Monday, July 25, 2011

Balochistan - the Land of Cordiality

Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan by area, with a total population of about 8 millions. It has mainly 2 large population groups i.e. Balochis and Pakhtoons. Last year I got the opportunity to visit the province with my friend Ibrahim who hails from Pishin district. I had just a fortnight and since my hosts were in the Pakhtoon area of Balochistan, I can only share about that part.

July 15

We started from Lahore on 14th of July in the midnight. Traveled through the night via Faisalabad Jhang Bhakkar and reached D.I. Khan early in the morning. From there, we started for Zhob in the mountainous terrain of Balochistan. The road was about 230km but due to the mountains, it took us about 5 hours to reach Zhob city in the afternoon.
Highway Motel on the way to Zhob

We ate lunch there (not in the motel shown in the pic) and then started for Pishin, which is a city located about 40km from Quetta, the capital of Balochistan. The 330km road is metallic and passes through Qilla Saifullah, Muslim Bagh and Kuchlakh in about 5 hours. On the way, I noticed that population was very scattered and for kilometers we traveled without any hint of life.We saw KaanMehtarzai, which was considered the highest railway station in Asia until recently.

Pond with stored rainwater being used for all purposes

Instead of going directly to Quetta, we were going to Pishin, the hometown of Ibrahim. Pishin is located on the Quetta-Chaman Highway which runs into Afghanistan. We reached our destination in Pishin, at about 10 pm. Dinner was ready and I was astonished to see the variety of food on the table in such a far flung area. Especially, the extra large loaf of bread with a diameter of about 2 feet! With roasted mutton and lassi, it was the tonic we needed after some 24 hours of continuous traveling. I was tempted to photograph these, but I was afraid that my hosts would mind it.

July 16
Next morning, my friend took me for a visit of the village. It was a small village with peace and serenity. The people were very simple and hospitable. 
Ibrahim showing me how they grow melons :)

After a tantalizing trip around the field, it was good to actually eat some melons :)

Lost in the world of his dreams :)

July 17

My friend (my host) was kind enough to take out his own car and the 40km journey to Quetta was quiet and comfortable. Ibrahim was very keen to show me his own city and so we went out to take a cursory look around the city. It is a small city with a lot of hustle and bustle in the bazaars especially the Kandahari Bazar, Jinnah Road and Meezan Chowk. Unlike Lahore, Karachi or Peshawar where one has to switch between different languages, the business language of this city is Pashto. One can go around and talk to people in Pashto, safely assuming that everybody around can speak and understand it. It is even more interesting that Quetta is host to many different populations like Seraiki, Hazara, Tajik, Persians, Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi, Kashmiri and a many others and still they communicate in Pashto!

A small bazaar in Quetta, just outside where I was staying

The playground of the famous Tameer-e-Nau Public College, the best in Balochistan

July 18

We went to BUITEMS (Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences) which was the alma mater of Ibrahim, my friend. We met there with professors and students who were very helping and cordial. I was astonished that the faculty had some of the top professors of the country, from different ethnic background. Even though our visit was informal but still the people around gave us every respect. We spent lot of time with different professors including the Dean who was kind enough to invite us for tea. We met different students and at first look I thought that there are only one ethnic group of students in this university. But upon inquiring, I was told that there are about 30 different tribes from which the students of this university belonged but with the university dress code and the cordial atmosphere nobody could have guessed that!
Cafeteria of BUITEMS

For the next 3 days we were busy with our research and it included quite a few visits to the university. 

July 22

Once we were finished with work, it was time for some sightseeing. Again, my friend Ibrahim and his family members were very kind and hospitable and took upon themselves to show me all the places there to see. Since it is considered disrespect to leave a guest alone, we had a dozen people with us in this journey. We started for Thanda-Ziarat (Cold Ziarat) which is about 3 hour drive from Quetta. The largest and probably the oldest Juniper forest of the world is located in this area with trees as old as 5000 years! The road is a typical mountainous road with the altitude increasing upto Ziarat.

