Balochistan is a vast, arid and mountainous country in Asia, situated on the northern shore of the Arabian Sea. Most of its population belongs to the Baloch people, who mostly speak the eponymous language and profess Sunni Islam. The Baloch are organized into more than 100 tribes.
The country is divided between three sovereign states: Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
During the first decades of the 20th century, some Baloch intellectuals embarked on the modern process of Baluchi national identity building. The tribal division made it difficult to extend a common national identity to the entire people.
At the end of British colonization in August 1947, at the same time that the new independent states of India and Pakistan were born, a part of the Baloch territory witnessed the birth of another independent state, Kalat, which was not integrated into neither of the two other new countries. Kalat remained independent for 8 months until March 1948, when the Pakistani army occupied the territory and annexed it.
After those events, since the mid-20th century has been in place a Baloch insurgency against the Iranian and Pakistani governments, who it blames for economically and politically marginalizing Balochistan.
Balochi is a language spoken by at least 10 million people. Its speakers live in Balochistan as well as in various diaspora territories, including Turkmenistan, the Gulf states, India, East Africa, and Europe.
The Arabic and Latin alphabets are used to write Balochi, which belongs to the Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. Kurdish, Persian and Talysh are among its closest relatives.
Communities of speakers of other languages can also be found. Most notably is the Brahui language from the Dravidian family, with approximately 2.5 million speakers.
Politics and organizations
Baluchistan is divided into three independent states: Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan. None of the subdivisions of these three states enjoy self-government, so Baloch lands are administered by the respective central governmenta through the provinces of Baluchistan (Pakistan), Sistan and Baluchistan, Kerman, and Hormozgan (Iran) and Nimruz, Helmand, and Kandahar (Afghanistan).
The insurgency is led by several political-military organizations, which tend to demand a fully independent Greater Balochistan bringing together the regions under the control of the three aforementioned states. Among the most significant groups, the ones operating in Pakistan can be mentioned, including the the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and the Balochistan National Freedom Front (Balochistan Raaji Ajoi Sangar, BRAS), an alliance of several armed groups.
In addition, several political parties demand the autonomy or federalization of the Balochistan regions within Pakistan (such as the Balochistan National Party) and Iran (such as the Balochistan People’s Party).
Several civil society organizations denounce human rights violations against the Baloch people in Pakistan. These include the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) and London-based Baloch Human Rights Council (BHRC).
[Further information: “Balochistan. The State versus the Nation”]
(Last updated March 2022.)