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Baloch people

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A group of Baloch men
Total population
  • c.10 million (2013)[1]
  • 3–5 million Baloch-speakers (Brill, 2011)[2]
Regions with significant populations
 Pakistan6.86 million (2017 census)[3]
 Iran2 million (2021)[4]
 Oman500,000[citation needed]
Afghanistan Afghanistan500,000–600,000[5]
Turkmenistan Turkmenistan36,000[6]
Balochi, Brahui, Saraiki, Sindhi (Jadgali and Lasi dialects), Punjabi

Second language:

Persian (in Iran and Afghanistan), Urdu (in Pakistan), Pashto (in Afghanistan)
Islam (mainly Sunni Islam)
Related ethnic groups
Other Indo-Iranian peoples

The Baloch (/bəˈl/ bə-LOHCH) or Baluch (/bəˈl/ bə-LOOCH; Balochi: بلۏچ, romanized: Balòc) are a nomadic,[11][12][13][14] pastoral,[15][16][17] ethnic group which speaks the Western Iranic Baloch language[18] and is native to the Balochistan region of South and Western Asia, encompassing the countries of Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan. There are also Baloch diaspora communities in neighbouring regions, including in Central Asia, and the Arabian Peninsula.

Assimilation of non-Baloch tribes[a] into the Baloch tribal system has been a major phenomenon throughout the history of Baloch people, and today a significant Baloch population has diverse origins.[19] The majority of the Baloch reside within Pakistan. About 50% of the total Baloch population live in the Pakistani province of Balochistan,[20] while 40% are settled in Sindh and a significant albeit smaller number reside in the Pakistani Punjab. They make up 3.6% of Pakistan's total population, and around 2% of the populations of both Iran and Afghanistan.[21]


The exact origin of the word "Baloch" is unclear. According to the Baloch historian Naseer Dashti (2012), the name of the ethnic group derives from 'Balaschik' living in Balasagan, between the Caspian Sea and Lake Van in present-day Turkey and Azerbaijan, who are believed to have migrated to Balochistan during the Sasanian times.[22] The remnants of the original name such as "Balochuk" and "Balochiki" are said to be still used as ethnic names in Balochistan.[23] Some other writers suggest a derivation from Sanskrit words bal, meaning strength, and och meaning high or magnificent.[23] An earliest Sanskrit reference to the Baloch might be the Gwalior inscription of the Gurjara-Pratihara ruler Mihira Bhoja (r. 836–885), which says that the dynasty's founder Nagabhata I repelled a powerful army of Valacha Mlecchas, translated as "Baluch foreigners" by D. R. Bhandarkar. The army in question is that of the Umayyad Caliphate after the conquest of Sindh.[24]


Sardar Ibrahim Khan Sanjrani, Baloch Sardar of Sistan, c. 1884
Palace of the Baloch Emir of Sindh in 1808

According to Baloch lore, their ancestors hail from Aleppo in what is now Syria.[25] They claim to be descendants of Ameer Hamza, uncle of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, who settled in Halab (present-day Aleppo). After the fight against second Umayyad Caliph Yazid I at Karbala (in which Ameer Hamza's descendants supported and fought alongside Husayn ibn Ali) in 680, descendants of Ameer Hamza migrated to east or southeast of the central Caspian region, specially toward Sistan,[26] Iran.

Dayaram Gidumal writes that a Balochi legend is backed up by the medieval Qarmatians.[27] The fact that the Kalmatis were ethnic Baluchis is also confirmed by the Persian historian in the 16th century Muhammad Qasim Ferishta.[28] According to another historian Ali Sher Kanei, the author of Tuhfatul Kiram, in his history written in 1774 A.D, he believes that only the Rind tribe from Jalal Khan, a descendant of Muhammad ibn Harun, nicknamed Makurani, is a direct descendant of Hamza.[29] Based on an analysis of the linguistic connections of the Balochi language, which is one of the Western Iranian languages, the original homeland of the Balochi tribes was likely to the east or southeast of the central Caspian region. The Baloch began migrating towards the east in the late Sasanian period. The cause of the migration is unknown but may have been as a result of the generally unstable conditions in the Caspian area. The migrations occurred over several centuries.[30]

