Balochistan, Pakistan

From Academic Kids

The province of Balochistan (or Baluchistan) of Pakistan contains roughly the part of Balochistan that falls within the borders of present-day Pakistan. Neighbouring regions are Iranian Balochistan to the west, Afghanistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Pakistan to the north and Punjab and Sindh to the east. To the south is the Arabian Sea.

Balochistan is geographically the largest of the four provinces at 347,190 km², but has the smallest population: approximately 6.3 million in 1994. The population density is very low due to the mountainous terrain and scarcity of water. The southern region is known as Makran. A region in the centre of the province is known as Kalat.

The capital city is Quetta, located in the most densely populated district in the northeast of the province. Quetta is situated in a river valley near the border with Afghanistan, with a road to Kandahar in the northwest.

At Gwadar on the coast the Pakistani government is currently undertaking a large project with Chinese help to build a large port. This is being done partially to provide the Pakistani Navy with another base, and to reduce Pakistan's reliance on Karachi, which currently is the only major port.


See also the general history and culture of the historic region of Balochistan.

Balochistan was the site of the earliest known farming settlements in south Asia even though it rests geographically upon the Iranian plateau, the earliest of which was Mehrgarh dated at 6500 BC.

Balochistan was sparsely populated by various Elamo-Dravidian and Indo-Iranian tribes for centuries following the decline of the nearly Harappa-Mohenjo-daro civilisation to the east. Aryan invasions appear to has led to the eventual demise of the Elamo-Dravidians with the exception of the Brahui who may have arrived much later as did the Balochis themselves. The Balochis began to arrive from their homeland in northern Iran and appear to be an offshoot of the Kurdish tribes that would mainly populate the western end of the Iranian plateau. The Balochi tribes eventually became a sizable group rivalled only by another Iranian group, the Pashtuns, while the Brahuis increasingly came under the cultural influence of the Balochis. Muslim Arab invaders annexed the region during the Abbasid period and conversion to Islam was coupled with a Balochi cultural adoption of Arab culture as well. Today, many Balochis believe that their origins are Semitic and not Iranian contrary to linguistic and historical evidence. Balochi tradition holds that they left their Allepo homeland at some point during the 1st millennium CE and moved to Balochistan, but it appears more likely that the Balochis are an Iranian group who have absorbed some Arab ancestry and cultural traits instead. Balochistan subsequently was dominated by empires based in Iran and Afghanistan as well as the Mughal empire based in India. Ahmad Shah Durrani annexed the region as part of a "greater" Afghanistan. The area would eventually revert to local Balochi control, while parts of the northern regions would continue to be dominated by Pashtun tribes.

During the period of the British Raj, there were four Princely States in Balochistan: Makran, Kharan, Las Bela and Kalat, the largest and most powerful. During the first few decades of the 20th century it became clear that the British would eventually leave and that India would be partitioned.

Kalat was ruled by Mir Ahmed Yar Khan, who wanted independence rather than possible Pakistani rule. Indeed, the British had given many Princely States the choice of either India, Pakistan or independence during the immediate pre-partition period (though they were worried of having too many independent nations). When the British eventually gave India (and the newly-created Pakistan) independence in August 1947 Mir Ahmed Yar Khan declared Kalat's independence. Though this was not a Baloch-wide movement, many Baloch chiefs sympathised with the movement.

In April 1948 the Pakistani army was brought in, and Mir Ahmed Yar Khan signed an accession agreement ending Kalat's de facto independence. His brother, Prince Abdul Karim, decided to carry on the struggle. Basing himself in Afghanistan he conducted a guerilla war against the Pakistani army. However, this eventually failed.

Parts of Balochistan were held by Oman as late as the 1950s, but they were eventually turned over to Pakistan. Included in these areas is the coastal city of Gwadar.

In 1955 the provinces of West Paskistan (excluding areas of Pakistani-hled Kashmir) were amalgamated into One Unit. This was resented by many Baloch, as well as other peoples in Pakistan such as the Pashtuns. The One Unit measure was seen as a Punjabi centralising move aimed at removing power from the provinces. This resulted in a Baloch uprising, with several battles between Balochs and the Pakistani army. A guerilla war continued on into the 1960's, with several large-scale battled in 1964-65. This continued sporadically until One Unit was finally abolished in 1970.

In 1973, Pakistan's ruler Zulfikar Ali Bhutto dismissed Balochistan's provincial government. He said that Soviet guns and ammunition had been being found in Islamabad destined for Balochistan. Bhutto informed US president Richard Nixon of the find.

The Balochs were furious at the move and rose up against the Pakistanis. Eventually around 80,000 Pakistani troops were called in to quell the large uprising. Balochs attacked oil surveyors and cut roads.

The largest confrontation took place in September 1974 when around 15,000 Balochs fought the Pakistani army, which was armed with planes and helicopters. After three days of fighting the Balochs were running out of ammunition and so withdrew.

After this there was a continued guerilla war, with some basing themselves in Afghanistan (the Afghan government complied with this and offered some financial support).

In 1977 General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq took over in Pakistan. Announcing victory in Balochistan, he withdrew troops. By this time around 9000 - 10,000 people had died. The uprising itself had suffered from a lack of direction. Some Baloch wanted independence, others only greater autonomy within Pakistan. Attacks were organised by individual Baloch chiefs, rather then an organised Baloch-wide attack. Also, the Baloch hoped to get the support of the USSR, which never happened. Also, the large Pashtun minority in Balcohistan did not take part and were hostile to the idea of an independent Balochistan.

Since the 1970's there has been some small-scale violence. The area had been badly affected by fighting and instability in Afghanistan, with arms and refugees flooding the province. Small attacks have occurred against coal-miners and oil prospectors.

In 1998 Pakistan conducted a nuclear test in Balochistan.

See also

List of cities in Balochistan

External links

de:Belutschistan (Pakistan)

et:Belutšistan es:Baluchistn (Pakistn) hi:बलूचिस्तान sv:Baluchistan


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