Category Archives: Baloch People

The Negotiation of Bilateral Endogamy in the Middle Eastern Context: The Zikri Baluch Example

(Research Paper)

By Carroll McC. Pastner
Department of Anthropology,
University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405
New Jersey USA

Koh e Murad Turbat

Koh e Murad Turbat


In a furtherance of a recent and laudable departure from”lineage mentality” in the study of kinship and marriage in the majority, bilaterally organized Middle East, first-cousin marriage among the Pakistani Zikri Baluch is examined in terms of marital strategies pursued by networks of siblings and their spouses. Emphasis is placed on the cumulative implications of the variant motivations parents as marital negotiators have for themselves, for their sons, and for their daughters.

IT HAS BEEN OVER A DECADE since Khuri (1970) argued that in the Middle Eastern context patrilateral parallel-cousin (FBD) marriage is preferred over matrilateral parallel-cousin (MZD) and cross-cousin (FZD and MBD) marriage for essentially social psychological reasons. The nub of Khuri’s thesis is that because FBD marriage does not create new affinal relationships, it “nullifies” the effects of marriage on the intensity of family relationships and thereby contributes to familial harmony (Khuri 1970:616).2 Among the critics of this argument, Hammel and Goldberg (1971) and Eickelman (1981:130) briefly, but correctly, object to an oversimplification of the actual complexity of kin endogamy in the Middle East. Peters (1976:61-66) indicates the fallacy in Khuri’s (and others’) attribution of familial harmony only to close paternal kin. A related and crucial point (Peters 1976:32) is that descent and lineality are not the most significant social organizational variables in the majority of Middle Eastern settings. Khuri’s inappropriate adoption of the segmentary model and the kin-extension hypothesis lie at the root of his mistreatment of kinship and marriage; he is not alone in doing so.

The context in which kin endogamy is negotiated in most Middle Eastern settings is not one of agnation and segmentation, but rather involves the reckoning of reciprocal obligations and debts between bilateral kin. That bilaterality is “indiscriminate” and therefore incapable of differentiating bounded social groupings (Peters 1976:40), complicates the analysis of marital negotiation, but offers a far more accurate portrayal of the social organization than one which attributes lineage organization to inappropriate economic and political settings. A related point of departure from the major tendency in the literature is my concern with first-cousin marriage of any order, not just the FBD variant.3 Emphasis here is more suitably placed on the fact of bilaterality, the subsequent significance of matrilaterality, and the attendant relevance of previously established affinal connections. A setting in which first-cousin marriage is very intensely practiced affords an opportunity to discuss kin endogamy in the context of a revisionist perspective which breaks away from the prevalent “lineage mentality” in the analysis of Middle Eastern social organization.

Does such a perspective indicate a complete rejection of Khuri’s thesis? My contention is that there might be a social psychological component to FBD (or any other cousin) marriage in the Middle East, deriving not so much from specific consideration of the bride and groom, but rather from the ongoing concerns of those who arrange their marriage. As Geertz (1979:374) expresses it in the Moroccan context: “Any study of the patterns of actual marriage choices must be centered not on the marrying couple, but on their parents and their parents’ situations, concepts of their social worlds, and interests.” It is not that parents disregard the potential affinal relationships of their children, but that in the context of arranged marriage, parents perceive the eventual affinal connections of their offspring initally and primarily from their own perspective.4 The present discussion stresses a point for the most part unsystematically examined in the literature: that mothers and fathers can have different motivations in negotiating their children’s marriages, both for themselves, and separately in regard to their sons and daughters. The resultant pattern is one of overall consistency between the jural level of marriage preferences and the statistical level of actual marriages among the Zikri Baluch, but with an internal variation according to male and female perspectives.

An examination of the facilitators of a high rate of bilateral first-cousin marriage among the Zikri Baluch fisherfolk of coastal Pakistan has been made previously (C. Pastner 1979).5 Kin endogamy occurs in a demographically, culturally, and religiously circumscribed universe, socially delimited as follows: (1) demographically, kin endogamy is facilitated by marital exchange between four geographically dispersed communities, which in the context of patrivirilocality serve to expand the range of kin endogamy beyond the limits of single communities; (2) culturally, the Baluch regard themselves as a distinct endogamous entity vis-a-vis contiguous cultural and ethnic groups; (3) religiously, as members of a minority Islamic sect, Zikris do not countenance intermarriage with majority Sunni (orthodox) Muslims, nor vice versa; (4) socially, marriage occurs within a nonstratified context in which endogamy is phrased and in fact operates as the preferential exchange of children between same and opposite-sex siblings.

Kin exogamy is not generally practiced by the Zikri Baluch for strategic economic and political reasons; simultaneously, kin endogamy is not motivated among the majority by corporate economic and political considerations, such as the retention of agricultural land or political office. In the presence of a high rate of close kin endogamy and the general absence of an explicit correlation between political economic strategy and marital strategy, the latter can be examined more easily in the context of consanguinity and affinity, providing a less “contaminated” view of the intersection of kinship and the negotiation of marriage. The accumulation of Zikri Baluch marital strategies reflects the outcome of compromises between (1) variant concerns of mothers and fathers in the negotiation of their male and female children’s marriages; (2) emphasis on sibling solidarity and  concomitant mutual calculations of the rights and obligations of siblingship; (3) ambivalence generated-by the normative emphasis on sibling solidarity; and (4) tactical advantages and disadvantages to the renewal of affinal connections. Because first-cousin marriage is so intensely practiced among the Zikri Baluch, compromise has had the statistical result of reinforcing the enmeshment of consanguineal and affinal ties. That is, there is more of a perpetuation of the “well-used social road” (Geertz 1979:375) than engagement in “lapsed affinity” (Peters 1976:4) On these well-used social roads, men and women effect and are affected by marital strategy in variant ways.

It should be emphasized that technically this is not an “endogamous system,” since it is not a closed system of kinship with a preference for inmarriage linked with a prohibition on outmarriage for both sexes; instead, preference is for keeping one’s daughters as close to the nuclear family as the incest prohibition permits (Pitt- Rivers 1977:165). Prohibition in the Muslim Middle East extends only to lineal and first-order collateral kin, thereby permitting marriage with not only FBC, but any first cousin. The limitations of “lineage mentality” are evident in a subsequently “disordered endogamous system,” because such a system makes ineffectual the conceptualization of a sharp dichotomy between agnatic and matrilateral kin as kin categories (Barth 1973:18). In the Zikri Baluch case, marital negotiation occurs in a particularly reticulate atmosphere, since parents who themselves are first cousins may very well contract a marriage for their child with that child’s own first cousin. The ensuing enmeshment of consanguineal and affinal connections is impossible to reduce to single-stranded bonds such as those suggested by Khuri (1970). Thus, while an important conceptual distinction between consanguine and affine is made by the Zikri Baluch, there cannot be an elaboration of behavioral distinctions between consanguine and affine (cf. Barth 1973:12), although, as will be suggested, this may be less true for women than for men. An examination of resultant “tangled networks of familial relationships” requires not a delineation of genealogical segmentation (Geertz 1979:324), but of how the content of consanguineal and affinal bonds is utilized variously in the negotiation of first-cousin marriage.

The present data were obtained in a Zikri Baluch fishing community on the Arabian Sea, thirty-four kilometers west of Karachi, Pakistan. Founded in the 1930s, the village in 1977 had a population of approximately six hundred, residing in about one hundred and fifty households. While female economic roles are restricted to the domestic sector, the vast majority of men are fishermen, using either lateen sailboats with two to six crewmen, or smaller, one-man boats. Men unable to secure positions on village boats either seek work on fishing launches operating out of Karachi harbor, or engage in migrant labor in Saudi Arabia and the gulf states.

A minority of villagers also own interest in agricultural property; they are the direct descendents of the village founder. The office of village headman (wadera) resides in this kin unit, the headmanship having passed successively to two sons of the village founder. As argued elsewhere (C. Pastner 1979), intense patriparallelism
in marriages contracted within this kin unit has facilitated unity among males maintaining joint interests in land and political office. While it may be dubious to explain FBD marriage generally as a means of preventing internal factions (Boon 1976:200), under certain circumstances it may represent a gamble that unity will be sustained,
although this is not to say that internal splintering may not occur in the future. The purpose here, however, is not to focus on this minority group, but on the majority of Zikri Baluch, who do not have such corporate economic and political motivations for patriparallel-cousin marriage.

Bilaterality in Zikri Baluch kinship is manifest in bilateral kinship terminology and a generally limited genealogical knowledge. Consanguinity, conceptualized as shared blood, includes recognition of nazdike siad (“near kin”), directly related through one’s parents, siblings, and children, along with dure siad (“far kin”), related through one’s grandparents. Consisting of both near and far kin, peskom (“father’s kin”), or posht (literally, “back,” or “spine”), are kin traced through one’s father, while maskom (“mother’s kin”), or lap (literally, “belly”), are those traced through one’s mother.

A systematic reckoning of both near and distant bilateral kin would embrace virtually all villagers, but as a result of residence patterns, there are internal subdivisions in the village. Conjugal families reside in their own one-room houses, but there is a clustering of the homes of fathers and married sons, and of married brothers at the death of the father. Conjugal families constitute autonomous commensal and economic units, although continuous exchange of food, goods, and services takes place between households, particularly those of parents and married children, and those of married siblings. For ritual purposes, such as weddings, funerals, and circumcisions, collateral kin from within and without the village are included in kin networks and the attendant exchange of goods and services. Corporate behavior necessitated by disputes also draws in kin from within and without the community. Nonkin, especially wadera (secular headmen) and pirs (living religious saints) can serve as mediators in disputes among Zikri Baluch of the same or different communities, and in confrontations with other religious and ethnic groups (S. Pastner 1978).

The calculation of debts and obligations between individuals and between households characterizes village social organization, whether the involvement is between kin, neighbors, friends, or patrons and clients. The operative premises in these categories of relationships are not contrastive since, for example, the economic dependence of a son on his father can make their relationship one of patronage as well as kinship (Geertz 1979:315). Reciprocity is what makes links, kin or otherwise, efficacious, with continuous calculation in dyadic reciprocity made necessary by the double strain-toward both symmetry and asymmetry-inherent in reciprocity itself (Lebra 1975:562). At any given time, asymmetry is possible if one in the exchange dyad is in debt to the other, even though in the long run the relationship may be in balance (Lebra 1975:557). Such strain is evident in the Zikri Baluch setting in a number of ways. For example, each household ideally consumes fresh fish every day, but this is dependent on the daily luck of individual fishermen or boat crews. Fish, therefore, frequently must be redistributed among households. While fish are often freely offered, households also engage in mahipindi (“fish begging”),which may or may not result in obtaining fish. Both hoarding and generous giving (Lebra 1975:562) on the part of men and women characterize not only the exchange of fish, but other forms of exchange, such as monetary loans, contributions to wedding expenses, donations of labor, and the provision of moral and physical support in disputes.

Exchange occurs both inside and outside the realm of kinship, but the jural weight of kin responsibility is especially heavy, since hak (“obligation”) obtains between kin, whereas between nonkin, marzi (“free choice”) applies. Relations between friends, neighbors, and patrons and clients can be transformed into relations of hak, but in this circumstance it is created deliberately, whereas it is an a priori given in the realm of kinship.6 Nonetheless, it is the summation of personal debts and obligations between kin, not simply the biogenetic distance between them, which determines effective kinship (Geertz 1979:316). Hak must be applied through reciprocal, patterned obligations if it is to function as more than simply a truism of how Zikri Baluch kinship ought to work. However, it is difficult to abrogate hak entirely when parents and children or siblings are involved. It should be noted also that while hak obtains between dyads, others can be drawn into webs of obligation and disputes arising during asymmetric phases in dyadic relationships. Thus, the relationship between same-sex siblings can be colored by the presence or lack of enmity between their spouses, and vice versa. In the short term this can be observed in the practice of mahi pindi; in the long term it is relevant to the role of siblings and their spouses in the negotiation of first-cousin marriage.

Nowhere do the contraction and maintenance of bonds of obligation between Zikri Baluch kin gain more significance than in the negotiation of first-cousin marriage. Unions are preferentially contracted between nakozak (either FBC or MBC) or druzak (either FZC or MZC). This is not a closed system of exchange, but one generally conceived of as “delayed reciprocity,” in which a bride or groom should be forthcoming from the uncle or aunt who previously received a bride or groom. The Zikri Baluch are well aware of the major detractions from attainment of this ideal: a potential mate of the correct sex or age range simply may not exist, or poor relations between siblings may prevent negotiation. What they do not always stress explicitly, but which will be considered below, is that successful negotiations depend not only upon the status of the relations between siblings, but upon those between their spouses as well.

Each marriage is negotiated individually, and involves material transactions carried out prior to the wedding, which are regarded as essential to the legitimacy of the marriage. Marital prestations are not reduced or eliminated in the instance of first-cousin marriage. Both sides donate bridal clothing and domestic furnishings, but the groom, with the aid of his father and other kin, also provides gold earrings and, importantly, a house for himself and his bride. Negotiations break down if these contractual conditions are not met or are protracted unduly. Siblings may make an informal agreement that their preadolescent children will marry eventually, but formal negotiations never commence until a girl reaches puberty, and normatively initiated by the boy’s family. Girls marry at about age fifteen, and have virtually no say in the choice of a spouse. Since males must be at least partly financially independent enough to support a household, they are ordinarily in their mid-twenties, and can exert some veto power in their parents’ choice of mate.

While fathers are involved in the more formal aspect of marital negotiation, namely, the drawing up of the marriage contract, the role of mothers should not be discounted or deemphasized; sexual segregation absolutely requires that women be fully involved (Altourki 1977). Marriage negotiation necessitates two parallel networks, male and female, because of the dichotomization of Zikri Baluch social life into male and female spheres.7 Made viable by the nonseverence of married women’s ties to their natal kin and communities, the female network is particularly significant in view of patrivirilocality. Visits, especially on religious holidays, take place regularly, and most women give birth to their first and sometimes their subsequent children in their natal homes. In addition, the wives of men working abroad often reside with their parents, not their in-laws.

It should be emphasized that mothers and fathers have separate concerns in marital negotiation, both for themselves and for their sons and daughters. Let us examine first the extent to which marital strategy is linked with economic strategy; more specifically, with the recruitment of boat crews. With the important exception of married and unmarried sons crewing for their fathers, there is little integration of kinship with the social patterning of maritime operations.8 Crew formation is highly flexible, involving frequent changes in boat affiliation, and the creation of marital links is not used explicitly as a means of maximizing this particular aspect of economic strategy. Nonetheless, in view of the absence of anticipatory inheritance, and the concern for the economic futures of their sons, fathers can be faced with too many sons and too few positions on their own boats. This concern is exacerbated by a normative emphasis on patrivirilocality. The few instances of male community exogamy (see below), appear to have provided employment opportunities for sons outside the village. An alternative and more common solution, which is being adopted increasingly, is migrant labor in the Persian Gulf.9 If reliance on migrant labor continues to augment, it would have important implications for future marriage arrangements, since it would decrease the economic dependence of sons on their fathers for the accumulation of capital necessary for marriage.

Fathers have different concerns and strategies in the negotiation of their daughters’ marriages. The option of community exogamy for females widens the marital pool, but girls should be affianced as soon as possible after the attainment of puberty, and it is up to their fathers to see that this is not delayed unduly. This temporal pressure is not as relevant in the case of sons, but, on the other hand, there are greater financial obligations in the marriage of sons. Thus, there are two major concerns faced by fathers: the financial vulnerability of sons and the moral vulnerability of daughters.

Mothers are preoccupied similarly with these financial and moral matters. However, as Rosen (1978:571) suggests in the Moroccan case, it may be that women have a more “sociological” approach to marital negotiation than do men. Zikri Baluch women overtly are aware of how individual marriages feed into and alter the networks through which they operationalize their domestic statuses. The concerns of mothers for their sons’ and daughters’ marriages differ, since, in both structural and social-psychological terms, bringing in a daughter-in-law contrasts with sending out a daughter, in a patrivirilocal context. Even in a community-endogamous union, brides reside near their in-laws, not their parents, and their introduction alters previously established female networks based on continuous interaction, cooperation, and conflict.

Mothers are concerned particularly about their female offspring, and emphasize the need for daughters, especially as new brides, to have the backing of consanguineal kin in their tenuous position of new affine. Incoming brides with only dure siad (“far kin”), or no kin at all, in their conjugal community, are severely restricted by sexual segregation, and undeniably disadvantaged if they do not get along with those adults with whom they spend the majority of their time-their female affines. One way to alleviate the susceptibility of daughters is for mothers to attempt to position them in already viable and potentially advantageous female networks. Fathers as well may attempt to aid in their sons’ network formation, but because of patrivirilocality, and because sons are older when they marry, they are in a less vulnerable position than their sisters in the delineation of personal networks.

The Zikri Baluch espousal that marriage first of all links two families, and secondarily links two individuals, is fortified by a parallel attitude that conjugality is successful if the parents of the couple get along (and if children result from the union). A low divorce rate and the absence of polygyny sustain the importance of the affinal link for the Zikri Baluch. What is significant is that they incorporate an ideal of affinal renewal which serves to convolute consanguinity and affinity. In their view marriage in itself does not constitute or create kinship, but marriage is a means of strengthening already existing consanguinity which, in turn, is reputed to maximize conditions for harmonious affinal linkages.

