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.
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.
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.
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 :)|
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|
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.
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|
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|
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|