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Balochistan

Baluchistan is the largest of all provinces of modern-day Pakistan, making up nearly two-fifths of the entire country. The enormity of its size, contrasts strikingly with its low percentage of population and its economic destitution, particularly in comparison to Punjabis, Sindhis and Pathans. The province of Balochistan accounts for 43 per cent of Pakistan's territory but is the smallest in terms of population. Around 7 million inhabitants live in Balochistan, divided into various Baloch and Pushtun tribes. Quetta is both a Baloch and Pushtun city with a sizeable number of Punjabis and Urdu-speakers. By once account, there are more Baloch in Karachi than in the entire province of Balochistan. By another account, the majority of the Baluch people reside in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan.

The Province of Balochistan, which borders both Iran and Afghanistan, is notorious for narcotics and other forms of cross-border smuggling. Members of the Taliban and Al-Qaida are also believed to be present there. Tribal unrest sometimes turns violent. Because provincial police presence is limited, travelers wishing to visit the interior of Balochistan should consult with the province's Home Secretary. Advance permission from provincial authorities is required for travel into many areas. Local authorities have detained travelers who lacked proper permission. Quetta, the provincial capital, has experienced an increase in bombings, occasional gun battles in the streets, and the imposition of curfews. Terrorist attacks against Pakistani government installations and infrastructure have been reported throughout 2005 and 2006.

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 drought, 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.

The, Baluch who have lived and ruled in Baluchistan for over a thousand years, were never in absolute numerical majority. Their traditional rivals, the Pathans and Brahuis combined together are more numerous. A large number of Baluch live in other provinces and areas. Presently, besides Pathans, Baluchies and Brahuis, Hazaras, Sindhis, Punjabies, and Urdu speaking Mohajirs also live in Baluchistan. Some of Persian speaking shiate Hazaras of Baluchistan have risen to very senior ranks in Pakistan army and airforce, among them General Mohammad Musa ex-C-in-C of Pakistan Army later the Governor of Baluchistan and Air Marshal Sherbat Ali Khan Changezi in PAF.

Baluchistan is sparse in population with a density of only 12 per kilometer which is the lowest in Pakistan. The comparatively more populous areas are generally located in the north east. The largest city is Quetta. Turbat, the second most populous city is an exception, in that it lies in south western Baluchistan close to the Iranian border. The total population of Baluchistan - the Baluch, Brauhis, Pathans, Sindhis, Punjabies, Mohajirs, Lasis, Medes and Jats all put together, is 4.3 million. It constitutes 5 percent of the population of Pakistan.

The Baluch-like Brahuis are negligible in the north eastern part of Baluchistan. The north east of Baluchistan is a Pathan majority area. From the above study emerges a distinct picture of Baluch and non-Baluch population areas. The province may be divided into two major ethnic parts, that is, Eastern and Western Baluchistan along the Central Brahui Range. The western Baluchistan is mostly inhabited by the Baluchis, their age old allies Brahuis and the other tribes of low social status as Lasis, Jats and Medes. The Kharan division is predominatly populated by Jats and Medes, Las Bela by Lasis. Brahuis are mostly concentrated in Kalat plateau.

Curiously enough certain types of people have gravitated to selected areas. For instance, the people of Makran have a distinct centuries old Arab heritage. The other example is of Gwadat the Makran coast which has had a long association with Muscat-Oman. To this day Muscat army recruits the Baluchis from Gwadar. Eastern Seistan of Iran has for long periods been influenced by developments in western Baluchistan to east of the Goldsmid line. The Nowsherwanis of Kharan have had affinities with Seistan, Iran.

The western Baluchistan, primarily a Baluch majority area, is arid and undeveloped. Its location along the Arabian coast line and shared borders with Afghanistan and Iran make it a sensitive area. Remoteness from the provincial capital, polemics of local politics, and long uprotected borders have provided opportunities to alien ideas and foreign agents for clandestine operations. It has served as haven for spies, smugglers and refugees in the past, as it may in the future.

