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Events leading to the establishment of the Baluch khanate of Kalat

07 Apr

By: Brian Spooner

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).

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