Balochistan is the largest province by geographical area of Pakistan, constituting approximately 43% of the total area of Pakistan. At the 1998 census, Balochistan had a population of roughly 6.6 million. Covering a sizable portion of the country, it is Pakistan's largest province, as well as its poorest and least populated.
Its neighbouring regions are Iran to the west, Afghanistan and the North-West Frontier Province to the north, Punjab and Sindh provinces to the east. To the south is the Arabian Sea. The main languages in the province are Balochi, Brahui, Pashto, and Sindhi. The capital, and only city, is Quetta; all the other towns and villages are underdeveloped. The Baloch and Pashtun people constitute the two major ethnic groups; a mixed ethnic stock, mainly of Sindhi origin, forms the third major group. Balochistan is rich in mineral resources; it is the second major supplier, after Sindh province, of natural gas.
Balochistan is located at the south-eastern edge of the Iranian plateau. It strategically bridges the Middle East and Southwest Asia to Central Asia and South Asia, and forms the closest oceanic frontage for the land-locked countries of Central Asia.
By the surface area, Balochistan is easily the largest of the four provinces of Pakistan at 347,190 km² (134,051 mi²), which composes approximately 44% of the total land area of Pakistan. The population density is very low due to the mountainous terrain and scarcity of water. The southern region is known as Makran. The central region is known as Kalat.
The Sulaiman Mountains dominate the northeast corner and the Bolan Pass is a natural route into Afghanistan towards Kandahar, used as a passageway during the British campaigns to Afghanistan. Much of the province south of the Quetta region is sparse desert terrain with pockets of towns mostly near rivers and streams.
The capital, Quetta, is located in the most densely populated district in the northeast of the province. It is situated in a river valley near the border with Afghanistan, with a road to Kandahar in the northwest.
Very cold winters and hot summers characterise the climate of the upper highlands. Winters of the lower highlands vary from extremely cold in the northern districts to mild conditions closer to the Makran coast. Summers are hot and dry, especially the arid zones of Chaghai and Kharan districts. The plain areas are also very hot in summer with temperatures rising as high as 135 F (57 C). Winters are mild on the plains with the temperature never falling below the freezing point. The desert climate is characterised by hot and very arid conditions. Occasionally strong windstorms make these areas very inhospitable.
As of the 1998 census, Balochistan had a population of 6.6 million inhabitants, representing approximately 5% of the Pakistani population. Official estimates of Balochistan's population grew from approximately 7.45 million in 2003 to 7.8 million in 2005. According to the 2008 Pakistan Statistical Year Book, households whose primary language is Balochi represent 54.8% of Balochistan's population; 29.6% of households speak Pashto; 5.6% speak Sindhi; 2.5% speak Punjabi; 2.4% speak Saraiki; 1.0% speak Urdu; and 4.1% speak some other language at home. Balochi-speaking people are concentrated in the sparsely populated west, east, south and southeast; Brahui speakers dominate in the centre of the province, while the Pashtuns are the majority in the north. The Kalat and Mastung areas speak Brahui. Quetta, the capital of the province, is largely populated with Pashtuns, with a significant Baloch presence. In the Lasbela District, the majority of the population speaks Sindhi, Balochi, or Lasi. Sindhi is also widely spoken in the Nasirabad District and the cities of Sibi and Dera Murad Jamali. A large number of Balochs moved to Quetta after it became the capital of Balochistan in 1970. Near the Kalat region and other parts of the province there are significant numbers of Baloch Brahui speakers. Along the coast various Makrani Balochi speakers predominate. Afghan refugees can also be found in the province, including Pashtuns and Tajiks. Many Sindhi farmers have moved to the more arable lands in the east.
One of the world's largest copper deposits (and its matrix-associated residual gold) have been found at Reko Diq in the Chagai District of Balochistan. Reko Diq is a giant mining project in Chaghi. The main license (EL5) is held jointly by the Government of Balochistan (25%), Antofagasta Minerals (37.5%) and Barrick Gold (37.5%). The deposits at Reko Diq are hoped to be even bigger than those of Sarcheshmeh in Iran and Escondida in Chile (presently, the second and the third largest proven deposits of copper in the world).
BHP Billiton, the world's largest copper mining company, began the project in cooperation with the Australian firm Tethyan, entering into a joint venture with the Balochistan government. The potential annual copper production has been estimated to be 900,000 to 2.2 million tons. The deposits seem to be largely of porphyry rock nature.
Balochistan culture is primarily tribal, deeply patriarchal and conservative. Baloch society is dominated by tribal chieftains called Mirs, Sardars and Nawabs, who are the ruling elite of Balochistan and have been criticized for blocking the educational development and empowerment of the Baloch people[weasel words] lest the status quo be challenged.
After human rights activists brought the case to national and international attention, Israr Ullah Zehri, who represents Balochistan in the Pakistani Parliament, defended the killings and asked his fellow legislators not to make a fuss about the incident. He told Parliament, "These are centuries-old traditions, and I will continue to defend them. Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid." But many Baloch literate are against the horrific crimes which took place in Balochistan. According to majority of Baloch, the person or tribe head should be brought to the court and must be punished. Many Baloch or Balochis have denied the fact that Karo Kari is part of Balochi culture. They claim it was a nomadic cultural practice which was stopped many years ago, but because of poor administration by the Pakistani government and to demilitarize the Baloch, such acts are now taking place.
There are 27 districts in the province of Balochistan. They are listed alphabetically below.
Balochistan's share of the national economy has historically ranged between 3.7% to 4.9%. Since 1972, Balochistan's economy has grown in size by 2.7 times. The economy of the province is largely based upon the production of natural gas, coal and minerals. Outside Quetta, the infrastructure of the province is gradually developing but still lags far behind other parts of Pakistan. Tourism remains limited but has increased due to the exotic appeal of the province. Limited farming in the east as well as fishing along the Arabian Sea coastline are other forms of income and sustenance for the local populations. Due to the tribal lifestyle of many Baloch and Brahui, animal husbandry is important, as are trading bazaars found throughout the province.
Though the province remains largely underdeveloped, there are currently several major development projects in progress in Balochistan, including the construction of a new deep sea port at the strategically important town of Gwadar. The port is projected to be the hub of an energy and trade corridor to and from China and the Central Asian republics.
Further west is the Mirani Dam multipurpose project, on the Dasht River, 50 km west of Turbat in the Makran Division. It will provide dependable irrigation supplies for the development of agriculture and add more than 35,000 km² of arable land. There is also Chinese involvement in the nearby Saindak gold and copper mining project.
Balochistan has established industrial areas in the province to create industry and jobs. These industrial estates include:
Notable colleges and universities