In the midst of the oldest Juniper forest of the world

The temperature there was hovering below 10 Celsius in that time of the year when cities like Peshawar and Lahore were experiencing around 50 Celsius! We cooked and ate in the midst of the forest, which is the normal thing for tourists visiting the area as there are no hotels or restaurants in the forest. We returned to Ziarat city in the afternoon. That is the place where Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, spend the last few days of his life. His residency is now a national heritage site attracting thousands of visitors every month.
Quaid Residency Ziarat

Swimming Pools provides the relief in the summer

After some sightseeing on the way, we reached late in the evening to Pishin.
Dry landscape of Pishin

July 23

We left for Quetta for a final hurrah. Roaming around the city, we visited Flora, the famous ice cream parlour. We visited the Cantonment area which is at par with, if not better than, any other cantonment of Pakistan. Liaqat Bazar had some of the finest Balochi traditional handicrafts on display. Kandahari Bazaar was the busiest of all. We visited some dry fruit's shops and I found myself bewildered by the huge number of choices available.

Dry Fruits - the famous gift of Balochistan

Meezan Chowk - the heart of Quetta

July 24

It was time to leave this beautiful city. During my stay, the mercury rarely touched 35 Celsius and with very low humidity, I wished I could spend the rest of the summer there. In the previous 2 weeks, I had learned a lot about Balochistan. A lot of misconceptions removed. The people were very genteel and patriotic. It was heartening to see a Balochi, a Pakhtoon, a Seraiki and a Punjabi working in the same shop, eating together without any hint of ethnic grudge.
It was time to say Goodbye


  1. Visiting Queeta in summer is a first choice...

  2. Wow, 5000 year old trees. That's remarkable. Sounds like you had an altogether lovely visit.

  3. lucky you Israr..nai tou people from punjab are afraid to visit balochistan these never know what comes your way while you take the BRAVO~ AND btw it sounds like you had so much fun! I was amazed to read the last two lines about punjabi, suraiki and balochi working it? this is nt what we are told here!!! we are told how brutally the balochis kill punjabis if they fine them! which is ofcourse not true..em glad you gave the insight write more abt how were you treated by them with your punjabi identity..ok

  4. guzara forests are also found here. i wonder people owning forests. this area is gold for Pakistan only if tribal leaders and government agree on same terms. one can hope this area will be utilized in its true sense for our country.

  5. Dear Mysterio! I dont know how to comment on such a remarkable story you have written........You are really incredible.....continue with good wishes are with you....

  6. @asma khan...
    yes its like a heaven in summer :)

  7. @secret agent...
    yup it is very interesting to stand there in the forest and just think about the 5000 year old trees and for a little while be part of their story... :)

  8. @mishi...
    you know how the media work... they sensationalize everything... yes there were a few incidents of violence but you know these can happen anywhere... and yes there were all these people living together... when we visited the university, there were professors of punjabi, pukhtoon, hazara and baluchi origins... the tailor who stitched my suit was from south punjab...the cloth i purchased was from a baluch, the doctor we visited was a pukhtoon... and knowing that all these people are 2nd or 3rd generation residents, make it really wonderful...

  9. @anonymous...

    yes a little peace is all that is needed otherwise the area is literally a gold mine in terms of its vast resources and potential... and the trees from this juniper forest are used by the locals for their domestic use but i dont know if it is owned by the people or government... :)

  10. @ibraim..

    o dear are so humble... i could have written more and more but one cannot transform feelings into words..the hospitality that you people provided ... :)

  11. Wonderful ! the way you have map out the story had really make it interesting and especially the pictures i like the most. i think after reading it everyone want to see the juniper forest. keep the pen of your thoughts in motion so that we can read some more interesting stories:)

  12. @maria
    thanks... yes sure if somebody get a chance, they must visit the forest... and thanks for liking the pics... i didnt have a dedicated camera but still i wanted to capture the moments so maybe the pic quality is not very good but still something is better than nothing :)

  13. Misterio ... you have well presented your journey ... all the activities, the hospitable people of Queta (ever green host Ibrahim khan)and especilay all those places that you have visited..its really amazing just like a fairy tale...that a Prince along with (...)go to full fill his destiny...but one thing you are missing my dear...all phone calls that you received constantly from the day first from lab.."ring ring...Israr whats the position of sampling"...hahha.i simply appreciate all your work .... i can feel it because i have also visited all these place before your visit with same host (Ibrahim khan)so its not just imigination for me like other blog readers..its Amazing.. i love your work.