As recorded elsewhere (C. Pastner 1979), in a sample of 171 marriages among two generations of Zikri Baluch, 109, or 64 percent, are between actual first cousins, 40, or 23 percent, are between classificatory kin (including 17 cross-generation marriages), and 22, or 13 percent, are between nonkin.1 0 While the marriage data were collected only in the village in which fieldwork was conducted, the statistics reflect the facts of marital exchange and residential transfer by married couples among the four communities constituting the geographic boundaries of Zikri Baluch conjugality.’ 1

For the purposes of the present discussion, the 26 marriages of the direct descendents of the village founder are subtracted, because the economic and political considerations constraining their marital strategies are not relevant to the majority of villagers.12 Table 1 summarizes the remaining 145 unions, and distinguishes between community endogamy and exogamy for men and women. No significant variation was found between the two generations in marriage patterns. The vast majority of men (93 percent) marry into their natal community, while there is a slight tendency among women to marry exogamously (54 percent). While the aim here is not to measure expected and observed frequencies of cousin marriage, the statistical significance of the data for the long-term demography of kin endogamy should not be overstated. Nonetheless, while the?mphasis on community endogamy for men obviously promotes a high rate of first-cousin marriage (Gilbert and Hammel 1966), the Zikri Baluch rate is significantly higher than among the majority of Middle Eastern marriage pools, and cannot be accounted for on solely demographic grounds. 13

Kin and Nonkin Marriage( N=1 45)

———————————Community —Endogamous ——————– Community —Exogamous
———————————Men ————– Women      ———————      Men  ——- Women
First Cousin ————— 85 —————— 49 ————————————— 8 ————- 44
N=93 (64%)

Cousin———————- 32  ——————13  ————————————- 1  ————- 20
N=33 (23%)

Nonkin ——————– 18  ——————- 4  ————————————— 1 ————– 15
N=19 (13%)

Total 145 (100%) —– 135 (93%)   ——- 66 (46%)  ————————– 10 (7%)  —– 79(54%)
Table 2 summarizes actual first-cousin marriage, again distinguishing between community endogamy and exogamy for men and women. While the overall pattern is one of bilateral-cousin marriage, with community endogamy for men (eighty-five out of ninety-three marriages) and a mix of community endogamy (forty-nine marriages) and community exogamy (forty-four marriages) for women, male unions are skewed more toward matrilateral (61 percent) than patrilateral (39 percent firstcousin marriage. While patrivirilocality, and subsequently first-cousin marriage of any order, are contributive factors, there may be additional consideration in the higher rates of MBD and, especially, MZD marriage.

While genealogically identical marriages can have different meanings, because they can result from different strategies (Eickelman 1981:132), an attempt can be made to discern social patterning in the empirical marital networks of the Zikri Baluch. Keeping in mind the accumulation of social and economic debts between kin, the marriages of one’s children serve to intensify one’s own network of reciprocity if an affinal link is fed into an already existing kin linkage. In arranging their children’s marriages, fathers, in contrast to mothers, attempt to minimize the overloading of their own networks of consanguineal obligation. While male sibling solidarity is fortified by jural norms, this does not prevent competitiveness and rivalry from characterizing fraternal relationships. Residential propinquity, for example, is as likely to result in disaffection as in solidarity between brothers. Another source of conflict is inheritance, since it is only after the death of the father that boats pass on to sons, and there is no guarantee that the amount of property will match the number of sons. While adult brothers are economically independent of one another, they are supposed to be supportive of one another as well. Inequalities in wealth, however, can lead to rivalry or transform the relationship into one of patronage. Economically less successful brothers may attempt to contract FBC unions for their children in the hope of solidifying an alliance with a more fortunate brother, but this strategy may or may not work out, and in actuality men more frequently negotiate successfully with their brothers-in-law than with their brothers.

First-cousinM arriage( N=93)
———————————————–Community — Endogamous ————- Community — Exogamous
————————————————– Men  ———— Women  ——————- Men ————  Women
N=32 (35%) ——————————–  30  —————- 19  ————————– 2  ——————13
N=25 (26%)  ——————————– 22  —————- 12  ————————– 3  ——————13
57 (61%) ————————————  52 —————— 31 ————————– 5  —————— 26

N=21 (23%)——————————— 20 —————— 15 —————————- 1 —————— 6

N=15 (16%)——————————- 13 ——————— 3 —————————– 2 ——————12
Total 36 (39%) ————————— 33 ——————– 18 —————————- 3 ——————18

Reliance and ambivalence characterize the kin networks of women as well, but not in quite the same way. More specifically, female sibling solidarity appears stronger than its male counterpart. With far fewer independent economic resources, sisters cannot make the financial demands on one another which brothers can. However, married sisters residing in the same community frequently exchange services, such as child care, sewing, and housework, and if they live in different communities, they exchange gifts at regular intervals. Sisters are motivated to forge alliances in important noneconomic ways, because, along with their mother, they can provide a buffer between themselves and their respective female affines. This role is filled most effectively if sisters are married into the same community, although frequent visitations between residentially separated sisters also promote alliance. The basic source of competition and rivalry, namely, real or potential economic inequality, which can characterize male sibling relationships, is not relevant to female siblingship. Consequently, in their more “sociological” perspective on marital negotiation, women explicitly recognize that sister’s daughter makes a compatible daughter-inlaw, and that to marry a daughter to a sister’s son is likewise advantageous.1 4

Just as affinity is incapable of delineating jurally defined groups in this setting, to speak of matrilaterality and patrilaterality in marriage patterns does not assume the carving out of groups along such lines. Nonetheless, sibling solidarity can be discussed in an appropriate bilateral context. To emphasize same-sex sibling solidarity,
particularly among women, is not to minimize opposite-sex sibling solidarity. Because of sexual segregation, practiced generally, and necessitated by the intensity of first-cousin marriage (Creswell 1976:113), brother-sister relationships are the closest same-generation, cross-sex relationships likely to develop prior to the growth of social intimacy in a compatible marriage. Along with cross-sex sibling solidarity, another factor in the negotiation of MBD-FZS marriage is the relationship between the spouses of the siblings. In the presence of a second-generation first-cousin marriage, the fathers of the couple are first cousins as well as affines in the case of MBC unions, as are the mothers in the case of FZC unions. Since patrivirilocality demographically constricts the universe of marital negotiation for sons, and thereby emphasizes marriage with a first cousin of any order, the structural significance of the combined marital-negotiator-brother-in-law-cousin relationship cannot be unravelled easily. However, with the territorially more expansive network of marital negotiation for daughters, it appears that, like MZS marriage, FZS marriage, in the instance of second-generation first-cousin marriage, provides consanguineal input into both the female network of marital negotiation and the status of daughter-inlaw.

Do women in fact differentiate between sisters-in-law who are cousins and those who are not? Aside from general observational impressions, there are at least two concrete reasons for believing that they do. First, sisters-in-law who are cousins are apt to refer to one another as cousin, not sister-in-law. Second, sisters-in-law exchange sewing and such services gratis only if they are also first cousins; otherwise, payment is required. In other words, consanguineal investment is taken into account in women’s assessments of affinity. Likewise, in recognizing the vulnerability of their daughters as brides, they attempt to invest consanguinity in their daughters’ female affinal networks. MZS marriage is the best means of achieving this goal; an alternative solution is FZS marriage, in the context of second-generation first-cousin marriage.

The overall suggestion here is that in view of preferential kin endogamy, and in terms of the separate interests of men and women in marital negotiation for their sons and daughters, women try to maximize consanguinity more than men do. Relative to women, men spread out their affinal connections, while women seek to feed affinity into their consanguineal networks. While marital strategy from the male point of view is not pursued explicitly in tandem with occupational strategy, there may be advantages to creating and maintaining a variety of linkages within an overall kin-endogamous setting. For example, financial loans are often necessary for the purchase and repair of boats and fishing equipment, and to maintain a relatively wide network within which to contract these loans is advantageous to men. Women, on the other hand, are not directly concerned with such financial considerations. In their foremost concern with the effects of marriage on the composition (the internal order and hierarchy) of their networks (Rosen 1978:571), women are more intent on creating advantage in the utilization of networks in coping with their domestic status. Ultimately, of course, resultant marital arrangements represent the implementation of compromises between conjugal pairs, siblings, and spouses of siblings, as well as among the networks entailed therein.

Marriage in the Middle Eastern context constitutes a complex system based noton positive categorial preferences (i.e., marriage rules), but on preferred individual unions. Since the majority of marriages in this ethnographic context are not between first cousins, what general relevance does the Zikri Baluch case have? First, it indicates that instead of assuming that exogamy is a deviation from endogamy (or vice versa), the demographic and other facilitators, as well as the advantage of either endogamy or exogamy, must be determined empirically. Second, it serves as a reminder that in the Middle East all arranged marriages, kin or nonkin, are operationalized through personal networks characterized by alternations in relations of dominance and dependence. To focus on networks of negotiation represents a departure from most previous approaches which, in emphasizing the derivation of prescriptive rules, have overly stressed FBD marriage or “the ‘most remarkable’ marriage strategies rather than the entire range of available marriage strategies” Eickelman (1981:131). Since social, economic, and political advantage can accrue to either exogamy or endogamy, in both the kin and the territorial sense, the analytic task is to ascertain social patterning in the accumulation of marital strategies.

Hedged in only by fundamental demographic constraints and the distribution of relations between siblings and siblings’ spouses, the Zikri Baluch are unusual only in their statistical fulfillment of a moral and normative convention which is pervasive but seldom realized in the Middle East. Among the Zikri Baluch kin exogamy is not used to gain access to political arenas or agricultural and other forms of property. By the same token, among the majority of them, kin endogamy involves no explicit corporate political or economic advantage. This is not to say that marital links have no political or economic relevance whatsoever, but that in the pursuit of marital strategy, it cannot be assumed a priori that such advantages emanate from marital alliance.

Since this is a highly pragmatic system of marriage, it must be viewed not only in ideological terms, but in pragmatic terms which focus upon reciprocity and negotiation in the actualization of social relationships (Rosen 1979:101). In order to assess the demographic patterns and structural arrangements resulting from marital negotiation in the Zikri Baluch and any other Middle Eastern case, it is necessary to recognize the interconnected differences between (1) male and female networks in the negotiation of marriage, and (2) the implications of marital strategy for sons and daughters. To focus solely on males as marital negotiators and as the objects of marital negotiation in settings characterized by pervasive sexual segregation is an unjustifiably narrow view, which neglects “the intense and precarious ‘dialectical’ relationship between men and women” in the Middle East (Fernea and Malarkey 1975:197). While both men and women calculate the activation and deactivation of their kin connections, they manipulate and elaborate kinship in different ways because their kin networks serve different functions. While Zikri Baluch women seek to further the entanglement of kinship through marital strategy, men attempt to prevent an overload in their kin obligations. The overall and significant pattern, however, is of extreme reticulation in kinship.

Lastly, to separate out affinal and consanguineal connections is not to revert to the genealogical models which previously have hindered the examination of kinship and marriage in the Middle East. It simply recognizes that the Zikri Baluch conceptualize consanguinity and affinity as different, and that they deliberately seek to feed or not to feed one into the other. This is a major consideration to take into account in the examination of any Middle Eastern group engaging in intense kin endogamy. In Middle Eastern settings not so characterized, it is a question of ascertaining the alternative empirical content of the implementation of maritalstrategy through networks of marital negotiation.

1. The research on which this paper is based was conducted in 1976-77 under the auspices of a postdoctoral grant from the American Institute of Pakistan Studies. I thank my colleague and companion in the field, Stephen Pastner, and acknowledge the generous and stimulating comments of Dale Eickelman and Richard Kurin.

2. According to Khuri (1970:615) MZD and cross-cousin marriage are disadvantageous because of role conflict between “joking” and “formal and reserved” familial relationships.

3. The literature is varied in theoretical intent, but focuses primarily on FBD marriage. Aside from those cited elsewhere in the text, some of the main discussions include Barth (1954), Patai (1955, 1965), Murphy and Kasden (1959, 1967), Ayoub (1959), Goldberg (1967), Keyser (1974), and Meeker (1976).

4. The extent to which marriages are parentally arranged in the Muslim Middle East must not be deemphasized (Youssef 1978:80). Guardians substitute for deceased parents in marital negotiation.

5. There is some debate as to whether Pakistan should be included ethnographically in South Asia or in the Middle East. The latter designation is accurate for the Baluch since they are historically, culturally, and linguistically linked with the Iranian and the Afghan Baluch (Gulick 1976:9).

6. Johnson and Bond (1974) remind us to be wary of societal caricatures which mutually exclusively stress the predominance of kinship obligations on the one hand, or, on the other, individual choice and self-interest. Zikri Baluch are typical in their operationalization of both premises, although ideologically kinship obligation is emphasized. See S. Pastner (1978) for a discussion of how normative and real behavior intersect in political and religious leadership among the Zikri Baluch.

7. The extent to which men and women have limited social contact with one another is made evident in sex-based territoriality which, consistent with the sexual division of labor, relegates the beach and the sea to men, and the village to women. This territoriality is enforced on children when they reach seven or eight years of age.

8. At one point in 1976, of 66 crew members on 28 multicrew boats operating out of the village, 23 were the sons of captains; only 8 of the crewmen were brothers or sons-inlaw of captains.

9. On a brief return visit to the village in 1979, S. Pastner found that 20 percent of the adult male labor force was abroad.

10. Creswell (1976:105-6) makes a case for including such unions with first-cousin marriages. A more conservative view is taken here, so that cross-generational marriages are included in the category of classificatory-cousin marriage.

11. The other three communities include a Zikri Baluch mohalla (“neighborhood”) in Karachi, and two fishing villages, approximately fourteen and twenty kilometers, respectively, to the west along the coast from the village in which fieldwork was conducted. Until fairly recently the four communities were mutually accessible only by boat or camel; bus service is now available.

12. Of the twenty-six marriages contracted in the two generations descended from the village founder, eleven are between first patriparallel cousins and six are between second patriparallel cousins.

13. Because of the overemphasis in the literature on FBD marriage, it is difficult to make comparisons. According to Antoun (1976:166-68), 10 to 15 percent is a typical rate of FBD marriage, but this provides no indication of the significance (or lack thereof) of MZD or cross-cousin marriage.

14. Khuri (1970:616) indicates such advantages for women in MZC marriage, but at the same time (incorrectly) emphasizes in a bilateral, nonsegmentary setting the incongruity of parent-in-law and uncle/aunt relationships in cross-cousin marriage. The actual reasons for the contraction or noncontraction of crosscousin marriage must be sought elsewhere; namely, in the viability of negotiation between cross-sex siblings and their spouses.

Altourki, S., 1977, Family Organization and Women’s Power in Urban Saudi Arabia. Journal of Anthropological Research 33:277- 87.

Antoun, R.T., 1976, Anthropology. Pp. 166-68 in The Study of the Middle East (ed. by L. Binder). New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Ayoub, M., 1959, Parallel Cousin Marriage and Endogamy: A Study in Sociometry. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 15:266-75.

Barth, F., 1954, Father’s Brother’s Daughter Marriage in Kurdistan. Southwestern Journal
of Anthropology 10:164-71.

Barth, F., 1973, Descent and Marriage Reconsidered. Pp. 3-19 in The Character of Kinship (ed. byJ. Goody). London: Cambridge University Press.

Boon, J.A., 1976, The Balinese Marriage Predicament: Individual, Strategical, Cultural. American Ethnologist 3:191-214.

Creswell, R., 1976, Lineage Endogamy Among Maronite Mountaineers. Pp. 101-14 in Mediterranean Family Structures (ed. by J.G. Peristiany). London: Cambridge University Press.

Eickelman, D.F. 1981, The Middle East: An Anthropological Approach. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall. Fernea, R.A. and J.M. Malarkey, 1975,

Anthropology of the Middle East and North Africa: A Critical Assessment. Pp. 193-206 in Annual Review of Anthropology (ed. by B.J. Siegal).

Palo Alto: Annual Reviews. Geertz, H., 1979, The Meaning of Family Ties. Pp. 315-79 in Meaning and Order in
Moroccan Society (ed. by C. Geertz, H. Geertz, and L. Rosen). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Gilbert, J.P. and E.A. Hammel, 1966, Computer Simulation and Analysis of Problems in Kinship and Social Structure. American Anthropologist 68:71-93.

Goldberg, H., 1967, FBD Marriage and Demography Among Tripolitanian Jews. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 23:176-91.

Gulick, J., 1976, The Middle East: An Anthropological Perspective. Pacific Palisades: Goodyear.
Hammel, E.A. and H. Goldberg, 1971,

Parallel Cousin Marriage. Man 6:488-89. Johnson, A. and G.C. Bond, 1974, Kinship, Friendship and Exchange in Two Communities: A Comparative Analysis of Norms and Behavior.

Journal of Anthropological Research 30:55-68. Keyser, J.M.B., 1974, The Middle Eastern Case: Is There a Marriage Rule? Ethnology 13:293-309.

