Balochistan, Pakistan

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Balochistan
بلوچستان
Province
Flag of Balochistan
Flag
Official seal of Balochistan
Seal
Location of Balochistan
Location of Balochistan
Coordinates: 30°07′N 67°01′E / 30.12°N 67.01°E / 30.12; 67.01Coordinates: 30°07′N 67°01′E / 30.12°N 67.01°E / 30.12; 67.01
Country  Pakistan
Established 14 August 1947
Provincial Capital Quetta
Largest city Quetta
Government
 • Type Province
 • Body Provincial Assembly
 • Governor Muhammad Achakzai (PkMAP)
 • Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch (NP)
 • Legislature Unicameral (124 seats)
 • High Court Balochistan High Court
Area
 • Total 347,190 km2 (134,050 sq mi)
Population (2012)
 • Total 13,162,222
Time zone PKT (UTC+5)
ISO 3166 code PK-BA
Main Language(s) Urdu (National), Balochi, Pashto, Sindhi, Brahui
Provincial Assembly seats 65
Districts 32
Union Councils 86
Website www.balochistan.gov.pk

Balochistan (Balochi, Pashto: بلوچِستان Urdu: بلوچِستان‎, Balōčistān, pronounced [bəloːt͡ʃɪst̪ɑːn]), is one of the four provinces of Pakistan, located in the southwestern region of the country. Its provincial capital and largest city is Quetta. It shares borders with Punjab and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to the northeast, Sindh to the southeast, the Arabian Sea to the south, Iran to the west, and Afghanistan to the north.

Most of the province's inhabitants are Balochs, Pashtuns and Brahuis though there are smaller communities of Iranian Balochs, Hazaras, Sindhis, Punjabis, and other settlers such as the Uzbeks, and Turkmens. The name Balochistan means "the land of the Baloch" in many regional languages. Although largely underdeveloped, the provincial economy is dominated by natural resources, especially its natural gas fields, which supply the entire country. Gwadar Port also plays a significant role in the economic development of the province.

Balochistan is noted for its unique culture, extremely dry desert climate, and the Sulaiman Mountains.[1]

History

A Baloch shepherd, from a 1900 photo
Quetta cantonment in 1889

Early history

Map showing the sites and extent of the Indus Valley Civilisation. Mohenjo-Daro and Mehrgarh were one of the centers of the Indus Valley Civilisation, both located in modern-day Pakistani Balochistan. Pakistani Balochistan marked the westernmost territory of the civilisation, and the latter was one of the most developed in the old Bronze Age in the world.

Balochistan occupies the southeastern-most portion of the Iranian Plateau, the site of the earliest known farming settlements in the pre-Indus Valley Civilization era, the earliest of which was Mehrgarh, dated at 7000 BC, located in modern-day Pakistani Balochistan. Pakistani Balochistan marked the westernmost extent of the Indus Valley Civilisation. Before the arrival of Islam in the 7th Century, parts of Pakistani Balochistan was ruled by the Paratarajas a Parthian dynasty representing the House of Suren. At certain times, the Scythians and Kushans also held political sway on parts of Pakistani Balochistan controlling it through local governors called Satraps.[citation needed]

A theory of the origin of the Baloch people, the largest ethnic group in the region, is that they are of Median descent,[2] and are a Kurdish group that has absorbed Dravidian genes and cultural traits, primarily from Brahui people.[citation needed] With time, Baloch tribes linguistically absorbed all the local people in Makran, southern Sistan and the Brahui country, becoming rival in size to the other Iranian-speaking groups in the region.[citation needed]

In 654, Abdulrehman ibn Samrah, governor of Sistan and the newly emerged Rashidun caliphate at the expense of Sassanid Persia and the Byzantine Empire, sent an Islamic army to crush a revolt in Zaranj, which is now in southern Afghanistan. After conquering Zaranj, a column of the army pushed north, conquering Kabul and Ghazni, in the Hindu Kush mountain range, while another column moved through Quetta District in north-western Balochistan and conquered the area up to the ancient cities of Dawar and Qandabil (Bolan).[3] By 654, the whole of what is now Balochistan was controlled by the Rashidun Caliphate, except for the well-defended mountain town of QaiQan which is now Kalat. However, this town was later conquered during the reign of Caliph Ali.[4][citation needed] Abdulrehman ibn Samrah made Zaranj his provincial capital and remained governor of these conquered areas from 654 to 656, until Uthman was murdered.[citation needed]

During the Caliphate of Ali, revolt broke out in southern Balochistan's Makran region.[citation needed] Due to civil war in the Rashidun Caliphate, Ali was unable to deal with these areas until 660, when he sent a large force, under the command of Haris ibn Marah Abdi, towards Makran and Sindh.[citation needed] Haris ibn Marah Abdi arrived in Makran and conquered it by force, and then moved northward to north-eastern Balochistan and reconquered Qandabil (Bolan). Finally, he moved south and conquered Kalat after a fierce battle.[5] In 663, during the reign of Umayyad Caliph Muawiyah I, Muslims lost control of north-eastern Balochistan and Kalat when Haris ibn Marah and large part of his army died in battle against a revolt in Kalat.[6] Muslim forces later regained control of the area during the Umayyad reign. It also remained a part of the Abbasid Caliphate.