Eastern Baluchistan is better developed. Here, barring the Marri-Bugti area, the population of Baluchies and Brahuis is small. Its chief inhabitants, are the Pushtoons. They have roots both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Pushtoons are in possession of the fertile lands of the Zhob valley in. the north eastern Upper Highland of Baluchistan. They are more prosperous and advanced than th Baluchis. Eastern . Baluchistan has more developed communication network. On the border along Afghanistan there are some natural "gates" like Khojak and Gomal, which can be manned. it is well defended and does not present the type of security problems found in western Baluchistan. Eastern Qaluchistan has often acted as a counterpoise to western Baluchistan, politically, economically and militarily.

The general population pattern of Baluchistan in the mid nineteenth century was the same as now. Its heterogenous population with deep tribal feelings and lack of unity among the various tribes, had allowed the British to enter in the province in early nineteenth century. Bounded on the N. by Afghanistan and the North- West Frontier Province, on the E. by Sindh, the Panjab, and a part of the Frontier Province, on the S. by the Arabian Sea, on the W. by Persia, the boundary disputes were settled in 1905. Under the British, the main divisions were : (1) British and administered territory in the north of the Province ; (2) the native States of Kalat and Las Bela, the former consisting of a confederation of tribes under the Khan of Kalat, and stretching westwards to Persia, while the latter occupies the alluvial valley between the Pab and Hala ranges from the sea to Bela; (3) tribal areas occupied by the Marri and Bugti tribes, semi-independent, but subject to the control of the Political Agent in Sihi.

Baluchistan became a part of Pakistan after the withdrawal of the British on 14 August 1947. Baluchistan was different from other parts of Pakistan in certain respects, since it had not long been given the status of a province with a government responsible to an elected legislature. The Quaid had wanted to see Baluchistan as a full-fledged province with all the democratic institutions that must of need go with it in a larger scheme of Pakistan. Baluchistan could not be raised to the status of a fullfledged province without merging the adjoining tribal areas with what was called "British Baluchistan". Nor could the realities of the prevailing Tribal Responsibility System and Treaty Obligations with neighbouring principalities be ignored.

The Khan was hobnobbing with Foreign Governments, especially Britain, India and Afghanistan over and above the Pakistan Foreign office. Baluchistan's long common borders' with Afghanistan, Iran and two of Kalat's feudatories exposure to the sea along the Makran coastline made Kalat's accession to Pakistan imperative in the interests of Pakistan's security. Indeed, the accession of Kalat and defence of Pakistan was closely linked, and on no terms could Pakistan's security interests be compromised.

By the fall of 1950, Liaquat Ali Khan had appointed a "Reform Committee on Baluchistan" with the mandate to recommend constitutional and administrative changes in the existing set-up of the province with due regard to political, social and economic conditions prevailing therein. About a month after the death of Mr Liaquat All Khan on November 17, 1951, the Committee presented its report to the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. It recommended the formation of a Governor's province in Baluchistan without disturbing the existing institution of the Sardari System. The princely states of Baluchistan were also to be given due protection.

About five months after the submission of the report, on April 12, 1951, the Central Government through an administrative measure, and contrary to the recommendations of the report, decided on fusion of Baluchistan's four states, Kalat, Kharan, Makran and Las Bela. Subsequently the states signed a suplementary instrument of accession integrating their territories into a single Baluchistan States Union. On June 16, 1954, it was finally decided through the Council of Rulers of the Baluchistan States Union to merge the four stales with the centrally administered Baluchistan. It is said that initially the Khan of Kalat was opposed to the merger and his cooperation wis secured under duress.

There had been a discernible change in the demography, economic conditions and life styles of the people in Baluchistan. The Hindus and Sikhs, who earlier formed a sizeable section of the population and dominated in the provincial headquarters in Quetta, migrated to India after partition, leaving a big gap of personnel in public and private sectors, trade, commerce and education. Their shops, houses and jobs were filled, in almost equal numbers, by refugees from the Indian (East) Punjab, Delhi and U.P. The newcomers, together with the Christian and Parsi minorities, and settlers from the neighbouring NWFP and Punjab, were comparatively more advanced and better educated than the locals ['mulki' Pathans, Baluchis and Brahuis]. The 'bazar' was dominated by the Punjabis, Mohajirs and Pathans from NWFP. Even so was the mineral coal industry. The advent of Independence, therefore, did not eliminate the 'in-group' and 'out-group' feelings that had previously existed in Baluchistan between the Locals and the Non-Locals. In fact the competition between these groups and subgroups, soon seemed to have further accentuated these feelings.



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