Although Baluchistan is area-wise the largest province (347,190 sq. km), it is most sparsely populated, with a total of population around 5 million (3.8 per cent of the country¹s total population). It has thus an average density of 12 persons per square kilometer. Located in the west and north-west by Iran and Afghanistan; on the north by the provinces of N. W. F. P. and the Punjab; on the east by the province of Sind and on the south by the Arabian Sea. It has common borders of 832 kilometers with Iran and of 1,160 kilometers with Afghanistan, while it has 560 kilometers of coast commanding 1,440 kilometers of Arabian Sea. It guards the Gulf. It is the western-most part of South Asia. Its geographical situation makes it a strategic area.
Baluchistan is a land of contrasta; of lofty mountains and vast, barren wastes and lush green valleys: of sunny beaches and Juniper-clad forests; of extreme temperatures - 50°C at Sibi to 10°C at Khan Mehtrazi. The rainfall averages from 3 to 14 inches.
Baluchistan has a rich cultural heritage and a chequered history. It has about 400 tribes, sub-tribes and clans mainly Baluch with chunks of Pashtoon, Hazara, Punjabi and Sindhi settlers. It has three main language groups: Baluchi, Pashto and Brauhvi. Urdu is widely understood.
With the capital at Quetta, Baluchistan province comprises six administrative divisions, namely, Quetta, Sibi, Kalat, Makran, Loralai and Nasirabad. Quetta Division consists of the districts of Quetta, Pishin, Chagai, Loralai Division of Zhob and Loralai District; Sibi Division of the districts of Sibi and the agencies of Kohlu and Dera Bugti; Kalat Division, of the districts of Kalat, Khuzdar, Kharan and Lasbela; Makran Division, of the districts of Turbat, Panjgur and Gwadar.
Baluchistan is a mineral-rich province, while it is called; 'Fruit Garden of Pakistan'; because of the production of finest qualities of fruits. The province now stands on the threshold of a big leap forward towards development in every field.
Over the centuries, the region was dominated by various rulers and Sardars (tribal chiefs) who were more concerned with maintaining their authority than with the socio-economic progress of the people. During their rule, the British also confirmed the powers and privileges of the Sardars while retaining an overall control over the region. In 1947, the states ruled by the Sardars acceded to Pakistan, and Baluchistan States Union was formed in 1952, which was later given the status of a full-fledged province of the country, in 1969.
In order to bring Baluchistan into the mainstream of progress with the rest of the country, the Government embarked upon a planned policy of accelerated pace of development of the province. Finacial allocations for development projects are being increased every year, while special attention has been given to the needs of rural population in the interior of Baluchistan for provision of power, irrigation and drinking water, communication, education and health care facilities.
Baluchistan was considered to be the most backward area of the subcontinent at the time of independence. After independence, agriculture, industry and mineral resources were developed as a result of which it has gained an economic base, although a small one.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the province's economy, as it provides employment to over 60 percent of its total population. The geographical area of Baluchistan is about 85 million acres out of which only 47 million acres is reported, while only 1.2 million acres are under cultivation. Except Nasirabad Division where about one thousand square miles of land is canal irrigated, rest of the cultivable land depends for irrigation water on wells, karezes (underground water channels), spring, weirs and rains. Even without fertilizers the per hectare yield of wheat in the rain-fed areas is highest in the country. Annual wheat production is about three hundred thousand tonnes.
The quality of decidous fruits is as good as anywhere in the world. The per acre monetary benefits of the grower are highest in the world which are roughly as follows: Apple - Rs. 60,000; Cherry - Rs. 50,000; and Almomds - Rs. 60,000. Baluchistan contributes about 45 percent of the total fruit production of Pakistan. The warmer parts like Makran, Kharan, Noshki and Khuzdar are known for dates which cover about 220,000 acres. Baluchistan also produces cash crops like potato, onion, melon and cumin in good qualities. To increase fruit production and improve the quality of fruits, four fruit-farming nurseries have been established, one each at Pishin, Loralai, Ziarat and Mastung. The Deciduous Fruit Development Project was started about 12 years ago with the assistance of UNDP which has helped farmers to improve the quality of their fruits. The second phase of the project started about 8 years ago. The government has also started work on land levelling and lining of water courses through On-Farm Water Management projects, besides developing trickle-irrigation system to economise on use of water.