Khuri, E., 1970, Parallel Cousin Marriage Reconsidered: A Middle Eastern Practice that Nullifies the Effects of Marriage on the Intensity of Family Relationships. Man 5:597-618.

Lebra, T.S., 1975, An Alternative Approach to Reciprocity. American Anthropologist 77: 550-65. Meeker, M., 1976, Meaning and Society in the Near East: Examples from the Black Sea Turks and the Levantine Arabs. International Journal of Middle East Studies 2:243-70 and 3:383-422.

Murphy, R. and L. Kasden, 1959, The Structure of Parallel Cousin Marriage. American Anthropologist 61:17-29.

Murphy, R. and L. Kasden, 1967, Agnation and Endogamy: Some Further Considerations. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 23:1- 14.

Pastner, C.McC., 1979, Cousin Marriage Among the Zikri Baluch of Coastal Pakistan. Ethnology 18:31-47.

Pastner, S., 1978, Power and Pirs among the Pakistani Baluch. Journal of Asian and African Studies 13:231-43.

Patai, R., 1955, Cousin Right in Middle Eastern Marriage. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 11:371-90.

Patai, R., 1965, The Structure of Endogamous Unilineal Descent Groups. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 21:325-50.

Peters, E., 1976, Aspects of Affinity in a Lebanese Maronite Village. Pp. 27-79 in Mediterranean
Family Structures (ed. by J.G. Peristiany). London: Cambridge University Press.

Pitt-Rivers, J., 1977, The Fate of Shechem or the Politics of Sex. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rosen, L., 1978, The Negotiation of Reality: Male-Female Relations in Sefrou, Morocco. Pp. 561-84 in Women in the Muslim World (ed. by L. Beck and N. Keddie). Cambridge,
Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Rosen, L., 1979, Social Identity and Points of Attachment: Approaches to Social Organiza-tion. Pp. 19-111 in Meaning and Order in Moroccan Society (ed. by C. Geertz, H. Geertz, and L. Rosen). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Youssef, N.H., 1978, The Status and Fertility Patterns of Muslim Women. Pp. 69-99 in Women in the Muslim World (ed. by L. Beck and N. Keddie). Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
This article has been Published:
Journal of Anthropological Research,
Vol. 37, No. 4 (Winter, 1981), pp. 305-318
University of New Mexico

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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Baloch People



(Research Paper)

D.Sc. (Ethnology),
Research Fellow, Faculty of Philosophy,
the Institute of Ethnology at the Charles University
(Prague, the Czech Republic)

D.Sc. (Cultural and Social Anthropology),
Assistant Professor,
Faculty of Economics,
Department of Psychology and Cultural Studies,
the Czech University of Life Sciences
(Prague, the Czech Republic)


I n t r o d u c t i o n
The national self-awareness of the Balochis, who live in several countries and have no statehood, is very specific in many ways. The problem of their identity can be better understood in the context of certain parallels between them and European peoples (ethnic groups), since their ethnogenesis displays certain common features. We should bear in mind, however, that the formation and development of the Balochis differed in many respects from those of the European peoples. The Balochis of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan are not absolutely identical, in this respect they differ greatly from the Europeans.
We treat the Balochis as one people with local distinctions and specifics, including, among other things, their linguistic diversity. In Europe, they would have composed a single linguistic group consisting of several subgroups using several more or less different dialects (which at a later stage would have become ethnic groups).

Elements Typical of Ethnic Groups and National Minorities
A minority as a group of people is identified (or can be identified) on the strength of certain specific features that distinguish it from its ethnic environment. The key and most obvious features that make ethnic groups (and hence minorities) different are their language, culture, and historical consciousness; we can also add racial identity, slight physiognomic specifics, original settlement areas, etc.


The Balochi Language
The Balochis speak the Balochi language, which belongs to the northwestern group of Iranian languages and is similar to the Kurdish language.
There are three large groups among Balochis who speak their native language:
Eastern Balochis (1.8 million), who live in Pakistan (Balochistan, the northwestern part of the Sindh Province and southwestern Punjab); about 800 Balochis live in India (Uttar-Pradesh);
_ Western Balochis (1.8 million): 1.1 million live in Pakistan (northwestern Balochistan);
0.4 million in Iran (northern Sistan); 0.2 million in Afghanistan; and about 30 thousand inTurkmenistan;
Southern Balochis (3.4 million): 2.77 million live in Pakistan (mainly southern Balochistan);
0.4 million in Iran (southern Sistan); 0.13 million in Oman; and 0.1 million in the UAE.
The attempts made in the latter half of the 19th century to codify the Balochi language and its grammar failed; this means that until around the 1940s this language had no written form: fairy tales and heroic eposes survived in oral form and were transferred from one generation to another by word of mouth. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Balochis used the Persian language as the written form of their native tongue; in the latter half of the 20th century, they switched to Urdu. In the Soviet Union in the 1930s, textbooks in the Balochi language based on the Latin script and newspapers in Balochi were published in Ashghabad and Mary, respectively. In the 1940s, the first literary Balochi works were published in Arabic in Pakistan.
There are three Balochi groups in Pakistan that use different dialects of the same (Balochi) language.
They live mainly in Balochistan, Punjab, and Sindh, the Brahuis separating the eastern and western language groups.
The Pakistani Balochis do not form compact ethnic groups; they live among other peoples: the Afghans (Pashtoons,) Punjabies, Brahuis, Lases, and Sindhis. Despite Pakistan’s ethnic diversity and the fact that Balochis are scattered across the country and live among other peoples, they have preserved their identity and language, while their neighbors have borrowed certain elements of the Balochi culture and language (some of the Brahuis, in fact, use the Balochi language).

 The Linguistic Situation in Turkmenistan
The Turkmen Balochis use the Rashkhani language (dialect), which differs greatly from the dialects used in Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan.
According to Ivan Zarubin, to whom Edit Gafferberg refers in her fundamental work Beludzhi Turkmenskoy SSR. Ocherki khozyaystva, materialnoy kultury i byta (The Balochis of the Turkmen SSR.
Essays in the Economy, Material Culture, and Everyday Life),1 the languages of the Balochis of Khorasan and Turkmenistan are close to the dialect used by the western group, albeit with certain phonetic specifics.
The dialects of the Turkmen and Pakistani Balochis are very different (sometimes they even cannot understand each other). Turkmen and Iranian Balochis use more or less similar dialects.
The Brahuis of Turkmenistan also use the Balochi language; they arrived there together with Balochi nomads from Iran and Afghanistan and became completely assimilated in the 1960s. They regarded themselves as Balochis of the Brahui clan, even though members of the older generation still used their native language,2 which belonged to the North Dravidian branch. In Turkmenistan, the Brahuis3 belong to the same level as members of the Balochi clans with whom they intermarry.4 The Balochis polled in the village of Turbin, however, remain convinced that “darker skin is worse than lighter” (Brahuis are dark-skinned).
As mentioned above, a short-lived attempt to create a written language of the Turkmen Balochis based on the Latin script was made in the early 1930s; it ended in 1938 after producing several textbooks and political leaflets.5 Until the end of the 1980s, the Turkmen Balochis spoke their native language, which had no written form, and, therefore, there were no newspapers or books.
Political liberalization of the 1980s gave the Balochis a chance to acquire their own education system and their own written language based on Cyrillic. In independent Turkmenistan, which abolished Cyrillic in favor of the Latin script, textbooks in Cyrillic proved useless.

 Historical Self-Identity
Cultural memory does not reflect history; instead it presents it through defeats, treachery, wise rulers, the Golden Age, victims, embellishments, etc. In some cases, cultural memory can be considerably distorted or based on inventions. This gives rise to folk legends that simplify and embellish the past; sometimes history is adapted to current reality.

Ancestors of the Turkmen Balochis
There are any number of theories that look for the ethnic roots of the Balochis in the Arab regions, India, or Iran. According to one of the legends, the roots of the Balochis are found in Aleppo in Syria and go back to the time of Caliph Ali (a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad). His uncle moved to the region of Makran where he married a fairy who appeared before him. Their son was the ancestor of all the Balochis.6
According to Veluroza Frolova,7 the “Iranian” version is much more probable: it says that in the 5th-8th centuries, the Balochis moved from the southern Caspian to Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, where they live today.
The ballads and heroic epos of the Balochis, which recount the events of the 15th-16th centuries, call clans bolaks; there were 44 bolaks (40 of them were Balochi proper, while four were considered to be vassal). Throughout the centuries, the bolaks have undergone many changes because of their nomadic lifestyle and intermixing. Not infrequently people escaped from their clans to set up a new clan, either because of marriage or because of blood feuds.
Wars and poor living conditions caused by inept khans or foreign invasions changed the structure of the Balochi clans.
Mikhail Pikulin8 wrote that some of the Balochi bolaks disappeared to give way to smaller groups.
In Afghanistan and Iran, they are known as tayfa; in Balochistan as tuman. They were based on political rather than clan principles and on submission to one of the khans.
The first nomadic Balochi tribes came to southern Turkestan (the Saraghs settlement and the town of Bayramali in the territory of Turkmenistan) at the turn of the 20th century; they arrived from Afghanistan and Iran on camels and donkeys. Edit Gafferberg9 wrote that their presence in this region was confirmed, among other things, by the lists of volunteers to the Red Army compiled in 1919 in Saraghs and kept in the State Archives of the Turkmen S.S.R. (now the State Central Archives of Turkmenistan), where Balochis were registered together with Turkmens.
The Balochis were driven away from Afghanistan and Iran by lack of pastures, feudal suppression of land tillers, and the inroads of alien clans.

 The Balochis and their State: A Look into the Past
In antiquity, the territory of Balochistan served as a bridge of sorts between Mesopotamia, on the one hand, and the Iranian Plateau and Indo-Gangetic Plain, on the other. The old maps dated to antiquity use the name Gedrosia for Iranian and Pakistani Balochistan; it can be found on the map showing the route across the deserts of Balochistan Alexander the Great chose for his army in 325 B.C., which returned from India. After his death and the disintegration of his empire, Gedrosia became part of the Parthian Empire (3rd century B.C.-A.D. 3rd century) and the Persian Sassanid Dynasty (from the first half of the A.D. 3rd century). The local Balochis were first mentioned in the 10th century.
In the 7th century, when Arabs came to Persia and spread Islam in it and the neighboring territories, the geographic term Makran appeared (an arid deserted strip along the Arabian Sea known as Gedrosia in antiquity).
In the 12th century, the Balochis found themselves in the Khwarazm Empire; in the 13th-14th centuries contemporary northern Balochistan was part of the domain of Genghis Khan and later Tamerlane.
According to M.K.B.M. Baloch (a Balochi author10) in the 15th century, Mir Chakar, one of the Balochi leaders, managed to unite the tribes to set up an empire in southeastern Persia, southern Afghanistan and, what is today, Pakistani Balochistan (by that time the Balochis had obviously spread across these territories); the empire, however, did not outlive its founder.
Other authors, too, mentioned this state. Tajik philosopher and Orientalist Mukhamed Asimov and British historian Clifford Edmund Bosworth wrote that in the latter half of the 15th century Mir Chakar from the Balochi Rind tribe founded the state of Balochi, in which members of the Balochi Lashari tribe lived side-by-side with the Rind tribe. The state disappeared because of a civil war between them. The Lashari were headed by Mir Goran Khan Lashari. After the war, known as the Thirty Years’ War, both tribes spread to Sindh and Punjab.11 In the 17th century, Brahui and Balochi tribes rebelled against the Great Mogul rule and set up the Kalat Khanate. Fred Scholz supplied detailed information probably retrieved from Baluch, another Balochi author.12
It is impossible to find out whether Balochis or Brahuis played the first fiddle; what we know is that the history of the Kalat Khanate is part of the history of Balochistan (even if many of the Balochi tribes did not belong to it).
The Khanate was not a centralized state; during the wars with Sindh, its neighbor, and Afghanistan, its borders were constantly changing. Throughout its history it remained under the strong influence of the rulers of either Iran or Kandahar.
Everything changed when Mir Nasir Khan came to power; he subjugated all the local rulers and extended the territory approximately to the borders of today’s Balochistan.
When the Dutch and later the British reached the Persian Gulf, the Kalat Khanate and the Balochipopulated territories around it acquired strategic importance as a toehold of Britain’s imperialist expansion to India, Iran, and Afghanistan.
In 1839, the consulate of Britain and the khanate signed an agreement under which Kalat had to guarantee the British troops safe passage to the borders of Afghanistan. Britain, in turn, pledged to guarantee sovereignty of the khanate and safety of the borders of the Balochi-populated territories (so-called Balochistan), which, however, lost some of their importance once the agreement had been signed.
The Persians, equally interested in this territory, tried even harder to conquer it and subjugate the Balochi tribes.
Late in the 19th century, Persia, Afghanistan, and the United Kingdom signed an agreement under which the territory of Balochistan was divided into Western (Persian) and Eastern (British) Balochistan.
Early in the 20th century, the term Balochistan came to be applied to four different units:
(1) The Kalat Khanate often called Balochistan;
(2) Persian Balochistan ruled by Kerman;
(3) British Balochistan;
(4) the Balochi-populated territories in British India (the Punjab and Sindh provinces).
All the Balochi-populated territories, with the exception of Persian Balochistan (initially part of the Kalat Khanate and later part of the Persian Empire),13 belonged to Great Britain, even though the form of British rule differed from one territory to another.
(I) British Balochistan covered former Afghan territory (Shahrigh, Saba, Duki, Peshin, Chaman, and Shorarud).
(II) The territories ruled by Agent to the Governor General were divided into:
(a) territories under direct rule (they earlier belonged to the Kalat Khanate, or were tribal territories, or the areas Great Britain had acquired by changing the Afghan borders);
(b) formerly independent countries (the Kalat Khanate and the Lasbela and Charan principalities). At that time, the khan was the head of the Brahui tribe Qambarani and the highest representative of the confederation of the Balochi and other, subjugated, tribes.
(c) tribal territories of the Marri and Bugti ruled by their chief without Kalat interference.14


Nationalism of the Balochis
In 1947, British India was divided into Hindu India (the Dominion of India) and Muslim Pakistan (the Dominion of Pakistan); until 1971, the latter consisted of Eastern Pakistan (later the independent state of Bangladesh) and Western Pakistan (today’s Pakistan) separated from Eastern Pakistan by 1,500 km.
The same year, the U.K. recognized the independence of Balochistan, which soon thereafter signed an agreement with Pakistan under which Pakistan recognized Balochistan’s independence and the Khan of Kalat as its representative. Very soon, however, Pakistan occupied Balochistan and in March 1948 declared it its fifth province.
Both dominions set up on the strength of the Indian Independence Act of 1947 remained dominions until they passed their own constitutions.
The Constitution of India enacted on 26 January, 1950 proclaimed it a republic.
The first Constitution of Afghanistan enacted on 23 March, 1956 proclaimed the Islamic republic; until that time the country formally remained a monarchy with the last Governor General of the Dominion of Pakistan Iskander Mirza becoming the first president of the Islamic Republic.
Throughout the 20th century numerous attempts of different intensity were made in Iran and Pakistan to set up an independent Balochistan.
In the 1950s, a union of Balochi provinces was established in Pakistan; in 1974, the simmering separatist sentiments developed into an armed clash between tens of thousands of Balochis and the Pakistani army. The uprising was suppressed, but the Balochi language became one of the offi-cial languages and institutions appeared that studied the culture and languages of the Balochis and Brahuis.
The Balochis, who have not accepted their dependent position in Pakistan, crave for independence, their nationalist feelings fed by the fact that their natural riches (gas, coal, uranium, gold, and oil) of Sui on the eastern borders of Balochistan enrich Islamabad, while the living standards of the Balochis remains low: many of their settlements have no running water or electricity.15
Enkelab, one of the locals, described the sad state of affairs in his village: “In my village there is no gas, electricity, or running water. Our people fetch water from the gas station in Sui under fear of punishment, torture, or even imprisonment.”
This gas station is one of Pakistan’s most important facilities and, to a great extent, a source of the Balochi protest sentiments.
Young Balochis determined to fight the government of Pakistan join rebel structures of the Lashkar-e Balochistan type; enraged, they want to know why they have to sacrifice their right to freedom and their federation, in which one people dominates.
In Iran, likewise, the rights of the Balochis are infringed upon, in particular, in the province of Sistan and Baluchestan with sizable Balochi populations. The identity cards of the Balochis state that they belong to one of the clans (Esesi, Nautani, Kalbeli, etc.) rather than their common nationality.
This places clans higher than the nationality, which keeps the ethnic group disunited and distorts demographic statistics.
We all know that the people in power tend to ignore the interests of small ethnic groups; it is much easier to deny them education in their native language.

