Mir Behram Baloch
When the British ruled, they were actually respected and liked by much of the local people. This comes out in a verse written by a poet who spoke of Sir Robert Sandeman: “Sandeman Sahib is the friend of us all/ he gives us money to have nose-rings made/all our jewelry is made of gold/and if we have no gold he listens to us.”
The Afghan people who lived in British ruled Balochistan also benefited. In the words of Richard Bruce, they (the British) finally brought peace and tranquility in the Baloch hills in collaboration with the Sardars.
They laid a network of roads, railways andtelephone lines so that their military and local militia could move with ease. The British also brought with them a great number of munshis, (readers) babus (Clerical Staff) and clerks and opened a few schools in the newly built cantonments and civil townships. This was the first step in the long process to usher in a change in the static and immobile lifestyle of the common Baloch.
The infrastructure and school system though, was primitive and inadequate, yet it did bring a visible dent in the obvious attitude of the young male section of the upper society but the females did not benefit from it particularly in the tribal/ nomadic areas. The sons of the elite had their education inAitcheson College-like institutions and the females of a few selected families went to convent schools but it could not socially affect the way of life.
The Baloch states of Kalat, Kharan, Lasbela and Mekran were put under the same colonial yoke, yet they could not enjoy such fringe benefits of infrastructure and education as those states were left at the mercy of their rulers who only co-operated in subordination to British political agents in strategic and military affairs in preventing the Czars of Russia to reach the warm waters of Baloch seas.
With the evacuation of the British from the Baloch soil, both British Balochistan and the Baloch states became a part of Muslim Pakistan. Mekran is the bastion home of the original and indigenous Baloch people since ages with a sedentary and civilized population of the “oasis culture” of Sumaria.
In terms of infrastructure “it looks as if man had for the first time, ceased to be a wandering hunter, attaching himself to a small piece of land to grow crops and domesticate cattle for obtaining a regular supply of food from the land, milk, meat, wool and hide from the cattle.”
The telegraph lines, mud roads, Mekran levy Corps with a couple of schools and dispensaries in Panjgur and Ketch produced a class of semi-educated teachers who emulated the camp followers not only in their manners and food but in also dress. The already available madrasah education since centuries produced religious scholars who were opposed to sending the male children to these schools. Sending the female children to the schools was impossible. Female schools were opened in the mid-1950s and a few educated men dared to send their daughters first.
A senior friend named Dr. N.A. Baloch who visited Panjgur last year, wrote to me that he was pleasantly surprised to find female education phenomenally progressing with hundreds of students in the only girl’s college and thousands of them in girls’ schools.
To Dr. Baloch it is the Centre and Cultural Hub of Balochistan as he, like many Balochi intellectuals, does not attribute to the idea that colonial lines can be the dividing frontiers of an ancient culture. Therefore, this present administrative province of ours can hardly qualify to be known as the land of the Baloch people as its ethnic multiplicity and shifting demographic patterns seldom makes one at ease to accept this improvisation a permanent abode where “a job for each” is guaranteed in the scorching sun of the present day political realities.
But one has to see the changing patterns in the lifestyle of the Baloch people in the background of this multiplicity considering action and reaction of all those forces which generated this phenomenon in the wake of the “great game” and continues to manifest itself until today.
Makran does not have an all-weather network of roads but the rapid deployment forces policy blessed it with airports in six major towns connecting them mutually with Karachi and Quetta.
Muscat, Dubai and other Gulf states attracted the Baloch youth for employment which also brought social and economic change, making them well off financially but poorer intellectually; yet providing an impetus for social mobility.
Traditional Baloch culture
Mand was once the most backward place educationally. Now it is phenomenally progressing. All this was accomplished by a lady named Zubeda Jalal from the Baloch Rind tribe, who received education in Kuwait. The woman of this part of Balochhistan enjoys a unique status as the Islamic rights of inheritance of property from parents are guaranteed to her. She also owns the property given to her as her dowry by the husband. The economic independence has ensured an enviable position to her and has also placed her on par with her husband.
The interaction with other cultures, mixing with different social setups and the education has not alienated the Baloch from his roots. The inferiority complex syndrome which was once found in dress, food and language has given way to a balanced attitude of reciprocation as a mannerism of mature educated class has prevailed.
Qorma and Biryani is an essential ingredient of our menu; Sajji and kaddi/chapli kebab are essential items of feast in other parts. The Baloch dress and embroidery among the women of urban centers has become popular because educated Baloch women have improved it fashion-wise and made it sartorially so elegant and attractive that every woman of means loves to wear it.
All the girl schools and colleges are being run by women themselves. Still their commitment to the cultural values has not been shaken which reflects the maturity and supremacy of a culture which does not impede the creative impulses of its members to grow. It provides impetus for liberation and emancipation to every male and female to reconstruct the web of the social fabric without harming the main pattern of its inviolable values of vow, vendetta, and velour.
The Baloch of sedentary and civilized regions traversed this distance in 4,000 years from “erecting a farm with its reed hut (kull) to form a family to growing into a hamlet (kallag), the embryo of the social organization.” The village of mud huts and sun-baked houses came later with no carved out courtyards. But with Gulf money spacious court-yards of acres can be seen with their orchards of date palms, pomegranates, citrus fruits and vineyards.
Electricity, telephone, television and dish antenna have tremendously widened the outlook of life both positively and negatively. One thousand years ago they extracted sugar from dates and the area was named Fanzbur (the land of sugar) to be devastated and to become Panjgur (the land of five tombs).
Now, it seems to redefine itself to become the land of sweet dates, grapes and flowing milk and seems destined to attain the august civilization status of yore. The tube-well has replaced the bucket (zillu) trucks with camels, pick-ups with donkeys and jeeps the horses. The Karez (channel of wells) and Kaurjo (channel drawn from banks of rivers) is still the main irrigation system, “making the farmer a slave to the cycle of seasons and making his labor bending upon mother earth to earn his crest of bread and the essentials of life have not changed since those remote and ancient day.
As a civilized society since time immemorial they have upheld the basic traits, principles and values of the most ancient culture particularly in terms of giving an equal status to woman and building a family unit which looks upon its children with equal love, compassion and provides to all equal economic facilities it will heritage and wealth.
Given the minimum facilities of infrastructure of certainly become rich culturally, agriculturally and industrially as Sir Muhammad Iqbal (Pakistan’s national poet) had said the soil is very rich, it only requires a few drops of water to flourish.
Mir Behram Baloch is a journalist covering government and social issues in Balochistan. Read other articles by Mir.
Published in The Balochistan Point on April 8, 2014