Since Baluchistan is a pastoral area, 80 percent of its population in engaged in sheep breeding and raising other livestock. There are three sheep and goat heads per person in the province as aganist 0.7 per person on all-Pakistan basis. Meanwhile, poultry population has increased over three times during the last 10 years, as two major poultry complexes are working in the private sector. In the public sector, Baluchistan Livestock Development Project and Karakul Sheep Breeding Project are implemented with the assistance of Asian Development Bank and European Economic Community.
Fish culture and fishing are a part of Baluchistan's economy. In 1987, Baluchistan coast fisheries development project was launched to assist fishermen with modern tools and other facilities. Eight years ago, Pasni fisheries development project was undertaken with the assistance of Asian Development Bank. For this, Pasni Fisheries Harbour Authority has been set up.
Baluchistan has now several major industrial units in the textile, ghee, pharmaceuticals, gas, and woolen fabrics. The Federal Government has announced special incentives for setting up industries in Baluchistan. The Provincial Government has established two industrial estates, one at Hub and the other at Quetta. Some 80 industrial units are currently in operation. Industrial investment has increased very significantly over the past couple of decades. The Gaddani Ship Breaking Industry is the third largest in the world, employs about 10,000 workers and meets one-third of the scrap requirements of the re-rolling mills in the country. The Kuwait Fund has provided assistance for drinking wate, while the government is providing gas and residential facilities in the area.
Cottage industry is also a flourshing industry in Baluchistan with over 500 units employing more than 4,000 workers, and producing a variety of handicrafts depicting Baluchistan¹s culture.
Baluchistan is rich in important minerals. Among its principal minerals, Sui gas, Nokkundi iron ore and Saindak copper deposits are of great economic value. These minerals are being managed by the Federal Government. Of the total estimated production of nearly 10 million cubic meters of natural gas in the country, Baluchistan produces over 7 million cubic meters. Although natural gas was discovered at Sui as far back as 1952, it was not supplied in Baluchistan for consumption for three decades. In 1979, the President of Pakistan ordered the supply of gas to Quetta, irrespective of whether the project was economically feasible or not. The project has been completed at a cost of Rs. 700 million including a foreign exchange component of Rs. 340 million. Gas has been supplied not only to Quetta, but also to a number of towns along the pipeline.
Other important minerals being handled by the Provincial Government are onyx, coal, chromite, flourite, baryte, magnetite and some industrial minerals such as limestone, gypsum, silica sand etc. Baluchistan produces almost all the onyx of the country. Coal is about 60 percent of the country¹s total production. Average annual production of chromite, flourite, baryte and magnetite is 2800, 500, 16,000 and 750 tonnes respectively. There are in all 400 prospecting licences and 250 mining leases granted so far to various concessionnaries. The total area under mining is about 600 square miles.
At the time of independence. the number of educational institutions could be counted on finger tips. There was only 138 primary, 16 middle and 17 high and one higher secondary school, besided one teachers training school. Now it has 2,900 Primary Schools, 800 Mosque Schools, 400 Middle Schools, 190 High Schools, 16 Intermediate Colleges and 10 Degree Colleges, while Baluchistan University, founded in 1970 at Quetta with one department in science at ten faculties in the Arts, has now grown into a big university with a Law College, a Center of Excellence in Mineralogy and numerous departments and faculties with the number of students going up to around 3,500. More recently, an Engineering College at Khuzdar and a Cadet College at Mastung had been set up. Besides, special seats have been reserved for students from Baluchistan in various Public Schools, Cadet Colleges and other professional colleges in various parts of the country where more than 1,000 students from Baluchistan are studying.
The literacy rate in Baluchistan is, however, lowest in the country, i.e., one-third of the national average. The female literacy rate in rural areas is as low as 1 percent. In the countrywide literacy drive launched by the present political government, special efforts are being made in Baluchistan, as well as in other areas of the country, to raise the literacy rate to maximum level. Bolan Medical College, Quetta, established in 1972 with an attached teaching hospital, is producing doctors as well as contributing significantly to health cover for the province¹s population.
