Baluch National Code of Honor
The most important part of the Baluch unwritten constitution is known as the Baluchmayar, which guides the Baluch national life. In many ways, the Baluch- mayar influences the life of individuals and determines the future of Baluch society. These traditions are completely different from the traditions of the Muslims of the Indo-Pak subcontinent and from those of the Persians of Iran. The Baluch traditions are known by each person from his youth. It is essential for students of history and politics to know the role of the Baluch national code of honor in the Baluch national movement and how it is opposed to and contradicts state laws of Iran and Pakistan.
The demands for honor or the basis of the Baluchmayar are also known as Laj (Luj), Ghairat, Izzat, Nang, and Namus, which may be interpreted as “the Baluch Code of Honor”. This code is sometimes referred to by Baluch nationalist writers as Baluchiat (Baluchness). Baluch life is guided by the principles of Baluchmayar or the Baluch code of honor, but what is “honor”? A Baluch warrior poet in one of his poems on the subject of Ghairat composed the following lines:
Some die for honor and dignity,
Some live for a piece of bread,
He who avenges himself
Says farewell to his beautiful wife,
Has no longing for power and wealth.
The following are the basic and major principles of Baluchmayar:
Ber or Hun (Revenge)
The fundamental principle of Baluchmayar calls for an avenging of blood. The Baluch history and folk tales are full of stories of Ber. A Baluch “Battal” (proverb) throws light on the Baluch concept of revenge:
“The Baluch’s revenge for blood
Remains as young for two hundred years
As a deer of two years.”
In case of murder, the family of the victim is duty-bound to avenge the crime (hun). The obligation of revenge rests on the affected tuman (tribe) or the family against the individual’s tribe or the individual himself. This principle has given birth to intertribal blood feuds, tribal migration and elimination of whole families. To keep alive the principle of Ber, the Baluch poets and elder women of an injured family have always provoked the grudge. Wrote a Baluchpoet:
“The stones may melt away inside deep wells, but spite
Shall ever remain alive in the hearts of true men,
Neither stones melt away nor shall spite move.”
To lessen blood feuds among the Baluch, certain measures were taken during the reign of Mir Nasir Khan the Great and later on by the British Government when they took control of Baluchistan “in the name of the Khan”. According to Gul Khan, Nasir Khan the great introduced a system of blood compensation among the Baluch, which was derived from Baluch traditional law. To provide more protection for tribal chiefs and nobles of the Khanate, the compensation was double that payable for a tribesman. Later on the Sardars extended this privilege to their own families, Sardar Khel. The general rate, as fixed during the reign of Nasir Khan the Great, was Rs. 2,700 plus another Rs. lOO to be paid to the Khanate. But a greater privilege was enjoyed by the subject races such as the Hindus, Jews, and servile dependents like the Loris in the matter of blood compensation. Their blood compensation was Rs. 14,000 to Rs. 20,000. This compensation was granted for theie usefulness. It was very seldom that a Baluch tribesman had anyone but his Sial or Mat (person of equal status) murdered. Cash payments were rare and land, camels, sheep, goats, and arms were usually given instead. The most disgraceful punishment was to demand that the accused and one or two of his close relatives should surrender their arms in a tribal assembly, a tradition known as Mukh. (The Baluch tribes of Derajat and Marri-Bugti have no such tradition of surrendering arms.)
During the late nineteenth century, the blood compensation of Sardar or Sardar Khel amounted to a sum somewhere between twenty and a hundred thousand Rupees. The Baluch tribesmen’s blood compensation was determined at Rs. 1,500 only. The subject races lost their old status and their blood amount was fixed at a mere two hundred Rupees. Until 1947 murder cases were decided under the Penal Code, the Baluchistan Code, and the British-made “Frontier Crimes Regulations”, though the popular practice remained “blood for blood”. In the old war ballads of the Baluch, many cases of savage revenge are recorded. Writes Muhammad Sardar Khan:
“Bijar, one of the nobles of Chakarian age, was killed by the member of a Buledi tribe; his ribs were roasted and thrown outside to feed carrion kites. Consequently, the murdered man’s relations caught Haibat Khan, the Buledi chief, dragged him on a high precipice and, to comply with the savage custom of the race, his head was cut off and skull fashioned into a cup, served the victor as a drinking cup which remained for a considerable time among Bijar’s family.”
The Arab geographer, il-Muqaddasi, had already written an account in 98 A.D. about the cruel and barbarous revenge of the Baluch. Muhammad Sardar Khan re- corded a case of Ber between the Gishkauris and Lashars in the 16th century,
Whereby a Gishkauri killed one hundred Lashars in revenge and stated:
“I cannot slaughter the whole world and peace in no way can be restored,
even ray enemies fly to Muscat (beyond the Sea).”
