Balochistan has an eventful history dating back to the Stone Age. Recent research and archaeological excavations at Mehrgarh have revealed 9000 years old civilization. The human settlement pattern at Mehrgarh was unparalleled and unique, inaugurating the distinct shift from a hunting-gathering to a settled life for the first time in human history. Domestication of animals, cultivation of plants, and perfume export were modern features of the Mehrgarh civilization. Alexander the Great passed through Balochistan in 325 B. C. After his death Balochistan came under the rule of Seleucus Nicator whose descendants lost power to the Graeco-Bactrians. The province has also witnessed the march of a number of great conquerors and warriors such as Macedonians, Arabs, Ghaznavies, Mangols, and Mughals in the past.
The Muslim rule began in 712 A.D. The parts of Balochistan which were ruled by the Arabs were called Turan (Jhallawan area) having capital at Khuzdar and Nudha or Buddha (Kachhi). In the 11th century, Balochistan fell into the hands of Nasir-ud-din Subuktagin marking the beginning of Ghaznivid dynasty. Ghorids succeeded the Ghaznivids. In 1219, it was annexed to the dominion of Sultan Mohammad Khan of Khwarizm (Khiva). The year 1223 saw the danger of the Yellow Peril, the Mongols, in the south of Mekran. In 1595 it became a part of the Mughal Empire and later Nadir Shah of Persia captured it. Ahmed Shah Durrani of Afghanistan was successful to establish his rule in 1747. The Khanate of Kalat emerged in 1758 when Nasir Khan-I revolted against the Afghans.
The Muslim rule was followed by British rule in 1839. Two Afghan wars between 1839 and 1879 helped the British to consolidate their power in Balochistan. Sir Robert Sandeman, who later became the Chief Commissioner of Balochistan, was the architect of British strategy in the region and he negotiated a number of treaties with the Khan of Kalat from 1854 to 1901. Through these treaties, the British Government gained control over the leased territory of Chaghi, Bolan Pass, Quetta, and other areas. The princely states of Mekran, Kharan, Lasbela, and a little later Kalat state acceded to Pakistan after it came into being in 1947. In 1955, Balochistan was merged into one unit of West Pakistan. After the dissolution of one-Unit, Balochistan emerged as one of the four new provinces of Pakistan.
Balochistan, the largest of the four provinces of Pakistan, spreads over an area of 347,190 sq, Kms., forming 43.6 percent of the total area of Pakistan. It has a clustered population and is the smallest in proportion as compared to that of other provinces. Its population, according to the 1998 census, is 6.5 million, having a low density per square kilometer. Physically, Balochistan is an extensive plateau of rough terrain divided into basins by ranges of sufficient heights and ruggedness. Broadly, Balochistan’s geographic area can be divided into four distinct zones: Upper high lands, lower high lands, plains, and deserts.
The upper highlands, known locally as Khorasan, rise as high as 3,700 meters, with valley floors about 1,500 meters above sea levels.
The highlands include Makran, Kharan, and Chaghi ranges in the West and Sulaiman, Pab, Kirther in the east. The Upper High Lands fall mainly in districts Zhob, Killa Saifullah, Pishin, Quetta, Ziarat, and Kalat. It comprises a number of ranges such as Sulaiman, TobakKakari, Murdar, Zarghoon, Takatu, and Chiltan ranges.
The Lower High Lands has an altitude ranging from 1970 to 3940 ft (600 to 1200 M). They are located in the south-eastern Balochistan, except the eastern part of Kachi, the southern end of Dera Bugti and Nasirabad districts. Some are an extension of lower high lands that exist at the boundaries of Gwadar, Turbat, Panjgur, Kharan, and Chaghi districts.
Balochistan has a relatively small area of plains as compared to its total land area. They include the Kachi plain, situated to the south of Sibi and extending into Nasirabad Division, the southern part of Dera Bugti district, and a narrow plain area along the Mekran coast stretching from Kachi to the Iranian border. The plains of Kachi, Las Bela, and that of river Dasht cover sizable areas. Mountains dominate the terrain, and valley floors and piedmont plain make up only 15% of the landscape.
The western part of the province, mostly in Kharan and Chaghi districts, consists of vast plains covered with black gravel surface and broad expanses of sand dunes.
