Prophet as a way of legitimizing their Islam in their own tribal (i.e., genealogical) terms. Second, there are a number of ways in which Arab groups could have found their way into the heterogeneous tribal population that eventually assimilated Baluch identity east of Kermān, whether or not their forebears had fought at Karbalāʾ. Some of the original Arab invaders may have remained in the area, and there is evidence of migration across the Persian Gulf from Arabia into the Kermān region in the early centuries of Islam.

The poems tell of arrival in Sīstān and of the hospitality of a king named Šams-al-Dīn. A ruler (malek) by that name claiming descent from the Saffarids is known to have died in 559/1164. After a time another ruler called Badr-al-Dīn (of whom we have no independent record, unless he was a Ghurid) persecuted them and drove them out. Little else of any significance is identifiable, except the occasional place name in Makrān (see discussion in Dames, 1904b, pp. 35-36). It seems likely that this sort of eastward progress was determined by the use that various minor rulers may have had for a mercenary force.

The first record of movement into Sind is from the 7-8th/13-14th centuries. The main divisions of the Balōč tribes described in the poems presumably reflect events during this period. According to the poems a Mīr Jalāl Khan who was leader of all the Balōč left four sons, Rind, Lāšār, Hōt, and Kōraī, and a daughter named Jātō, who married his nephew Morād. These five became the eponymous founders of the five main tribes of the poems, the Rind, Lāšārī, Hōt, Kōraī and Jātōī. The poems tell of forty-four tribes (called tuman or bōlak), of which forty were Balōč, and four were servile tribes dependent on them. Other important names that have survived to the present are Drīšak, Mazārī, Dumbkī, Khōsā. The Hōt seem to have been in the area earlier than the others. It may be significant that some names are derived from known place names in Baluchistan. Many of the prominent tribes of today are not mentioned in the poems, such as Būgṭī, Bulēdī, Buzdār, Kasrānī, Lēgarī, Lund, Marī. Since these tribes were probably there in the 9th/15th century, the absence of their names in the poems suggests that either they are later branches of the old tribes, or they were not then Balōč and have been assimilated since.

In the 9th/15th century another wave carried the Balōč into southern Punjab. This was the period of Mīr Čākar (Čākor) Rind, the greatest of Baluchistan heroes. Some groups from the Rind tribe migrated from Sibi to Punjab, and spread up the valleys of the Chenab, Ravi, and Satlej rivers. Meanwhile, the Dōdaī (probably a Sindhi tribe assimilated during the previous 200 years) and Hōt moved up the Indus and the Jhelam. Bābor, the first Mughal emperor, found Balōč in Punjab in 925/1519. He hired them, as did his successor, Homāyūn. The first actual settlement of Balōč in Punjab appears to have been made in the reign of Shah Ḥosayn in Multan 874-908/1469-70-1502, who gave them a jāgīr (probably in return for military service)—an act which attracted more Balōč into the area. In Punjab many Balōč turned to settled agriculture in the 10th/16th century. (The references for this period are listed and discussed in more detail by Dames, 1904b, pp. 34-43.)

Although large numbers of Balōč moved into the Indus valley, there has never been any question of moving the boundaries of Baluchistan eastward to incorporate them. Balōč who settled in the lowlands, with the exception of Kacchi, tended to assimilate linguistically with the surrounding population, and lose their ties with kin in the highlands, though many (we cannot know what proportion) have retained their Balōč identity.

6. Events leading to the establishment of the Baluch khanate of Kalat. The 10th/16th century saw the rise of Safavid power in Iran and of Mughal power in India, and the arrival of European ships in the Sea of Oman and the Persian Gulf. The interests and conflicts of these three outside powers could not fail to affect the internal politics of the Balōč and other communities that lay between them. The major events that form the basis of Baluchi epic poetry, remembered as the wars between the Rind and Lāšārī tribes, occurred during this period and were obviously conditioned by the opportunities and incentives afforded by the larger geopolitical context.