 The Balochis as an Ethnic Minority
The territory that since the time of British colonial rule has been called Balochistan according to the name of the Balochis, its local population, is today divided between three countries with a total area of 647 thousand sq km, the bigger chunk of it (347,190 sq km) is occupied by Pakistani Balochistan;
200 thousand sq km belong to the Iranian province Sistan and Baluchestan (Sistan and Baluchestan became a single administrative unit in 1959), and less than 100 thousand sq km stretch along the Helmand in Afghanistan.
In many places, Balochis live alongside former nomadic tribes, the largest of them being the Brahuis, Pashtoons, Lases, and Sindhs. They live close enough for intermixing and cultural exchange.
With no compact settlements, the Balochis of Sistan rapidly assimilated the languages and traditions of their neighbors. The territory of Baluchestan, on the other hand, is the only place where Balochis live in compact groups and where, therefore, there is no assimilation.
Veluroza Frolova16 discussed this back in the 1960s and pointed to the main distinctive features between the Balochi settlements in Pakistan and Iranian Baluchestan (with practically no other ethnic groups), on the one hand, and in Iranian Sistan, on the other:

Region ——————————– Compact settlements —————————–Assimilation
Pakistan (Balochistan) ——————No ——————————————————No17
Pakistan (Sindh and Punjab) ———-No ——————————————————No
Iran (Sistan) ——————————-No ——————————————————Yes
Iran (Baluchestan) ———————–Yes —————————————————–No

The Shi‘a in the village of Baluch Khan to the west of the Iranian town of Mashhad (not far from the city of Sabzevar) are one of the smaller Balochi groups that have preserved what was left of their specifics. The village is relatively hard to reach; unlike the Balochis of Sistan and Baluchestan, its population adopted Shi‘a Islam, but preserved their language, colorful dress (Iranian women wear black yasmaks), decorated homes, and national self-identity and are engaged in growing almonds.
There are Balochi settlements along the Iranian-Turkmen border, in which people (all of them Shi‘a) preserve their semi-nomadic lifestyle. In the summer, several families leave their homes to graze cattle; they live in tents, or gedans, and form a self-supporting community.
The Balochis who live on the southern shores of the Caspian (the original homeland of all Balochis, according to Frolova) in the Mazandaran Province of Iran not far from the city of Gorgan are Sunni Muslims (like most of the Balochis). They have preserved their language and elements of traditional culture—clothes and some customs.
The Baluchis who live in big cities Mashhad (Northern Iran), Zahedan (Sistan and Baluchestan), Quetta (Pakistan), and Muscat (Oman) can be described as assimilated Balochis, even though they themselves and the relatives who visit them insist that they have not lost their sense of belonging to their ethnic group; they use the Balochi language, wear Balochi dress, and, on the whole, follow the Balochi lifestyle. These ethnic elements, however, differ to a great extent from the traditional Balochi.

Turkmen Balochis
Early in the 20th century, the Balochis driven away by lack of pasture lands, floods, high taxes, etc. moved from Afghanistan to Iran. After a while, some of them returned; others moved further on to the territory of contemporary Turkmenistan (the Merv area) where they worked on cotton plantations that belonged to the local feudal lords (bays), built irrigation structures, or remained semi-nomad cattle breeders.
In her fundamental work quoted above, Edit Gafferberg18 wrote that the Balochis found it hard to adjust to Soviet power and described the changes that it introduced into their lifestyle. Her monograph is based on data she gathered during her long field seasons in 1926-1929 and 1958-1961 when she lived among the Turkmen Balochis. She pointed out that while Soviet power greatly improved the living conditions, it strove to disrupt the Balochi clan ties at any price and reduce the Balochi cattle breeders’ dependence on their khans.
According to a Balochi mullah, Kerim Khan was one of the strongest and the most influential leaders in Turkmenistan. The head of a large Balochi group in the Iolotan District, he, together with his men, helped Turkmens imprisoned for anti-Soviet activities to escape; the people asked him for advice or practical help.
Later outlawed as a basmach,19 he fled to Afghanistan with a large group of Balochis (women, old people, and children among them). At one point, when camping in the desert, they were attacked by a Soviet plane.
Today, there are about 30 thousand Balochis in Turkmenistan, all of them Sunni Muslims; they live in villages in one-story houses; according to the tradition they inherited from their nomadic and clan past, parents and married sons live together forming extended families. They share a courtyard, a kitchen with a special place for cooking, and an elevated place on which they sleep in the open air (tapchan); not infrequently there are tandyrs (clay stoves in the open where they bake bread). They use gas; the government plans to organize water supply.

Post-Soviet Historical Constructions
In the 1990s, the Soviet Union disappeared leaving an ideological void behind to be filled with a new identity model. The key role in the process belongs to the state or, rather, the ruling group, which should refer to the old traditions and go back to its ethnic roots.
The regime of late President of Turkmenistan Saparmurad Niyazov, better known as Turkmenbashi, moved further than any others toward new historical constructions. The state ordered a new history designed to prove that the Turkmens were the world’s oldest and in all respects exceptional nation.
The president was determined to replace the old (everything that reminded of the Soviet past) with a totally new ideology related to the old traditions of the Turkmens. He instituted new holidays and created new national heroes; Cyrillic was abandoned together with the old names of the months and days of the week.

Balochis in Contemporary Turkmenistan and their Cultural Memory
It should be said that President Niyazov did not like the Balochis who lived in his country; he concentrated on the Turkmens and their history. There are any number of eyewitness accounts of how Balochi musicians turned over their musical instruments to the state. The people who had already lived through the trying period of adaptation to Soviet power in the 1930s found themselves in another no less trying situation.
So far, the leaders of Turkmenistan have not bothered themselves with preserving the Balochi traditions, language, or ethnic identity.
At home, the Balochis use their native language; however, the younger generation, exposed to the new social reality, is gradually losing interest in it. At schools, the Turkmen language prevails;
children can barely read Latin script, to say nothing about English, which is part of the school curriculum; the teaching of Russian has recently considerably deteriorated.
In the Soviet Union, Balochi textbooks were based on Cyrillic; in independent Turkmenistan with its strong nationalist sentiments, teaching of the Balochi language based on Cyrillic stands no chance.
Old people, mullahs, and educated Balochis spare no effort to pass the history of the Balochis, their clans and traditions (related to marriages and the way the national dress should be worn), on to the younger generation by word of mouth. In an effort to preserve the language, they write poems about the people and its history to be read at marriage ceremonies.
The folk tales Ivan Zarubin wrote down at one time serve as a valuable source about the everyday life and culture of the Balochis of Turkmenistan and their spiritual culture and moral traditions.

 Heroes of the Balochis
Kerim Khan mentioned above is one of the main heroes of the Turkmen Balochis: he helped them during the times of trial when they moved to Turkmenistan and even freed Turkmens arrested by the Soviet government from prison.20
Mir Chakar, who united Balochi tribes and set up the first state of the Balochis, is a hero of the Balochis of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran; he is the central figure of the Balochi epic ballad Hani and Sheh Murid, which is to the Balochis what Romeo and Juliet are to the Europeans: symbols of a pure and tragic love.

 Balochi Self-Awareness and Information about the Balochis
In the 20th century, several monographs appeared about the Balochis; Fred Scholz, one of the authors, concentrated on the period of British colonial domination; very much like many other authors who discussed manifestations of Balochi nationalism, he limited himself to the territory of contemporary Pakistan.
In the 1930s, expeditions of the Soviet Academy of Sciences studied the Balochis of Turkmenistan. Edit Gafferberg published a fundamental work in which she described the lifestyle, customs, and traditions of the local Balochis and the problems they had to cope with while integrating into the Soviet Union.
In post-Soviet times, Turkmen Balochis attracted attention and caused a lot of amazement among the Balochis of Pakistan: witness the article “Turkmenistan: The Country of Fifty Thousand Balochis” by Pakistani journalist from Quetta Yar Mohammad Badini.
Lutz Rzehak and his two Balochi colleagues compiled a Balochi, Pashto, Dari, and English dictionary; published in 2007, it was the first dictionary of West Iranian languages used by about 10 million.
The same people initiated a Balochi Academy in Zaranchi in the Afghan province of Nimroz. It started functioning in 2010 as a center of academic cooperation and information exchange among the Pakistani, Iranian, and Afghan Balochis. Together with the Academy in Quetta, it is expected to promote cultural development and more profound study of ethnic traditions. The fact that Balochis took an active part in setting up the academy and building it by funding the project and working on it has added to the Academy’s importance.21
Those who promote these projects strive to inform the world and the Balochis scattered across several countries about the history of the Balochis and their culture in order to show the world that the Balochis are not dangerous nationalists who only cause trouble in the countries they live.

C o n c l u s i o n
A larger number of Balochis live in Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan; fewer are found in Oman, UAR, and Turkmenistan; their assimilation can be partly explained by the fact they live in compact settlements, but this does not always mean they are more resistant to alien influences. In Pakistan, for example, the Balochis scattered across the country are less assimilated than many other Balochi groups.
Not infrequently, in Pakistan, the ethnicities living alongside the Balochis borrow their customs and language.
The Balochis of Oman (in Muscat) and Iran (Mashhad) have become completely assimilated and integrated with the local population.
Compared with other national groups, the Balochis of Turkmenistan are resistant to assimilation, although they have borrowed some of the Turkmen everyday customs and family ceremonies.
The most progressive Balochis do not spare any effort to disprove what the media write about their people as nationalists and rioters; on the other hand, the Balochis should revive and preserve their traditions and their history.

1 See: E.G. Gafferberg, Beludzhi Turkmenskoy SSR, ed. by S.M. Abramzon, Nauka Publishers, Leningrad, 1969, p. 4, footnote 5 (I.I. Zarubin, K izucheniu beludzhskogo yazyka i folklora. Zapiski kollegii vostokovedov, Vol. 5, Leningrad, 1930).
2 See: E.G. Gafferberg, op. cit., p. 16.
3 In Turkmenistan, the Brahui are divided into smaller groups—Aydozi, Raatzi, Iagesi, Chaynal, Keran, Mirkhanzi, Sorabzi, Sasoli, and Zerkali.
4 See: E.G. Gafferberg, op. cit., p. 9.
5 See: “Izdan pervy perevod Evangelia ot Luki na beludzhskiy yazyk,” Russkaia Pravoslavnaia Tserkov. Otdel vneshnikh tserkovnykh svyazey, 22 August, 2005, available at [].
6 See: L. Rzehak, W.A. Pristschepowa, Nomadenalltag vor den Toren von Merw. Belutschen, Hazara, Dschamschedi, Dresden, 1994, p. 5, footnote 23 (Muhammad Sardar Khan Baluch, History of Baluch Race and Baluchistan, Karachi, 1958, pp. 1, 191).
7 See: V.A. Frolova, Beluzhskiy yazyk, Nauka, Eastern Literature Publishers, Moscow, 1960, p. 7.
8 Quoted from: E.G. Gafferberg, op. cit.
9 See: E.G. Gafferberg, op. cit., p. 4.
10 See: F. Scholz, Belutschistan (Pakistan), Verlag Erich Goltze, Göttingen, 1974, S. 33 (M.K.B.M.Baloch, The Balochis through Centuries, Quetta, 1964).
11 See: M.S. Asimov, C.E. Bosworth, History of Civilizations of Central Asia: The Historical, Social and Economic Setting, Motilal Banarsidass Publ, Delhi, 1999, pp. 304-305.
12 See: F. Scholz, op. cit., S. 33 (Muhammad Sardar Khan Baluch, History of Baluch Race and Baluchistan, Karachi, 1958).
13 The borders established by the Anglo-Persian Boundary Commission in 1870-1872 were finally confirmed in 1895- 1896.
14 See: M.Th. Houtsma, A.J.E.J. Wensinck, Brill’s First Encyclopaedia of Islam 1913-1936 (reprint Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1993).
15 See: K. Zurutuza, Den v poušti s ________ povstalci (A Day in the Desert with Balochi Insurgents), _______,Albert Friess, Vice Magazine, 21.2.2012, available at [ povstalci/].
16 See: V.A. Frolova, op. cit., p. 9.
17 The closest neighbors, mainly the Brahuis, adopt the Balochi language and traditions.
18 See: E.G. Gafferberg, op. cit.
19 A member of the anti-Soviet movement in Central Asia.
20 See: E.G. Gafferberg, op. cit., p. 23.21 See: “Die Balutschi-Akademie in Zarandsch — Ein Kurzportrait,” 10 February, 2011 // Tethys. Central asia Everyday, 8 March, 2012, available at [ kurzportrait/].


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Posted by on December 27, 2013 in Baloch People


The 19th Century Slave Trade in the Western Indian Ocean: The Role of the Baloch Mercenaries1

By Prof Dr Beatrice Nicolini
Faculty of Political and Social Science
Catholic University of the Sacred Heart
Lombardy, Italy

Prof Dr Beatrice Nicolini

Prof Dr Beatrice Nicolini

For millennia monsoon winds and a network of interacting communities created a complex integrated commercial system in the western Indian Ocean. Along with goods and people, religious ideas flowed through short- and long-distance trade routesin the region. These exchange networks included major slave routes, and shared cultural and religious understandings influenced the way slaves were conceptualised and used.
As in Africa, slavery played a significant role in the Islamic world. Armies of mostly Turkish slave soldiers were raised in the Caucasus and the Central Asian steppes while domestic slaves came mainly from the coastal strip of sub-Saharan East Africa. Baloch became involved in this slave trade largely through their military association with Omani Arabs. In the 18th century Omanis began to recruit mercenary troops from Baloch tribes. These Baloch developed an enduring armed tradition and became a key element in the equations of power within Omani areas of influence in sub-Saharan East Africa, both on the coast and inland.
This study examines the role Baloch played in sub-Saharan East Africa during the 19th century. It focuses on Zanzibar and Pemba islands where the power of the Omani Arabs reached an apogee. It discusses their influence on East African social, political and economic systems.
Once the Omanis consolidated their military power in areas of sub-Saharan East Africa, Baloch were among those settled there and during the mid and late 19th century they were linked to the trade in slaves and the most lucrative commodity of the day, ivory.
The Baloch role in East Africa during the 19th century impacted on local societies and their values and they contributed to the transformation of traditional customs. When the British began to restrict the slave trade from Africa in the middle of the 19th century, Asia assumed greater importance as a source of slaves for sale to Arabia and to Persia. Once again Baloch would play a considerable role in that trade.

1. Slavery in the Islamic World and East Africa

1.1 Slavery from Africa to Asia
There were a number of significant slave routes throughout the western Indian Ocean during the 19th century (HOURANI 1995:89). These are generally divided into two main flows. One was from south to north, that is, from the East African coast and the Red Sea to the Arabian Peninsula, and onwards to western India and South Central Asia. The other was in the opposite direction. Consequently, slaves were not only black people from Africa but also of Asian origin.
Slaves from Africa were prominent in the history of the Islamic world and beyond. In the late 9th century black slaves from East Africa, the Zanj, who were mainly employed in sugar cane plantations, revolted against the Abbasid Caliph al-Mu’tamid and became masters of Southern Iraq and Basra (POPOVIC 1999, FURLONGE 1999). Around the middle of the 11th century there was an extensive commerce of slaves to China from Pemba and Ras Assir on the northern Somali coast (known as the Cape of Slaves), in exchange for ceramics and luxury goods. East African slaves were imported in great numbers to the Arabian Peninsula, travelling on Arab dhows (AGIUS 2002, 2005; GILBERT 2004). When the slave trade from West Africa to the Americas was banned in the middle of the 19th century there was an extensive and growing commerce of East African slaves from Ras Asir and Pemba.2 They were bought with cloth and dates on Zanzibar and Pemba Islands and transported to the Arabian Peninsula where they were
mainly engaged in fishing pearls in the Persian/Arab Gulf (SHERIFF 2005:35-45). In some cases, East African slaves also became lords of local African realms (e.g., governors of ports from Guardafui to Cabo Delgado) because their Arab masters considered them much more loyal than anybody within their own clans and tribes.

