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BALUCHISTAN



Baluchistan (province, Pakistan), province in southwestern Pakistan. Baluchistan has an area of 347,190 sq km (134,051 sq mi). It is bounded by Iran on the west, Afghanistan on the north, the Pakistani provinces of Punjab and Sind on the east, and the Arabian Sea on the south. Baluchistan is almost wholly mountainous, with some peaks rising to 1,830 m (6,000 ft). The terrain is barren and rugged and forests are sparse and stunted. The province has few harbors along its 965-km (600-mi) coastline. Except for the coastal strips in the south, Baluchistan has a subtropical continental climate, characterized by extreme temperatures and low rainfall. Less than 200 mm (8 in) of rain fall annually. Millet, barley, wheat, rice, alfalfa, and large quantities of various fruits are grown in Baluchistan's few fertile valleys. Sheep, goats, cattle, camels, donkeys, and horses are also raised. The city of Gwadar on the Makran coast developed as a shipping center for the area. Quetta is the capital of the province. The majority of the province's inhabitants are Muslim. Over the centuries, many cultures have had contact with Baluchistan through travel, trade, and conquest. Archaeological sites, most of which have not yet been thoroughly examined, are abundant. The Pishin Valley around Quetta is referred to in the Avesta, the Zoroastrian book of scripture (see Zoroastrianism). Greek historian Herodotus and Greek geographer Strabo, who knew the region as Gedrosia, also mention Baluchistan in their writings. According to legends still current in the region, both Semiramis, the mythical conqueror-queen of Assyria, and Cyrus the Great, king of Persia from 550 to 530 BC, lost armies in Baluchistan's deserts. Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia, conquered the region in 330 BC. In the following centuries, control of Baluchistan shifted among various dynasties ruling in Persia and the Indian subcontinent. In the 7th century, Baluchistan fell to the Arabs. Ghaznavid, Ghori, and Mongol occupation followed in quick succession (see Mongol Empire). In the 17th century Baluchistan was held for a time by the Mughal Empire and later came under Persian control. Tribal chieftains ruled Baluchistan when the province came under British political influence early in the 19th century. During the First Anglo-Afghan War (1838-1842), the British occupied the territory in order to protect their lines of communication. They withdrew in 1841, and subsequent treaties, in 1854 and 1876, strengthened Baluchistan's ties with the British Indian Empire. In 1877 five districts were separated from India to make up the British province of Baluchistan. Upon the partition of India in 1947, Baluchistan opted to join Pakistan. In 1952 Baluchistan consisted of five districts and four former states. The districts were Quetta-Pishin, Sibi, Zhob, Loralai, and Chagai; the former states were Kalāt, Las-Bela, Kharan, and Makran. In October 1955 Baluchistan was merged with the remaining provinces and states in the western zone to form West Pakistan Province. In 1958 the khan of Kalāt, unreconciled to his state's merger into West Pakistan Province, revolted and declared himself independent, but the revolt was quickly suppressed. In 1961, when the capital of Pakistan was shifted from Karāchi to the provisional capital of Rāwalpindi (Islāmābād became Pakistan's permanent capital in 1967), Las-Bela was merged with Karāchi. The rest of Baluchistan was divided into two administrative divisions: Quetta, consisting of former British Baluchistan, and Kalāt, comprising the former states of Kalāt, Makran, and Kharan. In 1962 the khan of Kalāt was restored to his throne, but fighting between government forces and tribal guerrilla groups continued sporadically through the mid-1970s. In 1970, when West Pakistan was redivided into four provinces, Baluchistan again became a province of Pakistan. Population 6,300,000 (1994 estimate) .