Balochistan (Balochi and Urdu: بلوچستان) is one of the four provinces of Pakistan and the largest, constituting approximately 44% of its total land mass. It is bordered by Iran to the west, Afghanistan to the north-west, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA to the north, Punjab to the north-east and Sindh to the south-east. The largest city, Quetta, serves as its summer capital and Gwadar as the winter capital.
The main ethnic groups in the province are the Baloch and Pashtun, with smaller communities of Sindhis living mainly in the south-eastern districts. The name Balochistan means “land of the Baloch” in Urdu and Balochi.
Balochistan is situated on the southwest of Pakistan and covers an area of 134,051 mi2 or (347,190 km2), thus constituting 44% of Pakistan’s total land mass and making it Pakistan’s largest province by area. The province is bordered by Iran to the south-west; Afghanistan to the west and Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to the north; and Pakistan’s Punjab and Sindh provinces to the east. To the south lies the Arabian Sea.
The provincial capital is Quetta and Gwadar is the major port . Balochistan is rich in exhaustible and renewable resources; it is the second major supplier of natural gas in Pakistan, however its renewable and human resource potential has not been systematically measured.
Balochistan is located on the south-eastern part of the Iranian plateau. It borders the geopolitical regions of the Middle East and Southwest Asia, Central Asia and South Asia. It is the nearest coastline to Central Asia.
These facts have placed the otherwise desolate region constantly it in the scopes of competing global interests for all of recorded history.
The Sulaiman Mountains decorate Balochistan’s northeast area. Local inhabitants have chosen to live in towns and rely on sustainable water sources for thousands of years. The Quetta region is unique in the region in that it is not situated in desert terrain.
The capital, also called Quetta, is located in a densely populated portion of the mountainous northeast. It is situated in a river valley near the Bolan Pass which has been used as the route of choice from the coast to Central Asia, entering through Afghanistan’s Kandahar region. The British and countless other historic empires have crossed the region to invade Afghanistan by this route.
Very cold winters and hot summers characterise the climate of the upper highlands. Winters of the lower highlands vary from extremely cold in Ziarat, Quetta, Kalat, Muslim Baagh and Khanozai the northern districts to mild conditions closer to the Makran coast.
Summers are hot and dry, especially the arid zones of Chaghai and Kharan districts. The plain areas are also very hot in summer with temperatures rising as high as 50 °C (122 °F).The highest record breaking temperature of 53 °C (127 °F) has been recorded in Sibi, it was on 26 May 2010. Previously, 52 °C (126 °F) was recorded in Sibi. Other hot areas includes, Turbat, and Dalbandin. Winters are mild on the plains with the temperature never falling below the freezing point. The desert climate is characterised by hot and very arid conditions. Occasionally strong windstorms make these areas very inhospitable.
The main languages in the province are , Balochi, Hazaragi,Brahui and Sindhi.
Forming the eastern portion of the Iranian Plateau, the area of Balochistan is the site of the earliest known farming settlements in the pre-Indus Valley Civilization era, the earliest of which was Mehrgarh dated at 6500 BC. Balochistan, like Pakhtunkhwa to its north, was always an Iranic country. Known in history as the “seed of Zoroastrianism, Balochistan, then famous for its lakes, was one of the first places Zoroaster travelled south to, from Bactria in order to seek converts to his religion. And it was here that some of the first proselytes of his religion lived before its spread into western portions of the Iranian plateau. Balochistan in Pashto is known as Godar which was hellenized by the Greeks in to Gedrosia due to the fact that the Greeks derived the names of these Iranian lands from the Bactrian language. The Balochi people referred to their own land as Moka or Maka, a word which later became Makran. Balochistan was seemingly always sparsely populated by various tribes of Iranic origin for centuries following the decline of the nearby Harappa-Mohenjo-daro civilization to the east. The spread of the Balochi language led to the eventual decline in the numbers of Brahui, the original Arachosian tribes of the region.