By the 9th century, Arab writers refer to the Baloch as living in the area between Kerman, Khorasan, Sistan, and Makran in what is now eastern Iran.[31] Although they kept flocks of sheep, the Baloches also engaged in plundering travelers on the desert routes. This brought them into conflict with the Buyids, and later the Ghaznavids and the Seljuqs. Adud al-Dawla of the Buyid dynasty launched a punitive campaign against them and defeated them in 971–972. After this, the Baloch continued their eastward migration towards what is now the Balochistan province of Pakistan, although some remained behind and there are still Baloch in the eastern parts of the Iranian Sistan-Baluchestan and Kerman provinces. By the 13th–14th centuries, waves of Baloch were moving into Sindh, and by the 15th century into the Punjab.[31] According to Dr. Akhtar Baloch, professor at University of Karachi, the Balochis migrated from Balochistan during the Little Ice Age and settled in Sindh and Punjab. The Little Ice Age is conventionally defined as a period extending from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries,[32][33][34] or alternatively, from about 1300[35] to about 1850.[36][37][38] Although climatologists and historians working with local records no longer expect to agree on either the start or end dates of this period, which varied according to local conditions. According to Professor Baloch, the climate of Balochistan was very cold and the region was inhabitable during the winter so the Baloch people migrated in waves and settled in Sindh and Punjab.[39] The area where the Baloch tribes settled was disputed between the Persian Safavids and the Mughal emperors. Although the Mughals managed to establish some control over the eastern parts of the area, by the 17th century, a tribal Brahui leader named Mir Hasan established himself as the first "Khan of the Baloch". In 1666, he was succeeded by Mir Aḥmad Khan Qambarani who established the Khanate of Kalat under the Ahmadzai dynasty.[note 1] Originally in alliance with the Mughals, the Khanate lost its autonomy in 1839 with the signing of a treaty with the British colonial government and the region effectively became part of the British Raj.[31]

Baloch culture

Baloch men performing traditional dance.

Gold ornaments such as necklaces and bracelets are an important aspect of Baloch women's traditions and among their most favoured items of jewellery are dorr, heavy earrings that are fastened to the head with gold chains so that the heavy weight will not cause harm to the ears. They usually wear a gold brooch (tasni) that is made by local jewellers in different shapes and sizes and is used to fasten the two parts of the dress together over the chest. In ancient times, especially during the pre-Islamic era, it was common for Baloch women to perform dances and sing folk songs at different events. The tradition of a Baloch mother singing lullabies to her children has played an important role in the transfer of knowledge from generation to generation since ancient times. Apart from the dressing style of the Baloch, indigenous and local traditions and customs are also of great importance to the Baloch.[45]

Baloch Culture Day is celebrated by the Balochi people annually on 2 March with festivities to celebrate their rich culture and history.[46]

Baloch tribes

Baloch-inhabited areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran (pink) in 1980


Baloch man in Sindhi traditional pantaloon-style Sindhi shalwar, 1845

Traditionally, Jalal Khan was the ruler and founder of the first Balochi confederacy in 12th century. (He may be the same as Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu the last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire.[47]) Jalal Khan left four sons – Rind Khan, Lashar Khan, Hoth Khan, Korai Khan and a daughter, Bibi Jato, who married his nephew Murad.[48]


As of 2008 it was estimated that there were between eight and nine million Baloch people living in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. They were subdivided between over 130 tribes.[49] Some estimates put the figure at over 150 tribes, though estimates vary depending on how subtribes are counted.[50] The tribes, known as taman, are led by a tribal chief, the tumandar. Subtribes, known as paras, are led by a muqaddam.[51]

