Balochistan or Baluchistan (Balochi: بلوچستان, lit. Land of the Baloch) is an arid desert and mountainousregion on the Iranian plateau in south-western Asia, northwest of the Arabian Sea. It stretches across southwestern Pakistan, southeastern Iran, and a small section of southwestern Afghanistan. The southern part of Balochistan is known by its historical name Makran.
Balochistan is named after the native Baloch tribes who inhabit the region and use Balochi as their native language. Persian, Pashtu and Urdu are used as second languages in some areas; Brahui is spoken by the Brahui minority.
Balochistan, has the largest area of Pakistan’s four provinces, constituting approximately 44% of the country’s total land mass, and the smallest population, being home to less than 5% of the country’s population.
The history of Balochistan covers the history of the region of Balochistan, currently consisting of the Pakistani province of Balochistan, the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan and the Afghan region of Balochistan.
SOME PHOTOS OF BALOCHISTAN:
Quetta, Balochistan at Night
Hanna Lake, near Quetta
A Rock, near Pishkun, Balochistan
“Desert scene, Balochistan
Balochistan is very far away from Ireland
Into the Sulaiman Range at Zhob, Balochistan, Pakistan
Pakistan’s Balochistan province is descending into anarchy. Only a political agreement between the central government and the nationalist Baloch is likely to end the crisis.
Train and Heavy Road Traffic in Bolan Pass. A train is going into a tunnel and heavy traffic is plying on the road in Bolan Pass.
The word Ziarat means a ‘shrine’ (grave of a holy man). A folklore tells a saint, Kharwari Baba, who is believed to have stayed in the valley and blessed it. He was a member of Sarangzai tribe and his original name was Mulla Tahir. Later he became a disciple of Nana Sahib. A number of miracles are attributed to Khurwari Baba. The shrine of Khurwari Baba, after which Ziarat was named, is located 8 km away from Ziarat and is visited by a large number of people to pay attribute to the divine soul.
Ziarat takes pride in hosting Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan on a number of occasions. He also spent the last days of his life in a government residency there in September 1948. The site was chosen for the ailing great man because Ziarat offers the best of the climates, specially in the summers. Besides, Mr. Jinnah had great personal liking for Ziarat. It is because of this reason that the small double storey Ziarat Residency has won the position of a national monument.
This monumental residency was built in 1882 by the British government and till independence was in the use of the agents of the British governor general for India as their summer headquarters.
The hills around Ziarat are thickly wooded and are home to the world’s second largest Juniper trees. The junipers are considered to be the real treasure of Ziarat. There are trees in the valley which are more than 7000 years old. In Ziarat a herb called Ephedra sinica is found in abundance from which a chemical called ephedrine is extracted, an important constituent of various medicines, especially cough syrups. When the snow falls in Ziarat’s winter the juniper valley is at its most beautiful. The local dish of Ziarat is “saji”. More tourists visit the place in summer. Read More about Juniper Forests.
The residency is embellished with beautiful lawns, covered with grassy carpets and with roses, dancing at the rhythmic tunes of wind, all around the garden. From there one can have a striking view of the picturesque valley.
Ziarat literally means a place for pilgrimage. Ziarat as a small dwelling existed much before the advent of thc British Rule in the Sub-continent. Its local name then was Gwuskhi or Kowashki and was changed to its present name of Ziarat in 1886. It derived its name from the neighbouring shrine of famous Muslim saint Mian Abdul Hakim, popularly known as Mulla Tahir and Kharwari Baba. The shrine is situated in the valley, below the “Prospect Point (see photo below)”, south of Ziarat Town. According to a legend, the Saint came here from Khandahar in Afghanistan, He opposed the highhandedness of Ghlzai King Hussain. He was forced to leave his native town and migrated to this place. On reaching this valley he took abode on a hill top and prayed for this place saying: “This place shall flourish”. Thereafter water started oozing from the spot which is still flowing and is regarded as holy and wholesome.
Balochistan Natural Resources
There is a large quantity of natural resource in Balochistan, including Chromite, Flourate, Barite, Asbestos, Marble, Garnet, Vermiculite, gold, copper, Iron, Gas, Petroleum, and etc. Which are of great importance in today’s world. 750 kilometre long coast and area of Balochistan has been declared the gateway of economic welfare.
Gold mines in Balochistan make it land of gold. It is the southwest part of Pakistan and covers an area of 347,190 square kilometers. Border of Afghanistan is on north and northwest side and bordered by the Iran to southwest side. Arabian Sea lies to the south. Balochistan is the blessed province full of natural resources and minerals. Manygold mines are discovered in Balochistan. Reko Diq and Seyahein-Diq (saindik) are two largest gold deposit minesof Balochistan.