  14. @shakil...
    thanks dear ...yes you can feel it as you have visited all the places yourself and recall the experience that you had... yes ibrahim rocks... and no i did not get any calls as i was on a private sampling tour so .. :)

  15. Good Stuff :) child lost in his dreams!!

  16. @shama...

    thanks :) this child pic is one of my fav :)

  17. the camera had done its job very perfectly nothing to worried about as the pics are amazing and contain the aesthetic sense of photography :)

  18. @almas... thanks... after all i am no professional photographer :)

  19. A road to master blaster, the one and only Ibraheem khan along with Israr Buddy with a pictorial vivid the beauty of our province Baluchistan, is really a heart touching exercise. The picturization of Baluch culture, code of belief, area travelled, natural resources and ploy of travel is sketched remarkable. I would add my experience of getting through 16 huge railway tunnels on the way to Quetta and one of them is amongst longest in Pakistan. Buddy you might include such an incident if you travel through these tunnels via railway with your great host, with dense clouds of darkness all around you. I revealed all dislocated memories after reading this blog as I have been to Chaman and Flora ;) Ah I love it.. One significant point I must include here that we all (commenter) of blog, should avoid comments reflecting negative comments like defining brutality or hate rid of Baluchies for Punjabies and so on as this image is disastrous for our ethnic good will.

  20. WOW!!! Baluchistan and this travel story... its among my dreams to visit ziarat atlest once in life...

  21. Great work Misterio,,,,,,I really enjoy it, not only coz of its content but the intention with which you tried to portray positive aspect of a region which unfortunately is considered a barren land with barren residents. Its all about exposure and our interest,,,,, you know we just listen and believe,,,,, no one bother to go closer to reality,,,, but everyone is very skilled in making perceptions. Your blog remind me something which is very funny but sad for me at least,,,,, I am very thankful to my senior who once called me in the early morning that how is everything at your home coz she came to knew via news that there happened some heavy floods in Queta. I told but I am from Peshawar, but she insisted that peshawar is next to queta,,,,, it was something which can help me how we develop thinking and ideas about regions and its residents.... I read just few days earlier in one of an article about the Trumpbach waterfalls in Swiss Interlachen, where the officials claimed that its one of its unique kind waterfalls in the world. But the writer said that while going from Queta to ziarat the "Tangi" waterfalls are far more astonishing than wot he saw in swiss. But its really a moment of extreme sadness that if being a pakistani I heard about them just few days earlier, how can the world know about them.....Wot I can learn from this story is to go and explore my Pakistan,,,, and then decide whos who,,,, and what is what.....??? Thank you Misterio for sharing this amazing experience

  22. Having no words to praise your is the best way to explain a journey....
    Good job

  23. @atif...
    we went by road via DI.Khan-Zhob-Quetta Road, so i didt not observe the tunnels...had you told me before, I would have definitely tried to go via train :) and one believes in whatever one watches/reads on the media so if the media portray the hatred of baluchis to punjabis than people will believe... i tried to portray the real situation which is not so bad... good and bad people are everywhere but one should not think that a whole population is bad...

  24. @sadia...
    yes sure its a great place to visit and one must try if one get a chance... best of luck for your journey :)

  25. @adian
    yes dear this is the main purpose... in the present age of media... our minds and perception are heavily impacted by the media and whatever they show us we believe them blindly... i have spent some 2 weeks and visited so many places and we didnt witness a single incident of violence or hatred or any untoward situation so i think balochistan is safe as any other part of the country or the world... the infrastructure is not of the highest standard and one cannot find the facilities which one sees in other big cities but that is easily compensated by the hospitality and warmth the inhabitants of this great region... and yes its really unfortunate that we hesitate to explore our own country... sometimes we learn about some of the great places of our country through the writings and books of some foreigners who explored these!

