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Old 17-01-2009, 06:58 PM
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Chaudhry Shahid Khan


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Heart Balochistan

BALOCHISTAN Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan with an area of 347056 sq. Kms, over 40% of the country's land mass. It traces its history from times immemorial. Before the birth of Christ, it had commerce and trade with ancient civilization of Babylon through Iran and into the valleys of tigris and Euphrates. Alexander the Great also had an encounter with the Sibia tribe of Balochistan. Muhammad Bin Qasim and Mehmood Ghaznavi also invaded Balochistan resulting in the development of Mislim character. Even today most tribal people of this province resemble Arabs and the inhabitants can be quite a fascinating subject of study by anthropologists.

A Balochi war song describes the province of Balochistan thus: "the mountains are the Balochi's forts; the peaks are better than any army; the lofty heights are our comrades; the the pathless gorges our friends. Our drink is from the following springs; our bed the thorny bush; the ground we make our pillow."
Balochistan is a land of contrast. It has places with rugged mountains like Chiltan, Takatu, Sulaiman, Sultan etc. and plains stretching hundreds of miles. It has fertile land such as in Nasirabad and teh 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 the cool towns like Quetta, Ziarat, Khan Mehtarzai and kalat where temperature goes below freezing point and these areas remain under a thick cover of snow in winter.
Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, 1692 meters above sea level, lies at the mouth of Bolan Pass. It has three large craggy mountains. Chiltan, Zarghun and Koh-e-Murdar, that seem to brood upon this pleasant town. there are other mountains that form a ring around it. Their copper red and russet rocks and crests that are powdered with snow in winters add immense charm to the town.
Quetta is an excellent base for further exploration of Balochistan. Loralai, the almond bowl of the country, is 265 kms away. Besides, there are numerous other valleys that are fascinating places to be in for explorers.
Quetta can rightly be called the fruit basket of Pakistan. Plums, peaches, pomegranates, apricots, apples, some unique varieties of melon like "Garma" and cherries, pistachios and almonds are all grown in abundance. Some pistachios aalso grow in Qila Saif ullah.
Saffron grows very well on mountains around 5000 ft (1524 metres) high. It is being cultivated on a commercial scale here. The yellow and red varieties of tulip grow wild around Quetta.
The inhabitants are mainly Pathan, Baloch and Brahui. You can also find Uzbeks, Tajiks and Turkamen rubbing shoulders with the other inhabitants. Nomadic tribsmen pass through Quetta Valley during spring and automn with their herds of sheep and camels and their assorted wares for sale. This seasonal movement adds colour to the life of the city.
Teh 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.
The name Quetta is derived from the word "Kuwatta" which means a fort and, no doubt, it is a natural fort surrounded as it is by imposing hills on all sides. The ecircling hills have the resounding names of Chiltan, Takatoo, Mordar and Zarghun.
The main thoroughfare and the commercial Centre of Quetta is Jinnah road. It is a long boulevard lined with trees. Many important buildings like the Governor's House, Post and Telecommunication Offices are located along Jinnah Road.

Prominent bazaars of Quetta are located on Shahrah-e-Iqbal (Kandahari Bazaar) and Shahrah-e-Liaqat (Liaqat Bazaar and Suraj Gang Bazaar). Here you can find colourful handicrafts, particularly Balochi mirror work embroidery which is admired all over the world, carpets, with their pleasing and intricate designs, fur coats, jackets, waist-coats, sandals and other creations of traditional Balochi skills.
In the ol dbazaars one comes across quaint old tea-shops. These are the local "clubs". There are also many popular eating houses offering different types of delicacies. Among the delicacies you must try "Sajji" (Leg of lamb), which is roasted to a delightful degree of tenderness and is not very spicy. The tribesmen of the valley also enjoy "Landhi" (whole lamb), which is dried in shade and kept for the winters. "Kabab" shops are very popular.

Some of the finest mutton in the country is raised around Quetta. It has a delicious smell which can be sampled in the "Pulao" that most of the restaurants offer. THE MUSEUM:
The archaeological Museum at Fifa road has a collection of rare antique guns, swords and manuscripts. Geological Survey Department on Sariab road (6 kms) has a collection of rocks and fossils. Only six kms from the city is the campus of the university of Balochistan.
AskariPark at the airport road offers amusement and recreational facilities.
In the Hazarganji Chiltan National Park, 20 kms south-west of Quetta, Markhors have been given protection. The park is spread over 32500 acres, altitude ranging ranging from 2021 to 3264 meters.
Hazarganji literaally means "Of a thousand treasures". In the folds of these mountains, legend has it, there are over a thousand trerasures buried, reminders of the passage of great armies down the corridors of history. The Bactrains, Scythians, Mongols and then the great migrating hordes of Baloch, all passed this way.

Markhor of which there are five distinct kinds, is the national animal of Pakistan. The kind that is photographed the most often is the Chiltan Markhor which, because of tis long horns looks very cnspicuous. Eversince the markhor has been given protection its number has multiplied.
Other animals in the park are straight horned markhors, "Gad"(wild sheep) and leopards which occasionally migrate to the park from other areas, wolves, striped hyena, hares, wild cats and porcupines.
Many birds like partridge, warblers, shikras, blue rock pigeon, rock nuthatch, red gilled choughs, golden eagle, sparrow, hawlks, falcons and bearded vultures are either found here or visit visit the park in different seasons.
Reptiles like monitor and other wild lizards, eckos, Afghan tortoise, python, cobra, horned viper and levantine may also be seen in the park.