Saindak gold mine is near a town called saindak in District Chaghi. Copper and Gold deposits were discovered at saindak with the collaboration of a Chinese engineering firm in 1970s. In 1995 production at saindak copper and gold mine started with the funding of Government of Pakistan. In initial trial months, monthly production rate was 1700 tons of copper, 6000 ounces of gold and 12000 ounces of silver.
With the help of Germany and France, a power plant of 50 MW was constructed. After the trial of 1995, the project lost its momentum because of some internal issues. In 2002, mining project was awarded to the China Metallurgical Company and in 2003 they started the systematic mining of gold, silver and copper. Estimated ore reserves at saindak are 412 million tons. These reserves contain average 0.5 gram of gold per ton and average of silver is 1.5 grams per ton. It is believed that mine has the capacity to produce 15,800 ton of blister copper per year, containing 1.5 ton of gold and 2.8 ton of silver.
Reko Diq is a small town of District Chaghi in Baluchistan. Reko Diq is near to the borders of Iran and Afghanistan in a desert area. It is a remote area and is famous for being one of the world’s largest copper and gold mine. Barrack Gold Corporation, Antofagasta Minerals and Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) are working on outsourcing and recovery projects at Reko Diq mine. Estimated weight of gold and cooper at reko diq is approximately one billion three hundred million tons. It is said that Reko Diq holds 12.3 million tons of copper and 20.9 million ounces of gold. Some other surveys say that Reko Diq may have as much as 11 billion pounds of copper and nine million ounce of gold. This gold and copper mine of Baluchistan can produce at least 170,000 tons of copper and 300,000 ounces of gold per year.
Date Palm ( Dates)
Dates: Dates are important agriculture production of the area. The Makran and Kharan districts of Balochistan are the major dates producing areas. 110 verities of dates are producing in Kech district in Makran.
Rabbi, Begum Jangi, Klongi, Karoba, Mozwati, mansaure, Chalni, Sabza and Shakar are ranked among export quality dates. Makran is producing over 4 lakh tones of dates annually. Absence of proper communication and storage and processing facilities 50 percent of production if wasting, this is causing a loss of million dollars. Balochistan is the only area which enjoys four weather conditions. Some areas are extremely hot. Makran, Sibi, dahdar, and some other areas are including in extremely hot areas, but Kalat, Mastung, Quetta, Ziarat and Pishin are cold areas and produce high quality apples, Grapes, Cherries , and Apricots are produced in these areas.
But there isn’t paying any attention to export these fruits also losing million dollars annually. In the Balochistan producing around 4 lak tones of apples, which are famous for its quality and fragrance in the world. But again absence of cooling and export facilities a large quantity of apple production is wasting.
Pakistan’s Balochistan province is gifted with a diverse landscape. Among many geological wonders here, one big attraction is the presence of 18 mud volcanoes.
Infact world’s largest and highest known mud volcano is located in Balochistan. The altitude of this highest mud volcano is 300 ft. The mud volcanoes of Balochistan are not only located on the land but from time to time they appear as small temporary islands in the Arabian Sea also.
7 out of the 18 mud volcanoes are located few kilometers from the Sapt post as mentioned above, where as rest of the 11 mud volcanoesare located further west between Kutch and Gwadar.
There are two known groups of mud volcanoes here. One is called‘Chandargup’ and other is called ‘Jabl-ul-Ghurab’. Very close to Chandargup is an ancient Hindu temple called ‘Hinglaj temple’ or ‘Nani Temple’. There are many pronunciations of the word Chandragup in practise. Due to close proximity a Hindu temple to these volcanoes, it is very likely that the word Chandargup is actually derived from the word ‘Chandargupt’. Another word which locally mentions this group of volcanoes is ‘Chandra coop’ which meansVolcanoes of the Moon.
In 1862, Major (later Sir) Frederick John Goldsmid was employed by the Governer of Bombay for special missions. One such mission was a foray into Makran lasting from December 12, 1861 to January 1862.
Goldsmid and his party commenced their journey overland from Karachi and wrote a diary of their travels upto Gwadar.
This travelogue talks about the mud volcanoes, which gives the first surviving account of their existence. In his journal Goldsmid writes about passing through bubbling springs near Ras Koocheri, taking detours to see ancient Hindu temples of Hinglaj and the mud volcanoes near Ormara. The Hindus worship these mud volcanoes as the habitation of a deity Babhaknath.
It is reported that during the infamous 8.1 intensity earthquake of Balochistan which occured on May 31, 1935 a mud volcano erupted Northwest of Quetta, near the town of Surab and kept spewing out mud for 9 hours continuously.
