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Balochistan - People

The Baloch tribal system has been described as "feudal militarism," with power concentrated in the hands of local tribal leaders or powerful Sardars. This contrasts sharply with the far more egalitarian Pashtun tribal society. the most powerful sardars -- each with a substanital militia -- are those of the Bugti, Marri, and Mengal tribes, all of whom have been at odds with Islamabad in recent years. Each of these tribes is based in the eastern third of the province.

Balochistan's population of 7.1 million (according to May 2003 government estimate), with some estimates running as high as 10 million, accounts for roughly 5 percent of Pakistan's total population. The province's population density of 19 people per square kilometer compares to a national average of 166 and an average of 358 in Punjab. The average literacy rate of the province is 31 percent, compared to a national average of 49 percent. Girls make up less than 37 percent of the primary through high school enrollment, and according to provincial government statistics, out of the number of students attending primary school, less than 16 percent of boys and 13 percent of girls go on to middle school. Baloch nationalists believe that the low education levels stem from federal government neglect.

The Baloch, with 45 percent of the population, are the dominant ethnic group in most of the province. However, Pashtuns, with 38 percent, are the most populous in the northeastern quarter. As of December 2005, there were also 683,000 Afghan refugees in the province, according to UNHCR. Many Baloch nationalists claim that the Baloch make up as much as 60 percent of the province's population, asserting such a high percentage because these nationalists fear that the Baloch are becoming a minority in their own province. This fear is fueled, in part, by a rising tide of Punjabi and Sindhi settlers who have entered the province to find work in projects such as Gwadar. The Baloch and Pashtuns live in their own "defined areas". The majority of Baloch are Hanafi Sunni Muslims.

The Baluch, who have lived and ruled in Balochistan for over a thousand years, were never in absolute numerical majority. Their traditional rivals, the Pathans and Brahuis combined together are more numerous. A large number of Baluch live in other provinces and areas. Presently, besides Pathans, Baluchies and Brahuis, Hazaras, Sindhis, Punjabies, and Urdu speaking Mohajirs also live in Balochistan. Some of Persian speaking shiate Hazaras of Balochistan have risen to very senior ranks in Pakistan army and airforce, among them General Mohammad Musa ex-C-in-C of Pakistan Army later the Governor of Balochistan and Air Marshal Sherbat Ali Khan Changezi in PAF.

Balochistan is sparse in population. The comparatively more populous areas are generally located in the north east. The largest city is Quetta. Turbat, the second most populous city is an exception, in that it lies in south western Balochistan close to the Iranian border. The total population of Balochistan - the Baluch, Brauhis, Pathans, Sindhis, Punjabies, Mohajirs, Lasis, Medes and Jats, all put together, constitutes 5 percent of the population of Pakistan.

Pashtuns communities are present in nine of Balochistan's 27 districts. There is also a narrow Pashtun corridor in the predominately Baloch Chaghai district that stretches westward along Balochistan's border with the Afghan provinces of Qandahar, Helmand, and Nimruz. The Pashtun part of the province includes the northeastern districts of Quetta, Pishin, Qila Abdullah, Ziarat, Qila Saifullah, Zhob, Musa Khel, and the northern portions of Loralai and Sibi. The Pashtun area borders the Afghan provinces of Zabol, Paktika, and Qandahar. Pashtuns are predominately Sunni Muslims. Pashtun society, like Baloch, is tribal but extremely egalitarian: tribal leaders are considered first among equals.

The major Pashtun tribes in Balochistan are the Kakar, Tarin, Kansi, Shirani, Pani, Dawi, Ghilzai, and Babi. The Kakar are thought to be the most numerous tribe, and are found in and around Quetta and throughout the Pashtun majority districts. The Tarin, and their subtribe the Achakzai, are historically one of the largest tribes in the province. The Kansi were the historical fief-holders of Quetta for the Durrani Kings in Afghanistan and are the most populous tribe in the city. The Ghilzais in Balochistan are nomads, many of whom also have homes in Afghanistan, though many of the Sulemankhel subtribe have settled in and around Zhob.

While the Pashtun share many of the same concerns as the Baloch - they feel that the federal government has taken advantage of the province's natural resources without adequately funding development, and worry about settlers from Punjab and Sindh tipping the province's demographic balance -- they do not support the Baloch agenda in its entirety. Pashtun political leaders from both the ruling PML and the opposition PKMAP describe the Baloch nationalists as presenting themselves as the only people of Balochistan. Pashtun leaders accuse Baloch nationalists of treating the jobs reserved in the federal bureaucracy for Balochistan as being intended strictly for ethnic Baloch, not the Pashtuns.

The Baluch-like Brahuis are negligible in the north eastern part of Balochistan. The north east of Balochistan is a Pathan majority area. From the above study emerges a distinct picture of Baluch and non-Baluch population areas. The province may be divided into two major ethnic parts, that is, Eastern and Western Balochistan along the Central Brahui Range. The western Balochistan is mostly inhabited by the Baluchis, their age old allies Brahuis and the other tribes of low social status as Lasis, Jats and Medes. The Kharan division is predominatly populated by Jats and Medes, Las Bela by Lasis. Brahuis are mostly concentrated in Kalat plateau.

Curiously enough certain types of people have gravitated to selected areas. For instance, the people of Makran have a distinct centuries old Arab heritage. The other example is of Gwadat the Makran coast which has had a long association with Muscat-Oman. To this day Muscat army recruits the Baluchis from Gwadar. Eastern Seistan of Iran has for long periods been influenced by developments in western Balochistan to east of the Goldsmid line. The Nowsherwanis of Kharan have had affinities with Seistan, Iran.

The western Balochistan, primarily a Baluch majority area, is arid and undeveloped. Its location along the Arabian coast line and shared borders with Afghanistan and Iran make it a sensitive area. Remoteness from the provincial capital, polemics of local politics, and long uprotected borders have provided opportunities to alien ideas and foreign agents for clandestine operations. It has served as haven for spies, smugglers and refugees in the past, as it may in the future.

Eastern Balochistan is better developed. Here, barring the Marri-Bugti area, the population of Baluchies and Brahuis is small. Its chief inhabitants, are the Pushtoons. They have roots both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Pushtoons are in possession of the fertile lands of the Zhob valley in. the north eastern Upper Highland of Balochistan. They are more prosperous and advanced than th Baluchis. Eastern . Balochistan has more developed communication network. On the border along Afghanistan there are some natural "gates" like Khojak and Gomal, which can be manned. it is well defended and does not present the type of security problems found in western Balochistan. Eastern Qaluchistan has often acted as a counterpoise to western Balochistan, politically, economically and militarily.

The general population pattern of Balochistan in the mid nineteenth century was the same as now. Its heterogenous population with deep tribal feelings and lack of unity among the various tribes, had allowed the British to enter in the province in early nineteenth century. Bounded on the N. by Afghanistan and the North- West Frontier Province, on the E. by Sindh, the Panjab, and a part of the Frontier Province, on the S. by the Arabian Sea, on the W. by Persia, the boundary disputes were settled in 1905. Under the British, the main divisions were : (1) British and administered territory in the north of the Province ; (2) the native States of Kalat and Las Bela, the former consisting of a confederation of tribes under the Khan of Kalat, and stretching westwards to Persia, while the latter occupies the alluvial valley between the Pab and Hala ranges from the sea to Bela; (3) tribal areas occupied by the Marri and Bugti tribes, semi-independent, but subject to the control of the Political Agent in Sihi.

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Page last modified: 22-02-2018 14:07:35 ZULU