The Safavids reestablished some Iranian control in Makrān, mainly from Bampūr, Dezak, and Sīstān (Röhrborn, pp. 12, 74, 82-83). In 1515, Shah Esmāʿīl (who had no navy) was forced to accept the Portuguese occupation of Hormoz, and concluded a treaty with the admiral, Alfonso de Albuquerque (q.v.), on terms that included the provision that the Portuguese would assist the shah in suppressing a revolt in Makrān. However, this collaboration, which would have been the first of its type with a European force in the area, proved abortive because of Albuquerque’s death. In 1581, for reasons that are unclear, the Portuguese destroyed the ports of Gwadar and Tīs, (Lorimer, I/1A, pp. 7-8).

The Dutch arrived in Hormoz at the beginning of the 11th/17th century and the British appeared soon afterward. In 1613 Sir Robert Sherley, who stopped at Gwadar on his way to Isfahan as ambassador, was nearly killed when a group of Baluch made a surprise attack on his ship. But afterward he wrote to the East India Company (established in 1600) in London recommending that they set up a factory in Gwadar, because it was autonomous, tributary to Iran, safe from the Portuguese, and promised “the richest traffic in the world.” In 1650 a Baluch guard defended Muscat (Masqaṭ) on behalf of the Portuguese (though the Imam of Muscat ousted the Portuguese later in the same year; see Lorimer, I/1A, p. 39). All the Europeans readily took on various groups of Baluch as guards and mercenaries. The Baluch did not display any solidarity in relation to these non-Muslim aliens. Baluch and foreigner cooperated or fought, according to local interests and animosities.

At this time the overland traffic was still taxed by the ruler (malek) of Kech, who also controlled Gwadar, and according to Pietro della Valle was on friendly terms with the Persian government. But around 1029/1620 Kech was taken over by the Bulēdī tribe, who appear to have been followers of the Ḏekrī (Zikri) heresy (see 11 below: ethnography), and dominated the whole of Makrān up to Jāsk until 1740 (Lorimer, 1/2, pp. 2150-51).

The prevalence of heresy in Makrān during this period may have separated it more than usual from the events of the highlands. Qandahār and the Quetta-Pishin area to the north changed hands between the Safavids and Mughals more than once, but although the Safavids eventually retained Qandahār and claimed the highlands down to Kalat (Röhrborn, p. 13), the Mughal influence was more significant in the history of the Baluch. Homāyūn is reputed to have given Shal (Quetta) and Mastung to a Baluch named Lawang Khan (Gazetteer V, p. 34). A Mīr Qambarānī (Kambarānī) used Mughal support to drive out the Jats from the Jahlawan district to the south, though his son, Mīr ʿOmar, was confronted with the Arḡūns of Qandahār. When Bābor took Qandahār (1522), Shah Bēg Arḡūn had moved to Sind, and Mīr ʿOmar seized an opportunity to take Kalat. He was driven out and killed by Rind and Lāšārī Balōč from Makrān, who included the figures celebrated in the heroic ballads, Mīr Šayhak Rind, his son Mīr Čākar Rind, and Mīr Gwahrām Lāšārī. But the Baluch did not stay; they moved on to Kacchi, leaving Mīr Čākar’s father-in-law, Mīr Mandō, in Kalat. Mīr Čākar appears to have remained in the area of Sibi and the Bolan Pass. In 1556 shortly before he died he is said to have acknowledged the suzerainty of the Mughals. In Kalat Mandō was soon overpowered by Brahui tribesmen under Mīr Bijjar, the son of ʿOmar. After Mīr Bijjar, Kalat was again taken by the Mughals, though they never managed to control the surrounding tribes. But with the loss of Qandahār the Mughal hold on the highlands weakened and the Brahui under Mīr Ebrāhīm Khan Mīrwārī managed to regain Kalat. Mīr Ebrāhīm declined to rule, and the khanate was offered to Mīr Ḥasan, his brother-in-law. Mīr Ḥasan was the first “khan of the Balōč.” The term Baluch (as used in this article) applies to participants in the polity that developed under his rule and that of his successors.

Mīr Ḥasan died without issue shortly after acceding to the title, the government passed to Mīr Aḥmad Khan Qambarānī, who became the eponymous founder of the Aḥmadzay dynasty of the State of Kalat (Ratuch, pp. 69-75; Rooman, pp. 28-29).