In the 15th century, Mir Chakar Khan Rind became the first king of Afghan and Pakistani Balochistan, after which the region was dominated by the Timurids, who controlled most of Central and Western Asia. The Mughal Empire also controlled some parts of the area. When Nadir Shah won the allegiance of the rulers of eastern Balochistan, he ceded Kalhora, one of the Sindh territories of Sibi-Kachi to the Khan of Kalat.[7][8][9] Ahmad Shah Durrani, founder of the Afghan Empire, also won the allegiance of that area's rulers. Most of the area would eventually revert to local Baloch control, after Afghan rule.

British rule

During the period of the British Raj, there were four Princely States in Balochistan: Makran, Kharan, Las Bela and Kalat. In 1876, Sir Robert Sandeman negotiated the Treaty of Kalat, which brought the Khan's territories, including Kharan, Makran, and Las Bela, under British suzerainty.[10] After the Second Afghan War was ended by the Treaty of Gandamak in May 1879, the Afghan Emir ceded the districts of Quetta, Pishin, Harnai, Sibi and Thal Chotiali to the British. In 1883, the British took control of the Bolan Pass, south-east of Quetta, from the Khan of Kalat. In 1887, some areas of Balochistan were declared British territory. In 1893, Sir Mortimer Durand negotiated an agreement with the Amir of Afghanistan, Abdur Rahman Khan, to fix the Durand Line running from Chitral to Balochistan as the boundary between the Emirate of Afghanistan and British-controlled areas. Two devastating earthquakes occurred in Balochistan during British colonial rule: the 1935 Balochistan Earthquake, which devastated Quetta, and the 1945 Balochistan Earthquake with its epicentre in the Makran region.[citation needed]

After independence

In August 1947 the Chief Commissioner's Province of Balochistan immediately became part of Pakistan, followed by the princely states of Makran, Kharan, Las Bela, and the Khanate of Kalat, who decided to accede to Pakistan in March 1948. The Khan of Kalat agreed to join Pakistan under the condition that defence, currency, foreign relations, and finance would be controlled by the federal government, but that the province would remain otherwise autonomous. The four princely states together formed the Balochistan States Union in October 1952. The enclave of Gwadar was excluded from this as it was still part of the Sultanate of Oman.[citation needed]

In October 1955, formation of one unit resulted in the Balochistan States Union and the Chief Commissioner's Province of Balochistan being merged with all the remaining provinces and princely states in other parts of Pakistan to form the province of West Pakistan. The enclave of Gwadar was purchased from Oman in October 1958 and was also merged with West Pakistan. The province was officially dissolved in 1970 and the former Balochistan States Union, former Chief Commissioner's Province of Balochistan were combined to form the new province of Balochistan. The government of Pakistan later decided to incorporate Gwadar in to Balochistan in 1977, thus expanding Balochistan province to its current form.[citation needed]Insurgencies by Baloch nationalists took place in 1948, 1958–59, 1962–63 and 1973-77[11] — with a new and reportedly stronger ongoing insurgency by autonomy-seeking Baloch groups beginning in 2003.[11][12] The Pakistan government is considering bringing Indian involvement to the United Nations.[13][14][15][16]

At a press conference on 8 June 2015 in Quetta, Home Minister Sarfraz Bugti accused India's prime minister of openly supporting terrorism. Bugti implicated India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of being responsible for recent attacks at military bases in Smangli and Khalid, and for subverting the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) agreement.[17][18][19]

Geography

Balochistan is situated in the southwest of Pakistan and covers an area of 347,190 square kilometres (134,050 sq mi). It is Pakistan's largest province by area, constituting 44% of Pakistan's total land mass. The province is bordered by Afghanistan to the north and north-west, Iran to the south-west, Punjab and Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to the north-east. To the south lies the Arabian Sea. Balochistan is located on the south-eastern part of the Iranian plateau. It borders the geopolitical regions of the Middle East and Southwest Asia, Central Asia and South Asia. Balochistan lies at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz and provides the shortest route from seaports to Central Asia. Its geographical location has placed the otherwise desolate region in the scope of competing global interests for all of recorded history.

The capital city Quetta is located in a densely populated portion of the Sulaiman Mountains in the north-east of the province. It is situated in a river valley near the Bolan Pass, which has been used as the route of choice from the coast to Central Asia, entering through Afghanistan's Kandahar region. The British and other historic empires have crossed the region to invade Afghanistan by this route.[20]

Balochistan is rich in exhaustible and renewable resources; it is the second major supplier of natural gas in Pakistan. The province's renewable and human resource potential has not been systematically measured or exploited due to pressures from within and without Pakistan. Local inhabitants have chosen to live in towns and have relied on sustainable water sources for thousands of years.