The individual and inter-tribal feuds brought disunity amongst the Baluch. In the 18th century Mir Nasir Khan the Great helped Taimur Shah of Afghanistan in his military expedition against the Baluch Amirate of Sind, which resulted in political enmity between the two Baluch states. In 1839, when Mir Mehrab II was assassinated and Kalat was stormed by the British invaders, the royal house of the Talpur Baluch did not help Kalat. In 1843, when the Talpur Baluch lost Sind and the last chief Sher Muhammad Khan was looking for military help in Baluchistan, Mir Nasir Khan II (the son of Mir Mehrab Khan) did not enter in alliance with the Talpur Baluch against their common ennemy – the British.
Since the rise of nationalism, inter-tribal feuds have been discouraged and are condemned by educated Baluch. Several poems and articles have been written about the need to work for peace and harmony. The principle of revenge should be directed against the enemy states. Bahut (Refuge)
The second great pillar of Baluchmayar is called Bahut (refuge). Under this principle, every Baluch has the obligation to fight to death for a person who has taken refuge regardless of his status as a friend or enemy or stranger. The Baluch war ballads and folk stories are full of persons who sacrificed their lives in the defense and protection of their Bahut. The following Baluch folktale illustrates the significance of Baluchmayar and its Bahut. The tale was recorded by the American anthropologist L. Dupree:
“The tents had been pitched and the women prepared the evening meal. As dusk approached, so did a rider out of the desert. He rode to the tent of the Khan and threw himself from his horse, prostrated himself at the Khan’s feet, and demanded protection. He was being followed, he claimed, by a large band of horsemen with whom his family had a blood feud. The old Khan, wise beyond his years, and as pure as his white beard, granted the applicant asylum. The man was led to the guest tent and was fed, and told to prepare himself for the evening.
“The Khan’s young son came to his father and cried, ‘Oh my father! That is Badshah Gul, who but two months ago slew my brother and your son.’
‘Yes, my son, but now he is a guest in our camp. He has asked for asylum. We have given him asylum. And remember, my son, even if it takes a hundred years, your brother’s death, my son’s death, will be avenged.’
“The young son, inflamed, left his father’s tent and, taking his brother’s dagger from its honored place, crept to the guest tent and buried the dagger into the breast of the guest, as they had buried his brother two months before.
“The next morning, amid cries and lamentations, the body of the guest was discovered. Tearing his clothing, ripping his turban in agony, the old Khan cried, ‘who could have done this? Who could have brought dishonor on the name of our family? The camps of the Baluch will forever condemn us for this dishonour!’ The young son threw himself at his father’s feet and begged forgiveness, saying that in a moment of blind rage, he had dishonored the group. The old Khan took the knife, which had killed the guest and plunged it into the heart of his son.
The Baluch camps still tell of the killing in the guest tent, but they tell the story with honor.”
In the sixteenth century, the principle of Bahut led the member tribes of the “First Baluch Confederacy” into a civil war of thirty years, which resulted in the fall of the confederacy as well as the Baluch migration to the Indian sub-continent. Bahut was the source of frequent conflict when the British demanded the return of “rebels” or individuals who committed murders in British India. Under British and Pakistani rule, the principle of asylum has contributed to the rise of Baluch nationalism and has frequently led to confrontation between the Baluch and Britain, Iran and Pakistan.
For instance, in 1957, a Baluch rebel group in western Baluchistan (Iran), under the leadership of Ahmad Shah, took refuge in the Makran district of eastern Baluchistan, where the rebel group was arrested by the Pakistani authorities. The Baluch people of Pakistan regarded the action of Pakistan’s authorities as a violation of the Baluch code of honor, the Baluchmayar. For the protection of the rebel groups an application was submitted to the High Court of Karachi (Pakistan) by a young government servant named Jumma Khan. This attempt to protect the Bahut failed. The Court and Government of Pakistan favored the deportation of the Balucn Bahut to Iran, where Ahmad Shah was executed in Teheran. This led to unrest in Baluchistan and finally the foundation of the Baluchistan Liberation Front based in Baghdad.
The third great pillar of Baluchmayar is hospitality and protection to every guest. The Baluch tribesmen are lavish in their hospitality, which is considered one of the most important duties, even among the poorest of them. During meal- times, all who are present are welcome to share. The chiefs or host spend a great part of their income for Mehmani. All the tribesmen or strangers who visit the Mehman Khana, Utak (guest house) or Giddan (tent) are regarded as guests of the chief. Refusal of hospitality means the violation of the Baluchmayar, which can be punished with a fine by the tribal Jlrga (Council of Elders). The obligation of Mehmani also includes the protection of the guest, although both obligations expire at the moment the guest has left the house of the host or the limit of the host’s territorial responsibility. The obligation provide hospitality and protect the guest is considered of great importance by the Baluch. In the case of insult or murder of the guest, the obligation of Mehmani demands from the host that he takes Ber, which would be the sacred duty of the host or host tribe. The principle of Mehmani has influenced the politics of Baluchistan. R. Tample, a British political officer on the North West Frontier, wrote about the importance of hospitality: “They [tribesmen) will do almost anything except betray a guest.”
