BALOCHISTAN

Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan with an area of 347056 sq. Kms, over 40% of the country's land mass. It traces its history from times immemorial. Before the birth of Christ, it had commerce and trade with ancient civilization of Babylon through Iran and into the valleys of Tigris and Euphrates. Alexander the Great also had an encounter with the Serbia tribe of Balochistan.   Muhammad Bin Qasim and Mehmood Ghaznavi also invaded Balochistan resulting in the development of Muslim character. Even today most tribal people of this province resemble Arabs and the inhabitants can be quite a fascinating subject of study by anthropologists.

A Balochi war song describes the province of Balochistan thus: "the mountains are the Balochi's forts; the peaks are better than any army; the lofty heights are our comrades; the pathless gorges our friends. Our drink is from the flowing springs; our bed the thorny bush; the ground we make our pillow."

Balochistan is a land of contrast. It has places with rugged mountains like Chiltan, Takatu, Sulaiman, Sultan etc. and plains stretching hundreds of miles. It has fertile land such as in Nasirabad and the tracks which are thirsty for centuries in the Pat section of Sibi district and the Makran desert zone. It has hottest places in the country like Sibi and the cool towns like Quetta, Ziarat, Kan Mehtarzai and Kallat where temperature goes below freezing point and these areas remain under a thick cover of snow in winter.

Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, 1692 meters above sea level, lies at the mouth of Bolan Pass. It has three large craggy mountains. Chiltan, Zarghun and Koh-e-Murdar, that seem to brood upon this pleasant town. there are other mountains that form a ring around it. Their copper red and russet rocks and crests that are powdered with snow in winters add immense charm to the town.

Quetta is an excellent base for further exploration of Balochistan. Loralai, the almond bowl of the country, is 265 kms away. Besides, there are numerous other valleys that are fascinating places to be in for explorers.

Quetta can rightly be called the fruit basket of Pakistan. Plums, peaches, pomegranates, apricots, apples, some unique varieties of melon like "Garma" and cherries, pistachios and almonds are all grown in abundance. Some pistachios also grow in Qila Saif ullah.

Saffron grows very well on mountains around 5000 ft (1524 meters) high. It is being cultivated on a commercial scale here. The yellow and red varieties of tulip grow wild around Quetta.

THE PEOPLE:

The inhabitants are mainly Pathan, Baluch and Brahui. You can also find Uzbeks, Tajiks and Turkamen rubbing shoulders with the other inhabitants. Nomadic tribesmen pass through Quetta Valley during spring and autumn with their herds of sheep and camels and their assorted wares for sale. This seasonal movement adds color to the life of the city.

The rugged terrain has made the people of the area hardy and resilient. They are known for their friendly and hospitable nature. To make a visitor comfortable is part of their tradition, like the rest of the people of Pakistan.

THE CITY:

The name Quetta is derived from the word "Kuwatta" which means a fort and, no doubt, it is a natural fort surrounded as it is by imposing hills on all sides. The encircling hills have the resounding names of Chiltan, Takatoo, Mordar and Zarghun.

The main thoroughfare and the commercial Center of Quetta is Jinnah road. It is a long boulevard lined with trees. Many important buildings like the Governor's House, Post and Telecommunication Offices are located along Jinnah Road.

BAZAARS:

Prominent bazaars of Quetta are located on Shahrah-e-Iqbal (Kandahari Bazaar) and Shahrah-e-Liaqat (Liaqat Bazaar and Suraj Gang Bazaar). Here you can find colorful handicrafts, particularly Balochi mirror work embroidery which is admired all over the world, carpets, with their pleasing and intricate designs, fur coats, jackets, waist-coats, sandals and other creations of traditional Balochi skills.
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 "Sajji" (Leg of lamb), which is roasted to a delightful degree of tenderness and is not very spicy. The tribesmen of the valley also enjoy "Landhi" (whole lamb), which is dried in shade and kept for the winters. "Kabab" shops are very popular.

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 restaurants offer.

THE MUSEUM:

The archaeological Museum at Fifa road has a collection of rare antique guns, swords and manuscripts. Geological Survey Department on Sariab road (6 kms) has a collection of rocks and fossils. Only six kms from the city is the campus of the university of Balochistan.

ASKARI PARK:

Askari Park at the airport road offers amusement and recreational facilities.