The Baloch have Persian, Kurdish origins., all of whom populate portions of the Iranian plateau. They are considered to be an Iranic group that has absorbed some Dravidian genes and cultural traits, primarily, Brahui. The northern point of Balochistan known in Pashto as Dzaranga was known as Drangiana to the Greeks and came to be known to the Persians as Saka. The Persian epic of Shahnama does record the Baloch in the Qazvin-Zanjan region of old Iran in the 6th century AD, when they were engaged in battle by the Persian king Chosroes I Anoshirvan, The Shahnama also records its heroes, Rustom and Sohrab, as being Saka (and not Persians) making Sistan (or the old Sakistan) their origin. With time, Baloch tribes linguistically absorbed all the local people in Makran, southern Sistan and the Brahui country, becoming a sizeable group to rival in size the other Iranic group in the region .
The large district and tribe of Belijan/Beluchan still exist in northwest Zagros, stretching from just east of Sivas, south toward Aleppo. The current inhabitants and the tribe identify themselves as Kurds.
In the 7th century, the region was divided into two parts: the south was made part of the Kermān Province of the Persian Empire and the north became part of the Persian province Sistan. In early 644, the Islamic Caliph, Umar, sent Suhail ibn Adi from Busra to conquer the Kerman region of Iran. He was then made governor of that region. From Kerman, he conquered the western Balochistan region, near the Persian frontiers. South-western Balochistan was conquered during the campaign in Sistan the same year.
During the reign of Caliph Uthman in 652, Balochistan was reconquered during the counter-revolt in Kerman, under the command of Majasha Ibn Masood. This was first time western Balochistan became directly controlled by the Caliphate and paid taxes on agriculture. In those days western Balochistan was included in the dominion of Kerman. In 654, Abdulrehman ibn Samrah, governor of Sistan, sent an Islamic army to crush a revolt in Zaranj, which is now in southern Afghanistan. After conquering Zaranj, a column of the army pushed north, conquering Kabul and Ghazni, in the Hindu Kush mountain range, while another column moved through North-western Balochistan and conquered the area up to the ancient city of Dawar and Qandabil (Bolan). By 654, the whole of what is now the Balochistan province of Pakistan was controlled by the Rashidun Caliphate, except for the well-defended mountain town of QaiQan which is now Kalat, place in Pakistan. However, this town was later conquered during the reign of Caliph Ali. Abdulrehman ibn Samrah made Zaranj his provincial capital and remained governor of these conquered areas from 654 to 656, until Uthman was murdered.
During the Caliphate of Ali, a region of Balochistan, Makran, again revolted. Due to civil war in the Islamic empire, Ali was unable to deal with these areas until 660, when he sent a large force, under the command of Haris ibn Marah Abdi, towards Makran and Sind. Haris ibn Marah Abdi arrived in Makran and conquered it by force, and then moved northward to north-eastern Balochistan and reconquered Qandabil (Bolan). Finally, he moved south and conquered Kalat after a fierce battle. In 663, during the reign of Umayyad Caliph Muawiyah I, Muslims lost control of North-eastern Balochistan and Kalat when Haris ibn Marah and large part of his army died in battle against a revolt in Kalat. Muslim forces later regained control of the area during Umayyad reign. It also remained a part of the Abbasid Caliphate.
In the 15th century, Mir Chakar Khan Rind became the first king of Balochistan. Subsequently, Balochistan was dominated by the Timurids, who controlled all of Persia and Afghanistan. The Mughal Empire also controlled some parts of the area. When Nadir Shah won the allegiance of the rulers of Balochistan, he ceded Kalhora, one of the Sindh territories of Sibi-Kachi to the Khan of Kalat. The successor of Nadir Shah and founder of the Afghan Empire, Ahmad Shah Durrani, also won the allegiance of that area’s rulers. Most of the area would eventually revert to local Baloch control.
