Balochistan or Baluchistan (Urdu:بلوچستان) is one of four provinces in Pakistan. Although it is the largest of the four provinces, it is the least developed province and suffers from a wide range of social and political problems.
Balochistan, Pakistan is the largest province, with 8 administrative divisions:
- 1 Quetta — the provincial capital and the largest city
- 2 Gwadar — a port city on the shores of the Arabian Sea
- 3 Pishin — an agricultural city and part of the "Pashtun Belt"
- 4 Taftan — a town situated near the Iranian border
- 5 Turbat — the administrative centre of Kech District, and the historical capital of Makran, one of four princely states that once comprised Balochistan
- 6 Lasbela
- 7 Ziarat — where Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, spent his last few months before his death.
- 8 Khuzdar — the third largest city in the province
- Gadani beaches
- 1 Mehrgarh — Archaeological site of the Mohenjo-daro civilisation, dating from 7000-5000 BCE.
- Makran Coastal Highway (Over 770 km From Karachi to Gwadar) is unique fascination for tourists. It is pertinent to mention here that Alexander had passed through the coastal belt of Balochistan in 325 BC covering a long trail
- 2 Ziarat — Resort town surrounded by a valley containing one of the largest Juniper forests on the planet
- Coal Mines & Caves including Somiani caves
- Chaman railway tunnel - considered to be one of the biggest and oldest tunnels in the world
- Historical wetland of Band Khushdil Khan in Pishin district.
- Hingol National Park
- Dasht National Park and Wild Life Sanctuary —
Although the country possesses a vast collection of natural resources, it is the least developed province in Pakistan. Development in the region has been hindered by poor governance, political instability, sectarian violence, and terrorism. A moutnainous terrain and dearth of water resources also hamper economic prospects.
Balochistan was once composed of four princely states: Makran, Las Bela, Kharan, and Kalat. During the partition of India, Makran, Las Bela, and Kharan voted to accede to Pakistan, but Kalat on the other hand, declared independence, as this was one of the options presented to all of the princely states of India during the partition. Due to rising and mounting pressure from the Pakistani government, Kalat eventually acceded to Pakistan, which angered many people, including members of the Kalat monarchy. This event is widely believed to be the cause of the ongoing separatist movement, as some members of the Kalat monarchy staged uprisings against Pakistan.
Although things calmed down during the 1970s, the rape of a female doctor re-ignited the conflict in 2005. Since then, the province has been ravaged by violence and instability, and the prospects of change seem remote at present, even though the insurgent movement is dying down.
The Pakistani government and Baloch insurgent groups have been accused of committing grave human rights violations, with scholars repeatedly condemning Pakistan's security forces for engaging in activities such as forced disappearances, kidnapping civilians, and so on.
While some Balochis hope for an independent country, the majority seem to simply want peace and autonomy.
Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad are the main gateways to Pakistan by air. However, there are 134 airfields in Pakistan. Six other international airports are in Peshawar, Faisalabad, Multan, Turbat (TUK IATA), Quetta (UET IATA) and Gwadar (GWD IATA).
Balochistan has train links with other parts of Pakistan and Iran, though none of these trains are the fastest or most practical way to enter Pakistan. Should speed be a priority it is better to take the bus, or if you are really in a hurry, to fly, however the trains are sights in their own right.
From Iran: One comes to Pakistan from Iran via the Mirjaveh border in Iran which is half an hours drive from Zahedan. The Pakistani border town is called Taftan and has facilities of immigration, customs, hotels etc., although it's a much better idea to head directly to Quetta and not stick around. There are buses to Quetta in the early afternoon, taking 12-14 hours.
Buses or coaches are the best way to get around Balochistan. At 350,000 km^2, Balochistan is a large region so by road can be tiring experience, but unfortunately it remains the only practical option for getting around.
PIA offers air travel inside Balochistan. There are flights from Quetta to Gwadar and Turbat to Gwadar.
Baloch is the main language of the region, and many people have it as a first language. Other commonly spoken languages include Pashto, Sindhi, Punjabi, and Saraki. Most educated people speak English and Urdu.