7. The Aḥmadzay khanate of Kalat up to the intrusion of British power (1666-1839).

The major factors in the history of Kalat in this period (before the encroachment of the British and the reawakening of Persian interest in the area) were the expansion of Kalat territory under the early khans, the effects of Nāder Shah’s activities with regard to India, and the Persian Gulf; the power of Nāder Shah’s successor in Qandahār, Aḥmad Shah Abdālī; the decline of the khanate after the death of Mīr Naṣīr Khan I in 1795; the ambitions of Moḥammad Shah Qājār, and the development of British interest. The uplands and the lowlands continued to have distinct political histories, though the success of Naṣīr Khan I in the second half of the 12th/18th century integrated them to some extent for the duration of his reign. From this period onward the history of the area has been seen in relatively exclusive terms as the history of Baluchistan (though its exact boundaries were often vague). Outside interest in the area, such as that of Oman (in Gwadar) and of Afghanistan (in “Pashtunistan”), have been seen as intrusive. However, a deeper historical perspective makes it clear that up until this period the area was neither an exclusive nor an integrated political or cultural unit; rather it formed part of a larger area that included Qandahār and Sīstān to the north and Oman to the south, and lay between the political poles of Iran and India. Within Kalat the highlands and lowlands were only loosely related: The lowlands were closely related to Oman, and the highlands were an extension of Qandahār. The subsequent history of the area is easier to follow when seen in these larger geopolitical terms. (This section is based on the more detailed discussions in Baluch, Lockhart, Rooman, the Gazetteers, and the author’s unpublished ethnohistorical research.)

Continuity of authority in Kalat dates from the accession of Mīr Aḥmad Qambarānī in 1666. Mīr Aḥmad ruled for thirty years and became an ally of the Mughal emperor Awrangzēb ʿAlamgīr I. He spent his life fighting the Bārōzay Afghans to the north and the Kalhora rulers of Sind to the south in order to preserve and expand his territory. He finally succeeded in controlling both Sibi and the Quetta-Pishin area. But his son, Mīr Meḥrāb Khan I, was still obliged to fight the Kalhoras. He defeated them in 1695, though he died in the battle. Mīr Samandar Khan, Meḥrāb’s brother’s son and successor, continued to keep the Kalhora family in check and also defeated a military expedition from Iran under Ṭahmāsb Bēg, who planned to annex western Baluchistan to Iran. Samandar was rewarded for these services by the Mughals with the port of Karachi and other gifts.

The acquisition of power by a local leader, who was able to establish the framework for dynastic succession in Kalat, transformed the political economy of the area, and set the scene for the later development of Baluch society. During the two centuries up to the time when the British took over the affairs of Kalat the general pattern of the khan’s external relations was accommodation with the political power in Qandahār and in Delhi, hostilities with Sind, and disorder in relations with Kermān. Baluch tribes in western Makrān and the Sarḥadd often raided into Iran—especially during the reign of Shah Sultan Ḥosayn, the last Safavid monarch 1105-35/1694-1722 (Lorimer, I/2, p. 2152). In 1721 the British and Dutch factories at Bandar-e ʿAbbās (q.v.) were attacked by a force of four thousand Baluch on horseback, who (apparently encouraged by the Afghan invasion of Persia) overran the province of Kermān and raided westward into Lorestān.

The rise of the Ḡelzay under Mīr Ways in Qandahār early in the 12th/18th century changed the political climate in Baluchistan. Quetta and Pishin were reattached to Qandahār in 1709. Mīr Aḥmad Khan II, the son of Mīr Meḥrāb Khan, whose profligacy displeased the Baluch sardars, was killed by his younger brother Mīr ʿAbd-Allāh Khan who then succeeded him. ʿAbd-Allah (r. 1714-34), who was known as Qah(h)ār Khan, was one of the stronger Aḥmadzay rulers, and remained relatively free to pursue his military and political ambitions during the period immediately preceding Nāder Shah’s appearance at Qandahār. He managed to conquer Kacchi in the south, Harand and Dajil in the northeast, Panjgur, Kech, and even Bandar-e ʿAbbās to the west, and Shorawak in the northwest. The last brought him into more direct conflict with Shah Ḥosayn Ḵaljī (r. 1725-38) of Qandahār, who joined forces with the Kalhoras in Sind in an attempt to defeat him. They were successful, and the khan tried to punish the Kalhoras again, but was defeated and killed in Kacchi.

