Baloch people

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Baloch people from North Afghanistan.jpg
Modern Baloch men living in Qaradingo community of Rustaq district, Takhar province, Afghanistan.
Total population
  • c.10 million (2013)[1]
  • 3–5 million Baloch-speakers (Brill, 2011)[2]
Regions with significant populations
 Pakistan6.8 million (2017)[3]
 Iran1.5 million–2 million (2013)[1]
 United Arab Emirates468,000 (2014)[4]
Template:Country data Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Afghanistan500,000–2 million[5][6]
 Turkmenistan100,000 [7]

second language

Pashto in Afghanistan, Persian in Iran, Urdu in Pakistan
Star and Crescent.svg Islam
Related ethnic groups
Other Jat people, Jat Muslim, Iranian peoples

The Baloch or Baluch (Template:Lang-bal) are an Iranian people[8] who live mainly in the Balochistan region, located at the southeasternmost edge of the Iranian plateau, encompassing the countries of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. There are also Baloch diaspora communities in neighbouring regions, including in India,[9] Turkmenistan and the Arabian Peninsula.

The Baloch people mainly speak Balochi, a Northwestern Iranian language, despite their contrasting location on the southeastern side of the Persosphere. The majority of Baloch reside within Pakistan. About 50% of the total ethnic Baloch population live in the Pakistani province of Balochistan,[10] while 40% are settled in Sindh and a significant albeit smaller number reside in Pakistani Punjab. They make up nearly 3.6% of Pakistan's total population, and around 2% of the populations of both Iran and Afghanistan.[11]


The exact origin of the word 'Baloch' is unclear.

  • Rawlinson (1873) believed that it is derived from the name of the Babylonian king and god Belus.
  • Dames (1904) believed that it is derived from the Persian term for cockscomb, said to have been used as a crest on the helmets of Baloch troops in 6th century BCE.
  • Herzfeld (1968) proposed that it is derived from the Median term brza-vaciya, which describes a loud or aggressive way of speaking.
  • Naseer Dashti (2012) presents another possibility, that of being derived from the name of the ethnic group '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.[12] The remnants of the original name such as 'Balochuk' and 'Balochiki' are said to be still used as ethnic names in Balochistan.[13]

Some writers suggest a derivation from Sanskrit words bal, meaning strength, and och meaning high or magnificent.[13] 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.[14]


Sardar Ibrahim Khan Sanjrani, Iranian Baloch Khans in Qajar era, 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.[15] They claim to be descendants of Ameer Hamza, uncle of the prophet Muhammad, who settled in Halab (present-day Aleppo). After the fight against second Umayyad Caliph Yazid I at Karbala (in which Ameer Hamza's descendants supported and fought alongside Husayn ibn Ali) in 680, descendants of Ameer Hamza migrated to east or southeast of the central Caspian region, specially toward Sistan,[16] Iran, remaining there for nearly 500 years until they fled to the Makran region following a deception against the Sistan leader Badr-ud-Din.[citation needed]

Dayaram Gidumal writes that a Balochi legend is backed up by the medieval Qarmatians.[17] The fact that the Karmatians were ethnic Baluchis is also confirmed by the Persian historian in the 16th century Muhammad Qasim Ferishta.[18] 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.[19] 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.[20]

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.[21] 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.[21] 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,[22][23][24] or alternatively, from about 1300[25] to about 1850.[26][27][28] 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 not inhabitable during the winter so the Baloch people migrated in waves and settled in Sindh and Punjab.[29] The area where the Baloch tribes settled was disputed between the Persian Safavids and the Mughal emperors. Although the Mughals managed to establish some control over the eastern parts of the area, by the 17th century, a tribal leader named Mir Hasan established himself as the first "Khan of the Baloch". In 1666, he was succeeded by Mir Aḥmad Khan Qambarani who established the Balochi Khanate of Kalat under the Ahmadzai dynasty.[note 1] Originally in alliance with the Mughals, the Khanate lost its autonomy in 1839 with the signing of a treaty with the British colonial government and the region effectively became part of the British Raj.[21]

Baloch culture[edit]

Cultural man of Bugti tribe

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.[35]

Baloch Culture Day is celebrated by the Balochi people annually on 2 March with festivities to celebrate their rich culture and history.[36]

Baloch tribes[edit]

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


Baloch Man in Sindhi traditional pantaloon style 1845.jpg

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.[37]) Jalal Khan left four sons – Rind Khan, Lashar Khan, Hoth Khan, Kora Khan and a daughter, Bibi Jato, who married his nephew Murad.[38]


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.[39] Some estimates put the figure at over 150 tribes, though estimates vary depending on how subtribes are counted.[40] The tribes, known as taman, are led by a tribal chief, the tumandar. Subtribes, known as paras, are led by a muquaddam.[41]

Five Baloch tribes derive their eponymous names from Khan's children. Many, if not all, Baloch tribes can be categorized as either Rind or Lashari based on their actual descent or historical tribal allegiances that developed into cross-generational relationships.[citation needed] This basic division was accentuated by a war lasting 30 years between the Rind and Lashari tribes in the 15th century.[42]


There are 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.[39][43][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.[44]

There are 98,000 Marri based in Kohlo district,[39] who further divide themselves into Gazni Marri, Bejarani Marri, and Zarkon Marri.[39] Hyrbyair Marri has led the Balochistan Liberation Army since his brother's death in 2007.


