The cohesive bases of the Baloch Nationalism

The subject has been taken from book of Taj Mohammad Breseeg “Baloch Nationalism, its origin and development”.

            THE EXPANSION OF BALOCH ETHNO-LINGUISTIC COMMUNITY

Consequently, resistance against alien inroads over long periods of time instilled among the Baloch tribes felling of cohesion. Headed by Mir Chakar Rind, a tribal confederacy, referred by historians as the “Rind-Lashari union”, emerged in 1485. The Rind-Lashari confederacy was one of the largest Baloch tribal confederacies stretching from Kirman in the west to the Indus River Valley in the east, thus for the first time uniting all Baloch areas in late 15th century. The confederacy as Indicated, was mainly centered around the two most powerful tribes of Rind and Lasharis, each in turn, and constituted a loosely organized federation of lesser tribes. In 1987, Mir Chakar Rind transferred the confederacy’s capital from Kech, Makkoran to Sivi, (Sibi), and eastern Balochistan. Having consolidated his power in eastern Balochistan, Mir and southern parts of Punjab in early 16th century.

In spite of being short-lived, this confederacy in many ways marks the beginning of modern history for Balochistan, if was now that the Balochi language and culture were diffused over a vast area. This period also is known as the classical era of the Balochi epic or heroic ballads and romantic poetry. Apparently most of the Balochi ballads are rooted in this period, describing the events, exploits, personalities, and the names of tribes and localities, which collaborated with the history of the 156th and 16th centuries. Parallel to the expansion of the confederacy’s hegemony in the country, Balochi language and oral literature also blossomed, thus strengthening and spreading a relatively homogenous Balochi culture and value system throughout the country. The Rind-Lashar hegemony as observed by Jan Muhammad was the first Baloch principality with pseudo-state machinery reminiscent of similar tribal monarchies in central Asia. However, like the other tribal confederacies of that time in the region, the court language of Mir Chakar was farsi (Persian).

Being depicted as the greatest hero of the Baloch history, Mir Chakar Rind receives highest tributes. It is believed that he was born in Kolwa, headquarter of Makkoran in the middle of the 15th century. He is regards as the direct descendant of the founding father of the Baloch nation. Mir Jala Khan. Describing his genealogy, Sardar Khan writes;

Chakar came of a cultured and princely stock and such is his pedigree; Chakar Ibn Ameer Shaihak ibn Amir Ishaq Ameer Kalo ibn Ameer Bizan ibn Ameer Baloch Khan ibn Ameer Rind ibn Ameer Jala Khan (Han), who lived almost between 1100-1185 A.D., and died in Bampur in Persian Balochistan.

In 1487, Mir Chakar annexed Kharan, Kalat and Las Bela to his domain. His military victory over the tribes of Kalat resulated in a unified Baloch state with its capital at Sivi (SIbi) in about 1487 AD. By the early 16th century the Baloch confederacy under Mir Chakar had established itself firmly in Markoran, Kalat highlands and the fertile districts of Kachi and Sibi in Eastern Balochistan.

It appears that the threat of Shiite Iran in the early years of 16th century would be one the decisive factors for further tribal cohesion and enlargement of the Baloch union. Probably, Shah Ismail’s success in 1501 in establishing a Shiite dynasty in Iran, and his desire to spread Shiism, forced the Sunni Baloch tribes to leave their to spread rivalry aside and strengthen the union and enlarge the Baloch confederacy’s realm. In a conversation with Maulana Abdul Haq Baloch in this subject, he strongly argued that the threat of the Shitte Safavids was one of the decisive factors for the Baloch unity in the Chakarian period. According to Maulana , the Safavids repeated raids were not aimed only to occupy Balochistan, but to compel the Baloch to accept Shiism by farce. In 1613 A.D. the powerful Safavid King Shah Abbas, sent an expedition under the then governor of Kerman Ganj Ali Khan to attack Balochistan, Subsequently, the Baloch ruler of Markkoran, Malik Shams-ud-Din was defeated in Bampur, western Balochistan.