Though the Aḥmadzay’s alliance with the Mughals had served them well, their enforced accommodation with the highland power of Nāder Shah and his successor in Qandahār, Aḥmad Shah Abdālī, served them even better. The conflict between Nāder Shah and the Mughals allowed the Aḥmadzay to establish themselves to the point where the British would later decide to rule through them, despite their declining abilities.

In concentrating his attention on the south, Mīr ʿAbd-Allāh Khan had served the Mughals too well and incurred the wrath of Nāder Shah. Nāder had named ʿAbd-Allāh his governor of Baluchistan and required him to move against the ʿAbdālīs in Qandahār from the south, while he, Nāder, moved in from the west. Owing to his entanglement with the Kalhoras, which led to his death in battle, ʿAbd-Allāh had failed to respond. Before Nāder was able to punish Kalat, ʿAbd-Allāh’s son, Mīr Moḥabbat Khan, was found unsatisfactory by the Baluch sardars, and replaced by his brother Mīr Ahltāz Khan. However, the sardars soon found Mīr Ahltāz no better and reinstated Moḥabbat (though Ahltāz seems to have retained some power among the Dehwār in Mastung). Nāder sent Pīr Moḥammad, the beglarbegī of Herat, against Kalat. In 1149/1736, rather than fight, both Moḥabbat and Ahltāz went to Qandahār and submitted to Nāder Shah, who took the elder, Moḥabbat, into his service and appointed him governor of Baluchistan including Makrān. Nāder also gave them the lowland plains of Kacchi (then ruled by the Kalhoras of Sind) as blood compensation for the death of Mīr ʿAbd-Allāh Khan. As a result the khanate now controlled both highland and lowland grazing and more land for cultivation throughout the year. Their resource base was greatly increased and the stage was set for further internal political development.

Following the assassination of Nāder Shah in 1160/1747, Aḥmad Shah Abdālī, later known as Dorrānī, who was heir to Nāder Shah’s paramountcy over Kalat, deposed Moḥabbat and put in his place another younger brother, Mīr Naṣīr Khan, who with his mother had been a hostage in Nāder’s camp since 1737. Naṣīr was historically the most significant of the Aḥmadzay rulers. He ruled for nearly half a century, and established the organization of the state of Kalat for the remainder of its existence. He was the only khan who successfully transcended tribal loyalties.

Of the land that had accrued to the state of Kalat up to this time half was reserved for the Aḥmadzay as crown land and the other half was divided among the tribes that made up the fighting force from Sarawan and Jahlawan. The khan allocated land to the tribes in two categories: gām lands and jāgīr lands. Gām lands were allocated according to the number of fighting men supplied by each tribe, with the stipulation that the land be used to raise crops to support the fighting force in the field. Since it was communal property of each tribe, it could not be alienated. One-twelfth of the income was gathered by the leader of each tribe and submitted to the khan as revenue. Unlike the jāgīr this land could be confiscated by the khan if the tribe failed in its obligations. It is interesting to note that this communal tenure originated with the khan and was not generated by the tribal community itself, as is often assumed. The khan’s crown lands were worked by Dehwār, whereas the tribes used Jat cultivators.

Naṣīr set about building his fighting force in three “regiments”: the Sarawan regiment, the Jahlawan regiment, and a special regiment directly under his own command. He chose one tribe each from Sarawan and Jahlawan (which may have laid the basis of the later ranking of the tribes) to lead and to be responsible for recruitment from their respective areas. He also formed a bureaucracy, by creating offices of government: a wazīr was given charge of internal and foreign affairs; a wakīl was made responsible for the collection of tribute and blood compensation, and the revenue from crown lands; a dārōḡa was put in charge of the organization of the Dehwar cultivators on crown lands, and worked through Brahui nāʾebs (deputies). Finally, a šāh(ā)qāsī (after Nāder’s ešīk-āqāsī was given direction of darbārs and the seating arrangement for leaders according to their rank. Beside these officers, he created two councils. Membership in one of the councils (majles-e moṣāḥebīn) was by his own nomination, and primarily from among his close kinsmen, but it also included the two leaders of the tribes of Sarawan and Jahlawan. The second was a council of sardars (majles-e mošāwarat). Members of the first council, or their representatives, had to remain at Kalat continuously along with one-twelfth the number of soldiers raised by each tribe (gāmē paškar). Judicial powers were vested in the sardars who were subject to guidance by qāżīs (judges) according to the religious law (Šarīʿa), except that local custom took precedence in matters of adultery and murder. The written language for state business was Persian, and bureaucratic positions were recruited from the Persian-speaking Dehwār peasant community.

