Modern Asian Studies

Honor the Baloch, Buy the Pushtun: Stereotypes, Social Organization and History in Western Pakistan

Paul  Titus a1
a1 University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand


Frontier Wars are but the surf that marks the edge and the advance of the wave of civilization.

—Lord Salisbury, 1892

Like the jellyfish, the absence of a backbone to be broken was the greatest defense of the tribes against the waves of state power which beat upon them.

[Yapp 1983:186]


An aphorism occasionally heard today purportedly summarizes the approach the British took to govern the parts of the empire that now constitute Pakistan. Their formula, it says, was ‘Rule the Punjabis, intimidate the Sindhis, buy the Pushtun, and honor the Baloch.’ While doing fieldwork in Quetta, the capital of Pakistani Balochistan and, in recent years the setting for several incidents of serious ethnic conflict, I found that current stereotypes about Baloch and Pushtun held by members of both groups about themselves and each other reflect essentially the same attitudes as those expressed in the aphorism.