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Geography of the Baluchistan


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Baluchistan, a southwestern province of Pakistan, extends from the Gomal River in the northeast to the Arabian Sea in the south and from the borders of Iran and Afghanistan in the west and northwest to the Sulaiman Mountains and Kirthar hills in the east. In its continuity to the west lies Iranian Baluchistan. The land of Baluchistan is exceedingly inhospitable; geologists have even compared the landscape with Mars.

Baluchistan can be divided into 2 distinct regions. To the northeast, hedged in between Afghanistan and the Indus plains, stretch long ridges of rough highlands. The average breadth of this highland lobe is 150 mile (241 kilometer), but in the north it narrows to less than 100 mile (161 kilometer) along the Gomal River. This area is bounded by the Sulaiman range on the east and the Toba-Kakar range in the northwest. The main central range of Sulaiman, decreasing in height from north to south, forms the dominant geographical feature of the northeast Baluchistan. This region is mainly inhabited by an ethnic group, the Pathans.

The highlands of Sarawan and Jhalawan in Kalat is a block of territory measuring about 300 mile (483 kilometer) by 300 mile (483 kilometer), which is primarily the home of the Brahui and the Balochi, but with a great variety of physical conditions and inhabitants. The Hab River between the Pab and the Kirthar ranges, the Purali or Porali, draining the low-lying flats of Las Bela, the Hingol, and the Dusht in Makaran are all considerable streams, draining into the Arabian Sea and forming important arteries in the network of internal communications. Between southwestern Baluchistan and the northeastern lobe is the wedge-shaped Kachhi plain, which is a land of dust storms and violent winds. Here temperature does not fall below 100 degrees F (38 degree C) in summer and drops below the freezing point in winter.

The mountain ranges of Baluchistan are formed of Cretaceous and Tertiary beds, forming part of an extensive system of Tertiary (Alpine-Himalayan) times. Besides the Cretaceous and Tertiary beds, Jurassic rocks occupy considerable areas of Baluchistan. With the exception of the Upper Cretaceous and lower Tertiary, especially in northwestern Baluchistan, there is an extensive development of volcanic tuffs and conglomerates probably contemporary with the Deccan traps of India. The sharp bends of the hill ranges around the Kachhi plain have contributed to the instability of this area and have made it seismically important; Quetta was subjected to violent earthquakes in 1931 and 1935.

Excluding the coastal strip in the south, Baluchistan has a subtropical continental climate marked by extremes of temperatures and aridity. Kachhi and the Chagai-Kharan areas are 2 of the hottest and driest regions of the subcontinent.

The annual rainfall on the whole is less than 8 inch (20 centimeter), increasing to about 15 inch (38 centimeter) at Shahring in the northeast and falling in the northwest to less than 3 inch (7.6 centimeter). Most of the rain occurs in winter as a result of western disturbances. Summer rains from the monsoons are important only in the northeast. The coast has moderate temperatures and low rainfall and is dominated by a steady inflow of sea breeze in summer.

The region is scant in vegetation and most of the hills are bare of forest growth. On the plains and lower highlands, trees and herbs are conspicuously absent, and the bare stony soil supports a jungle of stunted scrub, the individual plants of which are almost all armed with spines, hooks, and prickles of diverse appearance. In the upper highlands, the vegetation is extremely varied according to local conditions.

Nothing is known about the area until the time of Alexander the Great, whose armies crossed Las Bela and Makaran from east to west in 325 Before Common Era Later, the area probably passed under the control of Parthians and later to the Kushan dynasty. About this time, Buddhism flourished in Baluchistan. In 707 C.E., Mohammed bin Kasim captured various strongholds in Makaran, advanced into Sindh, and established the Muslim power in the Indus valley.

From 1595 to 1638, the province formed part of the Mughal Empire. The Balochi, who gave their name to the province, are comparatively recent arrivals. They apparently entered Baluchistan in the 11th and 12th centuries, being driven out of Persia by the Seljuks. Their rivals, the Brahuis, who occupy the highlands of Sarawan and Jhalawan in Kalat, are of Dravidian stock. The British control ended in 1947 and Baluchistan became the part of independent Pakistan.

BIBLIOGRAPHY.

A.H. Siddiqi, Baluchistan: Its Society, Resources, and Development (University Press of America, 1991); K.U. Kureshy, A Geography of Pakistan (Oxford University Press, 1978); E.A. Floyer, Unexplored Baluchistan (Quetta, 1977); M.K. Imtiaz, Baluchistan, "International Studies Series” (1950); T.H. Holitch, The Indian Borderland (Gyan Publishing, 1901); D.H. Gordon, Prehistoric Background of Indian Culture (Greenwood, 1958).

JITENDRA UTTAM

JAWAHARLAL NEHRU UNIVERSITY, INDIA

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