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Zhob Cantonment

In Zhob city the British built a huge airforce/military garrison, the Zhob Militia Mess and residences for Political Agent and Assistant Political Agents. Most of them were built during the period 1893 to 1910. Buildings which are important from an historical point of view are the Political Agent's Official residence known as "The Castle" and the Zhob Militia Mess the centennial of which was celebrated in 1989. All VIPs to Zhob can, if desired, stay overnight in one of these two buildings. There are a number of officers' bungalows, now under the occupation of army officers, situated on the VIP lane which are 80 to 100 years old. The APA house is also very old and nowadays accommodates the Assistant Commissioner.

The Zhob Militia is one of the oldest forces of the sub-continent. It was established in 1890 as the Zhob Levy Corps with Captain W.A.D. O' Mealy as its first Commandant. The Zhob Militia had jurisdiction over the region which now includes the entire Zhob division. Nowadays the ZM is headed by a Commandant with a rank of full colonel. It has four wings: at Zhob, Sambaza, Muslim Bagh and Qamardin Karaz.

Zhob city was previously called Fort Sandeman, named after Robert Sandeman, the first Agent to the Governor General of Balochistan. The name was changed on July 30 1976 by the Prime Minister of Pakistan of that time Z. A. Bhutto. The hand-written remarks inserted by him into the visitors' book (preserved at the Zhob Militia Mess) on the occasion say, "Today we have taken a decision to eliminate last vestige of colonialism of this historical place by changing the name instead (to) Zhob of Sandeman, the British conqueror and oppressor of Pathan and Baloch people and country." Traditionally, Fort Sandeman was called Appozai, named after a village situated two kilometres away.

At Shinghar, at a distance of 82 km from Zhob, at the height of 2850 metres above sea level, are a number of huts which were used by British officers. The place was the summer camp for the British Political Agent, the Assistant Political Agent, the Commandant Zhob militia, and other few officers. Arrangements were made for the pumping of water and transportation. The site is now abandoned because the present Pakistani district administrators do not seem to show the least of interest in the place. It appears a ghost town where occasionally people go for an adventurous over-night stay or a picnic. A number of forts exist in the surrounding of the district which were built by the British for the deployment of militia troops. Some of them are abandoned and have collapsed. Others are in use by the Frontier Corps and Levy. The important ones are at Mir Ali Khel, Dana Sher and Mughalkot. There is one in Qamardin Kariz under the use of FC.

The district is named after the river Zhob. It is a Pashto word which means oozing water. The Zhob river has a total length of about 410 kilometers. It is the only river in the country that follows a north-eastern course. It springs from the Kan Metarzai range, passes about 4 kilometer from Zhob city and finally flows into the Gomal river near Khajuri Kach.

The tribes inhabiting the area are indigenous to the land. Zhob is the cradle of the Afghan race. Qais Abdul Rashid, who is believed to be one of the progenitors of the Pashtoons or Afghans, lived in the Suleiman mountains near Zhob. He was born in 575 AD and died in 661 AD. Natives call the place where he is buried "Da Kase Ghar" (the mountain of Qais). The Chinese pilgrim Hiven Tsiang who visited India in 629 AD, described the Afghans as living in Zhob.

The prime historical importance of Zhob is having been a cradle of the Afghan race. In the 7th century, Hiuen Tsiang, a Chinese pilgrim has described the Afghans as living in Zhob. Early in the 13th century the country came within the sphere of the raids organised by Gengis Khan, the Mongol. In 1398 AD, an expedition against the Afghans of the area was led by Pir Muhammad, grandson of Amir Timur. Although no authentic information exist about any foreign occupation, many forts, mounds and karezes are attributed to the Mughals. Both Nadir Shah (1736-47 AD) and Ahmed Shah Abdali (1747-73 AD) extended their power through Balochistan and thenceforth Zhob remained under the more or less nominal suzerainty of the Durranis and Barakzais until it came under British protection.

In the middle of the 18th century Ahmed Shah granted a sanad (certificate) to Bekar Nika, fourth in descent from Jogi and the head of the Jogizai family, conferring upon him the title and position of "Badshah or Ruler of Zhob". This family continued to exercise authority over the Kakars until the British were first brought into contact with them.

After outbreak of the Afghan war in 1878, Zhob became a focus of the British attention when the Kakars of Zhob under the command of various sardars - the most important being Shah Jahan, Shahbaz Khan, Dost Muhammad and Bangul Khan - resisted the British authority and tried to destroy the communications. In October 1884, an expedition was sent into Zhob area to seek submission from the local dissidents. The area was part of the Afghan dynasty when the British penetrated it in 1881. After various encounters with the Kakars of Zhob the British occupied the territory and Zhob was declared a political agency in 1890. Captain MacIver was appointed first Political Agent to Zhob. A number of areas now in Zhob, Killa Saifullah, and Pishin districts were ceded to British Indian Balochistan after the Durand line in 1893. They soon became a district. However, tribesmen of Zhob always posed difficulties for the British government. In 1924, the British Political Agent to Zhob was murdered by tribesmen and during World Wars I and II military posts in the area were under continuos threat of attacks by the tribesmen.

