Balochistan

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History

Isolated remains of Homo Erectus in has been found indicating that Pakistan might have been inhabited since atleast the Middle Pleistocene era. The precise date of these remains is unclear, and archaeologists put it anywhere between 200,000 to 500,000 BCE. The fossils are the earliest human remains found in South Asia. More than 60% of Pakistanis have their mtDNA maternal roots in South Asian specific branches of haplogroup 'M'. Because of its great time depth and virtual absence in western Eurasians, it has been suggested that haplogroup M was brought to Asia after their evolution in Africa, along the southern route, by the earliest migration wave of anatomically modern humans, Homo Sapiens, nearly 60,000 years ago

The original inhabitants of Pakistan may have been the tribals speaking languages related to Munda family of languages. Pakistan was the site of the world's oldest 8,000 year old civilisation at Mehrgarh in the Balochistan province. The Mehrgarh declined about the same time as the Indus Valley Civilization only 200 Kilometers south east was developing. It has been surmised that the Mehrgarh residents moved to fertile Indus River valley as Balochistan became arid over time. Shahi Tump in the valley of Kej in Mekran was also settled during Indus Valley Civilization era. Balochistan was invaded by various Eurasian groups including the Aryans, Persians, Greeks, Kushans, Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Mughals, Afghans, and the British. Aryan invasions appear to have led to the eventual demise of the Elamo-Dravidians with the exception of the Brahui who may have arrived much later as did the Balochis themselves. The Balochis began to arrive from their homeland in northern Iran and appear to be an offshoot of the Kurdish tribes from Kurdistan that would mainly populate the western end of the Iranian plateau. The Balochi tribes eventually became a sizable group rivalled only by another Iranian group, the Pakhtuns, while the Brahuis increasingly came under the cultural influence of the Balochis. Umayyad Muslim Arab army led by Muhammad bin Qasim conquered annexed the region and conversion to Islam was coupled with the Balochi assimilation of Arab culture as well. Today, many Balochis believe that their origins are Semitic and not Iranian contrary to linguistic and historical evidence. Balochi tradition holds that they left their Aleppo homeland in Syria at some point during the 1st millennium CE and moved to Balochistan, but it appears more likely that the Balochis are an Iranian group who have absorbed some Arab ancestry and cultural traits instead. Balochistan subsequently was dominated by empires based in Iran and Afghanistan as well as the Mughal empire based in South Asia. Ahmad Shah Durrani annexed the region as part of a greater Afghanistan. The area would eventually revert to local Balochi control, while parts of the northern regions would continue to be dominated by Pakhtun tribes. The Muslim technocrats, bureaucrats, soldiers, traders, scientists, architects, teachers, theologians and sufis flocked from the rest of the Muslim world to Islamic Sultanate in South Asia and many settled in Balochistan. During the period of the British rule, there were four Princely States in Balochistan: Makran, Kharan, Las Bela and Kalat, the largest and most powerful. At independence in 1947, Balochistan became part of Pakistan. Parts of Balochistan were held by Oman as late as the 1950s, but they were eventually turned over to Pakistan. Included in these areas is the coastal city of Gwadar.

Geography

Balochistan is located at the eastern edge of the Iranian plateau and in the difficult to define border region between Southwest, Central, and South Asia. It is geographically the largest of the four provinces at 347,190 km² and composes 42% of the total land area of Pakistan. Balochistan province borders Sarhad and Afghanistan in the north, Punjab and Sindh in the east, Iran in the west and Arabian Sea in the South. The population density is very low due to the mountainous terrain and scarcity of water. The southern region is known as Makran. A region in the centre of the province is known as Kalat. The Sulaiman Mountains dominate the northeast corner and the Bolan Pass is a natural route into Afghanistan towards Kandahar. Much of the province south of the Quetta region is sparse desert terrain with pockets of inhabitable towns mostly near rivers and streams. The capital city is Quetta, located in the most densely populated district in the northeast of the province. Quetta is situated in a river valley near the border with Afghanistan, with a road to Kandahar in the northwest. At Gwadar on the coast the Pakistani government is currently undertaking a large project with Chinese help to build a large port. This is being done partially to provide the Pakistan Navy with another base, and to reduce Pakistan's reliance on Karachi and Port Muhammad Bin Qasim, which currently are the only major ports.

Demographics and Society

Balochistan has a population of around 10 million inhabitants. The Baloch numerically dominate the south of the province, while the Pakhtuns are the majority in and around Quetta and the north. Near the Kalat region and other parts of the region the Brahui are a significant presence, while along the coast various Makrani peoples of mixed origins can be found such as the Meds and small groups of descendents of African known as the Habshi, from Hubsh which means Ethiopia in Arabic, can also be found. Persian-speaking Dehwars also live in the Kalat region and further west towards the border with Iran. The major Baloch tribes are: Bugti, Mengal, Marri, Bizenjo, Jamali, etc. In addition, nearly one million Afghan refugees can be found in the province including Pakhtuns, Tajiks, and Hazaras. Sindhi farmers have also moved to the more arable lands in the east especially in Las Bela district. Over 99% of the population is Muslim with Sunni majority and a Shia minority. There are also small Zikri, Hindu and Christian minorities.

Economy

The economy of the province is largely based upon the production of natural gas, coal and minerals. The province's natural resources significantly help to meet the energy needs of Pakistan as a whole, but mainly benefit Pakhtun mine workers than the more nomadic Baloch. Infrastructure outside of Quetta is still in development as is the province as a whole. Tourism remains limited but has increased due to the exotic appeal of the province. Limited farming in the east as well as fishing along the Arabian Sea coastline are other forms of income and sustenance for the local populations. Due to the tribal lifestyle of many Baloch and Brahui, animal husbandry is important as are trading bazaars found throughout the province.Though the province remains underdeveloped, changes are coming as plans for pipelines running from Iran and as well Central Asian pipelines are all envisioned to be built in Balochistan.

Districts

Awaran
Barkhan
Bolan
Chagai
Dera Bugti
Gwadar
Jafarabad
Jhal Magsi
Kalat
Kharan
Kohlu
Khuzdar
Qilla Abdullah
Qilla Saifullah
Lasbela
Loralai
Mastung
Musakhel
Nasirabad
Panjgur
Pishin
Quetta
Sibi
Turbat or Kech
Zhob
Ziarat

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page last updated: Sunday, February 12, 2006 10:28:01 -0500