In 1976, a Baluch civil servant saw himself in conflict with Pakistani laws and Baluchmayar. According to him, one evening two young Baluch students came to his residence in Islamabad as guests. They were “involved” in anti-state activities. Being a Baluch, he showed his loyalty to Baluchmayar and provided asylum and safe passage to them. The action of the Baluch civil servant finally led to his arrest by the Government of Pakistan.
This is the pardoning of an offence on the intercession of a woman of the offender’s family and the granting to the woman of a dress as a symbol of honor. Exception would be always in cases of murder due to adultery. It is a common practice among the Baluch to surrender their revenge on the intercession of a woman of the offender’s family. In the history of the Baluch, there are several instances when the interference of women led to peace. The tribes or individuals, whenever they refused to accept the intercession of a woman, were condemned by Baluch society. In 1794, the last ruler of the Baluch Dynasty, Nawab Nusrat Khan Hoat, arrested a Baluch noble of Jaskani tribe. His mother appeared in the Court at Dera Ismail Khan to free her son. Instead of respecting the mother of the Jaskani noble, Nawab Nusat Khan planned to dishonor her. The Caskani lady committed suicide in the protection of her honour. Later, her son and husband also committed suicide. The violation of Baluchmayar led to the fall of the Hoat Dynasty. The chiefs of Derajat revolted against the ruler and invited the Afghan ruler, Zaman Shah, to occupy the country.
Kamzor-o-Lachar (Weak and Helpless Persons)
The principle of Baluchmayar demands that the Kamzor-o-Lachar be respected and that tribesmen refrain from killing them. The following persons are regarded as Kamzor-o-Lachar:
1. Zal or zan (women)
2. Bachh (boy) below the age of 17 years
3. The members of religious minorities such as Hindus
4. Inferior races such as Ghulara (slave), Domb and Lori (musicians, singers and genealogists) and Nakib (the persons who are bound to supply firewood for the camp of the chiefs, and to carry his post or messages within the limits of the tribe)
5. A person who is in the shrine or mosque, as long as he remains within its premises
In addition, it is required that fighting cease when a woman, a spiritual leader or a person carrying the Holy Koran (Muslim religious book) intercedes.
During the Baluch uprising of 1958, a group of the rebels led by Nawab Nauroz Khan, the Sardar of the Zehri tribe, continued their resistance against the Pakistani army, which finally came to an end through the application of the above-mentioned principle of Baluchmayar with the help of the Koran. But contrary to the agreement, General Tika Khan arrested Nawab Nauroz Khan with his seven ringleaders, and they were tried by the military courts. Nawab Nauroz Khan died in jail, while the other seven persons named Sabzal Khan, Masti Khan, Ghulam Rasul, Bahawal Khan, Bate Khan, Jammal Khan, and Wali Mohammad, were executed in the jails of Hyderabad end Sukhar on July 15, i960. The violation of the Baluchmayar by the army of Pakistan resulted in a series of Marri-Bugti and Mengal uprisings and finally the formation of the Baluch People’s Front. Thus, the Baluchmayar not only differs from the customs of the peoples of Indo-Pak and Iran but also challenges the laws of Iran and Pakistan states and promotes the cause of Baluch nationalism.
Another principle of the Baluchmayar is known as ‘Amanat’ or ‘Etbar’. It demands from every member of Baluch society that he defend to the last property entrusted to him. Major Percy Sykos, the British diplomat in Western Baluchistan (Iran), wrote: “The Baluch are extremely honest, and, if entrusted with valuables or letters, will defend them with their lives; also, they are extremely moral, and treat their women more or less as equals. In fact they have a code of honor and generally live up to it. Their honesty is exemplified by the fact that a bag of rupees, containing the pay of all the telegraph employees, used to be sent along the line, each man, in turn, taking out his wages. Only once was this confidence abused, and the thief had to leave the country, which is the heaviest of punishments for a Baluch.”
The Baluch code of honor expects the Baluch to be loyal to their word or promises. In this regard they differ from their Indian neighbors (Punjabi and Sindhi), where Qaul is regarded as an individual act.
Among Afghans (Pashtuns), the principle of Qaul is also an act of an individual. In 1939, the British Army took Kalat by surprise and killed Mehrab Khan, the ruler of Baluchistan. This treacherous act of the British resulted in the uprisings of the Baluch tribes. In 1940 the British army was sent to subdue the Marri Baluch. The Marri-British fighting came to an end with the complete British surrender. In return, Marri promised them safe passage and return: “The Baluch kept to the terms of their treaty, showing honour and even kindness to the garrison.”
This is the final principle of Baluchmayar. It aims to check those who violate the Baluchmayar, for instance if a person kills his guests or betrays his Bahut, etc. and never takes his revenge. The Baluch poetry and folk stories are full of Shigan, to provoke a “coward” or disheartened person to avenge. A person who ignores his duty to take revenge is always addressd as “Be-Ghairat” (person without honour). This principle reminds the Baluch of his duties and obligations toward Baluchmayar.