Violent intertribal competition has prevented any credible attempt at creating a nation-state. A myriad of militant secessionist movements, each loyal to their own tribal leader, threatens regional security and political stability. Nationalist groups like the Baloch Students Organization, composed of armed rebels, and the Baloch Council of North America, made up of educated expatriates living in the United States, have simultaneously denounced Balochistan's traditional rulers and Pakistan's national government.[45][46][47] In 2020, a separatist movement attacked but failed to gain entry to the Pakistan Stock Exchange, which was 40% owned by China.[48]

Baloch tribes are markedly less egalitarian, as are the Pashtun tribes.[49]


For most Balochs, haplogroup R1a is the most common paternal clade,[50] while haplogroup L-M20 is the most common paternal clade in Makran.[51]


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. 800,000 Pakistani Balochis are estimated to follow the Zikri sect.[52] Although Baloch leaders, backed by traditional scholarship, have held that the Baloch people are secular, Christine Fair and Ali Hamza found during their recent (2017) empirical 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.[53]

A small number of Balochs are non-Muslims, particularly in the Bugti clan which has Hindu and Sikh members.[54] There are a few Hindus in the Bugti, Bezenjo, Marri, Rind and other Baloch tribes.[55] The Bhagnaris are a Hindu Baloch community living in India [56] who trace their origin to southern Balochistan but migrated to India during the Partition.[57]

