Balochistan is the largest province by area of Pakistan, constituting approximately 48% of the total area of Pakistan. At the 1998 census, Balochistan had a population of roughly 6.6 million. Covering a sizable portion of the country, it is Pakistan’s largest province, as well as its poorest and least populated.
Its neighbouring regions are Iran to the west, Afghanistan and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province to the north, Punjab and Sindh provinces to the east. To the south is the Arabian Sea. The main languages in the province are Balochi, Saraiki, Brahui, Pashto, and Sindhi. The capital, and only city, is Quetta; all the other towns and villages are underdeveloped. The Baloch and Pashtun people constitute the two major ethnic groups; a mixed ethnic stock, mainly of Sindhi origin, forms the third major group (Sindhi Baloch) Balochistan is rich in mineral resources; it is the second major supplier, after Sindh province, of natural gas.
The province of Balochistan (or Baluchistan) in Pakistan contains most of historical Balochistan and is named after the Baloch. Neighbouring regions are Iranian Balochistan to the west, Afghanistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to the north and Punjab and Sindh to the east. To the south is the Arabian Sea. The principal languages in the province are Baluchi, Pashto, Brahui, and Persian. The capital and largest city is Quetta.
Very cold winters and hot summers characterize the climate of the upper highlands. 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, especially the arid zones of Chaghai and Kharan districts. The plain areas are also very hot in summer with temperatures rising as high as 120 °F (50 °C). 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
A number of tribes constitute to make people of Balochistan. Three major tribes are Baloch, Pashtoon and Brahvi. The Balochi speaking tribes include Rind, Lashar, Marri, Jamot, Ahmedzai, Bugti Domki, Magsi, Khosa, Rakhashani, Dashti, Umrani, Nosherwani, Gichki, Buledi, Sanjarani and Khidai. Each tribe is further sub-divided into various branches. The tribal chief is called Sardar while head of sub-tribe is known as Malik, Takari or Mir. Sardars and Maliks are members of district and other local Jirgas according to their status. The Baloch, believed to have originally come from Arabia or Asia minor, can be divided in to 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 aIso claim their Baloch origin.
Brahvi speaking tribe include Raisani, Shahwani, Sumulani, Bangulzai, Mohammad Shahi, Lehri, Bezenjo, Mohammad Hasni, Zarakzai (Zehri) , Mengal and Lango, 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 adddition to Balochi, Pashtoo 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, Pashtoo, Brahvi and Sindhi speaking people but Punjabi, Darri and Persian speaking ones as well. Dehwar tribe of Sarawan sub-division in Kalat, also speaks a language derived from Persian.
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 religion which 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 goat for their guest. 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
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 trouser) 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 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. On 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 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 performance, 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 the each other.
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.
Quetta being the capital of the city has a 5 stat hotel The few other 3 star hotels like lourds hotel. In the southern most port city of Gawadar there are the hotels . Rest of Balochistan there are few guest houses and 2 Motels in Taftan & Khuzdar.
All rivers and streams are part of three major drainage systems. Coastal drainage system is characterized by small, ephemeral streams and hill torrents. Rivers and streams that do not possess any significant perennial flow constitute Inland system that dominates the central and northwestern area of the province. Nari, Kaha and Gaj rivers are part of 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 rivers beds are dry and look like small streams. Stream gradients are high and the rate of run off 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.
Balochistan Plateau East of the Sulaiman and Kirthar ranges lies the Balochistan Plateau with an average altitude of 2,000 ft.(610 m). The physical features of the plateau are very varied, but mountains, plateaus and basins predominate the scene. The Mountains spread in various directions, attaining height 6,000- 11,000 ft. (1,830-3,335 m).
In the north are the Toba Kakar Range and Chagai hills which form the border of Pakistan with Afghanistan for some distance. In the west-central part is the Siahan Range and in the east-southern corner the Mekran Range. Except for the Toba Kakar Range, which is dotted here and there with juniper, tamarisk and pistachio trees, all other ranges are naked and bleak. The mountains are carved off by innumerable channels and hill torrents which contain water only after rains. Very little water, however, reaches the basins lying on their foot. Comparatively more important rivers are Zhob, Bolan and Mulla, located in the north-eastern portion of Balochistan.
The valleys of the main streams and their tributaries exhibit similar feature and consist of flat plains of alluvial soil in the centre, with a pebbly slope of varying length rising on either sides of the mountains. It is from these pebbly beds that the supply of water for irrigation is chiefly obtained through Karezes. Zhob, Bloan and their tributaries have formed two important alluvial basins of Balochistan, namely, the Lorlai basin and Quetta basin, which together produce a major portion of Balochistan’s crops and fruits: wheat, barley, maize, lucerne, potato, apple, apricot, peach, almond, grape and pomegranate. Kalat Plateau at 7,000-8,000 ft. (2,135-2,440 m), in the centre of Balochistan is the most important plateau.
