Baluchi - Orientation

Identification. The Baluchi are predominantly Sunni Muslim, seminomadic pastoralists, whose homelands straddle the Iran-Pakistan border as well as including a small portion of southern Afghanistan.

Location. Baluchistan is the name of the westernmost province of Pakistan, as well as of the transnational territory of the traditional Baluchi homeland. This larger region was carved up by the imperial powers concerned more with ease of administration than with recognition of the territorial limits of the inhabitants. The traditional Baluchi territory extends from the southeastern portion of the Iranian Plateau across the Kirman Desert to the western borders of Sind and the Punjab, and from the Gumal River in the northeast to the Arabian Sea in the south. This is a largely inhospitable land, much of it barren desert or harsh mountainous terrain. Baluchi territory lies outside the monsoon belt, and annual rainfall is very low, not exceeding 16 centimeters. Throughout the region, winters are harsh and cold, and summers are very hot. In the mountains, the rains come in October and March, while in the lowlands they come in July and August.

Demography. Population figures for the Baluchi are somewhat suspect, in part because of the unreliability of census-taking procedures across the three major political units that now control Baluchi territory, and partly because the criteria for ascribing Baluchi identity are not tightly defined. On the strength of linguistic criteria, there are an estimated 5 million or so Baluchi speakers living in eastern Iran, southern Afghanistan, and in Pakistan. However, Baluchi have in some areas become linguistically assimilated to Neighboring peoples while retaining a specifically Baluchi cultural identity; this means that if sociocultural rather than purely linguistic criteria were used, the population count could easily exceed 9 million. Many Baluchi have migrated to Pakistan's Sind and Punjab provinces, and to the emirates of the Persian Gulf.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Baluchi language is a member of the Indo-Iranic Language Family, having some affinity with Kurdish. There are three distinct divisions: Eastern, Western, and Southern Baluchi. Until the nineteenth Century the language had no written form, because Persian was the language of official use. Illiteracy is extremely high among the Baluchi.

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