1.2 Slavery within Africa
In the Middle East, Central Asia and East Africa the social, political, and economic functions of slaves were generally divided among three categories: a) domestic – patriarchal, b) productive – agricultural and c) military – administrative. While these The 19th Century Slave Trade in the Western Indian Ocean 329 general categories were present, the slave trade practised in coastal East Africa had its distinctive characteristics. In East Africa slaves formed a separate “caste”. They were thought as less than human, and, even when they embraced Islam they were thought less than Muslim. There were three categories of slaves in the region: 1) watumwa wajinga, who were not assimilated into the coastal populations; 2) slaves who were transported as children to Zanzibar; and 3) mzalia (pl. wazalia), who were born on the coast and fully acculturated into coastal Islamic culture (POWELS 2000:251-271).
Slavery in East Africa was regulated by the principles of Koranic law and those slaves who did not come from areas of Swahili cultural influence were called mshenzi (pl. washenzi), which means “pagan, barbarian, uncivilised”. They were not Muslims, unlike most free Swahili.
Nevertheless, along the Swahili coast slavery was a very absorptive system. Domestic slaves enjoyed the most privileged conditions. Their relationships with their owners resembled more those of members of the family than items of property. Men were called ndugu yangu, “my brother”, and the women were suria, “concubines”, of their owners or “nannies”. In the spice and coconut plantations on Zanzibar and along the coasts, household slaves often became msimamizi “guardians”, or nokoa, kadamu, “first or second head slaves”. Others had the task of leading caravans towards the interior.
Slaves also worked on their owners’ plantations, called mashamba3 (LODHI 2000:46- 47). There, they worked the fields, sieved copal and carried merchandise to the ports. Some were assigned a piece of land with which to support themselves. They worked these plots on Thursdays and Fridays, the two days of rest. The more privileged cultivated their own small piece of land, paying an annual or monthly tribute to their master (GLASSMAN 1995:79-114). They were also permitted, on payment of a tax, to get married.4 During the 19th century, however, the majority of slaves from the interior of the continent, such as the Unyanyembe and Great Lakes regions were destined to work on plantations, and consequently totally excluded from any chance of paternalistic generosity from their masters (PÉTRÉ-GRENOUILLEAU 2004, CLARENCE-SMITH 2006).
In urban centres there was the institution of the vibarua (pl. of kibarua) “slaves hired by the day”. They were extremely poor but in some cases they joined the Hadrami Arabs’ caravans and were able to improve their humiliating conditions. The trading slaves, mafundi “craftsmen”, also reached a certain level of dignity, but remained under strict control of their master. Any illegal or personal initiatives were severely punished.
In East African slavery went hand in hand with the commercial plantations that supplied the growing markets of Europe (HEUMAN 1999): European demand had induced rich African landowners to introduce new, highly profitable agricultural industries. These included sugar cane, rice, copal, vanilla, pepper, cardamom, nutmeg and – especially on Zanzibar and Pemba – cloves. Indian merchant communities, both Hindu and Muslim, were involved in the development of this plantation economy and the trade in these products throughout the western Indian Ocean. Many became extremely rich and powerful as a result (BARENDSE 2001, MARKOVITS 2000). Because there was no local peasant class that could be employed on plantations, black slaves were routinely used to till the land and carry out heavy labour on the plantations. So when England undertook the crusade against slavery, it was precisely this most miserable section of society that constituted the economic foundations of the entire region.

2. Omani Arabs and Baloch in the western Indian Ocean
Until the first British explorations around the 18th century Balochistan was terra incognita to Westerners, an unknown land and a blank spot on the maps of the period. During the 18th and the 19th centuries Baloch were known to the British representatives in India as ferocious freebooters. At this time Baloch tribes from the coastal region of Makran were pushed by extreme poverty towards Persia and the coasts of Arabia (REDAELLI 2003). Here, they offered themselves as soldiers, sailors and bodyguards for pay, which, even though modest, could represent the difference between life and death for their families. During the 19th century the conditions of life of these people was so hard that the British explorer Sykes wrote: “they are adscripti glebae and in miserable conditions, nominally receiving a third of the crop…only enough to keep body and soul together” (SYKES 1902:108).
It was through such arrangements that Baloch warriors came to be associated with Omani dynasties. These ties date back at least to the Ya’rubi dynasties of the 16th and the 17th centuries and grew in importance under the al-Bu Sa’id in the 18th century.
Thanks to the similar kinship and tribal structures of both societies which stemmed from their nomadic traditions, the Omanis could count on “solidarity” from their Makrani mercenaries. This solidarity always carried a price, however (NICOLINI 2002:
Baloch tribes who supported the powerful Omani-Arab Sultans in Makran initially hoped to receive military support against rival tribes. That support was often not forthcoming, and al-Bu Sa’id mainly sent the Baloch on military expeditions into the Omani deserts or employed them in the ships based in their trading port of Muscat. In 1794, Sultan bin Ahmad al-Bu Sa’id obtained the rights to the revenue from Bandar Abbas and its domains, which included Minab and the islands of Qishm, Hormuz and Hengam, from the Sheikh of the Beni Ma’in tribe. By the beginning of the 19th century the possessions of the al-Bu Sa’id included the island of Bahrain, the Makran coast with its important strategic-commercial enclave of Gwadar, certain sites along the Persian coast such as Chabahar, the island of Socotra, the Curia Muria isles, Zanzibar, and nearby ports on the sub-Saharan African coast. Through negotiation as well as countless acts of piracy and fierce power struggles5 the al-Bu Sa’id expanded their influence throughout the Western Indian Ocean (DAVIES 1997). BARENDSE 2001 suggests trade and tribal relationships between the Swahili coast and the Balochistan-Makran littoral pre-dated the rise of the al-Bu Sa’id but they increased once the al-Bu Sa’id consolidated their power. The al-Bu Sa’id realised that their survival was closely connected with the riches of East Africa, and in 1840 the al-Bu Sa’id Sultan Sa’id Sayyid al-Bu Sa’id (born 1791, reign 1806, died 1856) moved his capital from Muscat to Zanzibar.
Owing to the Arab-Omani mercantile and political expansion along East African littorals, many Baloch settled in East African port towns and in Zanzibar and Pemba islands, the heart of the Omani African dominions during the 19th century. From the accounts of travellers, explorers and European officials of the time, the Baloch tribes in East Africa included the Hot, the Rind and the Nausherwani (MILES 1981:97-112).
While these were the leading tribes of Makran (the Rind in particular were considered to be Baloch blue-blood) and therefore figured most prominently in the British sources, it seems likely that other Baloch tribes were also present. Their descendents are still present there today and are called Bulushi in Kiswahili.
As with the tribes of Oman, Baloch mercenaries along the Swahili coast served as a military force, though it seems they also became involved in East African trade relationships. At that time the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba were administered by governors who represented Sa’id Sayyid bin Sultan al-Bu Sa’id and exercised power on his behalf. The military support that underpinned the governors’ authority over the islands and their affairs, was special troops of proven trustworthiness, that is to say, mercenary Baloch corps closely tied to the al-Bu Sa’id. The governors who represented Omani overlords in the major East African trading ports leadership also had the support of the autochthonous Swahili aristocracy, who were mainly merchants. They were tied to the Omani elite by mutual interests in the exploitation of the resources in the region (GLASSMAN 1991). This mercantile empire moved its economic and political centre of gravity to Zanzibar, making control of the neighbouring islands and the nearby African coast one of the cornerstones of its vast system of mercantile interests. So much so that, many years later, the English explorer Richard Francis Burton would claim that: “If you play the flute in Zanzibar it will sound as far as the Great Lakes” (NICOLINI 2004:119).

3. Oman, Great Britain and Zanzibar
European rivalry in the Gulf and the western waters of the Indian Ocean from the beginning of the 19th century also had a decisive impact on the region’s maritime routes and their immense commercial traffic, particularly the slave trade. Clearly, however, the ability of the Omani sovereign to exploit such political contingencies also carried a certain weight.
At issue were two profoundly different world views and ways of perceiving objectives and strategies. On one hand was an Omani-Arab merchant prince with his traditional court of advisors, warriors, merchants and slaves, and on the other was Great Britain, a great European power. As a result of marked public pressure, the British launched a crusade against the slave trade and slave traders. This undertaking would have the effect of tearing up by the roots the economic foundations of the entire western Indian Ocean region and of revolutionising both the mechanisms of local power and traditional culture. While the Europeans had superior technology and military power the merchant prince of Muscat and Zanzibar, Sa’id bin Sultan al-Bu Sa’id, was adept at manipulating the political alignments in the region.
By the 19th century the demand for East African slaves came primarily from the Arabian Peninsula, where the cultivation of date palms called for a continuous supply of labour. There was also demand from western India, where slaves were employed in oases and on sugar cane and tea plantations; from Central Asia, where cotton was The 19th Century Slave Trade in the Western Indian Ocean 333 beginning to be grown, from various regions of the Ottoman Empire; and from the American continent. The demand was especially high for young women and girls to
serve in homes, as well as for eunuchs. Slaves destined for the courts were given special training to entertain important guests with singing and dancing.
Great Britain was the first nation to undertake an international campaign with humanitarian goals. It created, however, a weighty and complex knot to unravel: how to combat slavery and at the same time maintain alliances with the powerful protectors of the slave traders, such as the Omani Sultan, who obtained their greatest profits precisely from the trade in human flesh? The slave trade, therefore, represented a highly destabilising element for British policy, not only on the political but also on a social and economic level. During the 19th century, the growing effectiveness of British measures aimed at abolition restricted the availability of East African slaves. This shortfall was partly compensated for by Asiatic slaves who travelled on alternative and little known slave routes in the western Indian Ocean. One of these routes was through Balochistan, as shown by the commerce in Asian people from Makran destined to be sold in the squares of Arabia and Persia during the first decades of the 20th century.6

3.1 Ivory
At this point, it is useful to discuss other important factors that played a part in the impressive economic-commercial growth of East Africa at certain times: ivory (YLVISAKER 1982:221-231) and cloves. From the 2nd century BC, ivory was exported from eastern Africa to the Mediterranean. From the 7th century AD, India and China emerged as the main markets for East African ivory. Superior to Asian ivory in quality, consistency and colour, African ivory left Mozambique and followed the maritime routes of the Indian Ocean until the end of the 18th century. At the start of the 19th century the Portuguese imposed new taxes and other fiscal burdens and taxes on the trade, which Abdul SHERIFF 1987:81 terms “suicidal”. Together with the mercantile ascendancy of France and Great Britain in the Indian Ocean, this caused a shift in the ivory trade. The ports of Mozambique continued to ship ivory, but in smaller quantities, while Zanzibar became the major centre of the lucrative trade in this precious material (PRESTHOLDT 2004, MACHADO 2005).
Starting from the second decade of the 19th century, Europe entered the ivory market with its considerable demand. African ivory – pure white, strong, but easily worked – was increasingly sought after in the West for luxury items such as billiard balls, piano keys, elaborate jewels, fans, cutlery, clothing accessories, and elegant items of personal toilette. In the charged atmosphere of a fin de siècle Europe increasingly fascinated by Chinese or other exotic items, ivory was a must. This is clearly shown by the fact that British imports of ivory rose from 280 tons in 1840 to 800 tons in 1875.
The economy of the East African interior thus witnessed an immense growth in the demand for pagazi, “caravan porters”, free men recruited from among allied African tribes (mainly Yao and Nyamwezi), and for slave porters (ROCKEL 2000:173-195).7 Women too were forced by Omani slave traders and Baloch soldiers and bodyguards to abandon their children in order to transport elephant tusks.

3.2 Cloves
No less important than ivory was the extraordinary expansion of clove cultivation on the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba. The creation of a new niche for agricultural exploitation was destined to transform the twin islands into a true commercial empire.
According to English publications of the time, at the end of the 18th century the introduction of cloves (eugenya caryophyllata) altered completely the economic and commercial potential of plantation production, not only in the eyes of the Europeans, but also in those of the Omani-Arab Sultan and the Indian mercantile communities in Zanzibar.
Since the 2nd century BC envoys from Java at the Han court of China had sucked cloves to sweeten their heavy garlic breath during audiences with the emperor. Clove plants, originating in the Moluccas, were first exploited by the Dutch who grasped the commercial value of this precious, perfumed spice, which also possesses medicinal properties. About 1770, the French merchant Pierre Poivre succeeded in obtaining a few seeds with which to start cultivation on the Mascarene Islands. So it was the French who, at the beginning of the 19th century, introduced cloves to Zanzibar. These initial attempts proved successful. The environment was perfectly suited to this cultivation and eventually Zanzibar became the primary producer of cloves in the world.
English accounts report that Sa’id Sayyid bin Sultan al-Bu Sa’id decided to invest his wealth and energy in this project. Such a move needed both courage and faith, as clove plants take from seven to eight years to reach maturity and eight to ten years for the first crop. Budding does not occur at regular periods and the buds themselves must be removed before flowering; harvesting is done in three phases, between August and December. This, along with the need to weed the plantations constantly, required numerous and skilled labourers, as well the Baloch troops which were reported to patrol the Sultan’s mashamba (BENNETT 1987:28-29). The production of cloves was very similar to that of dates and quickly grasped by the Omanis, who proceeded to acquire land on Zanzibar, mainly at the expense of Swahili. The legalised expropriation practised by the Omanis and a somewhat questionable interpretation of the juridical institution of usufruct often led to Swahili lands effectively being confiscated (COOPER 1980).
The clove boom, with its high profit on initial expenditure, effected the emergence of an Omani Arab landowning aristocracy, which was financed by the Indian mercantile communities that slowly replaced the old Swahili aristocracy. The confiscation of the most fertile Swahili lands in Zanzibar and the overwhelming influx of slaves resulted in the limited number of native Hadimu and Tumbatu tribesmen on the island being relegated to the very margins of society. This did not cause any major ruptures, thanks to the dexterity of the Indian investors, who gradually engaged local East African elites by delegating certain tasks and responsibilities to them and making them active participants in this major Indian Ocean business. These Indian banyans (merchants) employed Baloch to defend them, exploited Swahili families, and financed the al-Bu Sa’id as well as British traders and expeditions. Thus, during the 19th century, they became highly influential in Zanzibar (JAIN 1990:71-105).
Clove plantations would prove vital to Zanzibar’s economic growth but they also rapidly undermined the traditional order and created the phenomenon known as “clove fever”. Sales rose phenomenally from 4,600 Maria Theresa thalers in 1834 to 25,000 in 1840 (SEMPLE 2005). For the al-Bu Sa’id in Africa it was a triumph. But hand in hand with the growth of the plantations went an ever-increasing demand for slaves. In 1811, of the 15,000 slaves that arrived on Zanzibar, 7,000 were destined for labour on the mashamba (BHACKER 1992:128). Clove fever pushed the annual number of new slaves up from 6,000 at the start of the century to 20,000 in the second half.
Britain viewed the cultivation and exportation of tropical agricultural produce with an extremely favourable eye insofar as it was a valid economic alternative to the slave trade. The increasing number of clove plantations on Zanzibar also necessitated a notable increase in the labour force, however. High mortality rates on the mashamba meant that almost the entire workforce had to be replaced every four years which, as we have seen, created enormous problems and far-reaching changes within East African society. In addition, the migration flows of Arabs and Asians drawn by this new and profitable market further exacerbated the situation in the eyes of the English.

3.3 Trade routes
Maritime city-states of the Swahili coast had always been sustained by intimate interaction with non-Muslims of the rural hinterlands, and this contributed to the consolidation of the coastal identity (GLASSMAN 1995:33). During the first half of the 19th century the demand for ivory came mostly from India. The Omani Arabs exploited the old slave trade routes to the interior bringing new people to the coast of East Africa along with elephant tusks. The Mrima region was the major source of ivory export for Zanzibar economy. While agriculture initially remained their primary source of wealth, Omani Arabs gave gifts of imported cloth from their larger Indian Ocean trade routes, which involved the western Indian ports, to the major chiefs of the interior. Such foreign goods represented a clear sign of prestige and superiority within their tribes. Salted and smoked fish also became an important item of trade. Zanzibar and Pemba islands soon developed the production of fish to sustain the porters along the trade routes to the interior and to use in the very profitable exchange for ivory. The demand for copal also grew during this period. It was produced in Bagamoyo area and bought by the Indian merchants, along with mangrove poles, which were taken to Arabia and to the Gulf.
While the coastal regions were transformed by rising commodity production, societies in the hinterland experienced significant changes due to the massive influx of slaves from the interior and Arabs and Asians from abroad. For example, the town of Tabora, a key site on the commercial route to the heart of the continent, practically became an Arab town, with a considerable Baloch presence. Profound developments took place in the cultural identities of the coast and the islands, on the one hand, and the interior of the continent, on the other, where, from the 1830s on, new caravan routes wrought a true revolution in economic, social and cultural terms (BENJAMIN 2006).
There were several major sets of slave and ivory trade routes to the interior (see the map on p. 338): 1) the “southern” route from ports, such as Kilwa, to Lake Nyasa and the highlands of the south western interior, where the Nyamwezi porters took up their loads of tusks and other goods; 2) the “central” ivory route from Bagamoyo toward the west and northwest, where the caravan trade became progressively monopolised by the Omani Arabs and Indian merchants; 3) the “northern” or Masai route, which led from Mombasa and Malindi towards Kilimanjaro, where the Mijikenda and Kamba were ivory hunters. The Saadani caravan route to eastern Zaire did not develop an Arab merchant community, while the Pangani route led to the foundation of Ujiji around 1840 and passed through the Bondei hills and along the foot of Usambara and Pare mountains. The latter was well watered and preferred by travellers from other towns of the northern Mrima. Large quantities of ivory, pembe, of soft and high quality, came from Pare and the Rift valley, and this route became the second in importance after Bagamoyo. Taveta trading station on the northern route never became dominated by coastal Muslims, as it was too dangerous.
Another technology that was destined to profoundly change the balance of power in the hinterland was the gun. During the first half of the 19th century matchlocks began to appear in the hands of Baloch mercenary troops, who imported them from the Ottoman Empire and from Europe. Leading Swahili families, the Shirazi, gradually lost their power and were displaced by the Omani Arabs in the economy of Zanzibar.8 Although the Swahili retained control of the northern caravan trade, the great wealth soon passed into Arab and Indian hands. With the central route under the control of the al-Bu Sa’id, Tabora and Ujiji gradually became Arab dominated centres. Here Baloch soldiers settled, intermarried, and became powerful figures. The impact of Omani power in Zanzibar on the East African hinterland deeply influenced the lives and traditions of East African men and women. Power relations among traditional elites were modified considerably. Client-patronage relations were transformed, and new actors emerged. The ivory trade, especially during the second half of the 19th century, became a means of travel, adventure and wealth that offered a way to enhance one’s status within coastal communities. Everybody could share this ambition but new tensions grew between the rich Swahili families, who struggled to preserve their precarious domination, and the parvenus on whose support they relied.

