Balochistan (Balochi: بلوچستان) or Baluchistan (lit. Land of the Baloch) is an arid, desert and mountainous region on the Iranian plateau in south-western Asia, northwest of the Indian Ocean near the Persian Gulf. It mainly includes southwestern Pakistan, southeastern Iran and a smaller section of southwestern Afghanistan.
Balochistan is named after the native Baloch tribes who make up the majority of the inhabitants in the region. They speak Balochi as their native language, and also Brahui, and Persian as additional languages. Communities of Pashtuns, Brahui and others are also found in Balochistan but those groups speak in their own native languages. The southern part of Balochistan is known by its historical name, Makran.
The Baloch people who along with the Pashtuns formed the eastern half of the Iranian peoples. referred to their land as Moka or Maka, a word which later became Makran. Balochistan is referred to in Pashto as Gwadar or Godar (also Godar-khwa i.e. The land by water. This Greeks, who derived the names of Iranian lands from the Bactrian language, Latinized this word to Gedrosia. The word "Balochistan" itself is of Persian extraction, and was originally intended as an abusive term. Loch in Persian means naked or ignorant. Ba means with. Thus the term Ba-loch implied one who was uncivilized and ignorant. Istan in Persian means abode. After the older words ceased being used, the word "Balochistan" became the standard word for the region. Thus it is fair to say that the original word for Balochistan was Makka, the Pashto word is Gwadar/Godar and the Hellenized/Latinzed version of the Pashto word is Gedrosia. Therefore, in the grand scheme of etymology, the word Balochistan is a relatively recent arrival on the scene.
The earliest evidence of occupation in what is now Balochistan is dated to the Paleolithic era, represented by hunting camps and lithic scatters (chipped and flaked stone tools). The earliest settled villages in the region date to the ceramic Neolithic (c. 7000–6000 BCE), and included the site of Mehrgarh (located in the Kachi Plain). These villages expanded in size during the subsequent Chalcolithic, when interaction was amplified. This involved the movement of finished goods and raw materials, including chank shell, lapis lazuli, turquoise and ceramics. By 2500 BCE (the Bronze Age), The region now known as Balochistan had become part of the Harappan cultural orbit, providing key resources to the expansive settlements of the Indus river basin to the east.
From the 1st century to the 3rd century CE, the region was ruled by the Pāratarājas (lit. "Pārata Kings"), a dynasty of Indo-Scythian or Indo-Parthian kings. The dynasty of the Pāratas is thought to be identical with the Pāradas of the Mahabharata, the Puranas and other vedic and Iranian sources. The Parata kings are essentially known through their coins, which typically exhibit the bust of the ruler on the obverse (with long hair within a headband), and a Zoroastrian fire altar on the reverse (usually silver coins) or Kharoshthi (copper coins). These coins are mainly found in Loralai in today's western Pakistan.
Herodotus in 450 BCE, describes the Paraitakenoi as a tribe ruled by Deiokes, a Persian king, in northwestern Persia (History I.101). Arrian describes how Alexander the Great encountered the Pareitakai in Bactria and Sogdiana, and had them conquered by Craterus (Anabasis Alexandrou IV). The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (1st century CE) describes the territory of the Paradon beyond the Ommanitic region, on the coast of modern Balochistan.
The region was fully Islamized by the 9th century and became part of the Saffarids of Zaranj followed by the Ghaznavids, Ghorids Timurids, and Hotaki until Ahmad Shah Durrani made it part of the Afghan Empire in the mid-18th century. and became part of Afghanistan The Western Balochistan was invaded and taken by Iran in the 19th century, and its boundary was fixed in 1871. Omani influence waned in the east and Oman's last possession, Gwadar, was bought by Pakistan in 1958.
The lanscape of Balochistan is composed of barren, rugged mountains and fertile, but dry land. Most of the land is barren, particularly on the Iranian and Afghan side of the region, and it is generally sparsely populated. In the south (Makran) lies the desert.
Agriculture in this region is based on horticulture supported mostly by rain water. Cultivation is often located on alluvial fans, along river-courses, and in fertile areas which are maintained through artificial irrigation systems such as qanats (holes sunk in the ground to trap water) and gabarbands (low stone and earth mounds creating raised beds which become saturated by rainfall and water run-off from the surrounding hills). In the southern Makran and oasis region (south of the Chagai Hills) date palms are cultivated. Orange orchards are also typical in southern Balochistan, particularly in Jhalawan and Sarawan.
The population of Balochistan region is probably somewhere around 11 million. Pashtun and Baloch are the major ethnic group in the region followed by Brahui, and others. All inhabitants of the region are Muslim. Except for the small population of Hazaras in the city of Quetta, the Sistanis in the northern part of the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchistan, and an even smaller number of other Shi'as, the overwhelming majority of the people in the Balochistan region are followers of Sunni Islam.
Although Baloch people are mostly secular in nature, the invasive influence of foreign intelligence agencies in Balochistan and Muslim extremist religious parties in the region are propagating Islamic extremism in Baloch societies. The spread of Talibanism is also a constant threat to Balochistan and its cultural values. In the past sixty years, Balochs have persistently rejected extremism in the region.
Balochistan has very few sources of income for the native people, despite the region being rich in minerals. The main ways the people of Balochistan survive are through government services, raising livestock and smuggling. Agriculture is mostly sparse and is only present in the Khachi area.
Governance and political disputes
The Balochistan region is administratively divided mainly among two countries, Pakistan and Iran. The Pakistani portion of Balochistan is the largest and its capital is the city of Quetta. Other major cities in Balochistan, Pakistan, include Gwadar, Turbat, Khuzdar and Kalat. Although Baloch nationalists have never accepted Balochistan as a part of present-day Pakistan or Iran, the governments of Pakistan and Iran insist on sovereignty over their parts of Balochistan. Several nationalist movements have developed in the past sixty years, but have been forcibly repressed by the Pakistani and Iranian regimes.
The smaller section of northern Balochistan region is part of Afghanistan since 1747 and includes the Chahar Burjak District of Nimruz Province as well as the Registan Desert in southern Helmand and Kandahar provinces. The governors of Nimruz and Helmand provinces in Afghanistan both belong to Baloch ethnic group.
- Balochistan Liberation Army
- Partisans of National Liberation of Afghanistan
- Popular Front for Armed Resistance
- Baloch Republican Party
- Balochistan, Pakistan
- Sistan and Baluchistan Province
- Balochistan conflict
- Bolan Pass
- Seistan Force
- Balouch rug
- Lori (ethnic group)
- Variations of the spelling, especially on French maps, include: Beloutchistan, Baloutchistan.
- "New light on the Paratarajas" p11
- "New light on the Paratarajas" p29-30
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- "Aḥmad Shah Durrānī". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- Clements, Frank (2003). Conflict in Afghanistan: a historical encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-85109-402-8. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
- "Nimroz Province". Naval Postgraduate School. Retrieved 2013-01-03.
- "Helmand Province". Naval Postgraduate School. Retrieved 2013-01-03.
- "Kandahar Province". Naval Postgraduate School. Retrieved 2013-01-03.
- Persia (Iran), Afghanistan and Baluchistan is a map from 1897 published by The Century Company
- Afghanistan, Beloochistan, etc. is a map from 1893 published by the American Methodist Church