The coastal-line is about 760 Kilometers long, with a number of peninsulas and promontories. The coastal area is not effectively connected with the interior; the steep hills rise abruptly beyond the narrow coastal plain. Ports, such as Somiani, Pasni, and Gwadar are unsheltered. Federal and provincial governments have comprehensive development plans that feature a deep-sea port at Gwadar and a coastal highway.
The climate of the upper highlands is characterized by very cold winters and warm summers. Winters of the lower highlands vary from extremely cold in the northern districts to mild conditions closer to the Makran coast. Summers are hot and dry. The arid zones of Chaghi and Kharan districts are extremely hot in summer. The plain areas are also very hot in summer with temperatures rising as high as 120 degrees F (50 degrees C). Winters are mild on the plains with the temperature, never falling below the freezing point. The desert climate is characterized by hot and very arid conditions. Occasionally strong windstorms make these areas very inhospitable.
Average annual precipitation in Balochistan varies from 2 to 20 inches (50 to 500 mm). Maximum precipitation falls in the northeastern areas with annual average rain fall ranging from 8 to 20 inches (200 to 500 mm). It decreases in the south and the eastern parts and is minimum in Naukundi. Kharan and Dalbandin area, rainfall ranges between 1 to 2 inches (25 to 50mm). Evaporation rates are higher than the precipitation and generally vary from 72 to 76 inches (1830 1930 mm) per annum.
Rivers and Streams
All rivers and streams are part of three major drainage systems. The coastal drainage system is characterized by small, ephemeral streams and hill torrents. Rivers and streams that do not possess any significant perennial flow constitute an Inland system that dominates the central and northwestern area of the province. Nari, Kaha, and Gaj rivers are part of the Indus drainage system located in the northeastern margins of the province. The flow in rivers is typified by spring runoff and occasional flash floods. The river beds are dry and look like small streams. Stream gradients are high and the rate of runoff is very rapid.
The Zhob River Basin drains towards the northeast into the Gomal River which ultimately joins the Indus River. Streams along the border of Punjab and Sindh provinces flow toward the east and southeast into the Indus River. Central and western Balochistan drains towards the south and the southwest into the Arabian Sea. Some areas located in districts Chaghi, Kharan, and Panjgur drain into playa lakes, locally called ” Hamun” such as Humun-e-Lora and Hamun-e-Mashkel, etc. The important rivers in Balochistan are Zhob, Nari, Bolan, Pishin, Lora, Mula, Hub, Porali, Hingol, Rakshan, and Dasht.
Culture and Heritage of Balochistan
A number of tribes constitute to make people of Balochistan. The three major tribes are Baloch (Baloch & Brahvi) and Pashtoon. The Balochi speaking tribes include Rind, Lashar, Marri, Jamot, Ahmedzai, Bugti Domki, Magsi, Kenazai, Khosa, Rakhashani, Dashti, Umrani, Nosherwani, Gichki, Buledi, Notazai, Sanjarani, Meerwani, Zahrozai, langove, kenazai, and Khidai. Each tribe is further sub-divided into various branches. The tribal chief is called Sardar while the head of the sub-tribe is known as Malik, Takari, or Mir. Sardars and Maliks are members of the district and other local Jirgas according to their status.
The Baloch, believed to have originally come from Arabia or Asia minor, can be divided into two branches: the Sulemani and Mekrani as distinct from the Brahvis who mostly concentrate in central Balochistan. Among the eighteen major Baloch tribes, Bugtis and Marris are the principal ones who are settled in the buttresses of the Sulemania. The Talpur of Sind also claims their Baloch origin.
Brahvi speaking tribe include Raisani, Shahwani, Sumulani, Sarparrah, Bangulzai, Mohammad Shahi, Lehri, Bezenjo, Mohammad Hasni, Zehri , Sarparrah, Mengal, Kurd,Sasoli, Satakzai, Lango, Rodeni, Kalmati, Jattak, Yagazehi and Qambarani , most of these tribes are bi-lingual and are quite fluent both in the Balochi and Brahvi Languages. The Pashtoon tribes include Kakar, Ghilzai Tareen, Mandokhel , Sherani, Luni, Kasi and Achakzai.