The 16th century saw not only the rise of Safavid power in Iran, but also the Mughal power in India, and the arrival of European ships in the Sea of Oman and the Persian Gulf Towards the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Portuguese found their way to the region and captured several places along the Makkoran coast. In 1510 AD, they occupied the port of Gawadar, and burnt them. Thus, the conflict of interest of these three outside powers (the Safavids, the Mughals and the Porthguess) could not fail to affect the internal politics of the Baloch and other communities that lay between them.

Although the Baloch confederacy did not survive more than free decades (1485-1512), it brought far-reaching cultural and ethnic changes to the region; it reinforced the existing Baloch settlements, which accepted this fresh influx without any opposition. Administratively, the area divided: Sivi with the Rind, and Kech-Gandhava with the Lashari, while a Rind and Kach-Gandhava with the Lashari, while a Rind representative ruled Turan. Soon after the creation of a unified Baloch state, rivalry began between the powerful factions of the confederacy, the Rind and Lashari, and led to civil war with disastrous implications. Their differences began over the division of the fertile lands of Kacchi and Sibi, and led to a thirty-year civil war. The legendary chiefs of the two tribes, Mir Chakar Rind and Mir Gwaharm Lashari, sought help from neighboring rulers.    

Finally, the Lasharis suffered a humiliating defeat at the hand of Mir Charkar and fled to Gujarat. Mir Chakar, however weakened by this war stayed in Sibi. Simultaneously he faced the invasion of the Arghuns of Kandahar. After a fiercely contested battle with Shah Baig Arghun, the ruler of Kandahar, Mir Chakar gave up Sibi his capital and moved to Multan.

As earlier mentioned, Mir Chakar Rind ruled for about three decades from Sibi, which became the center of Baloch authority. During his reign, and under his leadership, new standards were set in the arts. Literature, bravery and chivalry even today almost every Baloch tribe aspires to treat in the footprint of Mir Chakar who do not doubt was a brave warrior and at the same time a men filled with compassion generosity, and hospitality. Describing the medieval importance of Sibi, the capital city of the Rind-Lashari confederation, Sardar Khan Khan wrote.     

The town of SIbi took its place as the most cultured and commercial town in the whole of Balochistan under the Baloch Ameerate. It remained as the most celebrated capital of Charkar who maintained his imperial court with barbaric and luxuries pageantry patent to medieval glamour. The capital of Rinds acted as the eye of Balochistan and mother of gay societies and songster. The past traditions speak of Sibi as the most high and paly city of Balochistan, housing population of one hundred thousand souls… in Sibi, flock poets and beaux espirts of Makkuran Sind and songstresses of Persian Balochistan.  

The Baloch nationalist describe the region of Mir Chakar Rind as the golden age of the Baloch and regard his as the “Great Baloch”. Sardar Khan asserts, the age of Rind supremacy in all supremacy in all spheres of Baloch life, in its way and color was just as important in its crude form in Baloch history as the Age of Percales in ancient Greece, the Renaissance at the close of the Middle Ages, and the Industrial Revolution in modern time”. Having molded their destiny by uniting them under one banner, Mir Chakar Rind gave the scattered Baloch tribes a common identity. Thus, in nationalist account he is considered “like a pillar of strength for the Baloch race and author of Baloch code of honor and Balochi traditions

It is believed that Mir Chakar had an army of 40,000 men, while Babur conquered India with an army of only 12,000 soldiers. Describing his army, Marri wrote, “forty thousand warriors collect on Mir’s call, all descendants of one ancestor. All bedecked with coast of mail and Iron armours covering their head, chest and fore-arms; all are armed with bows and arrows, with silken scarves, with overcoats, and red boats on their feet with golden rings on their fingers”. The Baloch under Mir Chakar were well organized and well discipline. It is speculated that Mir Chakar had some 400,000 to 500,000 followers on his march. The misfortunate of Mir Chakar according to Inayatullah Baloch was that he did not have the political imagination or skill to convert his tribal confederacy into a more unified political identity.

