Balochistan is the largest of the four provinces of Pakistan spreading over an area of 347,190 Sq km., constituting 44 percent of the total area of Pakistan. As compared to that of other provinces, Balochistan has clustered population in smallest proportions. The province has a diverse landscape from the 760 km long southern coastal line through the deserts and plains to the hilly ranges.
Balochistan has a strategic location bridging the Middle East and southwest Asia to central Asia and South Asia. The province has the closest oceanic frontage for the landlocked countries of central Asia. It makes up the southwest of Pakistan bordering Iran to the west and Afghanistan to the north, the Arabian Sea to the south, Karachi to the east, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the northeast.
Balochistan’s 6 divisions subdivided into 34 districts/cities. Major cities of the province include Quetta, the capital city; Gwadar, the port city, Ziarat, the land of Junipers; Turbat, the historical city; Kalat, the former kingdom of the Khan of Kalat; Hinglaj, the sacred place of Hindus; Hub, the town bordering Karachi; Chaman, northwestern town bordering Afghanistan; Pishin, a lush green agriculture town; Sibi, the city of famous Bolan pass; and Taftan, the town bordering with and accessible from Iran.
Balochistan has an exciting history tracing as far back 9000 years Mehergar civilization. The unique human settlements unearthed from the site prominently reveal a distinct shift from Stone Age hunters & gatherers to a settled life society for the first time in human history. Major features of the Mehergarh civilization included the domestication of animals, cultivation of plants, and pottery making. However, before the birth of Christ, the region had trade links with the then Babylonia.
History had it that Alexander the great passed through Balochistan in 325 B. C. and had an encounter with the Sibia tribe of Balochistan. However, following his death, Balochistan came under the rule of Seleucus Nicator whose descendants lost power to the Graeco-Bactrians. Great conquerors and warriors including Macedonians, Arabs, Ghaznavids, Mongols, and Mughals have all marched and left their imprint in Balochistan in the past.
The arrival of Muhammad Bin Qasim in 712 A.D. established the Muslim rule in the region. Mehmood Ghaznavi came to Balochistan in the 11th century. Ghorids succeeded the Ghaznivids and in 1219 it was annexed to the dominion of Sultan Mohammad Khan of Khwarizm (Khiva). The Mongols landed in the year 1223 in the south of Makran and later in 1595, it became a part of the Mughal Empire. However, later Nadir Shah of Persia captured it. But Ahmed Shah Durrani of Afghanistan established his rule in 1747 before the Khanate of Kalat emerged in 1758 when Nasir Khan-I revolted against the Afghans.
The two major Afghan wars between 1839 and 1879 helped the British to consolidate their power in Balochistan right before the arrival of Muslim rule. The British government negotiated a number of treaties with the Khan of Kalat during 1854 to 1901through the chief strategist and architect of British strategy Sir Robert Sandeman, who later became Chief Commissioner of Balochistan. The British Government gained control over the leased territory of Chaghi, Bolan Pass, Quetta, and other areas through these treaties. Other princely states including Makran, Kharan, Lasbela and Kalat state acceded to Pakistan following 1947. Balochistan was merged into one unit of West Pakistan in 1955 but following the dissolution of one-Unit, the province emerged as one of the four new provinces of Pakistan.
Culture and Heritage
Balochistan province is populated by a tribal society of nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes and clans. Despite its scarce population, Balochistan has an uncommon racial and tribal diversity. Major tribes include Baloch, Pashtoon, and Brahvi and speak their respective language, usually with an additional language or two fluently. The Baloch originally are believed to have come from Arabia or Asia Minor can be further divided into the Sulemani and Mekrani. All these major tribes are further subdivided into sub-tribes. Each tribe is headed by a Sardar (Chieftain) and each sub-tribe is headed by a Malik, Takari, or Mir.
The Balochi speaking tribes include Rind, Lashar, Marri, Jamot, Ahmedzai, Bugti Domki, Magsi, Kenazai, Khosa, Rakhshani, Dashti, Umrani, Nosherwani, Gichki, Buledi, Notazai, Sanjarani, Meerwani, Zahrozai, langove, kenazai, and Khitai. Among the eighteen major Baloch tribes, the principal ones are Bugtis and Marris settled in the ramparts of the Sulemania.
The Pashtoon tribes include Kakar, Ghilzai Tareen, Mandokhel, Sherani, Luni, Kasi, and Achakzai.
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.
Men in all three tribes (Balochi, Pashtoon, and Brahvi) of Balochistan wear the same dress with slight dissimilarities. The traditional dress constitutes Turban, a common headwear, wide loose trouser (shalwar) and knee-long shirt (Qameez) of different colors. Woman wear typical shirt having embroidery work on usually with embedded small round mirror pieces having a big pocket in front. To cover up, long rectangular scarf (Dopatta or Chaddar) piece of cloth cascading down the shoulders, are used.
Although the cultural landscape of Balochistan portrays various ethnic groups and people speak different languages yet there is a similarity in their literature, beliefs, moral order and customs based on Islam which provides a strong foundation for unity and common social order.
Arts & Craft
Balochistan has a long and a rich tradition of producing handicrafts and are known all over the world for unique and intricate production of handicrafts including hand-made Balochi shoes, fine mirror work, embroidery, marble work, and fine quality precious stones. Their needlework, especially “Kowchik” stitching, “Jok” and “Moshamka” using with various colors and shades is unique to different parts of the province. Women particularly are skilled at embroidery and their skills usually are reflected in their traditional costumes, caps, purses, belts, tablecloths, cushions, wall hangings etc with elaborated geometric and abstract designs. Balochi nomadic tribes have alluring arts and crafts famous for their design, decor, and durability.