3.4 European powers
While Britain continued on its anti-slavery crusade, motivated in part by the pragmatic aim of weakening the growing mercantile fortunes of Omani Arabs and other oriental leaders, France took advantage of the situation to recapture some of its standing in the region. Sa’id Sayyid bin Sultan al-Bu Sa’id did not hesitate either to double-cross. At the same time he reassured the English, he courted the French to support him against enemy Arab tribes (mazrui, pl. mazaria) on the islands of Mafia and Kilwa and in Mombasa. The Arabs in East Africa provided efficient support for the slave trade, and French merchants exploited this to the full. Under the Treaty of Paris in 1815, France regained sovereignty over the island of Bourbon (DE MARTENS 1818:682). The French explorer Charles Guillain noted the “rapports intimes qui continuaient d’exister entre l’Arabie et la côte orientale d’Afrique, oû nous savons que le commerce des esclaves avait lieu de temp immémorial” (GUILLAIN 1856:162). The Omani Sultan and France shared an interest in finding new ports and commercial bases. However, after taking the potential purchase of Zanzibar and Pemba into consideration, Paris instead turned its attention towards Madagascar. Given the unrivalled supremacy of the Royal Navy backed by the Bombay Marine (the fighting navy of the East India Company) in the western stretches of the Indian Ocean, and the defeats inflicted on the pirates of the Gulf, France was destined to play a secondary role in the Indian Ocean. In 1817, Lord Hastings, the Governor General of Bengal, proposed strengthening the Omani Sultan and supporting his power in East Africa. The Anglo-Indian government’s choice was influenced by continual pirate raids in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf, the commercial and political instability that afflicted the entire region, and the presence of the French, who, despite their setbacks, continued to represent a threat to Great Britain.
On the one hand, British documents reveal that the political manoevres of Sa’id Sayyid bin Sultan al-Bu Sa’id were a cause for alarm: the British perceived him as an element of instability in a region that was the object of great interest and importance. On the other hand, Hastings’ decision represented a firm stance in favour of the Omani Sultan as a political point of reference for Britain, also in relation to those regions of East Africa in which the Omani Arab dynasty exercised an indirect form of control.

4. Slavery in Balochistan
Though there is limited literature available to document it, slavery was practised in Balochistan in a similar pattern to that in Africa and Arabia. For example, in 1874 a group of Rinds from eastern Balochistan bought domestic slaves at Gwadar who came from the coasts of East Africa.9 This gave rise to a conflict of interests between the Rind and the representative (na’ib) of the Khan of Kalat in Kej, a conflict that ended in bloodshed and the death of four Rind tribesmen. Sir Robert Sandeman, at that time Deputy-Commissioner of Dera Ghazi Khan, asserted that the death of these men had nothing to do with the slave trade at Gwadar. In 1877 Sandeman became agent to the Governor General and Chief Commissioner of Balochistan. He believed his political agents were not able to identify the real causes of tribal conflicts between groups in Balochistan. He remarked that “domestic slavery is a time-honoured institution in Balochistan as in other eastern countries, and much of the land is cultivated by slave labour … at the same time it must be remembered that many of the ideas attaching to the word “slavery”, which are so repellent to civilized minds, are absent from the manners of the Biluch tribes.”10
This statement could be interpreted in different ways; for instance, it could be read as Eurocentrist and contemptuous of local populations. There were also geopolitical concerns that would have led Sandeman to justify slavery in Asia (SWIDLER 2003). These include the strategic importance of Balochistan within Anglo-Russian rivalry, the second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880), the construction of the Indo-European Telegraph Line that connected Calcutta to London, the long-term political consequences of the Great Mutiny in India of 1857, and the growing importance of the North West Frontier of British India. Also significant at the time was the push to define the borders between Persia and the Khanate of Kalat which started with the commission directed by Sir Frederic Goldsmid in 1870 and ended with the signing of an Agreement in Teheran on September 24th, 1872 (PIACENTINI 1991:189-203, BROBST 1977). During the first years of the 20th century, the British adopted measures against the slave trade that contributed to the reduction of the number of slaves coming to India from East Africa. This reduction corresponded to a new slave trade, a “horizontal slave route”, from the coast of Balochistan to the main suqs of Arabia (see fn. 6). British observers in Makran linked the rise of slavery there with the restriction of the trade elsewhere. “The reason there is such a demand for slaves from these parts, is that the trade from the African Coast has been effectually stopped, and Balochistan is the only place now open to them.”11 The poorest among the Baloch were sold as slaves. They were collected within the district of Kej and sent as slaves to Persian territory as well as to Arabia.12 This is shown by a telegram that the assistant superintendent in the Jask area sent to the to the director of the Persian Gulf section in Karachi on 20 May 1903: “a great number of them are brought to these places from the Kej district … not only Africans but low caste Balochis are now being sold by petty headmen.” Baloch slave women had their heads totally shaved, then covered with quicklime, so that their hair could not regrow, This rendered them easily recognizable and prevented them from returning to their own tribes and villages.13
To conclude, Baloch were active in the supply of slaves from both Africa and Asia. First as mercenary troops and later as traders, they took part in the slave trade in sub- Saharan East Africa that was generally controlled by Omani-Arabs. But Baloch were engaged in the slave trade in their homeland. This trade included Africans who worked as domestic and agricultural slaves in Balochistan. However, there is also the factor of the enslavement of Baloch by rival tribesmen and more powerful ethnic groups.

A.G.G. Agent to the Governor-General H.S.A. Home Secretariate Archives (Quetta, Pakistan)


1 I wish to thank Professor William Gervase Clarence-Smith (SOAS, University of London) for his sharp comments. I am also grateful to Ms. Ann Griffin (British Library) for her efficient help. 328 Beatrice Nicolini
2 Starting from the first half of the 19th century the banning of slavery on the western coasts of Africa affected the slave trade along East Africa, which grew during the second half of the 19th century, despite abolition treaties. On the effects of the banning of slavery in West Africa on East Africa see for example FAGE 2002, LOVEJOY 1997, 2000:226-252.
3 The word is a borrowing from French champ “field”.
330 Beatrice Nicolini
5 Among the incidents the al-Bu Sa’id had to deal with were two attacks on Sur and Gwadar in 1805 by Shaikh Sultan, the leader of the Qasimi tribe of Ras al-Khaimah. The Omani fleet immediately retook the centres after they were seized.
332 Beatrice Nicolini
6 H.S.A. – A.G.G. Office – Essential Records, Balochistan Archives: Complaint about existence of Slavery in Balochistan, from Capt. P. Cox, Consul and Political Agent, Maskat to Lieut. Col. C. A. Kemball, Agg. Political Resident in the Persian Gulf, 17th September, 1901. Political, 5-2/57. See also MIERS 2003:306-309. 334 Beatrice Nicolini
7 The importance of porters for the African economy is also due to difficulties with the use of animals, which were liable to getting sleeping sickness (ROCKEL 1997:2).
8 Persian settlements on the east coast of Africa trace their origins to the legend of the seven Persian Princes. Ali, of Abyssinian mother and a Persian father named Hussein, had seven brothers from Shiraz, who sailed to Africa with seven ships and touched at seven different ports where they founded Persian “reigns” from Mombasa to Kilwa. Persian origins, i.e., Shirazi, soon became an ethnic and political identity within the history of Swahili civilization, and today in Zanzibar nauruz, the Zoroastrian new year (mwaka kogwa, which translates as “year washed / bathed”), is regularly celebrated (cf. NICOLINI 2004:62-63, MIDDLETON 1992:101, CHITTICK 1965).
9 The history of slavery in Balochistan, and its connections with East Africa is an open topic as available literature is limited. Some documents in the archives of the district commissioner in Quetta are preserved in a very poor state.
10 H.S.A. – A.G.G. Office – Essential Records, Balochistan Archives: From the A.G.G. to the Secretary to the Government of India. Foreign Department, Quetta, 25 March, 1884, Report n. 942.

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11 H.S.A. – A.G.G. Office Confidential, 1903-1905, File 23, n. 1510: Traffic in Slaves from Kej to
Persia, from the Ass. Superintendent Jask Sub-Division to the Director, Persian Gulf Section,
Karachi, Extract of a Letter n. 11 dated 28th March, 1904.
12 H.S.A. – A.G.G. Office Confidential, 1903-1905, File 23, n. 1510: Traffic in Slaves from Kej to
Persia, from Russell, Under Secr. to the Gov. of India to the A.G.G. Quetta, 1903.
13 H.S.A. – A.G.G. Office Confidential, 1903-1905, File 23, n. 1510: Traffic in Slaves from Kej to
Persia, from the Ass. Superintendent Jask Sub-Division to the Director, Persian Gulf Section,
Karachi, Telegram dated 20th May, 1903.
342 Beatrice Nicolini
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pluralism in Balochistan. Wiesbaden, Reichert, pp. 327-344

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Posted by on July 10, 2013 in Baloch People


The Baloch Tribes of the Seraiki Region

Map of Saraiki Region

By: Farooq Miana

Baloch people form a large portion of the whole population of Seraiki wasaib. They are found in considerable numbers in all Seraiki districts. They dwell both in cities and villages. All though some are big landlords and occupy large areas through out Seraiki Wasaib. But they no longer hold compact territories exclusively as their own. They have lost their language and speak Seraiki as a native language, they have been settled and assimilated in Seraiki culture and has little to do with Baloch tribes of Balochistan. Balochs of Seraiki wasaib can hardly be distinguished from other people of Seraiki Wasaib. One would not know about their caste unless revealed by themselves. These Balochs own no allegiance to any tribal Chief, are altogether external to political organization of the tribes of Baluchistan and don’t hold any dominant position among their neighbors which is enjoyed by the organized tribes of Dera Ghazi Khan. However Baloch tribes residing in Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur and Rojhan still have lot of Baloch traditions and some of them still speak Balochi language.

The Balochs of Dera Ismail Khan, Bhakkar, Layyah

The Balochs started settling in Seraiki wasaib about the middle of 15th century. Prior to this they had spread as north as the Bolan, but had not yet encroached upon the Suleman range which lay east to them and which was held by the Pathans, while a Jat population occupied the valley of Indus and the country between the Suleman and the river. The area was called Makalwad but later on this term went out of usage and Daman was used which still is used for this area.
By the middle of 15th century the Brahoi, a tribe believed to be of Dravidian origin, drove the Balochs out of the fertile valley of Kelat and established supremacy over their northern tribes. These Baloch tribes moved east ward into lower Sulemans driving the Pathans before them along the range. Many of these latter took service with the Langah rulers of Multan and were granted lands along the river. About 1480 A.D Ismail Khan and Fateh Khan two sons of Malik Sohrab Khan and Ghazi Khan son of Haji Khan all Dodais of Rind extraction founded three Deras, Namely Dera Ghazi Khan, Dera Ismail Khan and Dera Fatah Khan.
The tribal name of Dodai disappeared, because leaders were of different tribe from their followers, the representatives and tribesmen of Ghazi Khan were locally called Mihrani, those of Ismail Khan as Hot and those of Fatah Khan as Kulachi.
With Ghazi Khan came the Jiskani Balochs, who occupied Cis-Indus tract above Bakkar, while with Hots came Korai. At the zenith of their power the Hot, Korai, Mirani, and Jiskani held sway over almost the whole Damaan and Thal. During the later half of 16th century Daud Khan a Jiskani and descendants of one Ghazi Khan Followers moved southwards and captured the greater part of Layyah. Emperor Akbar dispersed his tribe, but early in 17th century the independence of the Jiskani under Baloch Khan was recognized and it is from Baloch Khan that the Jiskani, Mandrani, Mamdani, Sargani, Kandani and Muliani, who still live in Bhakkar and Layyah Districts, trace their descent. In about 1750-1770 A.D Mihrani (people of Ghazi Khan) who sided with the Kalhoras or Sarais of Sindh in their struggle against Ahmed Shah Durrani, were driven out of Dera Ghazi Khan by Jiskani. (About the same time the Hots were over thrown after a desperate struggle by the Gandapur Pathans.
The Balochs of Dera Ismail Khan are scattered through out the Districts and its tehsils of Paharpur, Kulachi and Darabun, they don’t have any political or administrative unity the tribal tie is merely that of common descent and these tribes possess no corporate coherence. None of these tribes speaks Balochi language nor has any life style similarity with Baloch tribes of Balochistan. The Baloch tribes of Layyah, Bhakkar and Dera Ismail Khan have been absorbed in local culture; they intermingle and intermarry with Jats and other castes. The principal Baloch tribes of Dera Ismail Khan, Layyah and Bhakkar are Lashari, Kulachi and Jiskani, after them come the Rind, the Laghari, the Jatoi, the Korai, the Chandia, the Hot, the Gurmani, the Petafi, the Gashkori and the Mirani. The Petafis are found only in Dera Ismail Khan, they are confined to Parao area and the principal village in which they are in majority is Hazara.

(The most Balochs in Layyah and Bhakkar as Jiskan, Mamdanis are Rind)

Organized Baloch Tribes of Dera Ghazi Khan, Rojhan and Rajanpur Region

The Balochs of Dera Ghazi Khan, Rohjan and Rajanpur region are the only Seraiki Balochs which have retained distinct tribal and political organization. The Dera Ghazi Khan tribes are in the main of Rind origin. They include, beginning from south Mazari, Drishak, Gurchani, Tibbi Lund, Laghari, Khetran, Khosa, Sori Lund, Bozdar, Qasarani and Nutkani.

The Mazaris
The Mazaris are practically found only in Rajanpur. This city is the Capital Seat of the Mazari Baloch tribe who has held this territory since 1632 A.D. Prior to this the Mazari Tribe was settled in the Bambhore Hills of present day Kahan in Balochistan. The original city of Rojhan, situated a few kilometers from the present city, was burnt by the Sikh invaders under the command of Raja Kharak Singh. The Present City was constructed during the reign of the famous Mazari Chief, Nawab Sir Imam Buksh Khan Mazari during the early and middle part of the 1800s. The word ‘rojhan’ traces its roots back to the ancient Babalonyian and Caspatic languages of the Indo-European language family, meaning the ‘City of Tents’. The City is a site to many ancient yet beautiful tombs of the Mazari Nawabs and Sardars dating as back as the 17th Century.

The Drishak
They came down to land towards The Drishaks are the most scattered of all the Dera Ghazi Khan their villages are surrounded by villages of Jats and other indigenous people. They own no portion of the hills and are practically confined to Dera Ghazi Khan District. Its principal sections are Kirmani, Mingwani, Gulfaz, Sargani, and. Arbani.

The Gurchani
They own Mari and Darugal Hills, They are divided into Eleven Clans, of which chief are the Durkani, Shekhani, Lashari, Petafi, Jiskani, and Sibzani.

The Tibbi Lund
They are confined to Dera Ghazi Khan district, where they occupy small area in the midst of Gurchani country.

The Laghari
The Leghari Baloch tribe is one of the largest of Baloch tribes. The Leghari baloch are pure “Rind Baloch”. They are divided into four clans, the Haddiani, Aliani, Bughlani and Haibatani. Their headquarters are at Choti Zerin, where they are said to have settled after their return from accompanying with Hamayun, expelling the Ahmadanis who then held the present Laghari country.
The Legharis are also found in Dera Ismail Khan and Muzaffargarh but don’t owe alligeance to the tribe. The Talpur dynasty of Sindh belonged to this tribe and there still is a considerable population of Laghari tribe in Sindh.

The Khetran
The Khetran hold territory on the back of Laghari, Khosa and Lund country. Their original settlemet was at Vahoa, where many of them still live and hold land between the Qasarani and the River.
Khetrans are certainly not pure Baloch, and held by many to be Pathans, descended from Miana, brother of Tarin. Where as other think them to be a remunant of the original Jat population all of them speak Seraiki. However they confessdly resemble the Balochs in features, habits and general appearance, the name of their septs end in the Baloch patronymie termination “dni”. They are the least warlike of all the Baloch tribes of this region, capital cultivatorsa and in consequence exceedingly wealthy.

The Khosas
Major Pullock “It is rare to find a Khosa who has not been in prison for cattle-stealing or deserved to be and a Khosa who has not committed a murder or debauched his neighbor’s wife or destroyed his neighbor’s landmark is decidedly a creditable specimen”.
They occupy the country between the Laghari and the Qasrani, their territory being divided into northern and southern portion by the territory of Lunds In Seraiki Wasaib, outside Dera Ghazi Khan they are found in Bahawalpur. They hold extensive lands in Sindh, which were granted to them by Empror Humayun for military service. Khosas are admitted to be among the bravest of the Balochs. They are true Rind and are divided into six clans, namely Babelani, Isani, Jaggel, Jaudani, Jarwar and Mahrwani.

The Sori Lund
This is a small tribe. Their territory divides that of Khosas into to two parts and extends to the bank of River Indus. They are not pure Baloches and are divided into five clans the Hadarani, Bakrani, Zariana, Garzwani, Nuhani.

The Buzdars
These live in scattered villages about Rajanpur and among Laghari tribe. The Buzdars are of Rind extraction and are divided into Dulani, Ghulamani, Chakrani, Sihani, Shahwani, Jalalani and Rustamani clan.