Climate

The climate of the upper highlands is characterised by very cold winters and hot summers.[21] In the lower highlands, winters vary from extremely cold in northern districts Ziarat, Quetta, Kalat, Muslim Baagh and Khanozai to milder conditions closer to the Makran coast. Winters are mild on the plains, with temperature never falling below freezing point. Summers are hot and dry, especially in the arid zones of Chagai and Kharan districts. The plains are also very hot in summer, with temperatures reaching 50 °C (122 °F).The record highest temperature, 53 °C (127 °F), was recorded in Sibi on 26 May 2010,[22] exceeding the previous record, 52 °C (126 °F). Other hot areas includes, Turbat, and Dalbandin. The desert climate is characterised by hot and very arid conditions. Occasionally strong windstorms make these areas very inhospitable.

Economy

The economy of Balochistan is largely based upon the production of natural gas, coal and other minerals.[23] Other important economic sectors include fisheries, mining, manufacturing industries, trade and other services being rendered by public and private sector organisations. Tourism remains limited but has increased due to the exotic appeal of the province. Limited farming in the east and fishing along the Arabian Sea coastline provide income and sustenance for the local population. Due to the tribal lifestyle of many Baloch and Brahui people, animal husbandry and trading bazaars found throughout the province are important.[citation needed]

Balochistan has been called a "neglected province where a majority of population lacks amenities".[24][25] Since the mid-1970s the province's share of Pakistan's GDP has dropped from 4.9 to 3.7%,[26] and as of 2007 it had the highest poverty rate and infant and maternal mortality rate, and the lowest literacy rate in the country,[27] factors some allege have contributed to the insurgency.[25] However, in 7th NFC awards Punjab province and Fedral contributed to increase Baluchistan share more than its entitled population based share.[28]

Though the province remains largely underdeveloped, several major development projects, including the construction of a new deep sea port at the strategically important town of Gwadar,[29] are in progress in Balochistan. The port is projected to be the hub of an energy and trade corridor to and from China and the Central Asian republics. The Mirani Dam on the Dasht River, 50 kilometres (31 mi) west of Turbat in the Makran Division, is being built to provide water to expand agricultural land use by 35,000 km2 (14,000 sq mi) where it would otherwise be unsustainable.[30] In the south east is an oil refinery owned by Byco International Incorporated (BII), which is capable of processing 120,000 barrels of oil per day. A power station is located adjacent to the refinery.[31] Several cement plants and a marble factory are also located there.[32][33][34] One of the world's largest ship breaking yards is located on the coast.[35]

Natural resource extraction

Balochistan's share of Pakistan's national income has historically ranged between 3.7% to 4.9%.[36] Since 1972, Balochistan's gross income has grown in size by 2.7 times.[37] Outside Quetta, the resource extraction infrastructure of the province is gradually developing but still lags far behind other parts of Pakistan.

There is Chinese involvement in the nearby Saindak gold and copper mining project where deposits exist in the Chagai District in Reko Diq area. The main license is held jointly by the Government of Balochistan (25%), the rest by foreign interests Antofagasta Minerals (37.5%) and Barrick Gold (37.5%). These deposits are comparable in size to those located in Sarcheshmeh, Iran and Escondida, Chile, which are the second and the third largest known deposits of copper in the world.[citation needed] The multinational mining companies BHP Billiton and Tethyan entered into a joint venture with the Balochistan government to extract these deposits. The potential annual copper production has been estimated to be 900,000 to 2.2 million tons.[citation needed] The deposits seem to be largely of porphyry rock nature.[citation needed] The agreements for royalty rights and ownership of these resources were reached during a period of unprecedented natural disasters, economic, social, political, and cultural unrest in Pakistan. The negotiations were widely considered to be insufficiently transparent.[38]

Government and politics

In common with the other provinces of Pakistan, Balochistan has a parliamentary form of government. The ceremonial head of the province is the Governor, who is appointed by the President of Pakistan on the advice of the provincial Chief Minister. The Chief Minister, the province's chief executive, is normally the leader of the largest political party or alliance of parties in the provincial assembly.

The unicameral Provincial Assembly of Balochistan comprises 65 seats of which 4% are reserved for non-Muslims and 16% exclusively for women. The judicial branch of government is carried out by the Balochistan High Court, which is based in Quetta and headed by a Chief Justice.

Besides dominant Pakistan-wide political parties (such as the Pakistan Muslim League (N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party), Balochistan nationalist parties (such as the National Party and the Balochistan National Party) have been prominent in the province.[11]

Districts

For administrative purposes, the province is subdivided into 32 districts:[39]