The Baloch nationalist regard Mir Chakar as the symbol of their unity and strength. “We are the sons of Chakar”, is the most famous song in the Baloch nationalist circles. He mastered the martial virtues of the Baloch and established the largest ever, even though short-lived Baloch confederacy Marri writers of him:

To this day Mir Chakar is regarded as one of the greatest heroes of the Baloches. He is the center of greatest heroes of the Baloches. He is the center of Baloch love-lore and war-ballads. A natural leader of men, it was him who nearly for two decades remained the sole leader of all the Baloches. He captured by strength of arm the Kalat highlands as well as lower Balochistan, and settled the Baloches there. Again, thanks to him and his arms, the Baloches later on ruled not only in Balochistan but also in Punjab and Sindh as well. Had it not been for Mir Chakar, there would have been not Kalat state, nor Talpur rulers of Sind; nor could the Punjab Baloches have found it easy to secure Jagirs and settle down there.

Although the Baloch whop settled in Punjab and Sindh are not closely linked to the mainstream of Baloch life today, but the principal link with their past for most of them is the vast body of popular ballads dating back to the day of Mir Chakar. Handed down from generation to generation, and first recorded by British scholars, sund by professional wandering minstrels, central to a considerable extent on Rind-Lashari conflict. In these ballads, Mir Chakar occupies a dominant position.

In Balochi poetry, be it war ballads or love lyrics, Mir Chakar is mentioned extensively. As indicated above, it was he who led the Baloch tribes into the highlands of Kalat and lowlands of Kacchi. Again it was due to him that the Baloch came to rule over parts of Sindh and in Multan, even of for only short periods. He died in ca.1550 A.D. , and lies buried in a mausoleum in the Shaiwal district of Punjab.

The inter-tribal rivalry dealt a fatal blow to the Baloch confederacy. It destroyed Baloch central organization, weakened their strength and forced them to leave Balochistan and migrate eastwards, to Sindh and Punjab. In Sardar Khan Baloch’s opinion, “The fratricidal plunged the whole race into a bath of blood and made the Baloch structure to collapse and sapped to its foundation”. The main reasons, according to Inyatullah Baloch, were the nomadic character of the Baloch society and the lack of statesmanship of Mir Chakar’s failure to stop Lashari challenges had so polarized the community and the civil war so drained the tribes that the Baloch failed to maintain their confederacy. The division of the newly occupied land and the political power, according to Professor Abdullah Jan Jamaldini of Balochistan University factions, the Rinds and the Lasharis.

In this respect, however, the interference of the two powerful neighbors of Balochistan, the Arghuns of Kandahar and the Sammas of Sindh played an important role. Their constant involvement protracted the war. As viewed by Dr Shah Mohammad Marri, “The rich lands of Sibi not only coveted the Baloch feudals, but also whet the Rind chief, Mir Chakar Rind, while the Sammas gave their assistance to the opponent camp, headed by Mir Gwahram Lashari. As a result of this lasting war the Baloch power in Balochistan weakened and finally disintegrated.

Thus, wakened by years, long war with the Lasharis, Mir Chakar Rind after being badly mauled by the Arguns in a battle near Sibi, moved with his remaining army to Multan. At the end of the Charkarian ere the whole Baloch society was disrupted by inter-tribal wars, which led to enormous migration toward Sindh and Punjab. Mir Chakar, as mentioned above, migrated with about four to five hundred thousand persons.

The end of the Rind-Lashari confederacy in about 1512 A.D. ended an era in Baloch history. Subsequently, the Baloch country was dived into several independent kingdom, including the Dodai Kingdom of Derajat, the Makkoran Kingdom of Malik and Boleidai, and the Khanate of Kalat. Civil strife continued for about a century until Mir Ahmed Khan of the Ahmadzai tribe established the Khanate of Balochistan or the second important Baloch confederacy in 1666 AD. Its unification, however was completed by the Khans of Kalat, Abdullah Khan (1714-1734), and Nasir Khan the Great (1749-1795), which will e discussed in the following section.

The Khanate of Balochistan

The Khanate of Balochistan grew, and became established, from the middle of the seventeenth century onwards, Centering in the Kalat highlands, southwest of Mir Chakar’s former capital, the Khanate was the Baloch State to embrace all the Baloch regions such as Makkoran, Western Balochistan, Derajat, Sistan, and Lasbela and consolidate them into a body under the authority of a central government. The Khanate not only gave the Baloch a concept of unity and patriotism but also provided an unwritten constitution. The Khanate of Balochistan later became known, as the Khanate of Kalat or state because of its capital city, Kalat.