Quetta had come under Nāder Shah when he took Qandahār, and he assigned it to Naṣīr and his mother during the time that Mīr Moḥabbat Khan held Kalat. Aḥmad Shah is said to have finally given it to Kalat after receiving assistance from Naṣīr in a campaign in eastern Iran in 1751—as a kind of šāl (lit. present of a shawl) for his mother, Bībī Maryam. But Pishin remained under the Dorrānīs.

Kalat was still subordinate to the Abdālī court of Qandahār. The treaty between them called for an annual payment of Rs 2,000 from Kalat to Qandahār, and the provision and maintenance of 1,000 soldiers in Qandahār. An apparent act of insubordination on the part of Naṣīr, who failed to respond when summoned to Qandahār, led to the negotiation of a new treaty after Aḥmad Shah Abdālī failed to defeat him outright.

Because Aḥmad Shah needed Naṣīr’s support elsewhere, the new treaty was more equal. The khanate no longer paid tribute or maintained a force at Qandahār. Instead, Kalat provided a fighting force only when the Afghans fought outside their kingdom, and then the khan would be provided with money and ammunition. The new treaty was sealed by a pledge of loyalty to Qandahār and the marriage of the khan’s niece to Aḥmad Shah Abdālī’s son. In the settlement with Qandahār the final accommodation was that the shah gave Naṣīr the title of beglarbegī while the khan recognized him as suzerain.

With the security and freedom of action afforded by the new treaty with Qandahār and the resulting stabilization of the northern and eastern border, Naṣīr was able to move against the neighboring territories of Kharan, Makrān, and Las Bela. The Gīčkī (who had become dominant in Makrān in 1740) and most of the Bulēdī were Ḏekrī. Naṣīr made nine expeditions against them. The struggle was ended, apparently before 1778, by a compromise under which the revenues of the country were divided equally between the Gīčkī leaders and the khan, with the direct administration remaining in the hands of the Gīčkī, who were divided into two branches, a senior branch in Panjgur and a junior one in Kech and Gwadar.

Naṣīr led some twenty-five military expeditions during his rule. Beside the Gīčkī in Makrān, he fought against Las Bela, Kharan, the Marī, and the Baluch Tālpūr family that had succeeded the Kalhoras in Sind. All these accepted his suzerainty. He also fought with the Sikhs of Punjab and with ʿAlī Mardān Khan of Tūn and Ṭabas in eastern Iran. At the end of his rule his authority extended over an area not very different from the later Pakistani province of Baluchistan, though it did not extend so far to the north or northeast, and only the central parts were directly administered.

