Balochistan is the land of some of the magnificent geographical locations in the world. The arid, sun-baked landscapes bear witness to centuries of human adventures. It remains mostly unexplored even till this day. In this piece, we will have a closer look at Khuzdar district of Balochistan. 

Khuzdar forms the epicentre of Jhalawan i.e. the ancient blanket term for areas incorporating modern Soorab in the north and Mushkay and Kucchi areas in the west. Khuzdar lies at an elevation of 4,060 feet above sea level. It is located on an old caravan route to the Arabian Sea and is surrounded by orchards. The town is a market centre for wool, and deposits of barite are worked nearby. The baked-brick fort in the town was built in 1870. It is mostly mountainous and is semiarid in terrain. It was once known as Jhalawan and the original inhabitants called it Kohiar. The region was conquered by Arabs in 7th century AD and it came under Islamic kingdom. 

The word Khuzdar comes from two Persian words ‘Qaz’ and ‘Dar’ meaning the place of silk. Some sources, however, claim ‘Khuz’ as an Arabic word means ‘to hold or take firmly ‘and ‘Dar’ meaning area meaning, the one that holds or keeps you in its charm forever. Thus, the Arabs changed Qazdar to Khuzdar because of its beauty. As the Arab power waned in subsequent centuries, Khuzdar was later conquered by Ghaznavid dynasty (977-997).

Khuzdar has had four Forts, their ruins have a haunting presence about them. The forts are the Kohiar Fort, the Halwai Peak Fort, the Shahi Bagh Fort and Khan Khudadad Khan Fort. The Shahi Bagh Fort was built when Halwai Fort was destroyed in an earthquake. The Khan Khudadad Khan Fort of Khuzdar is located in the heart of the city on Muhammad Ali Jinnah Road. It was built by Khan-i-Qalat, Mir Khudadad Khan Ahmadzai. 

Although a good deal of historical data about Khuzdar and greater Jhalawan is shrouded in mystery, historians never cease to be amazed by the wealth of archaeological potential in this geographical tract. They are captivated by the formidable Drakhel and its cryptic epitaphs. The huge awe-inspiring dykes (known by the locals as Gor Bunds) point towards an agrarian lifestyle of the inhabitants.

Khuzdar emerges in history when Aryans invaded this region. At the time Dravidians were living in the area. Aryans attacked around 1600 BC and forced local Dravidians to migrate to Southern India. According to renowned Baloch linguist and acclaimed historian, Prof Dr Abdul Razzaq Sabir, out of a total of 26 Dravidian groups, only Brahvis held on and encountered the invaders. The geographical knowledge aided the Brahvis and forced the invaders to give up or assimilate through their guerrilla tactics. Khuzdar still bears some cultural hallmarks of the Aryans. Khuzdar once again surfaces in historical radar when the famed Alexander the Great passed through the region in 322 BC. 

Any account of Khuzdar is said to be incomplete if it omits Rabia Khuzdari. She is also known as Bulbul-e-Khuzdar and hailed from a royal family. She was the daughter of Ameer Ka’ab, the then governor of Khuzdar. Rabia Khuzdari’s claim to fame is her accomplished works of poetry. She was contemporaneous with the poet Rodkey and today both are known as pioneers of Persian poetry. The circumstances of her death have turned her into an immortal legend. After having fallen in love with Bakhtus, an assistant in her father’s service, the secret of her affair broke out, her brother, who had taken over as governor, considered it a huge blemish to the family honour and put Rabia in the royal dungeon, cut her throat and let her bleed to death. The love letters are written in her blood in the moments before her death has sealed her destiny as a saint and people visit her grave till this day. 

Khuzdar has a rich history. The very cultural diversity that it has experienced over the years has one lasting message for the rest of our county. We live and prosper in diversity and it is always a force for good as it constitutes the rock bed of democracy spirit. Khuzdar witnessed the rise and fall of many dynasties, but none could alter its spirit. Its ideal geographical location attracted powers from all around the world. It brims with heavy deposits of natural resources like barite, chromite onyx, among others. The current Pak-China Economic Corridor route also passes through Khuzdar. This will ensure that Khuzdar will continue living in the annals of history for centuries to come.

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Leena Shah Mir is a freelance analyst from Gwadar, Balochistan.

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