The largest desert is found in western Balochistan. This is an area of inland drainage and dry lakes (hamuns), the largest of which is Hamun-i-Mashkhel, which is 54 miles long and 22 miles wide. The surface is littered with sun-cracked clay, oxidized pebbles, salty marshes and crescent-shaped moving sand dunes. The area is known particularly for its constant mirage and sudden severe sand-storms. Being outside the sphere of monsoon current, Balochistan receives scanty and irregular rainfall (4 inches); the temperature is very high in summer and very low in winter.
Owing to continuous draught, there is very little vegetation. Most of the people, therefore, lead nomadic life, raising camels, sheep and goats. Balochistan is, however, fortunate to have considerable mineral wealth of natural gas, coal, chromate, lead, sulphur and marble. The reserves of natural gas at Sui are among the largest in the world. The gas is piped to Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Multan, Faisalabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Quetta for use as industrial power.
Mountain ranges of Baluchistan
The plateau of Baluchistan has a number of mountain ranges which although barren are rich with mineral resources. These ranges form natural borders with Iran and Afghanistan. The passes through these mountains connect Pakistan with Afghanistan. Some important ranges are:
The Chaghi Range forms a triangular border with Afghanistan and Iran. The famous Gonshero Pass is located here. The Chaghi Range is rich with minerals like copper, gold and sulphur. Pakistan carried out its first nuclear test at Chaghi.
2. The Central Brahui Range
The 360 km long Brahui Range is the southern branch of Himalayas lying in the central Baluchistan. It meets the Suleiman Range at Quetta. The range is covered with Juniper Forests. Here Limestone is found in abundance. The Khilafat Peak is the highest peak of this range with a height of 3,487 meters. The major passes through this range are Bolan Pass, Harnai Pass and Mula Pass.
The 400 km long Suleiman Range lies in a north to south direction parallel to the Indus River. Its height decreases as it extends southwards with 1,520 meters being the average height. Kaisargarh with a height of 3,441 meters and Takhat-e-Suleiman (throne of Suleiman) 3,379 meters high are the highest peaks situated in the North. Juniper Forests are found in the northern side of the range where as the southern side is barren. Minerals like Limestone and Sandstone are found in this area.
The Toba Kakar range lies in the north and forms a border with Afghanistan. Unlike most of the Baluchistan ranges, it has vegetation in the form of juniper, pistachio and tamarisk trees.
Other mountain ranges of Baluchistan are Siahan Range, Makran Coast Range, Ras Koh and Hala Range.
Along Bolan Pass, where the road winds through the picturesque mountains one is reminded of the huge odds that the armies from Central Asia and north must have faced when swooping down the plains of he present day Pakistan.
The Khojak Pass leads directly to the border of Afghanistan which is 153 kms away from Quetta. The scenery is as breath-taking here as it is at Bolan Pass. The journey to the border town of Chaman passes through a 4 kms tunnel, more than 1945 meters above sea level.
Lak Pass is located between Kalat and Quetta. Here the highway takes a turn for Koh-e-Taftan, Saindak copper mines and Zahidan in Iran. On the hills, oblivious to the presence of the traffic and humans, hundreds of sheep browse upon the scant grass available.
Forts and museums
The Archaeological Museum, Fifa Road. Open 9AM-3PM daily.
Has a collection of rare antique guns, swords and manuscripts. It has a display of Stone Age tools, prehistoric pottery and articles found from Mehrgarh. There are also coins, manuscripts and photos of Quetta before 1935 earthquake.
The Geological Museum, Sariab Road (near Balochistan University). Has a collection of rocks and fossils found in Balochistan. The Command and Staff College Museum is worth a visit for those interested in British military history. It is housed in the former bungalow of Field Marshal Montgomery
Kasi Fort, 20 km (12 miles)
Pishin Fort, 24 km (15 miles)
Khuni Qila, 31 km (19 miles)
Qila Sardaran, 43 km (27 miles
The Askari Park at the Airport Road and Liaquat Park on Shahrah-e-Iqbal offer amusement and recreational facilities. Balochistan Arts Council Library is located on Jinnah Road. The Chiltan Hill viewpoint on Brewery Road offers a panoramic view of Quetta. Karkhasa is a recreation Park situated at distance of 10 km to the west of Quetta. It is a 16 km long narrow valley having a variety of flora like Ephedra, Artemisia and Sophora. One can see birds like partridges and other wild birds in the park. Limited recreational facilities are provided to the visitors through the Forest Department, Spinney Road, Quetta.
Flora and fauna Of Baluchistan
A wide variety of Mammals like Markhor, “Gad” (wild sheep), leopards, wolves, hyena, rabbits, wild cats and porcupines can be found in Quetta. While Birds may contain species of partridge, warblers, shikra, blue rock pigeon, rock nuthatch, golden eagle, sparrows, hawks, falcons and bearded vultures. For Flora of Quetta, one may find about 225 species of some pretty exotic plants like; pistachios, juniper, wild olives, wild ash and wild almonds. Also found amongst such Flora are wide range of shrubs like; wild fig, barbery, wild cherry, makhi and herbs like; Ephedra intermadia, as well as gerardiana.
• Hazarganji Chiltan National Park
• Quetta/The Capital City
Shrine of Baba Kharwari