Meanwhile, the course of events in the Makrān lowlands had been changed by activities in Oman and by the interest Nāder Shah had taken in the Persian Gulf—although Nāder’s officers were incompetent and corrupt and were defeated by the Gīčkī. The imam of Oman continued a practice, possibly originated by the Portuguese, of recruiting Baluch from Makrān into his service. At least one exclusively Baluch community on the Omani coast today dates from this period. In 1740 Aḥmad b. Saʿīd, governor of Sohar, conducted a coup and founded the Āl Bū Saʿīd dynasty. Being a merchant and shipowner, he was unable to rely on tribal connections and was obliged to recruit Baluch and African slaves as mercenaries. In 1784 a pretender to the government of Oman, named Sayyed Solṭān b. Aḥmad, sought refuge in Makrān. According to local traditions Solṭān came first to Zik, a fortified village of the Mīrwārī tribe in Kolwa, and thence, having been joined by Dād-Karīm Mīrwārī, proceeded to Kharan, where his cause was espoused by Mīr Jahāngīr, a Nowšērwānī leader. The group then paid their respects to Mīr Naṣīr Khan at Kalat. Naṣīr at first seems to have undertaken to help the supplicant to establish himself in Oman, but in the end only gave him Gwadar. At the time Gwadar had declined in prosperity and was an insignificant fishing village. There is no record of Naṣīr’s intention. He appears to have given no thought to the interests of the Gīčkī. Later Oman claimed that the gift was intended to be in perpetuity—which later khans denied but were generally unable to contest. The situation was contested by the Gīčkīs, who argued that Naṣīr could alienate only his own half of the revenue, not the half that belonged to them. Until 1792, when Solṭān finally became ruler of Oman, he appears to have made Gwadar a base for expeditions against the Omani coast. After establishing himself in Oman he made Gwadar a dependency and sent a representative with troops to occupy it and build a fort. He then sent a force to Čāhbahār, which (with the aid of the Ismaʿili merchant community) entered the harbor under the pretext of fishing, and then took the town by surprise. Čāhbahār had been under a Bulēdī, named Šafīʿ Moḥammad, who paid a quarter of his revenue to Mīr Sobḥān, the Jaḍgāl ruler at Bahu, though he had for some time also paid another quarter to Oman. Čāhbahār seems to have been lost to Oman on the death of Solṭān in 1804, but to have been recovered again after a short interval. Its revenue in 1809 was Rs 5,000 per year, which still went entirely to the Sultan of Oman. Little more is known of Gwadar and Čāhbahār until the encroachment of the British attracted the interest of the Persian government in the 1860s, except that it rapidly overtook the neighboring ports, Pasni and Jiwanri, in prosperity. The rulers of the major Makrān settlements were in continuous contact with Oman with regard to the status and security of the ports.

Mīr Naṣīr Khan was a strict Muslim. He protected the Hindu traders in his territory, and felt an obligation to combat the heresy of the Ḏekrīs (Zikris) in Makrān. The half-century of political stability he provided had significant economic results. Both agriculture and trade increased. Some sections of the Nārūʾī in Kharan, Chagai, and southern Sīstān turned to agriculture. But after Naṣīr’s death the decline was rapid. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Maḥmūd, who was still a minor aged seven. Almost immediately the influence of Kalat ceased to be felt in Makrān and the area became divided among the local leaders. The circumstances of the succession are unclear. But it appears that it was disputed by a grandson of Moḥabbat, called Bahrām. Bahrām took Karachi, but was defeated by the regent acting in the name of Maḥmūd, with assistance from Shah Zamān, the ruler of Qandahār.

When he came of age, Maḥmūd proved inadequate to the task of rebuilding his father’s state. Seeing his lack of aptitude for the position, the peripheral territories all reasserted their independence. In 1810 Henry Pottinger, one of the first English travelers to visit Baluchistan, found the sardars acting independently. Maḥmūd’s son, Mīr Meḥrāb Khan II, stopped the decline for a while. He regained Kech, but had trouble with his ministers, which caused him losses in the north and east.

For this period immediately preceding British intervention in the area, there is for the first time some relatively detailed economic data. The khan had crown lands in most of the provinces of the state, but most of the revenue was consumed by the agents who collected it. Most of his income was drawn from Kacchi, which was the most productive of his provinces. His revenue from this source was estimated at Rs 300,000 per annum. Kalat had earlier (as Kīzkānān) been an important entrepôt for merchandise from Khorasan, Qandahār, Kabul, and India, but by the 1820s its trade was insignificant (Waaltyer, II, p. 528; Masson, II, pp. 122-23). The entire income of Baluchistan and its dependencies in 1810 was estimated at no more than Rs 200,000 (Schefer, p. 7). Ḥājī ʿAbd-al-Nabī (who according to Leech undertook a secret reconnaissance of Makrān in 1838) traveled part of the way from Mastung toward Panjgur with the khan’s šāh-qāsī, who was on his way to collect the revenue with a body of 300 horse, foot, and camelry. The revenue is later stated to be 2,000 Kashani rupees, plus a proportion of the crop. The same traveler reported that at Kharan, which was independent of Kalat and under the suzerainty of Qandahār, there were five or six ironsmiths, one Hindu trader, many carpenters, and sixty weavers. At Dezak in the west he found at least 1,000 cotton weavers and fabrics exported in all directions, and a hundred Hindu traders. He continues to give figures for many of the settlements of the Sarḥadd and the Makrān, with many interesting political and economic details and accounts of his adventures. Beyond the authority of the khan of Kalat and the sultan of Oman the territory—most of what is now Baluchistan within Iran—was generally divided into miniature republics based on forts in the agricultural settlements. Pottinger in 1810 found that Persian authority was held in contempt by the ruler of Bampūr. The Persian claim to the whole of Baluchistan up to India had continued since the Achaemenids, though in the medieval period only Nāder Shah Afšār sought to enforce it. It was finally the activity of the rebellious Āqā Khan (q.v.) between 1838 and 1844 that led Moḥammad Shah Qājār to send forces into the area.