When in 1666, Mir Ahmad 1 was elected by the Jirga (council) of the elder or tribal assembly), as the Kahn of Kalat, the Khanate was a loose confederacy of Baloch tribes living around Kalat. As a political synthesis, its internal cohesion was still very weak, and indeed such weakness is typical of all tribal confederations; there were numerous local power centers, but no sovereign figure of reference. The Khanate of Kalat came into being by exploiting this very vacuum, which followed after the disintegration of the Rind- Lashari confederacy in Balochistan in the early fifteen century.

Mir Ahmed I Expanded the border of the Khanate. From then on, the history of the Khanate assumed a clear, define shape; and is chronology could be determined. Formation of the Khanate of Kalat, according to historian Inyatullah Baloch, was another important and significant chapter of Baloch history. The Rind-Lashari confederacy did not survive because of its nomadic character but it did not expand because independence on Mughal India. Makkoran maintained its independence but failed to expend due to the Persian invasion and internal tribal conflicts with its Baloch neighbor, Kalat.

As indicated above, since the fall of the Rind-Lashari confederacy in 16th century, various empires and political syntheses were in fact contending for the Baloch country; the Shiite Safavids to the west and the Mughal to the east, both intent upon consolidating their frontiers, so as to fend off forays and incursions by nomadic tribes from Afghanistan and Central Asia. Thus, the rising Baloch confederacy was entangled in continual with the Mughal and Persian empires.

 To encounter the growing pressure of the Shiite Safavids the founder of the Ahmadzai dynasty Mir Ahmad I pursued a policy of friendship with the powerful emperor of India, Aurangzeb. However, in the region of Mir Samandar, the Iranian army under General Tahmasp invaded Balochistan aiming to occupy western Balochistan but it was defeated and Tahmasp ws killed. The Mughal emperor not only admired this deed but also agreed to pay him Rs. 200,000 annually as military aid to meet the challenges of Iranian aggression.

The Khanate of Kalat of consolidated most of the Baloch country into a feudal state during the 18th century. During the early 18th century, Abdullah Khan, the fourth Khan (1714-1734) expanded his realm “from Kandahar in what is now southeastern Afghanistan, across the Makran area all the way to Bandar Abbas in what is now a southern Iranian port and extended his dominion to embrace Dera Ghazi Khan District on the edge of Punjab”. By the middle of the eighteenth century, Nasir Khan I (the Sixth Khan), the most popular, powerful and dynamic ruler of the Khanate (1749-1795) claimed sovereignty over “all lands where Baloch’s lived”.

He brought Karachi and most of western (Iranian) Balochistan under his administration.

Speaking of Nasir Khan, Masson, narrator of various journeys in Balochistan, said, “At an early period he consolidated his authority over an immense kingdom, the secret of his success being that he had influence enough to ensure the obedience of his feudal chiefs, and discretion enough to refrain from interfering in their internal affairs”. With the confederate force bound to him by this feudal tie, Nasir Khan consolidated his dominions.

The Marris and the Bugtis, Las Bela, Makkoran, Kharan, and Quetta formed his kingdom. Moreover, according to Harrison, at the height of his power, Nasir Khan renewed Kalat’s claims of severity over the Iranian Baloch areas and sent occasional expeditionary forces to his western borderlands.

Nasir Khan I reigned from the seaboard stretching from Karachi for about 400 miles west to the present Iranian frontier, the cairn of the Maliks west to the present Iranian “Minab River” and up to Quetta and east from Quetta to the Derajat border- a country considerably greater than Great Britain and Ireland put together. Administratively, Nasir Khan came closer to establishing a centralized bureaucratic apparatus covering all of Balochistan then any other Baloch ruler before or since. Organizing the civil and military affairs of the Baloch Khanate on semi-modern lines, Nasir Khan established a “proto-parliament based on a workable constitution and congenial Baloch tradition”. He had Wazir (prime Minister), who supervised all internal administration, and foreign affairs matter, and a Mustoufi, whose responsibility was to collect revenue from crown currency. Like Mir Jalal Khan and Mir Chakar Rind, Nasir Khan continues to be among the most popular heroes in the Baloch folklore and political literature.  (To be continued)

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Posted on August 24, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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