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BALUCHISTAN

Baluchi language belongs to the Iranian branch of the Aryan subfamily of the Indo-European family. It is divided into two main dialects which are so different that speakers of the one are almost unintelligible to speakers of the other. These two dialects are separated by the belt of Brahui and Sindhi speakers who occupy the Sarawan and Jalawan hills, and Las Bela. Owing probably to the fact that Makran was for many generations under the rule of the Persian kings, the Baluchi spoken on the west of the province, which is also called Makrani, is more largely impregnated with Persian words and expressions than the Eastern dialect. In the latter the words in use for common objects and acts are nearly all pure Baluchi, the remainder of the language being borrowed from Persian, Sindhi and Panjabi. There is no indigenous literature, but many specimens of poetry exist in which heroes and brave deeds are commemorated, and a good many of these have been collected from time to time. The philological classification of the Brahui dialect has been much disputed, but the latest enquiries, conducted by Dr G. A. Grierson, have resulted in his placing it among the Dravidian languages. It is remarkable to find in Baluchistan a Dravidian tongue, surrounded on all sides by Aryan languages, and with the next nearest branch of the same family located so far away as the Gond hills of central India. Brahui has no literature of its own, and such knowledge as we possess of it is due to European scholars, such as Bellew, Trumpp and Caldwell. Numerically the Brahuis are the strongest race in Baluchistan. They number nearly 300,000 souls. Next to them and numbering nearly 200,000 are Pathans. After this there is a drop to 80,000 mixed Baluchis and less than 40,000 Lasis (Lumris) of Las Bela. There are thirteen indigenous tribes of Pathan origin, of which the Kakars (q.v.) are by far the most important, numbering more than 100,000 souls. They are to be found in the largest numbers in Zhob, Quetta, Pishin and Thal-Chotiali, but there are a few of them in Kalat and Chagai also. The most important Baluch tribes are the Marris, the Bughtis, the Boledis, the Domkis, the Magassis and the Rinds. Owing partly to the tribal system, and partly to the levelling effect of Islam, nothing similar to the Brahmanical system of social precedent is to be found in Baluchistan.

History.—Of the early history of this portion of the Asiatic continent little or nothing is known. The poverty and natural strength of the country, combined with the ferocious habits of the natives, seem to have equally repelled the friendly visits of inquisitive strangers and the hostile incursions of invading armies. The first distinct account which we have is from Arrian, who, with his usual brevity and severe veracity, narrates the march of Alexander through this region, which he calls the country of the Oreitae and Gadrosii.[1] He gives a very accurate account of this forlorn tract, its general aridity and the necessity of obtaining water by digging in the beds of torrents; describes the food of the inhabitants as dates and fish; and adverts to the occasional occurrence of fertile spots, the abundance of aromatic and thorny shrubs and fragrant plants, and the violence of the monsoon in the western part of Makran. He notices also the impossibility of supporting a large army, and the consequent destruction of the greater part of the men and beasts which accompanied the expedition of Alexander. In the 8th century this country was traversed by an army of the Caliphate.

The precise period at which the Brahuis gained the mastery cannot be accurately ascertained; but it was probably about two and a half centuries ago. The last raja of the Hindu dynasty found himself compelled to call for the assistance of the mountain shepherds, with their leader, Kambar, in order to check the encroachments of a horde of depredators, headed by an Afghan chief, who infested the country and even threatened to attack the seat of government. Kambar successfully performed the service for which he had been engaged; but having in a few years quelled the robbers against whom he had been called in, and finding himself at the head of the only military tribe in the country, he formally deposed the raja and assumed the government.

The history of the country after the accession of Kambar is as obscure as during the Hindu dynasty. It would appear, however, that the sceptre was quietly transmitted to Abdulla Khan, the fourth in descent from Kambar, who, being an intrepid and ambitious soldier, turned his thoughts towards the conquest of Kach Gandava, then held by different petty chiefs under the authority of the nawabs of Sind.

After various success, the Kambaranis at length possessed themselves of the sovereignty of a considerable portion of that fruitful plain, including the chief town, Gandava. It was during this contest that the famous Nadir Shah advanced from Persia to the invasion of Hindustan; and while at Kandahar he despatched several detachments into Baluchistan and established his authority in that province. Abdulla Khan, however, was continued in the government of the country by Nadir's orders; but he was soon after killed in a battle with the forces of the nawabs of Sind. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Haji Mahommed Khan, who abandoned himself to the most tyrannical and licentious way of life and alienated his subjects by oppressive taxation. In these circumstances Nasir Khan, the second son of Abdulla Khan, who had accompanied the victorious Nadir to Delhi, and acquired the favour and confidence of that monarch, returned to Kalat and was hailed by the whole population as their deliverer. Finding that expostulation had no effect upon his brother, he one day entered his apartment and stabbed him to the heart. As soon as the tyrant was dead, Nasir Khan mounted the musnud amidst the universal joy of his subjects; and immediately transmitted a report of the events which had taken place to Nadir Shah, who was then encamped near Kandahar. The shah received the intelligence with satisfaction, and despatched a firman, by return of the messenger, appointing Nasir Khan beglar begi (prince of princes) of all Baluchistan. This event took place in the year 1739.

Nasir Khan proved an active, politic and warlike prince. He took great pains to re-establish the internal government of all the provinces in his dominions, and improved and fortified the city of Kalat. On the death of Nadir Shah in 1747, he acknowledged the title of the king of Kabul, Ahmad Shah (Durani). In 1758 he declared himself entirely independent; upon which Ahmad Shah despatched a force against him under one of his ministers. The khan, however, raised an army and totally routed the Afghan army. On receiving intelligence of this discomfiture, the king himself marched with strong reinforcements, and a pitched battle was fought in which Nasir Khan was worsted. He retired in good order to Kalat, whither he was followed by the victor, who invested the place with his whole army. The khan made a vigorous defence; and, after the royal troops had been foiled in their attempts to take the city by storm or surprise, a negotiation was proposed by the king which terminated in a treaty of peace. By this treaty it was stipulated that the king was to receive the cousin of Nasir Khan in marriage; and that the khan was to pay no tribute, but only, when called upon, to furnish troops to assist the armies, for which he was to receive an allowance in cash equal to half their pay. The khan frequently distinguished himself in the subsequent wars of Kabul; and, as a reward for his services, the king bestowed upon him several districts in perpetual and entire sovereignty. Having succeeded in quelling a dangerous rebellion headed by his cousin Behram Khan, this able prince at length died in extreme old age in the month of June 1795, leaving three sons and five daughters. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Mahmud Khan, then a boy of about fourteen years. During the reign of this prince, who has been described as a very humane and indolent man, the country was distracted by sanguinary broils; the governors of several provinces and districts withdrew their allegiance; and the dominions of the khans of Kalat gradually so diminished that they now comprehend only a small portion of the provinces formerly subject to Nasir Khan.

In 1839, when the British army advanced through the Bolan Pass towards Afghanistan, the conduct of Mehrab Khan, the ruler of Baluchistan, was considered so treacherous and dangerous as to require "the exaction of retribution from that chieftain," and "the execution of such arrangements as would establish future security in that quarter." General Willshire was accordingly detached from the army of the Indus with 1050 men to assault Kalat. A gate was knocked in by the field-pieces, and the town and citadel were stormed in a few minutes. Above 400 Baluches were slain, among them Mehrab Khan himself; and 2000 prisoners were taken. Subsequent inquiries have, however, proved that the treachery towards the British was not

  1. See V. A. Smith, Early Hist. of India (ed. 1908), p. 103 seq.