Five Baloch tribes derive their names from Khan's children. Many, if not all, Baloch tribes can be categorized as either Rind or Lashari based on their actual descent or historical tribal allegiances that developed into cross-generational relationships.[citation needed] This basic division was accentuated by a war lasting 30 years between the Rind and Lashari tribes in the 15th century.[52]


In 2008, there were 180,000 Bugti based in Dera Bugti District. They are divided between the Rahija Bugti, Masori Bugti, Kalpar Bugti, Marehta Bugti and other sub-tribes.[49][53][full citation needed]

Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti led the Bugti as Tumandar until his death in 2006. Talal Akbar Bugti was the tribal leader and President of the Jamhoori Watan Party from 2006 until his death in 2015.[54]

There are 98,000 Marri based in Kohlo district in 2008,[49] who further divide themselves into Gazni Marri, Bejarani Marri, and Zarkon Marri.[49][needs update]


Violent intertribal competition has prevented any credible attempt at creating a nation-state. A myriad of militant secessionist movements, each loyal to their own tribal leader, threatens regional security and political stability.[55]


For most Balochs, haplogroup R1a is the most common paternal clade,[56] while haplogroup L-M20 is the most common paternal clade in Makran.


A zigri (a type of religious dance) in Gwarjak in 1891

The majority of the Baloch people in Pakistan are Sunni Muslims, with 64.78% belonging to the Deobandi movement, 33.38% to the Barelvi movement, and 1.25% to the Ahl-i Hadith movement. Shia Muslims comprise 0.59% of Balochs. Although Baloch leaders, backed by traditional scholarship, have held that the Baloch people are secular, Christine Fair and Ali Hamza found during their 2017 study that, when it comes to Islamism, "contrary to the conventional wisdom, Baloch are generally indistinguishable from other Pakistanis in Balochistan or the rest of Pakistan". There are virtually no statistically significant or substantive differences between Balochi Muslims and other Muslims in Pakistan in terms of religiosity, support for a sharia-compliant Pakistan state, liberating Muslims from oppression, etc.[57]

800,000 Pakistani Balochis are estimated to follow the Zikri sect.[58]

A small number of Balochs are non-Muslims, particularly in the Bugti clan which has Hindu and Sikh members.[7] There are Hindu Balochs in the Bugti, Marri, Rind, Bezenjo, Zehri, Mengal and other Baloch tribes.[8] The Bhagnaris are a Hindu Baloch community living in India[9] who trace their origin to southern Balochistan but migrated to India during the Partition.[10]

Baloch people from Pakistan

See also


  1. ^ A number of unrelated tribes with the name Ahmadzai exist.[40] There are two Pashtun tribes who are unrelated to each other with this name: the Ahmadzai who are a Waziri tribe and the Sulaimankhel Ahmadzai, part of the Ghilzai confederation.[41] However, the Ahmadzai Khans of Khalat were neither of these and belonged to a Brahui tribe.[42][43][44]