During the period of the British Raj, there were four Princely States in Balochistan: Makran, Kharan, Las Bela and Kalat. In 1876, Sir Robert Sandeman made a treaty with the Khan of Kalat and brought his territories (including Kharan, Makran, and Las Bela) under British suzerainty. After the Second Afghan War was ended by the Treaty of Gandamak in May 1879, the Afghan Emir ceded the districts of Quetta, Pishin, Harnai, Sibi and Thal Chotiali to the British. In 1883, the British took control of the Bolan Pass, southeast of Quetta, from the Khan of Kalat. In 1887, some of the areas of Balochistan were declared British territory. In 1893, Sir Mortimer Durand negotiated an agreement with the Amir of Afghanistan, Abdur Rahman Khan, to fix the Durand Line running from Chitral to Balochistan as the boundary between the Emirate of Afghanistan and the British.
Two devastating earthquakes occurred in Balochistan during the British colonial rule: The 1935 Balochistan Earthquake, which devastated Quetta, and the 1945 Balochistan Earthquake with its epicentre in the Makran region.
In 1947, the Khan of Kalat reportedly acceded to the dominion of India. But his accession papers were returned by Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India. As a result, Kalat joined Pakistan on the agreement that defence, currency, foreign office and finance will be controlled by the federal govt but that the rest the province will control by itself. However, after death of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, formation of one unit changed this situation and it was merged into Pakistan like other areas.
After independence from the British, Balochistan has not experienced much development. Due to historical poverty as result of its geographic location and royalties formula which benefits only a few tribal leaders, it has developed at a much slower rate than other parts of Pakistan.
The population density is very low due to the mountainous terrain and scarcity of water. The southern region is known as Makran. The central region is known as Kalat.
As of the 1998 census, Balochistan had a population of 8 million inhabitants, representing approximately 5% of the Pakistani population. Official estimates of Balochistan’s population grew from approximately 7.45 million in 2003 to 7.8 million in 2005. According to the 2008 Pakistan Statistical Year Book, households whose primary language is Balochi represent 40% of Balochistan’s population while 20% of households speak Brahui, Pashtu is spoken by around 40% of the population making Balochi and Pashtu the two dominant languages in the region. Other languages include, Hazaragi, Sindhi, Punjabi, Brahui, and Saraiki. Balochi-speaking people are concentrated in the sparsely populated west, east, south and southeast; Brahui speakers dominate in the centre of the province, while the Pashtuns are the majority in the north. The Kalat and Mastung areas speak Brahui. Quetta, the capital of the province, is largely populated with Pashtun people. Hazara has a sizeable population in Mahrabad and Hazara town neighbourhood of Quetta and speak the Hazaragi language. They are mostly engaged in trade, coal mining and govt jobs. The present MNA from Quetta Sayd Nasir Ali Shah and Jan Ali Changazi MPA belong to Hazara tribe. In the Lasbela District, the majority of the population speaks Balochi, or Lasi (Sindhi). Jamot tribes of Sibi Naseerabad and Kachhi region widely speak Sindhi. A large number of approximately over 4 million Afghan refugees moved to Quetta and other cities of Balochistan after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Near the Kalat region and other parts of the province there are significant numbers of Baloch Brahui speakers. Along the coast there are various Makrani Balochi speakers who predominates. A large number of Afghan refugees can also be found in the province, including Pashtun, Hazara and Tajiks.
In common with the other provinces of Pakistan, Balochistan has a parliamentary form of government. The ceremonial head of the province is the Governor, who is appointed by the President of Pakistan on the advice of the provincial Chief Minister. The chief executive of the province is the Chief Minister who is normally the leader of the largest party or alliance in the provincial assembly. The unicameral Provincial Assembly of Balochistan comprises 65 seats of which 4% are reserved for non-Muslims and 16% for women only. The judicial branch of government is carried out by the Balochistan High Court, based in Quetta, and headed by a Chief Justice. For administrative purposes, the province is subdivided into 30 districts: