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Major ethnic groups of Pakistan in 1980. The pink color represents the Baloch ethnic group.

Balochistan or Baluchistan[1] (Balochi: بلوچستان, lit. Land of the Baloch) is an arid desert and mountainous region on the Iranian plateau in south-western Asia, northwest of the Arabian Sea. It stretches across southwestern Pakistan, southeastern Iran, and a small section of southwestern Afghanistan. The southern part of Balochistan is known by its historical name Makran.

Balochistan is named after the native Baloch tribes who inhabit the region and use Balochi as their native language. Persian, Pashtu and Urdu are used as second languages in some areas; Brahui is spoken by the Brahui minority.


  • Etymology 1
  • History 2
  • Geography 3
  • Demography 4
  • Governance and political disputes 5
    • Secessionist movements 5.1
  • Extremism & Religious Persecution of Minorities 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The Baloch people once 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). The Greeks, who derived the names of Iranian lands from the Bactrian language, Hellenised it to Gedrosia. It thus appears that the name Balochistan is of relatively recent origin.


Ancient empires
The Afghan Empire of Ahmad Shah Durrani at its peak

The earliest evidence of human 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.[2] The Parata kings are essentially known through their coins, which typically exhibit the bust of the ruler (with long hair in a headband) on the obverse, and a swastika within a circular legend on the reverse, written in Brahmi (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.[3]

The region was fully Islamized by the 9th century and became part of the territory of the Saffarids of Zaranj, followed by the Ghaznavids, then the Ghorids. Ahmad Shah Durrani made it part of the Afghan Empire in 1749. In 1758 the Khan of Kalat, Mir Noori Naseer Khan Baloch, revolted against Ahmed Shah Durrani, defeated him, and freed Balochistan, winning complete independence.[4][5][6][7] 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 landscape 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.[8]

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 Baloch are the major ethnic group in the region followed by Pashtun. The majority of 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. Balochistan has a small Hindu population.

Governance and political disputes

The Balochistan region is administratively divided among three countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan 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, Sibi and Kalat. Although Baloch nationalists have never accepted Balochistan as a part of Iran, the governments of Pakistan and Iran insist on sovereignty over their parts of Balochistan.

The British made northern Balochistan part of Afghanistan in order to divide the strength of the Baloch nation. The Afghan portion of Balochistan includes the Chahar Burjak District of Nimruz Province,[9] and the Registan Desert in southern Helmand and Kandahar provinces.[10][11] The governors of Nimruz provinces in Afghanistan belong to the Baloch ethnic group.[9]

Secessionist movements

Extremism & Religious Persecution of Minorities

According to the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Pakistani Taliban targeting Hindus, Shias (including Hazaras) and Zikris, resulting in the migration of over 210,000 Shias, Zikris, and Hindus from Baluchistan to other parts of Pakistan.[15] A further 90,000 ethnic Punjabis have also fled due to campaigns against Punjabis by Balochi militants.[16]

See also


  1. ^ Variations of the spelling, especially on French maps, include: Beloutchistan, Baloutchistan.
  2. ^ "New light on the Paratarajas" p11
  3. ^ "New light on the Paratarajas" p29-30
  4. ^ "Ahmad Shah and the Durrani Empire".  
  5. ^  
  6. ^ "Aḥmad Shah Durrānī".  
  7. ^ Clements, Frank (2003). Conflict in Afghanistan: a historical encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 81.  
  8. ^ Anita M. Weiss and Muhammad Aurang Zeb Mughal (2012) 'Pakistan'. Louis Kotzé and Stephen Morse (eds), Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability, Vol. 9. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire, pp. 236-240.
  9. ^ a b "Nimroz Province".  
  10. ^ "Helmand Province". Naval Postgraduate School. Retrieved 2013-01-03. 
  11. ^ "Kandahar Province". Naval Postgraduate School. Retrieved 2013-01-03. 
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^

External links

  • Ancient Baluchistan – Exploring the Past
  • 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
  • Balochistan Archives- Preserving our Past

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