It is also reported that on November 28, 1945 an earthquake of 7.8 intensity occured in Arabian Sea off the coast of Makran. The earthquake caused a tsunami with a wave reaching as high as 13m at some places. This tsunami killed 4000people off the coast of Arabian Sea in Sindh and Baluchistan. Widespread destruction was reported in the towns of Pasni and Ormara.
A village called Khaddi got completely wiped off the face of earth with no survivors. Even in Karachi, waves rose several feet through Clifton and Gizri. Sea water entered the compounds of oil storage facilities at Kimari harbor in Karachi. The underwater cable link which existed in 1945 between Karachi and Muscat was interrupted. The Cape Monze lighthouse, 72 km from Karachi, was damaged. The quake was also strongly felt at Manora Island near Karachi Harbour. The 94 feet high lighthouse on Manora island was damaged and a couple of pounds of mercury spilt.
This earthquake shook and vented the mud volcanoes of Hingol so much that the gases coming out of this volcanoes got ignited and flames rose several hundred feet in the air.
The news of fiery volcanoes erupting in Balochistan (1945) spread across India. There were also reports from RAF aircraft flying in from the west of volcanic eruptions in Lasbela State in Balochistan. A Britisher named Peter Martin Kaye who was stationed at Korangi Creek Royal Air Force Flying Boat base and his friend Peter Woolf, who was also stationed at the Korangi Creek base, took two weeks leave from the base commander and set off on the 2nd of December, 1945 on an expedition along the Makran Coast. They used camels provided by the Wazir of Lasbela State as transportation. Their mission was to check out what had happened when the earthquake and tsunami struck on Makran Coast. On reaching the location of three active mud volcanoes (which they calledChandragup, Ranagup and Rajagup), concluded that the quake had released a quantity of gas at that location which had ignited in a fiery eruption giving rise to the stories of volcanic eruptions.
Another account of these eruption come from V.P. Sondhi, who in 1947 also wrote about the same volcanic phenomenon in the area near the mouth of the Hungol River in Baluchistan following the 1945 quake. According to Sondhi, the self-igniting plume of gas had erupted:
“with such great force that the flames leaped thousands of feet high into the sky.”
V.P. Sondhi also documented the emergence of three mud volcano islands in the Arabian Sea just off the coast of Makran. These off shore mud volcanoes didn’t live long and the strong wave action of Arabian Sea dissolved the muddy islands within months. By the end of 1946 these mud volcanoes were completely gone.
The geological research says that the mud volcanoes emerging out of Arabian Sea are made from highly viscous mud with high gas content. The mud gets driven up by high buoyancy forces and over time, a high mud ridge or mountain forms out of the water.
A scientist named G. Delisle had described in 2002 the emergence of a new mud volcano island in March 1999 at about the same place, this time apparently not accompanied by an earthquake, but it was also destroyed by wave action a few months later.
Mud volcanoes are generally not considered to be dangerous. In some countries likeAzerbaijan which has the largest concentration of mud volcanoes in the world, the gas eruptions from mud volcanoes are more frequent and violent than those in Pakistan, they are actually a tourist attraction. Should Pakistan do the same?
With the opening ofN10 – Makran Coastal Highway in 2004, mud volcanoes of Balochistan are now within few hours reach from Karachi.
The convenience of a world class highway is also bringing a constant stream of ‘city slickers’ to this once remote area. People are now climbing onto these sandy volcanoes in large numbers. Some preservation should be provided to these natural wonders otherwise the onslaught of tourist will deface the natural beauty.
Tourism should be allowed but within safe distance of these sandy monuments. I also recommend a visit to these volcanoes and not to mention the joy of travel on scenic Coastal Highway, which deserves a full post on its scenic route alone.
Hingol National Park, Makran, Balochistan.
Hingol National Park ( ہنگول ), 190 km, located about190 km from Karachi, covers about 1,650 km² and is one of the largest National Parks Pakistan. It lies on the Makran coast in Balochistan and is known to support at least 35 species of mammals, 65 species of amphibians and reptiles, 185 species of birds and more than 250 plant species. The park is also an excellent habitat to wild Sindh Ibex, Afghan Urial and Chinkara Gazelle.
The Hingol National Park in Pakistan is the largest National Park of the country. It is situated at the Makran Coast in the province of Baluchistan.
Princess of Hope
The Princess of Hope is a statue, founded in Hingol National Park lies on the Makran coast in Balochistan and approximately 190 km from Karachi. The name Princess of Hope was given by Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie on her visit to this area.