The Qasarani
They are settled on the territory lying on either side of the boundary between Dera Ismail Khan and Dera Ghazi Khan. The tribe is poor one and is divided into seven clans the Lashkarani, Khubdin, Budhani, Vaswani, Jarwar and Rustamani. They are of Rind origin and found in Seraiki wasaib in the area mentioned above.

The Nutkani
This is tribe peculiar to Dera Ghazi Khan; it holds a territory stretching east ward to the Indus and between the Northern Khosa and the Qasrani. This tribe was brutally crushed out of tribal existence in early days of Ranjit Singh’s rule.
Other Less Important Baloch Tribes of Dera Ghazi Khan Include Gopang, Lashari, Gurmani, Mastoi, Hahani, Sanjraniand Ahmadani. These all lie scattered along the edge of the Indus and spoeak Seraiki and have been completely assimilated to Seraiki culture.

The Balochs of Multan and Muzaffargarh Region

Like Balochs of Dera Ismail Khan, Bakhar and Layyah, Balochs in Multan and Muzzafargarh have adopted the local culture and language and have lost their Baloch habits and characteristics long ago. The reason doubtless is that this is the centre of Seraiki power and assimilating forces here are more potent then any where else. The important Baloch tribes of this region are the Gopang, the Chandia, the Rind, the Jatoi, the Korai, the Laghari, Lashari, and the Hot, the Chandias, the Khosas and the Dasti.

The Balochs of Bahawalpur, Rahimyarkhan and Sadiqabad Region

The Balochs of Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan and Sadiqabad have been assimilated to Seraiki culture by all means and show now resemblance with Balochs. These tribes include Gopang, the Chandias, the Khosas, the Dasti, the Lashari, the Laghari, the Jataoi and the Mazari.
The Gopnags are mostly found in Khanpur, Khosas in Allahabad and Rahimyar Khan. Dashti Balochs mostly live in Sadiqabad and Khanpur. The Jatois settled in Bahawalpur during the times of Nawab Bahawal Khan III. They showed lot of bravery during wars and thus Nawab gave away huge land to them in Uch. The Mazaris settled in Bahawalpur on the invitation of Nawab Sadiq Muhammad Khan IV and were given land and Sadiqabad. Laghari Baloch also came at the same time and received huge chunks of agricultural lands.

The Baloch Tribes of Ravi, Upper Jehlum and Chanab

The Baloch tribes of the Ravi are found in bar of the Montgomery and Jhang districts. They used to breed camels here and held little land as cultivators. They consisted mostly of Jataoi and Rind. They probably are descendants of the men who under Mir Chakkar accompanied Humayun and received a grant of Land in Montgomery in return for their service. In Jhang and Sargodha districts on the Jehlum and the right bank of Chenab, the principal tribes to be found are the Rind, the Jataoi, the Lashari and the Korai.

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Posted by on September 24, 2011 in Baloch People


Mir Gul Khan Nasir was a prominent progressive poet, historian and politician of Balochistan

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Mir Gul Khan Nasir was a prominent progressive poet, politician, historian, and journalist of Balochistan. Born on 14 May 1914 in Noshki. Gul Khan Nasir was named after the political agent of Kharan who had stopped in Noshki on his way to Kharan the very same day that Mir Gul Khan was born. His father’s name was Mir Habib Khan. Habib Khan belonged to the celebrated Paindzai subclan of the Zagr Mengal branch of the Mengal Tribe. Mir Gul Khan’s mother was Bibi Hooran. She was the sister of Mir Raheem Khan, the head of the Rakhshani Badini Tribe. She was a learned woman who knew how to read Persian and also the Quran (which is in Arabic) which, at that time, was considered quite an achievement for a man, let alone a woman. She played a most pivotal role in moulding her sons. Gul Khan was number four among five brothers. He also had three sisters. His eldest brother Mir Samand Khan (born c.1889) had served in the British Army and also as a commander in Khan of Kalat’s army. His second brother Mir Lawang Khan (born c.1901) was a well known tribal politician and also had the reputation of being an excellent self-taught local doctor. He died on 7th August, 1973 while fighting with the Pakistan Army during the 1973 Military Operation carried out in Balochistan by the Federal Government of Pakistan. Mir Lawang Khan holds an important place in the hearts and souls of the Baloch people as one of the many martyrs of the Balochistan. Mir Gul Khan’s third brother Mir Lal Bux Mengal (born c.1906) also served for a while in Khan of Kalat’s army during which time he held a commanding position in Makran. On the fourth number was Gul Khan, himself. His younger bother Sultan Mohammad Khan (born c.1918) served in the British Army before the Partition of India and in the Pakistan Army after the Partition. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Pakistan Army and retired in 1966. Sultan Mohammad also held pivotal positions in Balochistan after his retirement, such as the Vice Chancellor of The Balochistan University, The Commander of Dehi Muhaafiz (now known as Balochistan Reserve Police) and as the Project Director Kohlu.

Early Life

Gul Khan Nasir studied until fifth grade in Noshki. Then he went to Mastung where his uncle was in service. He didn’t spend much time there because soon after, his uncle was posted to Quetta. Here, Gul Khan got admission in Government Sandeman High School where he studied until tenth grade. After doing his matriculation from Quetta, Mir Gul Khan went to Lahore where he got admission in Islamia College Lahore in F.Sc. Medical. During the course of his studies, an eye of Mir Gul Khan got infected. In time the infection got so bad that he had to quit his studies and move back to Balochistan.
While Mir Gul Khan was studying in Mastung, he was quite impressed by Abdul Aziz Kurd, Malik Faiz Muhammad Yousafzai, Mir Mohammad Aazam Khan Shahwani and others who were running a secret political group, the “Anjuman-i Ithihaad-i Balochaan”. It was in Mastung that Mir Gul Khan became friends with Malik Abdul Rahim Khwajakhel who was a year senior to Mir Gul Khan. Malik Abdul Rahim Khwajakhel and Mir Gul Khan remained close friends until Malik Rahim’s death.
Mir Gul Khan had been doing poetry since the age of eight but it was during his time in Lahore when he began writing Urdu poetry which was of a revolutionary nature. This poetry of his became very popular and was published in the newspapers under his pen name Nasir which he chose as a tribute to Mir Nasir Khan The First (The Ninth Khan of Kalat, also known as Noori Nasir Khan). These Urdu poems of his, like Nawab Youzaf Ali Khan Magsi and Mohammad Hussain Anqa’s poems, were aimed at raising the political awareness of the Baloch people, especially, the youth. During his time at Lahore Mir Gul Khan played an important role in the students organization “Baloch aur Balochistani Thalbaa kee Anjuman” (B.B.S.O) which was formed by Mureed Hussain Khan Magsi and other Baloch students on the advice of Mir Yousaf Ali Khan Magsi.


Mir Gul Khan Nasir studied until Fourth Grade in his village. For further studies he was sent to Quetta where he got admission in Government Sandeman High School. After passing his matriculation examination from this school, he went to Lahore in order to pursue a higher education in Islamia College Lahore. During his second year in Islamia College, a piece of coal went into Mir Gul Khan’s eye due to which he had to discontinue his education and return to Quetta. Lahore, at that time, was the hub of knowledge and political and social activities. The political, cultural, social and literary movements in Lahore made quite an impression on Mir Gul Khan Nasir. When he returned to Quetta Balochistan was split into several parts namely The Chief Commissioner’s Province and The Balochistani princely states. The province of Balochistan was under direct British rule while the Balochistani States was indirectly controlled by the British through the Tribal Chiefs (sardars) and rulers,whom they had bought. In this situation the rulers of Balochistan were in no hurry to make the state progress and better the lives of its inhabitants. Because of these conditions Mir Gul Khan Nasir stepped into politics in order to join the other leaders who were fighting to liberate the people of Balochistan from the Imperialist powers.


When he went to Lahore, Mir Gul Khan Nasir saw the students taking part in different sports so he immediately tried out for the college football team and was selected. But with time, he got interested in boxing and began learning the sport. It didn’t take him long to become quite good at it. His height (above 6’00”) also provided him with an advantage in the game.
“Boxing helped Gul Khan Nasir get out of many a tight spot in his life” – Aqil Khan Mengal[1]
After his training, Mir Gul Khan began participating in boxing tournaments. In the All India Universities Boxing Championship he was the runner up. It was in this tournament that he broke his nose.[2]

Anjuman-e-Ithihaad-e-Balochistan Anjuman-e-Islamia Ryasat-e-Kalat

In 1921 an organization named “Anjuman-e-Ithihaad-e-Balochistan” was formed to struggle for the rights of the people of Balochistan. When Mir Gul Khan Nasir came back to Kalat, he joined this organization and was an active participant in it. During this time he also briefly held the office of Vice-Minister of Jhalawan in Kalat State. By 1936 Anjuman-e-Ithihaad-e-Balochistan had become inactive so The Baloch youth formed another organization “Anjuman-e-Islamia Ryasat-e-Kalat”. Malik Abdul Raheem Khwaja Khail was elected the General Secretary of this organization while Mir Gul Khan Nasir was the President. Mir Gul Khan resigned from his designation as the Vice-Minister of Jhalawan in order to promote the new organization. Afraid of the popularity of the Anjuman, the political agents of Kalat conspired against the party and managed to have it banned in Kalat State.

Kalat State National Party

After the ban on “Anjuman-e-Islamia Ryasat-e-Kalat”, On 5 February 1937 the Baloch youth once again got together and formed a new political organization by the name of “Kalat State National Party” (KSNP). Mir Abdul Aziz Kurd was elected its President, Mir Gul Khan Nasir the Vice President and Malik Faiz Muhammad Yousafzai became the Secretary General. The Kalat State National Party was affiliated with the Indian National Congress. It played an important role in curbing the power and influence of the Tribal Chieftains or Sardars, abolition of cruel and unusual taxes imposed on the poor by the Sardars and formation of a democratically elected Parliament fashioned after the British Parliament on Kalat State’s independence. The KSNP had several ups and downs with the Khan of Kalat.
At first most of the top leaders of the party such as Abdul Aziz Kurd, Faiz Muhammad Yoyusafzai, Gul Khan Nasir, Abdul Rahim Khwajakhel etc. were serving as government officials. In 1939, during an annual session of KSNP in which Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo was also taking part as a representative of a Karachi-based political party, some thugs sent by the local sardars tried to disrupt the rally by firing at the participants. After that all the members of the Party who had government jobs resigned and were arrested. This was the incident which caused Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo to join the KSNP. After some time the Khan reconciled with the KSNP leaders and re-employed them as government officials. Once again tensions rose between the KSNP and the Khan of Kalat and this time the KSNP leadership resigned for good never to work as government servants again. Paul Titus and Nina Swidler in their book “Knights Not Pawns: Ethno-Nationalism and Regional Dynamics In Post-Colonial Balochistan” write:
The Khan attempted to play off nationalist and sardari differences by maintaining his authority as the traditional head of the Balochi tribes while appealing to the leaders of the Balochi nation. This was not always possible, and by 1939 the activities of the nationalists had so antagonized the sardars and British that they pressured the Khan to declare KSNP illegal in Kalat State. The ban on the party was lifted after World War II, though antagonism between the sardars and nationalists remained.In March 1946, for example the Balochi activist poet Gul Khan Nasir was expelled from Kalat State following complaints to the agent to the Governor-General in Balochistan from the Badini, Jamaldini and Zagar Mengal sardars. They claimed that Nasir and other activists had created disturbances in the town of Noshki by making speeches charging that the sardars were appropriating and selling local residents’ wheat rations.

Muslim League

After Kalat’s accession to Pakistan in 1948, the KSNP broke up. The Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmedyar Khan joined Muslim League after the accession but was hesitant to do it alone so he sent Mir Ajmal Khan to Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo and Gul Khan Nasir to persuade them into joining the Muslim League with the Khan. Both Gul Khan and Ghaus Bakhsh thought that joining the ML would provide them the platform they needed to raise the voice for Kalat’s rights. But within days they realized that they would never be able to achieve what they wanted while they were in the Muslim League. So they left the ML never to turn back to it ever again.[4]

Usthman Gal

In the years that followed, Pakistan went through many changes. In 1954 the Communist Party was banned in Pakistan and then in 1955, all the provinces of West Pakistan were merged into one unit. In these conditions the Baloch ethnic nationalist politicians under the leadership of Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, Mir Gul Khan Nasir, Agha Abdul Karim Khan (the brother of Khan of Kalat), Mohammad Hussain Anqa and Qadir Bux Nizamani[5] formed the “Usthman Gal” which is Balochi for “The People’s Party”. Agha Abdul Karim was elected as the President of this party.

Pakistan National Party

In 1956, the “Usthman Gal” was merged into the Pakistan National Party which also included “Khudai Khidmatgar” from N.W.F.P, “Azaad Pakistan Party” from Punjab, “Sindh Mahaz” from Sindh and “Woror Pashtun” from the Pashtun dominated areas of Balochistan. In this way, the Pakistan National Party emerged as the largest Left-Wing Political Party in West Pakistan.

National Awami Party

In 1957, The PNP merged with Maulana Bhashani’s Awami League to form the National Awami Party. It was the principle opposition party to the military regime for much of the late 1950s and mid-1960s. The party split in 1969 into two factions, the head of one faction remained in newly formed Bangladesh, while the remaining faction became the principle opposition party to the rule of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The party was outlawed by the Pakistani government in 1975 and much of its leadership subsequently imprisoned for alleged anti-state activities.


During this period of Ayub Khan’s rule, most of the Baloch leadership including Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, Gul Khan Nasir and Faiz Muhammad Yousafzai were arrested on different charges. They were imprisoned in Quetta’s Quli Camp which was famous for the inhumane torture of its prisoners. Here the Baloch Leaders were subjected to different kinds of torture. They were hung upside down from their feet and beaten, not allowed to sleep for days, laid facedown on the floor while soldiers jumped on their backs with army boots. By the time he was released, Mir Gul Khan couldn’t even walk straight.[6]
This was a very important period for the politics of Balochistan because it was in these years that the young and dynamic Sardar Ataullah Khan Mengal and Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri entered Balochistan’s political scene. It was also during this period that Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was sacked from his position as the Minister of State for Interior of Pakistan and arrested. As a result of this, he also joined the NAP.


During 1960-1970 the National Awami Party or NAP presented strong resistance to the Ayub Regime and for this reason, its leaders were constantly in and out of jail. In this decade Ataullah Mengal was catapulted to the top of the Baloch leadership because of his charismatic personality and Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri also earned a lot of fame because of his political philosophy. Mir Gul Khan Nasir went to jail around 5-6 times from 1962 – 1970. As a result of NAP’s struggle during this decade, the One Unit was discarded and Balochistan got the status of a province.

1970 Elections

In 1970, General Election were held in Pakistan in which the NAP managed to get a majority in Balochistan and N.W.F.P while the Pakistan People’s Party got most of the seats of Punjab and Sindh. Mir Gul Khan Nasir won a seat in the Provincial Assembly after defeating a big landlord of Chaghi.[7]
East Pakistan broke away from Pakistan and Bangladesh was formed because of controversy that arose over the election’s result. After the fall of East Pakistan, Bhutto wasn’t willing to allow the NAP form its governments in N.W.F.P and Balochistan. But as a result of extensive dialogue held between Z.A.Bhutto and Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, NAP was able to form coalition governments in both the provinces in 1972.

NAP government

In Balochistan Sardar Ataullah Khan Mengal was elected as the First Chief Minister of Balochistan while Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo became the Governor. Gul Khan Nasir was a Senior Minister in this government and held the portfolios of Education, Health, Information, Social Welfare and Tourism. Later, Tourism and Information portfolios were given to other ministers. As the Minister of Education, Gul Khan managed to lay down the foundation for the Bolan Medical College[8] which is, to this day, the only medical college in Balochistan.
During this time differences had arisen between Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and the rest of the NAP Leaders. Bhutto, who was looking for a way to remove the NAP government, saw this and used Akbar Bugti to dismiss the NAP government. The N.W.F.P government resigned in protest. Governor’s Rule was imposed with Nawab AKbar Khan Bugti as appointed as the Governor of Balochistan. Three months after the dismissal of the NAP government, Gul Khan Nasir was arrested on various charges before any other leader. In August 1973 Mir Gul Khan’s brother, Mir Lawang Khan died in an operation carried out by the Pakistani Military. Mir Gul Khan’s younger brother, Colonel (R) Sultan Mohammad Khan (who was the head of the Balochistan Reserve Police), was arrested the day he returned to Quetta after burying Mir Lawang Khan. Along with Colonel Sultan, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, Ataullah Mengal, Khair Bakhsh Marri and Bizen Bizenjo were also arrested. Since all this happened during Akbar Bugti’s regime therefore the public sentiment was against him in Balochistan at that time. Mir Gul Khan Nasir wrote a lot of poems against Bugti during his imprisonment. Later, a commission known as Hyderabad tribunal, was set up and Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, Sardar Ataullah Mengal, Gul Khan Nasir, Nawab Marri, Wali Khan, Qaswar Gardezai, Habib Jalib and many others had to defend themselves in a treason case in front of the tribunal.
While in prison differences arose between the Baloch Leaders. After the ouster of Bhutto’s government by General Zia-ul-Haq, negotiations for the winding up of the Hyderabad tribunal and the release of all detainees was initiated leading to their eventual release in 1979. On their release, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, Gul Khan Nasir and Ataullah Mengal brought back their followers who had taken refuge in Afghanistan while Khair Bakhsh Marri and Shero Marri, themselves, went to Afghanistan. Sardar Ataullah Mengal also left for London. Gul Khan Nasir and Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo joined Wali Khan’s National Democratic Party.