Historically free from foreign invasion and influence, the Balochi culture retains a unique identity in the history of mankind. Its cultural heritage dates as far back as to Stone Age and inherits relics in the form of stone tools, rock carvings, and engravings to date. Since the hunting and gathering era people came and left their distinct cultural heritage in the region and the legacy continued.
People are hospitable, sincere in dealings, and welcoming with open arms. The lifestyle, particularly the dress code and traditions are very alluring and distinct from that of other communities. Balochi handicrafts are very famous that included woolen items, rugs, leather and metalwork, jewelry, musical instruments, baskets, and ropes. Likewise, gold ornaments such as necklaces and bracelets are an important aspect of Baloch women’s traditions. The most favored items of women’s jewelry are dorr; heavy earrings fastened to the head with gold chains and also a gold brooch (Tasni) made in different shapes and sizes by local jewelers and is used to fasten the two parts of the dress together over the chest.
Balochi people have a rich traditional melodious culture. The tradition of a Baloch mother singing lullabies to her children has played an important role in the transfer of knowledge from generation to generation since ancient times. Folk songs and tribal poems are sung all over the country and famous folk dances including Attan, Chap, Lewa, and jaffarki and considered the identity of the people. Balochi people annually on March 2 with festivities to celebrate their rich culture and history
There are three major provincial languages spoken in Balochistan – Balochi, Pashtu and Brahvi. The Balochi language is an ancient language with its roots tracing back to the Iranian branch of the Indo-European family. It has resemblance with languages such as Sanskrit, Avesta, Old Persian, and Phalavi, which are either at the verge of extinction or considered to be as dead languages. Most of the people living in the cities and towns usually understand and speak more than two local languages. In addition to local languages, the majority of the population understands and speaks Urdu, the national language, while English is the source of communication in the literate fraternity and in official correspondences. Seraiki and Sindhi are the languages spoken in Kachhi and Sibi districts of Balochistan. Quetta, the capital city, is the melting pot of all linguistic groups accommodates not only Urdu, Balochi, Pashtu, Brahvi and Sindhi speaking people but Darri and Persian speaking ones as well. Moreover, Dehwar tribe of Sarawan sub-division in Kalat also speaks a language derived from Persian.
Tracing its roots back to the ancient Mehergar civilization, the Sibi festival is one of the major attractions drawing tourists every year which is characterized by folk music performance, cultural dances, handicraft stalls, cattle shows and a number of other amusing activities. Likewise, Buzkashi is a peculiar festival showing velour of Balochi people on horse-back by two teams using unique skills of snatching a goat from each other.
The province of Balochistan is endowed with tremendous tourist attractions. Its scenic beauty is characterized by a diverse landscape from the golden beaches at the Arabian Sea to the hills of Sulaiman Range. The land is rich in marine life, mud eruption volcanoes, natural beauty, sacred places, archaeological sites, caves, historic monuments, hiking trails, passes and highways, cultural heritage, fruit orchards, flora & fauna, and mineral deposits. Balochistan has the second largest Juniper Forest in the world in Ziarat, Zarghhon and Harboi hills.
Balochistan is the largest and the richest province blessed with natural resources. Its economy is largely based upon the production of natural gas, coal, and other variety of minerals. Though the province remained largely underdeveloped during the past, several major development projects including the construction of a new deep sea port at the strategically important town of Gwadar, and the Gwadar International airport are underway which are believed to bring about tremendous economic gains in near future. The port is projected to be the hub of an energy and trade corridor to and from China and the Central Asian republics.
The upper highlands of Balochistan are very cold in winters and warm in summers while lower highlands vary from extremely cold in the north to mild conditions near Makran coast. Summers are usually hot and dry with temperatures rising as high as 120 degrees F (50 degrees C). Winters are mild in the plain areas usually temperature remaining above freezing point. Its desert areas are hot and arid with strong windstorms sometimes making these areas quite inhospitable.
Balochistan is extremely arid with average annual precipitation of 2 to 20 inches (50 to 500 mm). Even its wettest hilly areas receive 8 to 20 inches (200 to 500 mm) of rain annually while the western deserts receive 1 to 2 inches (25 to 50mm). However, when it rains, it comes in sudden bursts and causes temperatures to vary enormously. Evaporation rates are higher than the precipitation and generally, vary from 72 to 76 inches (1830 1930 mm) per annum.
Best time to visit
Spring (March-May) and autumn (Sep-Nov) with haze-free pleasant days and cool nights are the ideal times to visit Balochistan. Spring is characterized by green fields full of wildflowers while in autumn mostly orchards filled with ripe fruits and trees expressing themselves in diverse colors. Summers are always very hot in major cities with the temperature hitting as high as 52 degrees while the hill resorts remain comparatively pleasant with temperature on average remains around 30 degrees.
Things to do
Balochistan’s rich cultural and traditional heritage, archaeological treasure, its alluring landmarks, natural beauty, deserts, mangroves, serene beaches and rock formations along the Makran Coastal Highway make the province a destination of choice. Besides its landscape, the warmly welcoming people and their delicious collection of traditional food is yet another strong basis to visit Balochistan.
Balochistan shares a running border with Iran to its west and is accessible from Iran via Taftan through a metal road. To its northwest, Balochistan is connected with Afghanistan by Chaman Border while the south is connected with Karachi via RCD highway. Balochistan is also well connected with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa via Zhob. One of the easiest yet scenic way to reach Quetta capital of Balochistan is from Sukkur via Bolan Pass the terrain is very scenic and spectacular.