Illiteracy is a major problem in Balochistan. Many people cannot read Baloch, even though it has the same script as Urdu and Persian.
If you want to enjoy an excursion near the city, you can visit to Hanna Lake. It is in the hills overlooking Quetta, approximately 10 km from the city and very close to the Urak, where benches and pavilions on terraces have been provided. Golden fish in the lake come swimming right up to the edge. A little distance away, the waters of the lake take on a greenish blue tint. Right where the water ends, pine trees have been planted on the grass filled slopes. The turquoise water of lake is a stark contrast to the brownish-green hills that surround the area.
Wagon service operates from city bus station at Circular Road. The transport can be hired through the PTDC Tourist Information Centre, Muslim Hotel, Jinnah Road Quetta.
Hazarganji Chiltan National Park
Hazarganji literally means "Of a thousand treasures". In the folds of these mountains, legend has it, that, there are over a thousand treasures buried, reminders of the passage of great armies down the corridors of history. The Bactrian, Scythians, Mongols and then the great migrating hordes of Pashtuns, all passed this way.
In the Hazarganji Chiltan National Park, 20 km southwest of Quetta, Markhors have been given protection. The park is spread over 38,437 acres, altitude ranging from 2,000 to 3,200 metres.
Nature lovers, students, scientists and researchers are welcome to visit the park at any time of the year. For overnight stay, accommodation is available at the Forest Department Rest House located 5 km inside the Park.
Park Rangers help the visitors to see animals. Access trails have been developed in the park for visitors. A small museum of natural history is located near the Park entrance.
Hingol National Park
With 1,650 km² Hingol National Park is the largest National Park of Pakistan.
Located 10km west of Quetta
- The Archaeological Museum, Fifa Road. Open 09:00-16:00 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.
Amusement and Recreation
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.
Driving through wild roses and fruit orchards, you may reach the Urak Valley at a distance of 21 km.
Filled with numerous fruit orchards, the Pishin Valley is 50 km away from Quetta. These orchards are irrigated by 'karez'. There is yet another attraction of cool waters, i.e. man-made lake with Bund Khushdil Khan. A wide range of ducks provides enticing beauty during winters. The festivities include a colourful programme of folk dancing by thousands of participants from different regions. Horse jumping, trick horse riding, trick motor cycle riding, dare-devil motor car driving and a dog & hare race are among the highlights of the festival. The principal attraction of the show is the impressive display of the best available specimens of Pakistani livestock. As the sun sets over the impressive Fortress Stadium, the venue of the show, fireworks display, military tattoos and brass band pageants enliven the evenings.
A visit to Quetta will however, be incomplete without a trip to Ziarat (133 km from Quetta, 3 hours by car), a hill town 8,000 feet above sea-level air-conditioned coach and taxis take between an hour or two from Quetta an ideal and relaxing summer retreat with rows of juniper trees and ever green slopes.
The word Ziarat means holy place to be visited and the valley is known by that name because of a shrine of a holy saint, Tahir Baba Kharwari. There are other graves as well. However, the world knows it more because of the oldest and tallest juniper jungle, which needs to be looked after properly for future survival.
Ziarat is also famous for being the site of Mohammad Ali Jinnah's summer vacation home. It is incidentally the home he passed away in- and is now a museum of his personal belongings and living space- visited by people from all over Pakistan.
Extremely delicious species of apple, black cherry and almond trees are abundant in Ziarat, covering about 4,416 acres in the lap of mountains.
While Ziarat abounds in tall chinar trees and juniper grows wild as does walnut and a variety of other trees, the area west of this hill station leading up to the Afghan border is rocky and barren. The drive through this unfriendly terrain provides one the grim reminder of the fierce tribes who roamed free in the region and kept the British weary and fearful. The border village of Chaman is also a major trading centre for a variety of fruit, a large quantity of which is still brought in from Afghanistan.
At a distance of 70 km from Quetta on Sibi Road is situated a popular picnic spot known as Pir Ghaib. Here a waterfall cascades down rocky mountain side making its way through many streams and ponds among the shady palm trees. You need a 4-wheeled transport to reach the spot from the main road.