HAZARGANJI CHILTAN NATIONAL PARK:

In the Hazarganji Chiltan National Park, 20 kms south-west of Quetta, Markhors have been given protection. The park is spread over 32500 acres, altitude ranging from 2021 to 3264 meters.
Hazarganji literally means "Of a thousand treasures". In the folds of these mountains, legend has it, there are over a thousand treasures buried, reminders of the passage of great armies down the corridors of history. The Bactrains, Scything, Mongols and then the great migrating hordes of Baluch, all passed this way.

FAUNA:

MAMMALS.
Markhor of which there are five distinct kinds, is the national animal of Pakistan. The kind that is photographed the most often is the Chiltan Markhor which, because of its long horns looks very conspicuous. Ever since the markhor has been given protection its number has multiplied.
Other animals in the park are straight horned markhors, "Gad" wild sheep) and leopards which occasionally migrate to the park from other areas, wolves, striped hyena, hares, wild cats and porcupines.

BIRDS.
Many birds like partridge, warblers, shikras, blue rock pigeon, rock nuthatch, red gilled choughs, golden eagle, sparrow, hawlks, falcons and bearded vultures are either found here or visit the park in different seasons.
REPTILES.
Reptiles like monitor and other wild lizards, eckos, Afghan tortoise, python, cobra, horned viper and Levantine may also be seen in the park.

EXCURSIONS FROM QUETTA

KARKHASA:
Karkhasa is a recreation Park situated at distance of 10 kms to the west of Quetta. It is a 16 kms long narrow valley having a variety of flora like Ephedrine, Artimisia and Sophora.
URAK VALLEY:
The Urak valley is 21 kms from Quetta City. The road is lined on either side with wild roses and fruit orchards. Peaches, plums, apricot and apples of many varieties are grown in this valley.
The waterfall at the end of the Urak valley, which is full of apple and apricot orchards, makes an interesting picnic spot.

HANNA LAKE:
A little short of the place where the Urak valley begins and 10 kms from Quetta is the Hanna Lake, where benches and pavilions on terraces have been provided. Golden fish in the lake comes swimming right up to the edge of the lake. A little distance away, the waters f the lake take on a greenish blue tint. Right where the water ends, pine trees have been planted on the grass filled slopes.
The greenish-blue waters of the lake provide a rich contrast to the sandy brown of the hills in the background. One can promenade on the terraces. Wagon service operates form city bus station at Circular road.

PISHIN VALLEY:

Some 50kms from Quetta is the valley of Pishin with its numerous fruit orchards, which are irrigated by "Karaz", a kind of artificial spring made by boring holes into rocks to bring to the surface the subterranean water. Sixteen kms from Pishin is the man-made lake Bund Khushdil Khan. Its cool gentle waters attract many visitors for duck shooting in early winter.

PIR GHAIB:

At a distance of 70 kms 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-wheal-drive vehicle to reach the spot from the main road.

ZIARAT

A visit to Quetta is incomplete without a trip to Ziarat. Situated 133 kms(3 hours by car) from Quetta at an altitude of 2449 meters above sea level, Ziarat is a holiday resort amidst one of the largest and oldest juniper forests in the world. It is said that some of the Juniper trees are as old as 5000 years.
The name Ziarat means "Shrine". A local saint, Kharwari Baba, is believed to have rested in the valley and blessed it. After his death he was buried here. People frequently visit the saint's shrine, which is 10 kms from Ziarat.

FORESTS AND ORCHARDS:

Extensive research is being done in the forest nurseries to replace the juniper forest with flowing trees as the regeneration of the juniper is very slow.
The magic of Ziarat is its honey, its flowers which attain large size here, its lush green grass and cool weather even in the hottest months of summer. "Shinshoab", a lavender like wild bush looks very lovely in twilights.

Nearly 4416 acres in and around Ziarat are under apple orchards. The apple grown in the orchards, particularly the black and red kuku variety are delicious. A fair amount of black cherry is also grown in Ziarat. The cherry season lasts from the 1st to 15th of June.

CHASHMA WALK:

Between the ever-ascending hills and the deep ravine, there is a mile-long stretch of flat land ideal for a peaceful walk. This is the "Chashma Walk" which leads to the springs or a "Chashma" that provide water for the town. It is only 2 kms from the "PTDC" Model Complex.

PROSPECT POINT:

The view from prospect point is rewarding. It lies at a height of 2713 meters above sea level and is 6 kms from Ziarat. The road is mettled, but a walk is recommended.

Once at the peak with wind whistling through the forest one can see the valley stretch out in undulating slopes in front. From a nearby cliff, one can clearly see the highest peak of these hills known as Khalefat, which rises to a height of 3487 metres. There is a small rest house situated nearby. Prior reservation may be made through the office of deputy Commissioner of Ziarat.