Karez is a human-made underground channel that passively taps the groundwater, conveys it by gravity through that channel to villages at the valley floor, where it becomes their lifeblood. These structures are found all over West Asia, Central Asia, North Africa, Spain and even as far as Peru, Mexico and Japan.
Karezes are not just irrigation structures, as I found out; they are in fact the bond that holds the social, economic and cultural life of the communities. Balochistan is one place in South Asia perhaps, where if you ask somebody how much land they have, they would generally have no idea. Land is infinite in Balochistan. It is water that matters in that arid realm. People’s social station is not determined by their landholdings in Balochistan but by the size of their share of water in a karez.
Karez water is perpetually flowing and that water is divided into 24 hour cycles called Shabanas. A karez, depending upon its size may have anywhere from 18 to 32 shabanas divided up between the karez shareholders, with individual rights ranging from a few minutes of water right to a week of water.
Karez is an incredibly equitable system between upstream and downstream users. A water user who has the first parcel of land along a karez water course, also has the last parcel of land on that channel. The one with the second parcel of land also has the second to last parcel of land and so forth. This ensures that everybody in the community has an equal stake in maintaining the entire water course, unlike in Punjab where the upstream water users invariably make out like bandits at the expense of the downstream water users.
The Dwellings of Gondrani (or Roghan Shar or shehr-e-roghan)
The town is also known as the Cave City of Lasbella, the Cave Dwellings of Gondrani, the House of the Spirits,and the town of Mai Goudrani.
The Construction Features
The caves of Gondrani, locally known as Puraney Ghar (Urdu: پرانے گھر), are carved into solid conglomerate rocks at several levels, and are connected by pathways. All the caves have small rooms with hearths and wall niches for lamps, along with verandahs or front porches.
During British rule, around 1500 caves were reported, but now only 500 remain. The caves are in poor condition and are slowly eroding. No conservation efforts have been made to protect the site because of poor accessibility and lack of knowledge of the archaeological site.
In the absence of exact archaeological knowledge there are at least a couple of theories and myths about who built these caves.The exact history of the town is not known, nor who built the caves. But there are two theories to consider.
(1)According to first theory these caves were built by the Buddhists in 7th century A.D. Reference to this claim are found in a book called ‘Al-Hind, the making of the Indo-Islamic world’. In this book there is a chapter called ‘The Frontier of Al-Hind’. An exceprt from this chapter goes like this:
In effect, at eighteen kilometer north west of Lasbela (now called Bela), at Gandakahar, newar the ruins of an ancient town, are the caves of Gondrani, and as their construction shows these caves were undoubtedly Buddhist.
This theory seems more reasonable as the presence of Buddhists in this area is also documented by Sir Thomas Holdich in these words:
“After Alexanderâ€™s death, one of his generals, Seleukas Nickator, became ruler of central and Western Asia. For many centuries after this, nothing can be traced about the history. In early seventh century the ruler of Armabel (present Bela) was a Buddhist Somani. Chach usurped the throne of the dynasty of Sindh and marched to Bela in 636 AD. Chach was cordially received at Bela and was impressed with the loyalty of the people of Bela.â€
(1) Brahman Chach was the ruler of Sindh in 7th century A.D. Lasbela at that time was part of a state called Gandava and was governed by a Buddhist.
(2) Colonel Sir Thomas Hungerford Holdich, (1843-1929) was an English geographer and president of the Royal Geographical Society. Among other achievements, he is credited with extensive surveying he did in Balochistan.
Another reference about possible Buddhist connection of Gondrani caves comes from the Imperial Gazetteer of India as follows:
The caves at Gondrani, north of Bela, hewn out of the solid conglomerate rock and possibly of Buddhist origin; and the highly ornamented tombs at Hinidan and other places, affording evidence of a system of superterrene burial, constitute the more important archaeological remains in the State.
The above reference clearly talks about historical Buddhist influence in the area around present day Bela therefore it is very likely the caves of Gondrani were built by Buddhists in the 7th century A.D.
(2) According to second theory which is more like a local myth goes like this:
Legend has it that this was the city of a nameless king during the reign of King Solomon. The king had a beautiful daughter,Badiul Jamal, who was tormented by six hideous demons who attempted to carry her off. Seven heroes came to her rescue, but all died trying to save her. Then prince Saif-ul-Muluk ride into the scene, vanquished the demons and won the princess.
It is interesting to note the myth/story of Saif-ul-Muluk in this area as well as hundreds of kilometer in North along river Kunhar. It also shows the persian influence in this area. The characters of Saif-ul-Muluk and princess Badiul Jamal come from an old Persian folktale of a prince and a fairy.