This pass will lead you directly to the Chaman border of Afghanistan, 153 km from Quetta. The scenic beauty is enthralling. The journey through the border is achieved via Khojak Sheela, a 4 km long tunnel, at an elevation of more than 1,945 m above sea level.
Through the centuries several armies from Central Asia and north intruded into Balochistan through the valley.
While cruising through the hilly tract between Quetta and Kalat, you would come to see the route to Zahidan, Iran. Koh-e-Taftan and Saindak copper mines are en route.
The entire population of Kharwari Baba and for that matter of the entire Ziarat, migrates to Harnai in extreme winter. Harnai Pass, about hours drive from Loralai, is just as spectacular as the Khyber Pass near Peshawar.
Mehergarh- the newest discovery of ancient civilization
During recent decades, a lot has been done to explore the culture and civilization of ancient people. The most distinguishing one is Mehergarh, which experts say remained the centre of high development some 9,900 years ago. Researchers claim that this was a civilized society of 7000 B.C that is even older than Moenjodaro and Harappa.
Take a drive on Makran Coastal Highway – (over 770 km from Karachi to Gwadar) provides a unique destination for tourists. The highway, which follows the route that Alexander the Great took through the coastal belt of Balochistan in 325 BC, takes you by some beautiful beaches.
Baluchis are famous for carpets, especially prayer rugs.
Educational facilities in Balochistan are poorly developed, and the province has the lowest literacy rate of all the four provinces.
Typical Balochi cuisine includes the lamb-skewed Sajji which have gained massive popularity among other parts of Pakistan, including the food hubs of Karachi and Lahore. Kaak, a rock-hard prepared bread, is another a notable dish. Khaddi Kabbab is a dish in which a whole lamb or goat is cooked on fire, usually there is raw rice in the stomach of the lamb and the rice is cooked in the fat of the lamb.
In the old bazaars one comes across quaint old tea-shops. These are the local "clubs". There are also many popular eating houses offering different types of delicacies. Among the delicacies you must try is Sajji (leg of lamb), which is roasted to a delightful degree of tenderness and is not very spicy. It is a whole leg of lamb deliciously marinated in local herbs and spices and barbecued beside an open fire. It is very popular among the locals and is offered with great insistence to the guests. The Pathan tribesmen of the valley also enjoy Landhi (whole lamb) and Khadi Kebab. "Landhi" is a whole lamb which is dried in shade and kept for the winters. "Kebab" shops are very popular, the best being Lal Kebab, Tabaq, Cafe Farah and Cafe Baldia. They serve Pakistani and Continental food. The other Chinese restaurant that is one of the oldest in town is Cafe China. Some of the finest mutton in the country is raised around Quetta. It has a delicious smell which can be sampled in the Pulao that most of the eating houses offer.
There is famous Lehri Sajji house and Mir Afzal Karahi at Jinnah Road. The most famous is the Khadi kebab which is just behind the street at Liaquat Bazaar
The Pashtun people are also very famous for their refreshing green tea and Dood Pati shops
Very few places can compete with Quetta valley in having wide range of tasteful fruits, exported to all parts of the country as well as abroad. There you can find plums, peaches, pomegranates, apricots, apples, olives, different types of melon, water-melon, cherries, pistachios, almonds and other dry fruits. Saffron and tulip are also grown and cultivated on a commercial scale. The fruits heaven is Urak, called samaristan, meaning the land of fruits in Persian.
- Quetta is known for its Kawa (Green Tea), and is usually served sweet.
- Sharbat-e-Sandal is a sweet, non-carbonated drink unusually found in markets in summer. It has a good taste and a yellowish-green transparent colour - look out for the black seeds. Served ice cold.
The situation in the province is far from stable. Outbursts of politically motivated violence and civil disobedience are common, and things can deteriorate at any given time.
Avoid going near the Iranian border; it's incredibly risky and dangerous. In 2013, two women from the Czech Republic were kidnapped and held ransom despite having an armed escort.