SHRINE OF BABA KHARWARI:

The shrine of Baba Kharwari is 8 kms from Ziarat town. A member of Sarang Zai, his name was Tahir. He became a disciple of Nana Sahib and a number of miracles are attributed to him. He is buried in a valley about 8 kms from Ziarat. A large number of people visit his shrine and offer sacrifices in his memory.
During Eid festival, the tribesmen gather around the shrine and hold wrestling and marksmanship competitions.

ZINDRA:

Fourteen kms from Ziarat is the picturesque Zindra. Zindra derives its name from the Pushto word "Zindra" meaning "four grinding mills".
Zizree (16 kms) and Nauna Dam(20 kms) are also interesting places for an outing near Ziarat.

QUAID-E-AZAM RESIDENCY:

Quaid-e-Azam residency with its lush green lawns, chinar trees and flowers gardens commands a striking view of the whole valley. It is of historical importance, as the Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, stayed there during his last illness. It houses the relics of the father of the nation. The Residency was built in 1882 by the British and used by the agent to the Governor General as his summer headquarters.

FERN TANGI:

It lies 10 kms from Ziarat, off the main road to Quetta. A small waterfall formed by the mountain spring flows down. It is a 2 kms walk from the main road to the waterfall and is an ideal place for picnic.

SANDEMAN TANGI:

It is just 4 kms from Ziarat. It is a dramatic waterfall cascading down the rocks and provides fun to the visitors.

CHUTAIR VALLEY / TANGI:

About 13 kms from Ziarat on way to Loralai is the beautiful Chutair valley. It is a 30 minutes drive to Chutair from Ziarat There are green picnic spots in the valley. There is also a rest house in case one wants to stay longer. The crude and rustic huts made with the bark of juniper trees in which the inhabitants of the area live, are strikingly different from dwellings in other villages. Nearby is Chutair Tangi which is worth visiting.

BOLAN PASS:

For many centuries, the Bolan pass has been the main entrance to Quetta district. It is historically significant, used as the gateway by most of the immigrants from central Asia in their drive to discover new homelands in South Asia. The two other important passes are the Lak Pass between Quetta and Kallat and the Khojak Pass near the border with Afghanistan at Chaman.

Along Bolan Pass where the road winds through picturesque mountains one is reminded of the huge odds that the armies from Central Asia and the north must have faced in their raids on the plains of the present day Pakistan. In winter, trains of camels, as they slowly plod their way through to the top, look fascinating. The Bolan links Quetta with the plains of the Punjab and the upper Sindh through the town of Sibi by road and train. The train passes through 21 tunnels.

LAK PASS:

Lak pass is located between Kallat and Quetta at a point where the highway makes a turn for Koh-e-Taftan, Saindak copper mines and Zahidan in Iran and the other section links Karachi via Kallat, Khuzdar and Bella. PTDC Model at Khuzdar and Taftan caters for motorists. The view from the top of the pass is interesting. Trucks, trailers and lorries laden to their brim with merchandise and passengers move along at great speeds. Down below these kiosks sell beverages. On the hills, unmindful of the presence of the motorized transport and the human beings, hundreds of sheep browse upon the scant herbage available there.

KHOJAK PASS:

The Khojak Pass is 7575 ft. above sea level. It leads directly to the border of Afghanistan at Chaman which is 153 kms away from Quetta. The train passes through the longest tunnel of the sub-continent. The scenery is breath-taking as here as it is at Bolan Pass.

HARNAI PASS:

The entire population of Hardware 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.

SIBI

Sibi is 163 kms from Quetta. It has great historical importance. It derives its name from Sewa race. The name of Alexander and the Muslim conquers like Muhammad Bin Qasim, Mehmood Ghaznavi and Nasir-ud-Din Kabacha are associated with this place. Mir Chaker Khan Rind, the legendary Baluch hero, built a massive fort in the 15th century near Sibi, the remains of which are found near the town.

During the British rule a residency and Victoria Memorial Hall known as Jigra Hall were built where annual Jigras were held until Pakistan came into being. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ail Jinnah also presided over the annual Darbar at Sibi as first Governor General of Pakistan. The Jigra Hall is now converted into a museum. It has a collection of pieces found at the archaeological sites of Mehrgarh, Nasshero and Pirak.
The annual Sibi festival marks the famous horse and cattle Show with other festivities held in the month of February.