During the same period the eastern part of Baluchistan appears to have had more trade. We are told that Bela had about 300 houses, one third occupied by Hindus. Wad in Jahlawan was a small town, comprising two groups of mud houses about 100 yards apart, the western group containing about 50 houses mainly inhabited by Hindu traders, the eastern group containing 25-30 houses of Muslims including sardars of the Mengal tribe, ʿĪsā and Walī Moḥammad. Nal, the seat of the Bīzenjō tribe, 15 miles to the west, was roughly the same size but had a fort. Khuzdar had a ruined fort and several small hamlets of 2-3 houses each, perhaps 60 houses altogether, only three of Hindus, though there had formerly been 30. Kalat itself had as many as 800 houses, many inhabited by Hindus, and two outlying settlements inhabited by the Bābī tribe of Afghans in exile (Masson, II, pp. 121-23).

Early in the 19th century the British in India began to take a more serious interest in the interior because of their concern about their northwestern frontier. In 1809, when the first Englishman, a Captain Grant, set out to explore whether a European army might enter India from that direction, the British resident in Muscat (Captain Seton) advised him that the whole area was unsettled. Gwat(a)r, where Grant landed, belonged to Mīr Sobḥān, a Jaḍgāl leader who ruled from Daštīārī and Bāhū and was the strongest ruler in Makrān (Lorimer, I/2, p. 2154). From there he marched to Čāhbahār, then to Nigwar, the coastal plain to the east of Čāhbahār, where he met Mīr Sobḥān and was well received. At the end of February he reached Qaṣr-e Qand, where he found an independent ruler, Shaikh Samandar. He waited there for Moḥammad Khan, the ruler of Geh (now Nīkšahr), under whose protection he was to travel into the interior. Geh was second only to Kech in local power. From Geh he marched to Bampūr. The ruler in Bampūr was unreliable, and Grant returned to Qaṣr-e Qand, Geh, and Čāhbahār, and then along the coast to Jāsk, and on to Bandar-e ʿAbbās. Grant reported that his journey was possible only because of the letters of introduction he carried from the British resident in Muscat to Mīr Sobḥān. Grant also carried letters of credit from Muscat, and there was plenty of trade between Muscat and Čāhbahār. He traveled in European clothes and found everyone “more civil and hospitable than they had been represented.” Like Pottinger, he found no Persian influence in Makrān.

In 1839 the failure of a British diplomatic mission to Kabul and the arrival there of a Russian envoy led to the British viceroy’s decision to invade Afghanistan and reinstall Shah Šojāʿ in Kabul (see anglo-afgan wars, i). In order to ensure safe passage of the army to Qandahār, it was necessary to control Baluchistan. Leech, the first Englishman formally dispatched to conclude an agreement with the khan, failed. Later Sir Alexander Burnes was sent and an agreement was arrived at in March, 1839, which guaranteed the sovereignty and borders of Kalat and made the khan responsible for the safe passage and provisioning of the British troops in return for Rs 15,000 in addition to the cost of provisions (Aitchison, XI, p. 209). This agreement marked the end of the autonomy of Baluchistan.

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(Brian Spooner)

Originally Published: December 15, 1988

Last Updated: July 15, 2010

This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 6, pp. 598-632