  26. Nice sharing Israr, I always wished to visit Zyart as it was the fvrt city of our Qaid. Some days before I was reading abt that forest in a mgzn n wished if I could go there n be the part of that glory. I felt i was seeing u visiting all that places, realy heart touching.Nice sharing Israr, I always wished to visit Zyart as it was the fvrt city of our Qaid. Some days before I was reading abt that forest in a mgzn n wished if I could go there n be the part of that glory. I felt i was seeing u visiting all that places, realy heart touching.

  27. @kiran...

    thanks...yes it is a great place to visit especially in the summer time.... and yes that forest is there but it is sad that it is not being preserved :(

  28. Love the pics. Thanks for sharing.

  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

  30. Wow! What a journey and an experience. Your photos are great too. I especially like the first one with the mountains views in the back.
    Great storytelling, Muhammad!

    Thanks also for always visiting & commenting at my blog. I truly appreciate it.

  31. @andy...
    thanks... i am glad that you liked the post and the photographs :)

  32. Gosh, it must have been a wonderful trip!
    I liked all the pictures and especially that one of the child "lost in the world of his dreams"
    Great post!

    Margie :)

  33. @Margie...

    thanks... yes it was a wonderful trip... and that child pic is one of my fav :)

  34. Great writing. Looks like, i visited with you. :) By the way, You passed from hometown and you didnt tell me :( otherwise, you write about bhakkar too :) . Good writing...Keep it up......

  35. @akram...
    thanks dear... yes we passed from your hometown but it was in the early morning and i was mostly asleep through the journey from faisalabad to d.i.khan :) lets hope i visited bhakkar when you are here :)

  36. For you, Muhammad, I'm sharing a special gift of friendship & strings attached (smile).
    If you wish, you may claim it here:
    I received an award!

    You will need to click on the image to copy it to your blog.

    Happy and safe travels my friend!

  37. Israr..Why dint you receive your awards from my page yet?

  38. @mishi...
    I am trying but still have no access to a computer with internet...replying with mobile :(

  39. @andy..
    thanks dear..i am trying to collect the awards...

  40. any plan to visit again :)

  41. @NIAZ...

    will love to...if i get a chance :)

  42. ...:)...awhh nice experience...:) and nicely told:)
    loved it:)

  43. @the floodgate...
    thanks ..yes it was an awesome experience... :)

  44. WOW...!! thats aah...!! amazing..!! the 5th pic is soo touching..!!

    n datz obviously very obvious that u had a gr8 tym..!
    keep travelling n keep ryting..!

  45. @suvaiba fatima...
    Thanks for reading this travel story. As I have said earlier, this pic is one of my most favs :-)
    Yes I had a wonderful time.
    Keep visiting and reading new posts on our blog.:-)

  46. Wow! i really want to visit Quetta now! I have only been to the coastal Balochistan like Gadaani etc but never to Quetta and great pictures as well!

  47. @S. Mahnoor...

    yes you should visit quetta...if you get a chance...i wish i could visit the coastal areas as well :) lucky you...
    thanks for visiting and liking the post even that you had to scroll to find it :)

  48. Israr, your visit suggests situation there in Quetta isn't as bad as is shown by the media hype. I am impressed the multi ethnic communities are behaving like one community.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. thanks tariq bhai for visiting... well when i was in quetta situation was very good and yes it is a multi ethnic city and thats the beauty of it :)

  49. Oh, what a lovely tour! It all seems so very exotic to me, Muhammad. Your pictures and writing are perfect to educate those of us who have not yet visited that part of the world. I was truly heartened to read about the many tribes attending that university (it looks like a fine school - and it is wonderful the Dean invited you to tea) and the other mix of peoples you described at the end really gave me hope that the world will become a peaceful place in your lifetime. It is not too much to wish for, is it?

    1. thank you Lydia. The world is so full of strange and exotic places and we have only a limited lifespan so we should visit as many as we can and learn about different people..sometimes we like sometimes we hate but at the end it broadens our thinking and we become more accommodating in our thinking... yes i think with sincere effort and enough will, the world can be a safe place in our lifetime :)



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