Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan, which makes 44% of the country’s land mass. It traces its history from times immemorial when it was inhabited by Stone Age hunters. According to French Archaeologist Professor Jarrige, by 6,000 BC farmers on the Bolan River were cultivating barley, wheat and dates using floodwater and storing their surplus in large mud bins. The people here were growing cotton and making pottery.
Before the birth of Christ, it had commerce and trade links with ancient civilization of Babylon through Iran and into the valleys of Tigris and Euphrates. Alexander the Great (326 BC) had an encounter with the Sibia tribe of Balochistan. Muhammad Bin Qasim (711 AD) and Mehmood Ghaznavi (11th century AD) 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.
During 15th century, the Great Baloch Sardar Mir Chakkar Rind united the main Balochi tribes and also ruled over southern Afghanistan and parts of Punjab and Sindh. After this, Balochistan was governed by Safvids, Mughals and Ghilzais for three centuries. The Khans of Kalat united the Brahui tribes and rose to power with the support of Nadir Shah of Iran. The British first came to Balochistan during the first Afghan War (1939-42), on their way to Kandhar. In 1876, Robert Sandeman was appointed as the British Agent in Balochistan and by 1887 most of the area was in British hands. Ultimately, in 1947, Balochistan became part of Pakistan.
Balochistan is a land of contrast. It has places with rugged mountains like Chiltan, Takatu, Sulaiman, Sultan etc. and plains stretching hundreds of kilometers. 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 cool towns like Quetta, Ziarat, Kan Mehtarzai, and Kalat where the temperature goes below freezing point and these areas remain under a thick cover of snow in winter.
A Balochi war song describes the province of Balochistan thus: the mountains are the Balochi’s fort; 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.”
The inhabitants are mainly Pathan, Baloch and Brahui. You can also find Uzbeks, Tajiks and Turkamen rubbing shoulders with 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 colour 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.