Balochistan or Baluchistan (Balochi: بلوچستان, lit. Land of the Baloch) is an arid desert and mountainous region on the Iranian plateau in south-western Asia, northwest of the Arabian Sea and the national homeland of the Baloch people. It stretches across southwestern Pakistan, southeastern Iran, and a small section of southwestern Afghanistan. The southern part of Balochistan is Makran.
The second most populous linguistic group in the region is the Pashto-speaking Pashtun people. Brahui is spoken by the Brahui people. Punjabi and Sindhi are also spoken as first languages in Pakistani Balochistan and by Hindki in Afghanistan. Urdu is used as second language in Pakistan. Persian is used as a second language in Iran and Afghanistan.
The Baloch people once referred to their land as Moka or Maka, a word which later became Makran. Moka might have been an adaptation of Mahi-khoran, Persian for "fish eaters," an appellation used by the Persians of the west for the people of coastal Balochistan. Arrian, in his Anabasis Alexandri, referred to the people of the region as the ichythophagi, a Greek translation of Mahi-khoran.
The Pashto word for Balochistan is Gwadar or Godar (also Godar-khwa, i.e., the land by water). The Greeks, who derived the names of Iranian lands from the Bactrian language, Hellenised it to Gedrosia.
In an eleventh-century Sanskrit compilation of Jataka tales (Avadānakalpalatā) by Kshemendra of Kashmir, the land is called Baloksh (बलोक्ष). From Baloksh, the name evolved and was Persianised to Balochistan.
The earliest evidence of human occupation in what is now Balochistan is dated to the Paleolithic era, represented by hunting camps and lithic scatters, chipped and flaked stone tools. The earliest settled villages in the region date to the ceramic Neolithic (c. 7000–6000 BCE) and included the site of Mehrgarh in the Kachi Plain. These villages expanded in size during the subsequent Chalcolithic, when interaction was amplified. This involved the movement of finished goods and raw materials, including chank shell, lapis lazuli, turquoise, and ceramics. By 2500 BCE (the Bronze Age), the region now known as Pakistani Balochistan had become part of the Harappan cultural orbit, providing key resources to the expansive settlements of the Indus river basin to the east.
From the 1st century to the 3rd century CE, the region was ruled by the Pāratarājas (lit. "Pārata Kings"), a dynasty of Indo-Scythian or Indo-Parthian kings. The dynasty of the Pāratas is thought to be identical with the Pāradas of the Mahabharata, the Puranas and other vedic and Iranian sources. The Parata kings are essentially known through their coins, which typically exhibit the bust of the ruler (with long hair in a headband) on the obverse, and a swastika within a circular legend on the reverse, written in Brahmi (usually silver coins) or Kharoshthi (copper coins). These coins are mainly found in Loralai in today's western Pakistan.
Herodotus in 450 BCE described the Paraitakenoi as a tribe ruled by Deiokes, a Persian king, in northwestern Persia (History I.101). Arrian describes how Alexander the Great encountered the Pareitakai in Bactria and Sogdiana, and had them conquered by Craterus (Anabasis Alexandrou IV). The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (1st century CE) describes the territory of the Paradon beyond the Ommanitic region, on the coast of modern Balochistan.
The region was fully Islamized by the 9th century and became part of the territory of the Saffarids of Zaranj, followed by the Ghaznavids, then the Ghorids. Ahmad Shah Durrani made it part of the Afghan Empire in 1749. In 1758 the Khan of Kalat, Mir Noori Naseer Khan Baloch, revolted against Ahmed Shah Durrani, defeated him, and freed Balochistan, winning complete independence. The Western Balochistan was invaded and taken by Iran in the 19th century, and its boundary was fixed in 1871. Omani influence waned in the east and Oman's last possession, Gwadar, was bought by Pakistan in 1958.
The landscape of Balochistan is composed of barren, rugged mountains and fertile, but dry land. Most of the land is barren, particularly on the Iranian and Afghan side of the region, and it is generally sparsely populated. In the south (Makran) lies the desert.
Agriculture in this region is based on horticulture supported mostly by rain water. Cultivation is often located on alluvial fans, along river-courses, and in fertile areas which are maintained through artificial irrigation systems such as qanats (holes sunk in the ground to trap water) and gabarbands (low stone and earth mounds creating raised beds which become saturated by rainfall and water run-off from the surrounding hills). In the southern Makran and oasis region (south of the Chagai Hills) date palms are cultivated. Orange orchards are also typical in southern Balochistan, particularly in Jhalawan and Sarawan.
The Baloch are the region's major ethnic group followed by Pashtun people. The majority of inhabitants of the region are Muslim. Except for the small population of Hazaras in the city of Quetta, the Sistanis in the northern part of the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchistan, and an even smaller number of other Shi'as, the overwhelming majority of the people in the Balochistan region are followers of Sunni Islam. Balochistan has a small Hindu population.
Governance and political disputes
The Balochistan region is administratively divided among three countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. The largest portion in area and population is in Pakistan, whose largest province (in land area) is Balochistan. An estimated 6.9 million of Pakistan's population is Baloch. In Iran there are about two million ethnic Baloch and a majority of the population of the eastern Sistan and Baluchestan Province is of Baloch ethnicity. The Afghan portion of Balochistan includes the Chahar Burjak District of Nimruz Province, and the Registan Desert in southern Helmand and Kandahar provinces. The governors of Nimruz province in Afghanistan belong to the Baloch ethnic group.
In Pakistan, insurgencies by Baloch nationalists in Balochistan province have been fought in 1948, 1958–59, 1962–63 and 1973-77 — with a new ongoing and reportedly stronger, broader insurgency beginning in 2003. Historically, "drivers" of the conflict are reported to include "tribal divisions", the Baloch-Pashtun ethnic divisions, "marginalization by Punjabi interests", and "economic oppression". In Iran, separatist fighting has reportedly not gained as much ground as the conflict in Pakistan, but has grown and become more sectarian since 2012, with the majority-Sunni Baloch showing a greater degree of Salafist and anti-Shia ideology in their fight against the Shia-Islamist Iranian government.
Secessionist movements include the Balochistan Liberation Army, Jundallah, Parrari, Partisans of National Liberation of Afghanistan, Popular Front for Armed Resistance, and the Baloch Republican Party.
- Sistan and Baluchistan Province
- Balochistan conflict
- Human rights violations in Balochistan
- Bolan Pass
- Seistan Force
- Balouch rug
- Lori (ethnic group)
- Jamali (ethnic group)
- Other variations of the spelling, especially on French maps, include: Beloutchistan, Baloutchistan.
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Afghanistan ... an extensive country of Asia...between Persia and the Indies, and in the other direction between the Hindu Kush and the Indian Ocean. It formerly included the Persian provinces of Khorassan and Kohistan, together with Herat, Beluchistan, Cashmere, and Sinde, and a considerable part of the Punjab... Its principal cities are Kabul, the capital, Ghuznee, Peshawer, and Kandahar
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- Kupecz, Mickey (Spring 2012). "PAKISTAN’S BALOCH INSURGENCY: History, Conflict Drivers, and Regional Implications" (PDF). INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS REVIEW 20 (3): 106. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
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- Tandon, Pankaj (2006). "New light on the Pāratarājas" (PDF). Numismatic Chronicle 166. JSTOR 42666407.
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- Ancient Baluchistan – Exploring the Past
- Persia (Iran), Afghanistan and Baluchistan is a map from 1897 published by The Century Company
- Afghanistan, Beloochistan, etc. is a map from 1893 published by the American Methodist Church
- Balochistan Archives- Preserving our Past