Baloch people from Pakistan[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. A number of unrelated tribes with the name Ahmadzai exist.[30] 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.[31] However, the Ahmadzai Khans of Khalat were neither of these and belonged to a Brahui tribe.[32][33][34]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "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. "United Arab Emirates: Languages". Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  5. Karlos Zurutuza (17 September 2014). "Pakistani Baloch find home in Afghanistan". Al Jazeera. In the absence of comprehensive census data, an estimate by Professor Abdul Sattar Purdely puts the population of Afghan Baloch at about two million.
  6. "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.
  7. KOKAISLOVÁ, Pavla, KOKAISL Petr. Ethnic Identity of The Baloch People. Central Asia and The Caucasus. Journal of Social and Political Studies. Volume 13, Issue 3, 2012, p. 45-55., ISSN 1404-6091
  8. Zehi, Pirmohamad. "A Cultural Anthropology of Baluchis". Iran Chamber Society.
  9. Badalkhan, Sabir. "A Brief Introduction to Balochi Literature". Uppsala University.
  10. Blood, Peter, ed. "Baloch". Pakistan: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1995.
  11. Central Intelligence Agency (2013). "The World Factbook: Ethnic Groups". Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  12. Dashti, The Baloch and Balochistan 2012, pp. 8, 33–34, 44.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Dashti, The Baloch and Balochistan 2012, pp. 33–34.
  14. Bhandarkar, D. R. (1929). "Indian Studies No. I: Slow Progress of Islam Power in Ancient India". Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. 10 (1/2): 30. JSTOR 41682407.
  15. Olson; et al. (1994). An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of the Russian and Soviet Empires. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 101. ISBN 978-0313274978.
  16. Kreyenbroek, Philip G. (2010). Oral Literature of Iranian Languages: Kurdish, Pashto, Balochi, Ossetic, Persian and Tajik: Companion Volume II: History of Persian Literature A, Volume 18. I. B. Tauris. ISBN 978-0857732651. The Baloch tribes rise up from their original home in Aleppo, all sons of Mir Hamza (generally taken to be the uncle of the prophet Muhammad) to fight against the second Ummayad Caliph Yazid I at Karbala in 680. After Hoseyn is slain, the angered Balochi tribes wander way eastwards
  17. Gidumal, Dayaram (1888). History of Alienations in the Province of Sind: Compiled from the Jagir and Other Records in the Commissioner's Office on the Authority of Bombay Government, Resolution No. 12, Dated 2nd January 1878, Revenue Department. Printed at the "Commissioner's Press".
  18. Gazetteer. Government Central Press. 1880.
  19. Castro (Madrid), Instituto Salazar y (1983). Comunicaciones al Décimoquinto XV Congreso Internacional de las Ciencias Genealogica y Heraldica (in español). Ediciones Hidalguia. ISBN 978-84-00-05342-0.
  20. Elfenbein, J. (1988). "Baluchistan iii. Baluchi Language and Literature". Encyclopedia Iranica. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Spooner, Brian (1988). "BALUCHISTAN i. Geography, History and Ethnography". Encyclopedia Iranica. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  22. Mann, Michael (2003). "Little Ice Age". In MacCracken, Michael C.; Perry, John S. (eds.). Encyclopedia of Global Environmental Change, Volume 1, The Earth System: Physical and Chemical Dimensions of Global Environmental Change (PDF). John Wiley & Sons. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
  23. Lamb, H. H. (1972). "The cold Little Ice Age climate of about 1550 to 1800". Climate: present, past and future. London: Methuen. p. 107. ISBN 0-416-11530-6. (noted in Grove 2004:4).
  24. "Earth observatory Glossary L-N". NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Green Belt MD: NASA. Retrieved 17 July 2015. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  25. Miller et al. 2012. "Abrupt onset of the Little Ice Age triggered by volcanism and sustained by sea-ice/ocean feedbacks" Geophysical Research Letters 39, 31 January: abstract (formerly on AGU website) (accessed via wayback machine 11 July 2015); see press release on AGU website (accessed 11 July 2015).
  26. Grove, J. M., Little Ice Ages: Ancient and Modern, Routledge, London (2 volumes) 2004.
  27. Matthews, J. A. and Briffa, K. R., "The 'Little Ice Age': re-evaluation of an evolving concept", Geogr. Ann., 87, A (1), pp. 17–36 (2005). Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  28. "1.4.3 Solar Variability and the Total Solar Irradiance – AR4 WGI Chapter 1: Historical Overview of Climate Change Science". Retrieved 24 June 2013.
  29. From Zardaris to Makranis: How the Baloch came to Sindh
  30. Kieffer, Ch. M. "AḤMADZĪ". Encyclopædia Iranica (Online ed.). United States: Columbia University.
  31. "Ethnic Identity in Afghanistan". Naval Postgraduate School. Archived from the original on 18 November 2007. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  32. Bettina Bruns; Judith Miggelbrink (8 October 2011). Subverting Borders: Doing Research on Smuggling and Small-Scale Trade. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 52, footnote 12. ISBN 978-3-531-93273-6.
  33. Minahan, James (2012). Ethnic Groups of South Asia and the Pacific: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 48. ISBN 978-1-59884-659-1.
  34. Axmann, Martin (2008). Back to the Future: The Khanate of Kalat and the Genesis of Baloch Nationalism, 1915–1955. Oxford University Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-19-547645-3.
  35. "Baloch Society & culture". Archived from the original on 16 September 2011. Retrieved 7 September 2010.
  36. "Baloch Cultural Day celebrated with colourful functions, gatherings". Pakistan Today. Pakistan Today. 2 March 2018. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  37. Dashti, Naseer (2012). The Baloch and Balochistan: A Historical Account from the Beginning to the Fall of the Baloch State. Bloomington, Indiana: Trafford Publishing. pp. 103–104. ISBN 978-1-4669-5896-8.
  38. Badalkhan, Sabir (2013). Two Essays on Baloch History and Folklore. Balochistan Monograph Series, V. Naples, Italy: Universita degli studi di Napoli. p. 20. ISBN 978-88-6719-060-7.
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 39.3 Tahir, Muhammad (3 April 2008). "Tribes and Rebels: The Players in the Balochistan Insurgency". Terrorism Monitor. Jamestown Foundation. 6 (7). Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  40. Baloch, Muhammad Amin (1999). Inside Ormara. Muhammad Amin Baloch. p. 83.
  41. Bonarjee, P. D. (1899). A handbook of the fighting races of India. Thacker, Spink & Co. p. 47.
  42. Asimov, M. S.; Bosworth, C. E. (1992). History of Civilizations of Central Asia (vol.4, part-1). Motilal Banarsidass Publishing. p. 305.
  43. Pakistan Horizon, Volume 59, Issues 3–4. Pakistan Institute of International Affairs. 2006.
  44. "JWP leader Talal Bugti passes away in Quetta". The Express Tribune. 27 April 2015.
  45. Jugdep S. Chima (2015). Ethnic Subnationalist Insurgencies in South Asia: Identities, Interests and Challenges to State Authority. Routledge. p. 126. ISBN 978-1138839922.
  46. "Influential Baloch lobby group in US decides to end activism against Pakistan". Terminal X. 15 July 2014. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015.
  47. "Voice of Baloch Nationalists in powerful US congress". Pakistan Christian Post. 8 February 2012. Archived from the original on 2 March 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
  48. Masood, Salman (29 June 2020). "Gunmen Wage Deadly Battle at Pakistan Stock Exchange". The New York Times.
  49. Political Competition and Social Organization: Explaining the Effect of Ethnicity on Public Service Delivery in Pakistan Aisha Shafique. (The Ohio State University: 2013). Page 27.
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  59. "Zafarullah Khan Jamali – Age, Political Party, Family and Education". ARYNEWS. 11 August 2018.
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  62. Haider, Sikandar (18 August 2018). "Poorest Baloch tribe's chief set to rule Punjab". The Nation.
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  65. "Farooq Ahmad Khan: Bhutto's pick, until he sacked her". The National. 30 October 2010.
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  68. "President Alvi confers top civil, military awards for excellence on Pakistan Day". DAWN.COM. 23 March 2019.
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]