Balochistan, despite its scarce population, has an uncommon racial and tribal diversity. Most of the people in the cities and towns understand and speak more than two languages. In addition to Balochi, Pashto, and Brahvi, the majority of the population understand and speak Urdu, the national language. In Kachhi and Sibi districts, people speak Seraiki and Sindhi. Quetta city, the confluence point of all linguistic groups accommodates not only Urdu, Balochi, Pashto, Brahvi, and Sindhi speaking people but Darri and Persian speaking ones as well. Dehwar tribe of Sarawan sub-division in Kalat, also speaks a language derived from Persian.
The cultural landscape of Balochistan portrays various ethnic groups. Though people speak different languages, there is a similarity in their literature, beliefs, moral order, and customs. The cementing factor is a religion that provides a base for unity and common social order.
Brahvi, Balochi, and Pashtoon tribes are known for their hospitality. Guest is accorded is held in high esteem and considered a blessing from God. Better off people even slaughter sheep or goats for their guests. Sometimes, it so happens that where there are more houses, the guest is assumed to be the guest of the whole village. This open-heartedness is the loving feature of the tribal people and is not as deep in the city or town dwellers.
Another adorable feature of Balochistan culture is faithfulness and sincerity in all relationships. There is no place or respect for unfaithful people in prevalent moral order. If fidelity is reciprocated with disloyalty or betrayal it is never forgotten.
Marriages are solemnized in presence of Mullah (a religious teacher) and witnesses. Life partners are commonly selected within the family (constituting all close relatives) or tribe. Except for a negligible fraction of love marriages, all marriages are arranged. The divorce rate is very low.
A lot of marriage rituals are celebrated in different tribes. In some tribes, the takings of “Valver”, a sum of money paid by the groom to his to be wife’s family, also exist. But this custom is now gradually dying out since it has given rise to many social problems. The birth of a male child is taken as a source of pride since he is thought to be the defender of this family and tribe.
The mode of dress among the Balochi, Pashtoon, and Brahvi tribes is very similar having a few minor dissimilarities. Turban is the common headwear of the men. Wide loose shalwar (a bit similar to loose trousers) and knee-long shirts are worn by all. The dress of the woman consists of the typical shirt having a big pocket in front. The shirt normally has embroidery work with embedded small round mirror pieces. Big ‘Dopatta’ or ‘Chaddar’, a long rectangular piece of cloth cascading down the shoulders and used to cover the head, are used by the women.
There are religious and social festivals celebrated by the people of Balochistan. Two major religious festivals are Eid-ul-Azha and Eid-ul-Fiter. At these festivals, people adorn their houses, wear new dresses, cook special dishes and visit each other. Eid-Meladun-Nabi is another religious festival. It is a celebration of the Holy Prophet’s birthday. Numerous colorful social festivals are also a source of jubilation. Sibi festival that traces its roots to Mehergar, an archeological site of ancient human civilization, attracts people from across the country. It is attended by common folks, ministers, and other government officials. Folk music performances, cultural dances, handicrafts stalls, cattle shows, and a number of other amusing activities present a perfect riot of color. Buzkashi is a peculiar festival showing valour of Balochistan people. It is celebrated on horse-back by two teams that use their skills to snatch a goat from each other.
Mega Development Projects
Development Works in Balochistan
No doubt the province has witnessed the march of a number of great conquerors and warriors in the past, but none of them has left an indelible imprint regarding development. In 1839, the British rule started through a highly centralized but small administration. The defense orientation of the administration precluded development and educational outlays. Thus the area remained deprived of educational, social, and economic development. However, strategically some railway lines and roads were constructed. These include a railway line and a road branching off from Sukkur in the adjacent province of Sindh and passing through Quetta to Nokundi on the Iranian border. To facilitate the movement of troops in times of emergency another road and rail link was established between Quetta to Chaman, a small town on the Afghanistan border. Other transport and communication requirements needed for the socio-economic development of the province had been totally ignored.
After the creation of Pakistan, the Balochistan States joined Pakistan. In 1955, Balochistan was merged into One-unit of West Pakistan. No significant development took place during the period 1955-70 for a variety of reasons, in spite of the fact that the region had received special attention in both the 2nd and 3rd Five Year Development Plans. The lack of infrastructure and institutional arrangements hindered the development efforts. The size of development outlay increased from Rs.22 million in 1960-61 to Rs.66 million in 1964-65, roundabout Rs .70 million in 1970 and Rs.1510.000 million in 1990-91.