Baluchistan has a very inadequate road network. It has seven miles of road length per 100 square miles as aganist the national average of 20 miles. The province has about 7,000 miles of road, of which only 1,700 miles are metalled. The Federal Government took upon itself the job of constructing major roads which include Karachi-Khuzdar-Chaman-Jacobabad-Sibi and Quetta-Zhob-D.I.Khan roads. The major inter-provincial roads include R.C.D. Highway, Loralai-Dera Ghazi Khan Road, Sibi-Kahan-Kohlu-Rakhni Road, Bela-Awaran Mand Road and Karachi-Armara Road. The captal city of Quetta is connected by rail-road with all the provincial capitals of the country and the Federal capital, Islamabad. Quetta is also connected by rail-road with Zahedan in Iran. Quetta, Zhob, Turbat and Panjgur are connected by air services to other major cities of the country.
In order to improve telecommunication facilities, telephone lines were laid on a crash basis. As a result, the number of auto exchanges increased from 2 to 7 during the last 10 years, the public call offices from 51 to 250. The installed capacity in the exchanges rose from 430 to 1,350. A microwave channel is also now operating with a capacity of 1,500 besides a reserve of 700. There are three broadcasting stations; one eact at Quetta, Turbat and Khuzdar, while the TV station¹s range is being expanded with one booster already existing in Sibi and the other for Kohlu areas installed few years ago. And more recently new microwave network was installed for coverage of the coastal area.
The picturesque lofty mountains, the vast plains, the Juniper-cald villages of Ziarat with rare species of flora and fauna, the famous mountain passes and the long sunny beaches of Makran, especially Sonmiani and Gadani, possess tremendous potential for the tourist industry. Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation has developed the Gaddani beach, while it has set up tourist villages at Ziarat where a Juniper Club has also been opened at an altitude of 8,000 feet. Besides Ziarat which itself is a beautiful tourist resort at the height of 7,500 feet above the sea level, the valley of Urak lined with apple orchards and the Hanna Lake near Quetta, are attractive tourist spots. A safari park has also been developed in oldest juniper forests of the world with trees having an average age of 300 years, has assumed the importance of a place of pilgrimage for it was here that the founder of the nation Quaid-e-Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah spent his last days. It was his favorite hill resort.
One enters Quetta through the historic Bolan Pass, which was treaded by many invaders and conquerors in the past. The most striking of all mountain passes is Khojab Pass, which links Quetta with the town of Chaman and terminates near Pak-Afghan border. Alexander the Great marched through southern Lasbela and eastern Makran, after leaving the Sind area of Indus Valley.
Baluchistan is rich in folklore, folk songs and folk dances. Besides, religious songs are sung praising Allah and the Holy Prophet (peace be upon Him). There are also the songs of the camelmen, while that of the fishermen is called "Amba". "Dehi" is a love song. "Dastanag" or "Dastan" are sung by shepherds which extol the traditional hospitality and unmatched valour of their heroes.
Among the musical instruments, "Shairparja" is a big drum placed in the centre during dancing. "Soroz" resembles "Sarangi" and is played with classical songs. "Damburag" resembles "Sitar", while "Chang", a small six-inch long instrument with a thin wire, is played by fingers and held in the mouth. "Nar" or "Giro" is an instrument like pipe or a flute, which is played while reciting a "Dastan".
There are also many folk dances meant for various occasions, the most famous being "Chaap", performed at weddings or Eid. Khattak is popular with the Pathans.
Baluchistan has a literary history and has a sizable literature in many languages. There are many literary bodies engaged in the promotion of literary works. They include "Bazm-I-Irtiqa-I-Adab", formed in 1948, which produced a number of books Urdu and published a journal, "Halqa-e-Ahbab-e-Qalam", established in 1964, an organisation of Urdu writers, and "Qalam Qabila", a well-organised literary organization.
Among Baluchi handicrafts the most famous is the mirror-work done on costumes worn by Baluch women.
Many organizations are trying to project the culture of Baluchistan through different media. The most significant one is the Pakistan Arts Council. It holds painting classes, besides organizing multi-lingual "mushairas", musical concerts and plays depicting local life. The Pakistan National Centers hold seminars and symposia on social, cultural and economic aspects of Baluchistan. The contribution of the Quetta Center of Pakistan Television in this respect is considered to be the most significant at present. Its plays depicting various aspects of the life of the people of Baluchistan, its documentaries giving vivid representation on the land, people and their life and living, and its cultural items telecast periodically, have given a new life to the arts and culture of Baluchistan.
In a nutshell, Baluchistan has now entered the mainstream of life of the nation with rapid developments in social, cultural and economic fields, with its own peculiar character maintained and merged in the national ethos in the overall concept of unity in diversity.
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