Zhob district is the second oldest existing district of Balochistan, after Quetta. It was raised to district level in February 1890, under Captain MacIvor as the first Political Agent. The district has an important geo-strategic location. It links Afghanistan, South Waziristan Agency, D.I.Khan district, Killa Saifullah, Loralai, and MusaKhel. The district is one of the biggest districts in Balochistan. It has many agricultural and horticultural resources but not all are explored. It has a climate which is suitable for a variety of crops, fruits and nuts.

The society of Zhob district is male dominated, firmly rooted in tribalism. However, affiliation to tribal chiefs is nominal. The role of the chief (Khan) of a tribe is limited. Decisions are taken at the tribal level with the consent of a group of elders rather than the chief alone. A decision made by the group of elders of a tribe is binding. The family set-up in the district is different for rural and urban areas. Urban life is limited to Zhob city. The rest of the district is purely rural. A large number of families in the district lead a nomadic or semi-nomadic life. Most people in the district live in a joint family system. In Zhob city nuclear families occur apart from the joint families.

The population of Zhob district are religiously very conservative and strict. There is large attendance in mosques, routine prayers, and religious observance. The performing of "Hajj" (pilgrimage to Mecca) is common. Also poor people have performed Hajj. During the Ramzan, the observance of fasting is generally very strict. The role of the "Mullah" (religious leader) is very important in the performance of rituals. The role of Mullahs is still strong in rural areas where literacy is low. A Mullah is respected for being the leader in prayers, profound knowledge of the Quran and performing rituals. Sick persons visit him to be healed.

Zhob district is situated in the extreme north-east of Balochistan. Afghanistan lies to the north-west, while South Waziristan Agency (FATA) lies to the north of Zhob. The eastern boundary is marked by the Suleiman range and D.I.Khan district. Loralai and Musa Khel district border on the south and Killa Saifullah district on the immediate west. The lowest point of the district is 1500 meters above sea level. People live up to 2500 meters. The highest peak in the district is Takht-i-Suleiman (Solomon's throne) at 4000 meters.

The climate of the district is cold. In summer the weather does not get very hot. In autumn the weather becomes very dry. The region receives heavy rainfall during summer, accompanied by thunder storms from July to September as a result of diversion of monsoon winds westward from Punjab. The average annual rainfall in Zhob was 320.5 mm. over the period 1992-1995. Most of the rainfall is received during the winter months from October to March. The hilly area at higher altitude has heavy snow fall and snow storms during winters. Dust storms blow in summer and winter, but dust pollution is not so much an issue as in lower situated districts.

The average household in the district is 9 persons according to the 1981 census. This dense household average is due to poverty, close-family marriages and no family planning. Family planning in the Zhob rural areas, because of religious rigidity, is abhorred, though those who are educated think family planning is necessary for better development. The tribal homogeneity and close family system account for the joint family system. Household size is largest in Sherani sub-division. The nucleus family system exists in Zhob city.

For many generations, Zhob area has known in-migration. The large migration into the district during 1892, when the Durand Line was drawn, mainly existed of people from Afghanistan moving to Kakar Khurasan, Zhob upper sub-division and Sherani area. Since 1947, many people from Punjab and NWFP have migrated to the district. Many Powandahs have bought property and settled down in the outskirts of the Zhob city and other areas. Since 1979, the district is marked with a huge influx of Afghan refugees in all three sub-divisions of the district. People from tribes living across the border in Afghanistan have moved to the district as well. The population of Kakar Khurasan has increased dramatically since then. The exact number of immigrants over the last decade and a half are not known. According to the 1981 census their number was 6,420 at the time, but unofficial reports indicated much higher figures.

Out-migration exists of people who have gone abroad to other cities and Gulf countries for better livelihood. A large number of Sherani tribesmen have gone to Gulf countries. Many people from Zhob live as temporary immigrants in Lahore, Karachi, and Faisalabad, engaged in fruit and transportation business. Many Kakar tribesmen have migrated to India and are citizens of India now.

The traditional tribal channel has proved to be more effective in conflict resolution than the government channel. The previous "Jirga" system was more effective. The Jirga was a traditional system of justice which was actively practised in Balochistan to settle legal cases and disputes concerning law and order. The system, in practice since British rule, was modified under the Special Provision Ordinance (Criminal Provisions 11) of 1968 to make it more convenient for justice. The system was abolished in 1991. The government however still forms informal Jirgas (comprising notables etc) for conflict resolution, as they have proven to be very effective. In this case government lets the Jirga decide on the matter and adopts its proposed solution. A small Jirga can be formed by the Political Agent with the consultation of the notables of the tribes involved in the dispute to settle a problem. A Jirga at higher level may need the approval of the Commissioner or higher authorities. A Jirga is needed in the settlement of a number of tribal disputes in the district. In case of the settlement of a inter-tribal conflict, a solution can be reached by mobilising the Jirga of both tribes.

The population possess a large number of weapons. According to the Political Agent office report, both traditional and advanced weapons have been used in different situations. They include traditional rifles and 12-bore shot-guns, and advanced weapons. The use of rocket launchers and mortar gun has been reported as well.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 13:02:51 ZULU