Balochistan was given the status of a full-fledged province after the dissolution of One-unit in 1970 and has since been receiving special attention. The initial period of 2 -3 years was devoted to the establishment of proper administration. Since 1977, the province witnessed some fundamental changes. The objective of the development plan has been to bring the people of Balochistan into the socio-economic mainstream of the country.
Development Policy is based on all the packages of development programmes being implemented by the Provincial Government through the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), federal PSDP and other Federal government’s programmes. Within the framework of above development programmes, road and irrigation infrastructure, education and health facilities, agriculture and industrial development get the highest priority so that socio-economic condition of the masses improves, and employment opportunities are created.
Balochistan is one of the cradles of the agricultural revolution. It has hunters then, before 9000 B.C, by people living in settled villages who collected wild barley and learned how to domesticate the goat. By 6000 BC, the villages along the Bolan river were cultivating barley and wheat using flood irrigation and were storing their surplus in large mud bins. By this time they had also domesticated sheep, humped cattle, and buffalo. After 6000 BC they discovered how to make pottery, and by 4000 B. C were using a potters wheel and trading their superior pottery to Iran and Afghanistan By 2000 B. C they were growing the summer crops of Rice, Millet, and Sorghum, and horses, donkeys, and camels were domesticated.
At this time there was regular contact between the Indus s valley and Mesopotamia via Balochistan and Iran, and it is not inconceivable that the great civilization of the Indus and Mesopotamia developed out of a culture similar to that in Balochistan. Overpopulation and overgrazing led to a dramatic change in the productivity of Balochistan. it was not until the last 30 years that the use of irrigation and better farming methods have reclaimed parts of Balochistan, changing some of the landscape back to what it must have looked like in the pre-historic times.
Balochistan Natural Resource
Balochistan possesses great unexplored potential of metallic and non-metallic minerals. Presently, the minerals being exploited are:
Balochistan coal can cater to the existing and future energy requirements of our country to a great extent. More than 90% of coal is dispatched to other provinces for use in brick kilns. Its reserves are found in
Sizable deposits of this mineral are found at Muslimbagh, district Killa Saifullah. Lasbela, Khuzdar, Kharan, and Chaghi districts have chromite reserves. The private sector has been engaged in mining this mineral.
The biggest deposit of barytes is located near Khuzdar with a total reserve of over 2.00 million tonnes. Scientific mining, as well as the grinding of this mineral, started in 1976. Almost the entire production of barites is consumed locally by OGDC and other oil drilling companies.
Sulphur deposits are available at Koh-e-Sultan in District Chaghi. Three main deposits are clustered around the Southern half of the extinct volcano, Koh-e-Sultan. The deposits are of fumaroles origin and native Sulphur is found in cracks and as impregnation in volcanic tuffs. The Chief use of Sulphur is the manufacturing of Sulphuric acid etc.
Large commercially exploitable deposits are found throughout district Chaghi, starting from Dalbandin and extending to the borders of Iran. Some deposits are located close to Pak-Afghan border areas namely Zardkan, Siah-Chang, Jhulli, Patkok, Maskichah, Zeh, Chilgazi, and Buttak.
Onyx, a dark green marble, found in Chaghi is of superior quality. Onyx of good quality is found in Bolan, Lasbela, and Khuzdar districts.
Chaghi, a mineral-rich area, possesses nearly 30 million tonnes of iron ore. Geological Survey of Pakistan, in a report, states that there are 1 to 7 meters( averaging about 2 meters) thick hematitic sedimentary ironstone bed of Jurassic age(150 million years old) at the contact of Chiltan Limestone, and Sember formation of Cretaceous age (150-65 million years old) near Johan in Dilband area of Mastung district. The reserves have been tentatively estimated at over 200 million tonnes.
This is a relatively newly discovered mineral. Its deposits are found in the Lasbela district.
Limestone exists in abundance in different parts of Balochistan. Several hundred meters thick layers of limestone, at places dolomitic, occur in the Chiltan Formation of Jurassic age in Quetta and Kalat. Limestone of Cretaceous age, 300 to 50 meters thick, is widely found in Balochistan. Harnai, Sor Range, and Spintangi areas have reserves of limestone.