In the mysterious plateau of Balochistan, lies a town popular for its applique patchwork on duvets called ‘rillies’. One of the prominent figures in history of Pakistan, Mir Jaffar Khan Jamali from Balochistan, left a golden mark with his gallant resilience and inborn leadership spirits, manifested during the course of Pakistan Movement.

Mir Jaffar Khan Jamali was a revered companion of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and a noteworthy veteran of the Muslim League. Moreover, he was the uncle and political mentor of former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mir Zafrullah Khan Jamali. Tales of his infrangible spirits, unrelenting struggle and sacrifices for the formation of Pakistan are an exemplary reflection of true patriotism and loyalty for Pak-Sar-Zameen (the land of pure). His name is accounted among other distinguished Baloch leaders of the past who fought whole-heartedly for Pakistan. As a badge of sheer respect, the district was named after him in 1996.

Jaffarabad was amalgamated with Naseerabad as a single unit in 2000. However, after two years, it restored the status of an independent district. It is ranked as the second smallest district of the largest province of the country. It was a princely sub-division of Sibi District until 1975.

As quoted by my maternal grandmother, the area she was raised in was called Jhatpat but the name had changed to ‘Jaffarabad’ in late 20th century.

Situated at the border of Sindh and Balochistan, the native Baloch and Brahvi have many sociocultural similarities with Sindhis. Interestingly, the language commonly spoken is also Sindhi. A number of families speak in their mother tongue like Balochi, Siraiki and Brahvi. Urdu is the institutional language and the mode of communication amongst people from different ethnic backgrounds.

In the dry and rugged terrain of the province, Jaffarabad is considered to be the most fertile district of Balochistan. It is an arable plain that is also part of the Kachhi basin. People generally belong from a poor socio-economic status thereupon indulge in petty labor, tenantship, small land ownership, livestock raising and fisheries to make a living, while others are engaged in industries and public sector on low-scale jobs.

For administrative convenience, Jaffarabad is divided into four sub-divisions/tehsils named as Jhatput, Sohbat Pur, Usta Muhammad and Gandakha. Larkana lies in the south of the district amongst other emerging districts of Sindh, Dera Bugti in east, Jhal Magsi in west and Naseerabad is situated up north.

Jaffarabad is ethnically a heterogeneous area. The social structure is patriarchal and male dominance is prevalent. Tribal chiefs enjoy the position as the ultimate veto of all domestic affairs as sardars who are only male.
The feudally strong Baloch tribes are Khosa and Jamali, the former having a numerical edge over the latter. In communities settled, Umrani and Jamali are the two predominant Baloch tribes. These tribesmen are Siraiki-speaking Baloch. The major Brahvi tribes include Pirkani, Jattak, Rakhsani and Mengal. Minority tribes in the area like Kakar, Syeds, Gola, Sasooli, Shahwani, Lehri and Bungulzai are also found. Where else, Jamoots or Jats are Sindhi establishers.

Women folk support the family’s income by making use of their exceptional talent in handicrafts. Unique embroidery (kasheeda) or needlework and exotic sheet designing is a personified example of empowered women of the region. Moreover, Jaffarabad is famous for the applique work on duvets in vivacious colors in oblique patterns called ‘rillies’. These duvets are made out of pieces of rhomboid-shaped clothes and stitched together in mosaic as a big cover of all sizes. People all over Balochistan and Sindh use these duvets as they are suitable for all seasons.

While the district enjoys high agricultural productivity, it faces quite a few challenges regarding education. The literacy rate is low overall especially amongst women, because of which they get fewer civil amenities. Balochistan Education Sector Plan (BESP) laid emphasis on the problems and proposed strategies in terms of accessibility as well as quality of education in Jaffarabad. A three-year initiative was launched in 2017 with multiple projects aiming to lift the literacy rate of the district. The goal is to be met by 2020 to bring reforms in access, equity, quality, governance and management in the education sector.
Inhabitants of this area depend largely on government-based health facilities for their wellbeing. Medical resources fall inadequate especially to women giving birth and neonates. In every 1000 babies born, 77 do not survive up till their first birthday. Most women deliver at home with the assistance of local untrained ‘daees’ or relatives, at best. No paramedics exist and ambulances are not available to people.

However, in 2005, US AID launched an initiative in the health sector of Jaffarabad summoning health interventions. Many challenges were succumbed after this and vast improvements were made in Maternal and Newborn Health. There is room for improvement and special concern is needed over Hepatitis & AIDS prevention, Malaria Control, Family Planning, Primary Health Care and Maternal Health.

By all counts, Jaffarabad has witnessed years of development since and it shall continue on its road to prosperity. Urban areas of the district are seemingly getting surges in literacy rate, as people are now valuing education more. The Government of Balochistan has summoned many NGOs and has taken actions to fully support and solve the deficiencies in health and education sectors.


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