There are estimated to be around 597,000 Baluchis (Baloch) in Afghanistan constituting a mere 2 per cent of the total Afghan population (CIA World Factbook 2011). They are part of the larger Baluchi community of 8 million people, 70 per cent of who live across the border in Pakistan, and the rest live in Iran. The Baluchis of Afghanistan live in the pastoral lands of the south-west and south in Hilmand and Faryab Provinces and practise Sunni Islam. Their language is Baluchi, although some speak Brahui (who are known as Brahuis or Brahui Baluchis).

The Baluchis' main economic activity is agriculture and animal husbandry. They are traditionally nomads and have preserved their ancient tribal structure with patriarchal, male-dominated kinship. Traditional and acquired skills have made them relatively self-sufficient, with the skills to build their own homes and develop the tools necessary for daily life. Rugs are woven for trade and household. Their farming activities follow a strict division of labour between women and men. Women work in groups threshing and separating the harvest while men are responsible for ploughing and planting. In keeping with the nomadic tradition of the group, lands are not privately owned but belong to the whole tribe.

Historical context

Divided between three countries – Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan – the Baluchis are one of Asia's classical cross-border minorities. They have a strong awareness of their ethnic identity which has resulted in several rebellions against their respective central governments in a bid to maintain their autonomy. While there has been a strong Baluchi pull for self-determination with the view to the formation of an independent Baluchistan, these demands have gradually faded through sustained political repression at the hands of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Unlike the Kurds' struggle for independence the Baluchi struggle has rarely attracted attention in the outside world.

In the 1970s the strongest organised Baluch group in search of independence were the Baluch People's Liberation Front (PLF). Most of PLF guerrillas were based in training camps in southern Afghanistan and were reportedly given sanctuary by Daoud's regime.

Current issues

Baluchis are one of the named ‘national' ethnic minorities in the new Afghan constitution (2004). Accordingly, they have all the rights bestowed to Afghan citizens. A lack of information on the situation of Baluchis in post Taliban Afghanistan makes it difficult to ascertain the future of the group within Afghanistan, though it is clear that the challenge of re-building the state needs to be undertaken mindful of the need to not to exclude small groups such as the Baluchis, who could easily be isolated, at some cost to the future of the state.

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