MEHRGARH:

Neolithic Mehrgarh is a 9000 years old site of settlement in Karachi district at the foot of Bolan Pass near Sibi. Supported by Pakistan's Department of Archaeology, French archaeologists are carrying out extensive excavations, studies and research have lead to pushing back these settlements to some 9000 years. Thus the chronology of civilization in Pakistan established through the study of Moenjodaro and Harappa has been pushed back by over 4000 years.

Research shows that the people have lived in houses and were involved in hunting, domestication of animals and farming cereals like barley and wheat and later cotton too. This hunting-farming society developed gradually and their pursuits were creative. During the early period these people used stone and bone tools. Subsequently they produces and wore ornaments of beads, sea shells and semi-precious stones like Lapis lazuli. A museum has been set up at Sibi where a wide range of rare finds from the site of Mehrgarh are on display.

BALOCHISTAN COAST- LINE:

The Balochistan coast-line extends over 750 kms. For Hub near Karachi to the Gwadar bye on Pakistan-Iran border. The whole area is rich with long un spoilt golden sunny beaches and a variety of sea fish. Because of the importance of this coast Pasni, Jiwani and Gwadar, the three important coastal towns, have been linked by air with Karachi and Quetta. Gaddani beach near Karachi, is an industrial zone based on fisheries.

The coastal tribes are also as colorful as that of central and upper Balochistan. Their colorful customs, songs and dances are equally fascinating.

TAFTAN

At least 10 buses daily leave Quetta for Taftan, 608 Kms away on the Iranian border - a journey of between 15 to 24 hours. The road is surfaced for the first 500 kms, or as Nokundi, where you can spend the night in a local 'hotel'. You leave Quetta to the south and follow the Kallat road over the Lak Pass. At the foot of the pass, about 30 kms from Quetta, the road forks and a sign in English informs you it is 2256 kms to Tehran and 686 kms to Zahidan. The Pakistani customs post stops all incoming and outgoing traffic here.

It is a long haul to Iran, mostly across undulating desert. The first stop is "Nushki", 115 kms away, the next Dalbandin, about 180 kms further on. near here are the onyx mines which provide the stone for the green ashtrays, candlesticks and goblets on sale in the Karachi bazaars. It is another 166 kms to Nok Kundi with a stop for food in Yamaha. The is being surfaced to the border, so while works are in progress it is slower going for the last 110 kms to Taftan, where there is another customs and immigration to negotiate before you cross the border to Mirjawa and the Iranian authorities. It is still about 100 kms to Zahidan.

The train to the border runs only twice a week and is extremely slow. There was a weekly PIA flight on Sundays from Quetta to Mashad, Iran, but this has been temporarily discontinued. There is a PTDC information center in Taftan.

THE MAKRAN COAST

The Makran coast is Balochistan's southern strip and stretches for 754 kms. Long sandy beaches, rugged promontories and tidal creeks characterize the coast-line. There ranges of hills, rising to over 1500 meters (5000feet), run  parallel to the coast: the Coastal Makran Range, 30 kms inland; the Central Makran Range, 130 kms inland; and the Siahan Range, 200 kms away from the sea. There is very little rain in the Makran region; the few villages and towns along the coast and between the hills are sustained by spring water.

Many of the Makran people are dark-skinned and have African features. They are probably descended from slaves brought by Arab merchants to the subcontinent. They subsist on fishing, date farming and camel breeding. Most of the men work part-time in the gulf state and Oman, and send money home to their families.

Alexander the great marched half his army home along the inhospitable Makran coast in 325 BC, and Muhammad bin Qasim came from Baghdad to Sindh through Makran in 711 AD. The Makranis stood firm against the Mughals, but bowed nominally to the British Raj. It is only since 1971 that some effort has been made to develop the region.

There is no road along the coast, but daily flights connect the four main coastal towns of Ormara, Pasni, Gwadar and Jiwani with Karachi, and there are flights to Quetta three times a week, Gwadar and Jiwani, both picturesque towns flanked by cliffs and beeches, belonged t o Oman for about 200 years. The Khan of Kallat gave them as a present to the sultan in the 18th century, and in 1958 they were sold back to Pakistan. Ormara is currently being developed as a major port.

Turbat, the divisional headquarters for Makran, is a small inland town near the hills, with little to recommend it but its 300 varieties of dates. Turbat is accessible by a rough road from Lasbela, and by daily flights from Karachi and Quetta. Panjgur, the principal date-growing area further north, can also be reached by air. The track from Khuzdar to Panjgur is very rough.

 

 

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