Karkhasa is a recreation Park situated at distance of 10 kms to the west of Quetta. It is a 16 kms long narrow valley having a variety of flora like Ephedra, Artimisia and Sophora.
The Urak valley is 21 kms from Quetta City. The road is lined on either side with wild roses and fruit orchards. Peaches, plums, apricot and apples of many varieties are grown in this valley.
The waterfall at the end of the Urak valley, which is full of apple and apricot orchards, makes an interesting picnic spot.
A little short of the place where the Urak valley begins and 10 kms from Quetta is the Hanna Lake, where banches and pavilions on terraces have been provided. Golden fish in the lake comes swimming right upto the edge of the lake. A little distance away, the waters f the lake take on a greenish blue tint. Right where the water ends, pine trees have been planted on the grass filled slopes.
The greenish-blue waters of the lake provide a rich contrast to the sandy brown of the hills in the background. One can promenade on the terraces. Wagon service operates form city bus station at Circular road.

Some 50kms from Quetta is the valley of Pishin with its numerous fruit orchards, which are irrigated by "Karaz", a kind of artificial spring made by boring holes into rocks to bring to the surface the subterranean water. Sixteen kms from Pishin is the man-made lake Bund Khushdil Khan. Its cool gentle waters attract many visitors for duck shooting in early winter.
At a disance of 70 kms from Quetta on Sibi road is situated a popular picnic spot known as Pir Ghaib. Here a waterfall cascades down rocky mountain side making its way through many streams and ponds among the shady palm trees. You need a 4-wheal-drive vehicle to reach the spot from the main road.

A visit to Quetta is incomplete without a trip to Ziarat. Situated 133 kms(3 hours by car) from Quetta at an altitude of 2449 meters avove sea level, Ziarat is a holiday resort amidst one of the largest and oldest juniper forests in the world. It is said that some of the Juniper trees are as old as 5000 years.
The name Ziarat means "Shrine". A local saint, Kharwari Baba, is beleived to have rested in the valley and blessed it. After hi sdeath he was buried here. People frequently visit the saint's shrine, which is 10 kms from Ziarat.

Extensive research is being done in the forest nurseries to replace the juniper forest with following trees as the regeneration of the juniper is very slow.
The magic of Ziarat is its honey, its flowers which attain large size here, its lush green grass and cool weather even in the hottest months of summer. "Shinshoab", a lavender like wild bush looks very lovely in twilights.

Nearly 4416 acres in and around Ziarat are under apple orchards. The apple grown in the orchards, particularly the black and red kuku variety are delicious. A fair amount of black cherry is also grown in Ziarat. The cherry season lasts from the 1st to 15th of June.
Between the ever-ascending hills and the deep revine, there is a mile-long stretch of flat land ideal for a peaceful walk. This is the "Chashma Walk" which leads to the springs of a "Chashma" that provide water for the town. It is only 2 kms from the "PTDC" Model Complex.
The view from prospect point is rewarding. It lies at a height of 2713 meters above sea level and is 6 kms from Ziarat. The road is metal led, but a walk is recommended.
Once at the peak with wind whistling through the forest one can see the valley stretch out in undulating slopes in front. From a nearby cliff, one can clearly see the highest peak of these hills known as Khalefat, which rises to a height of 3487 metres. There is a small rest house situated nearby. Prior reservation may be made through the office of deputy Commissioner of Ziarat.
The shrine of Baba Kharwari is 8 kms from Ziarat town. A member of Sarang Zai, his name was Tahir. He became a disciple of Nana Sahib and a number of miracles are attributed to him. He is buried in a valley about 8 kms from Ziarat. A large number of people visit his shrine and offer sacrifices in his memory.
During Eid festival, the tribesmen gather around the shrine and hold wrestling and marksmanship competitions.

Fourteen kms from Ziarat is the picturesque Zindra. Zindra derives its name from the Pushto word "Zindra" meaning "four grinding mills".
Zizree (16 kms) and Nauna Dam(20 kms) are also interesting places for an outing near Ziarat.

Quaid-e-Azam residency with its lush green lawns, chinar trees and flowers gardens commands a striking view of the whole valley. It is of historical importance, as the Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, stayed there during his last illness. It houses the relics of the father of the nation. The Residency was built in 1882 by the British and used by the agent to the Governor General as his summer headquarters.
It lies 10 kms from Ziarat, off the main road to Quetta. A small waterfall formed by the mountain spring flows down. It is a 2 kms walk from the main road to the waterfall and is an ideal place for picnic.
It is just 4 kms from Ziarat. It is a dramatic waterfall cascading down the rocks and provides fun to the visitors.
About 13 kms from Ziarat on way to Loralai is the beautiful Chutair valley. It is a 30 minutes drive to Chutair from Ziarat There are green picnic spots in the valley. There is also a rest house in case one wants to stay longer. The crude and rustic huts made with the bark of juniper trees in which the inhabitants of the area live, are strikingly different from dwellings in other villages. Naerby is Chutair Tangi which is worth visiting.
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