  1. ^ "Iran Minorities 2: Ethnic Diversity". The Iran Primer. United States Institute of Peace. 3 September 2013. Baluchis number between 4 million in Iran. They are part of a wider regional population of about 10 million spread across Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
  2. ^ Spooner, Brian (2011). "10. Balochi: Towards a Biography of the Language". In Schiffman, Harold F. (ed.). Language Policy and Language Conflict in Afghanistan and Its Neighbors. Brill. p. 319. ISBN 978-9004201453. It [Balochi] is spoken by three to five million people in Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Oman and the Persian Gulf states, Turkmenistan, East Africa, and diaspora communities in other parts of the world.
  3. ^ "Number of Balochi-speaking people in Balochistan falls". Dawn News. 11 September 2017. However, the total number of Baloch people has increased from 4 million in 1998 to 6.86m in 2017. The count does not include the population of two districts – Quetta and Sibi – where people of various ethnicities, including Baloch and Pashtun also reside.
  4. ^ "Ethnologue report of Languages of Iran (2023)". Ethnologue. Retrieved 20 November 2023.
  5. ^ "Cultural Orientation Balochi" (PDF). Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. 2019. p. 111. An estimated 500,000–600,000 Baloch live in southern Afghanistan, concentrated in southern Nimroz Province, and to a lesser degree in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
  6. ^ Long, Roger D.; Singh, Gurharpal; Samad, Yunas; Talbot, Ian (8 October 2015). State and Nation-Building in Pakistan: Beyond Islam and Security. Routledge. p. 129. ISBN 978-1-317-44820-4.
  7. ^ a b Kamal Siddiqi (30 July 2009). "Hingol Temple Symbolises Baloch Secularism". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 20 October 2020.
  8. ^ a b "Over 100 Hindu Families in Pak Want To Migrate To India". Hindustan Times. 3 January 2011. Retrieved 20 October 2020. Hindus have lived in several Baloch-dominated districts like Nushki, Dera Allah Yar, Mastung, Khuzdar, Kalat, Jaffarabad, Lasbela, Kharan, Sibi and Kachhi and territories inhabited by the Marri and Bugti tribes for centuries. Hindus are also part of the Bugti, Marri, Rind, Bezenjo, Zehri, Mengal and other Baloch tribes and live under the tribal system.
  9. ^ a b Roshni Nair (3 December 2016). "Mumbai's filmi daredevils with a cross-border history". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  10. ^ a b Sadaf Modak (7 November 2016). "A piece of Balochistan in Mumbai since Partition – 150 families & Khatti Dal". Retrieved 20 October 2020.
  11. ^ Laura, Etheredge (15 January 2011). Persian Gulf States: Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. p. 66. ISBN 978-1-61530-327-4. The Baloch are traditionally nomads, but settled agricultural existence is becoming more common; every chief has a fixed residence. The villages are collections of mud or stone huts; on the hills, enclosures of rough stone walls are covered with matting to serve as temporary habitations. The Baloch raise camels, cattle, sheep, and goats and engage in carpet making and embroidery. They engage in agriculture using simple methods and are chiefly Muslim.
  12. ^ Bashir, Shahzad; Crews, Robert D. (28 May 2012). Under the Drones. Harvard University Press. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-674-06476-8. In southwestern Afghanistan the Baloch have traditionally been nomads, and some of them continue to lead a nomadic way of life today. Over the course of the twentieth century most Baloch settled down in the southwest and started a sedentary way of life based on pastoralism and irrigated agriculture. Repeated droughts during the last two decades caused many Baloch to give up livestock farming and agriculture,
  13. ^ Gayer, Laurent (2014). Karachi: Ordered Disorder and the Struggle for the City. Oxford University Press. pp. 127_128. ISBN 978-0-19-935444-3. Lyari's first residents were Sindhi fishermen and Baloch nomads (pawans) from Makran, Lasbela and Kalat districts, flee- ing drought and tribal feuds. A first influx occurred around 1725, a few years before Sindhi banyas settled in Karachi and committed to expand it. A second wave of Baloch settlers arrived around 1770, when Karachi came under the control of the Khan of Kalat, following an accord between the Khan and the Kalhora rulers of Sindh. A third wave of Baloch migra- tion took place after 1795, following the annexation of the city by the Talpur rulers of Sindh, which attracted Baloch tribesmen from interior Sindh and the Seraiki belt, many of whom found employment as guards, particularly at the Manora fort.
  14. ^ Shahrani, M. Nazif (10 February 2018). Modern Afghanistan: The Impact of 40 Years of War. Indiana University Press. p. 276. ISBN 978-0-253-03026-9. According to one of the members of the group's lead- ing (Sardar) family whom I met in Pakistan in 2012, the reason for abandoning the settlements in southern Nimruz was that the Sanjerani landowners were threatened by the "communist regime" in Afghanistan in the 1980s. So the Sanjerani moved almost completely to Baloch areas in Pakistan and Iran. At the same time the Brahui, Baloch groups of pastoral nomads, established the main local mujahideen faction, the Jabhe-ye Nimruz and took over most of the for- mer property of the Sanjerani (see below).
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Further reading