Pakistan National Party

After sometime, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo had a falling out with Wali Khan over the Saur Revolution of Afghanistan. Mir Ghaus Bakhsh and Mir Gul Khan left the NDP and formed the Pakistan National Party or PNP. Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo was elected as PNP’s President while Gul Khan Nasir became the President of PNP Balochistan.
Even though Gul Khan had joined Mir Ghaus Bakhsh’s party, he was of the opinion that the Baloch should not be pushed into another term of turmoil by pitting them against the Martial Law Regime but rather they should be educated, trained and made ready for the future conditions that might change the situation and geography of the subcontinent. But Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo thought that the Martial Law should be fought head on to make democracy in Pakistan stronger. The Establishment, taking advantage of the situation, set the state machinery into motion and by using different tools, especially the media, aggravated the differences between the two leaders to the extent that Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo demanded a resignation from Gul Khan Nasir which Gul Khan refused to tender in. But after the lapse of some more time, Mir Gul Khan tendered in his resignation and concentrated all of his abilities towards his literary work.[9]


Mir Gul Khan Nasir was arrested on several occasions from 1939 to 1978 on many different charges, all of them pertaining to politics. He collectively spent almost 15 years of his life in jail.[10]

Literary services

Mir Gul Khan Nasir wrote poems in English, Urdu, Balochi, Brahui and Persian. Most of his poems are in Balochi language. He was good friends with Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Once Faiz Sahib offered to translate Mir Gul Khan’s poems in urdu but Mir Gul Khan turned down the offer. Most of Mir Gul Khan Nasir’s Urdu poetry was written between 1933–1950 and there has bee no publication of his Urdu poetry to this date.
Mir Gul Khan’s poetry is filled with revolutionary and anti-imperialist themes and it reflects his progressive nature and socialist ideals. Mir Gul Khan Nasir was very much against the class differences that prevailed at that time, and still do. His poems exhibit his dislike for the chauvinistic attitude of the rich towards the poor. A famous quatrain of his goes as follows:


Wáhde pa ĝaríbáñ ki jaháñ tang bibít
Láp húrak, badan lúč pa badrang bibít
Haq int ča čušeñ wár o azábeñ zindá
Máří bisučant, sar birawant, jang bibít


When the world starts to constrict around the poor man
His mutilated naked form is left to fend for his hungry gut
Then it’s better from this life of misery and torture
If war ensues, heads roll & lavish palaces are burnt to the ground


Mir Gul Khan wrote many books on history and poetry and translated several works from other languages into Balochi and Urdu. A list of some of his books is given below:
Gul Baang (1951) was his first collection of Balochi Poetry.

History of Balochistan (1952) (Urdu) Volume 1 – After much research Mir Gul Khan published this book which consists of 340 pages. It is a history of the Baloch Race and removes many mis-conceptions about the Baloch which were prevalent at that time.

History of Balochistan (1957) (Urdu) Volume 2 – This volume consists of 15 chapters and deals with the history of Balochistan from Khan Khudadad Khan to Khan Ahmed Yar Khan until 1955.

Daastaan-e-Dostain o Sheereen (1964) is considered to be one of the best books of Mir Gul Khan Nasir. In this book he has penned the classical Balochi Love Story of Dostain and Sheereen. In the preface of this book the famous Baloch author Azaat Jamaldini called Mir Gul Khan “The Great Poet of the Balochi Language”.

Koch o Baloch (1969) was a book in which Mir Gul Khan, through intellectual reasoning proved that the Brahvis and the Balochis actually came from the same race.

Garand (1971) is an important collection of Mir Gul Khan Nasir’s poems.

Balochistan Kay Sarhadi Chaapa Maar (1979) is an Urdu translation of General Dyre’s “Raiders of the Frontier” by Mir Gul Khan Nasir.

Seenai Keechaga (1980) is a Balochi translation of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Sar-e-Waadi-e-Seena by Mir Gul Khan Nasir.

Mashad Na Jang Naama (1981) – Mir Gul Khan Nasir completed this Brahvi book when he was a student in the 8th grade but it was published in 1981.

Shah Latif Gusheet (1983) is a Balochi translation of that part of Shah Abdul Latif Bhatai’s poetry which concerns the Balochs.

Posthumous Compilations

Gulgaal (1993) is the ninth compilation Mir Gul Khan’s poetry.
Shanblaak (1996) is Mir Gul Khan Nasir’s tenth collection of Balochi Poetry which also includes Urdu translations by himself.


Mir Gul Khan Nasir was posthumously awarded Sitara-i-Imtiaz (President’s Award) in 2001 for his literary services. Other Sitara-i-Imtiaz winners that year were Dr.Ilyas Ishqi, Professor Dr.Allama Naseer-ud-din Nasir and Kishwar Naheed.
In 1962, when the USSR government decided to award Faiz Ahmed Faiz with the Lenin Prize, they also wanted to present Mir Gul Khan Nasir with the Prize but because of his (Mir Gul Khan’s) differences with the Ayub Khan Regime of that time, he wasn’t allowed to go to Moscow.[12]


Soon after resigning from the leadeship of PNP, Mir Gul Khan’s health deteriorated and he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Not having enough money, or accepting any from his relatives, he was not able to procure treatment in time. It was only after his condition became so bad that he could not leave his bed that he was taken to Karachi, where doctors, after checking him, gave him only a few days to live. Mir Gul Khan Nasir died on 5 December 1983 in the Mid East Hospital, Karachi. He was taken back to his village, Noshki, in a huge procession. On 7 December 1983 he was laid to rest in his village’s cemetery. The funeral proceedings were attended by a large number of people. Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, Malik Faiz Miuhammad Yousafzai and other leaders were not able to attend because they were in jail, while Nawab Akbar Bugti’s movement had been restricted to Quetta. Ataullah Mengal and Khair Bakhsh Marri were abroad, in self-exile.[13][14][15]


1.^ Tapthaan Magazine. May–June 1990, p70.
2.^ “Warsa i Nasiriyat” by “Abdul Saboor Baloch” p39-40.
4.^ Ashaaq Kay Kaaflay by Dr.Shah Mohammad Marri
5.^ Warsa-i Nasiriyat by Abdul Saboor Baloch
6.^ Mir Gul Khan Nasir: Shakhsiyat, Shairee Aur Fun pg56
9.^ Mir Gul Khan Nasir’s Bitter Last Days by Lal Bakhsh Rind
11.^ “Yaro Mujhe Masloob Karo” (Friends, Crucify Me!) by Raziq Bugti. p47, line17
12.^ Details of Award in the book “Warsa-i-Nasiriat” by “Abdul Saboor Baloch” (
13.^ Mir Gul Khan Nasir’s Bitter Last Days by Lal Bakhsh Rind
14.^ Warsa-i Nasiriyat

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Posted by on September 23, 2011 in Baloch People


History of the Balochs in Punjab, Pakistan

Punjab_Social Map

A significant number of Baloch tribes have over time settled in the Punjab province of Pakistan. These Baloch are often referred to as the Punjabi Baloch.

History and origin

There are 2.5 million Baloch in Punjab, making it the largest Baloch province in the world. In addition to that the main Punjabi tribe of Rajputs have a close genetic resemblance to Baloch, especially the Alpial clan living in Potohar region. Opposition leader Chawdhry Nisar Ali Khan is from Alpial Rajputs and one of the Alpial ancestors was Rai Baloch Khan. The belt between river Jhelum and Indus, north from Islamabad down to Muzzafargarh and Dera Ghazi Khan was formerly called as Rabalistan. If so than the Baloch hold a strategically important territory in Pakistan, surrounding the capital Islamabad, down from Potohari speaking regions to the Siraiki areas. The Baloch claim a mixed ancestry, asserting that they are descended, on the one hand, from Amir Hamza an uncle of the Prophet Mohammed and from a fairy (Pari), and on the other, from the Kurds living in the area of Aleppo, Syria from which they were expelled in A. D. 580 by the Sasanian Persian King Chosroes I Anoshervan. Their migration took them first to the area of Alborz Mountains and Qazvin to Kerman, then Sistan, and finally into Makran. In time, most of the territory of Makran has come to be known as Balochistan–“Land of the Baloch.” In the 13th century, some of the Baloch moved into Sindh (where they are known as the Sindhi Baloch) and also into Punjab. Many Baloch tribal warriors were hired by the sultans of Oman and other emirs in the Persian Gulf as their body guards and soldiers, carrying them as far off as east Africa. There a large number of these Baloch in the Arabian Peninsual now, where the family name “al-Balooshi” (The Balochi) is commonly the small emirates in the Persian Gulf—from Bahrain to Qatar, the UAE and Oman. There, they form a well-to-do class of people. These have, as of late, tried, for obvious reasons, to join the origins of the Baloch to the Arabs. Historically and linguistically, this is untenable if not impossible.
About the beginning of the 16th century the Balochis were driven out of the Kalat valley by the Brahuis and Turks. Yielding to pressure they moved eastward into the Sulaimans, drove out the Pathans, and settled along the banks of the Indus. Three Baloch adventurers Ismail Khan, Fatteh Khan, and Ghazi Khan, founded the three Dehras that bear their names, and established themselves as independent rulers of the Lower Derajat and Muzaffargarh, which they and their descendants held for nearly 300 years. The three brothers founded the settlements of Dera Ghazi Khan, Dera Ismail Khan and Darya Khan. Thence the southern Balochis gradually spread into the valleys of the Indus, Chenab, and Sutlej, and in 1555 a large body of Balochis, under their great leader Mir Chakar, accompanied the Emperor Humayun into India. It is probable that many of the Baloch settlements, in the Eastern districts of the Punjab, were founded by Humayun’s soldiers. Mir Chakar settled in Sahiwal and his tomb still exists at Satgarha, where he founded a military colony of Rinds.
Long before Mir Chakar’s time, Mir Jalal Khan was one of the Baloch historical rulers, and from his four sons— Rind, Lashar, Hot and Korai — spring the four main Baloch tribes. The Jatoi are the children of Jatoi, Jalal Khan’s daughter. These main sections are now divided into innumerable septs. Throughout the Punjab the term Baloch denotes any Muslim camel-man. The word has come to be associated with the care of camels, because the Baloch settlers of the Western plains have taken to the grazing and breeding of camels rather than to husbandry, and every Baloch is supposed to be a camelman and every camel-man to be a Baloch.

Present circumstances
The Baloch of the Punjab plains is now altogether separated from the Baloch tribes of Balochistan and the Derajat, although the same tribal names are still found among them. Long residence in Punjab and inter-marriage with the Jats has deprived them of many of their characteristics, and they have now forgotten the Baloch language and have abandoned the Baloch dress. They now speak Seraiki in the south of Punjab, while those in the districts of Faisalabad , Sahiwal, Jhang, Sargodha and Khushab speak Punjabi.
They are good Muslims, fair agriculturists. In character they are brave, chivalrous, and honourable. In physique they are tall, thin, wiry, hardy, and frugal in their habits.

Distribution and Main Clans
The Baloch are found mainly in the districts of Multan, Muzaffargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan districts in sothern Punjab and Jhang, Sargodha, Khushab and Sahiwal districts of central Punjab.

The following clans are those most commonly found of the Punjab:
Korai, Jatoi,Gopang, Mashori, Rind, Khushk, Gurmani, Dashti, Jatoi, Gishkauri, Mazari, Hot, Pitafi and Zangeza, Jalbani, Gurchani.
The Rind, Jatoi and Korai are numerous in Multan, Jhang, Sahiwal, Sargodha and Muzaffargarh districts. While the Gopangs and Dashtis, both are found in the Muzaffargarh district. The Hot are found in Jhang, Multan and Muzaffargarh, and the Gurmanis, Khushik, Giskhauris, Pitafis in Muzaffargarh and Rahimyar Khan. While the Mazaris in Jhang,Jaccobabad,Rajanpur,Kashmore and Rahimyar khan. The Magassi Baloch, who are found in Multan, Muzaffargarh, Mianwali and Jhang, appear to be a “peculiar people” rather than a tribe.Jalbani tribe is concentrated in D.G.Khan and Rajanpur districts in the Punjab. Both Sunnis and Shias are found among them and they have several peculiar customs not to be found among other Balochis.

The Zangeza
The Zangeza are met with in the Mianwali and Sargodha districts. They are Shias, while most Baloch are Sunni.

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Posted by on July 19, 2011 in Baloch People


History of the Balochs in Gujarat, India

Gujarat_ Social Map

The Baloch are a Muslim community found in the state of Gujarat in India. They are descended from Baluch tribesmen who settled in this region of Gujarat in the late Middle Ages. The community use the surname khan. In Gujarat, the tem Baloch is restricted to the Sulaymani Baloch, while Makrani Baloch now form a distinct community.

History and origin
The Baloch claim a mixed ancestry, asserting that they are descended, on the one hand, from Amir Hamza an uncle of the Prophet Mohammed, and on the other, from the Kurds living in the area of Aleppo, Syria from which they were expelled in A. D. 580 by the Sasanian Persian King Chosroes I Anoshervan. Their migration took them first to the area of Alborz Mountains and Qazvin to Kerman, then Sistan, and finally into Makran. In time, most of the territory of Makran has come to be known as Balochistan (“Land of the Baloch” in the Persian language). In the 13th century, some of the Baloch moved into Sindh (where they are known as the Sindhi Baloch) and also into Punjab.
Mir Jalal Khan was one of the Baloch historical rulers, and from his four sons— Rind, Lashar, Hot and Korai spring the four main Baloch tribes. The Jatoi are the children of Jatoi, Jalal Khan’s daughter. These main sections are now divided into innumerable septs. Historically, in Gujarat, the term Baloch denoted any Muslim camel-man. The word has come to be associated with the care of camels, because the Baloch settlers of the Western plains took to the grazing and breeding of camels rather than to husbandry. This has often led to confussion between them and the Jath, another Muslim community who are associated with camel breeding.
About the beginning of the 16th century the Balochis were driven out of the Kalat valley by the Brahuis and Turks. Yielding to pressure they moved eastward into the Sulaiman Mountains, drove out the Pashtuns, and settled along the banks of the Indus. Three Baloch adventurers Ismail Khan, Fatteh Khan, and Ghazi Khan, founded the three Dehras (encampments) that bear their names, and established themselves as independent rulers of the Lower Derajat and Muzaffargarh, which they and their descendants held for nearly 300 years. The three brothers founded the settlements of Dera Ghazi Khan, Dera Ismail Khan and Darya Khan. Thence the southern Balochis gradually spread into the valleys of the Indus, Chenab, and Sutlej, and in 1555 a large body of Balochis, under their great leader Mir Chakar, accompanied the Emperor Humayun into India. A small number of Baloch began to immigrated from Multan and Sindh into Gujarat from the at least the 14th Century.
The earliest Baloch settlers of Gujarat came with Fateh Khan Baloch, who was given the jagir of Radhanpur and Sami by Sultan Ahmad Shah II of Gujarat. Another Fateh Khan was given the jagir of Khadia in Junagadh by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. In the 18th Century, the Gohil Rajput rulers of Bhavnagar invited a number of Baloch to serve as their bodyguards. They were granted the jagir in Sehor.

Present circumstances
The Baloch are distributed in Rajkot, Junagadh, Khadia, Keshod, Veraval, Mangrol, and Bhavnagar. Important Baloch villages include Budhana & pingali in Bhavnagar District, Kundhada village in Junagadh District and Baspa and Kerwada in Radhanpur. They tend to live in their own villages, or have distinct quarters in the towns they reside in. The community is split inti six clans, or ataks as they are known in Gujarati. Their main clans are the Gabol, Lashari, Birri, Gopang, Sukhe, Hooth and Korai. A small number of Gabol have immigrated to Pakistan, and are now found in Karachi. The community speak standard Gujarati, while those in Kutch speak Sindhi. Most Baloch also have knowledge of Urdu. The Baloch are strictly endogamous, although there are some cases of inter-marriage with the Pathans and Muslim Rajput communities such as the Malik, Miyana and Molesalam. They prefer marrying close kins, and practice both parallel cousin and cross counsin marriages.
The Baloch are now mainly marginal farmers, with many also employed as agricultural labourers. Land reform has led to the breakup of the larger jagirs, and many jagirdars have emigrated to cities like Ahmadabad and Mumbai. There villages now have electricity, and many now use electric pumps. Many Baloch are also employed as truck drivers, with a small number owning their trucks. Their general economic circumstances are poor. Like other Gujarati Muslims, they have a caste association, the Baloch Jamat. This acts as a welfare association, as well as an instrument of social control. Most Baluch are Sunni, but members of the Sukhe clan are Shia.

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Posted by on July 19, 2011 in Baloch People

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