Pishin: Food, Fruit and History

Posted on August 31, 2006
Filed Under >S.A.J. Shirazi, Food, History, Travel
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Guest Post
by S A J Shirazi

With Balochistan in the news, maybe we should also talk about the locale and the beauty of the area.

Visit Pishin at this time of the year and you will find thousands of acres of fruit orchards. The rich harvest of apples, grapes, plums, peaches and apricots is seen every where. Legend attributes the origin of the name Pishin to a son of the Emperor Afrasiab. Until the middle of the 18 th century, when Quetta finally passed into the hands of Brahvi rulers, the history of Pishin is identical with the province of Kandahar. The earliest mention of Pishin is found in the ancient writing in which “Pishinorha” is described as a valley in an elevated part of the country and containing a barren level plain.

Little is known of the history of Pishin up to the 13th century. It was in 1221 that Kandahar and its dependencies passed into the hands of the Mughals. During the first half of the 15 th century, Kandahar was under the rule of the Timurs’ successors and it was probably at the beginning of this century that the Tarins emigrated from their original homes in the Takht-i-Sulaiman and made their way into Pishin.

Between 1530 and 1545 the province of Kandahar was in the possession of Mirza Kamran – the brother of the Emperor Humayun. After his death in 1556, Kandahar and its dependent territories were restored to the Safavid kings of Persia and they remained under Persia until 1595, when they were again acquired by the Mughals. It is mentioned in Ain-i-Akbari that Shal and Pushang (Pishin) were included in the eastern division of the Kandhar Sarkar. In 1622, Kandahar was again brought under the Safavid dynasty and, with the exception of a short period, remained under Persia. The Safavid Monarch Shah Abbas gained possession of Kandhar in 1622. He conferred the government of Pishin and tribal adjacent areas upon Sher Khan.

The end of the 17th century witnessed the rise to prominence of the Brahvis power. Quetta and Pishin both suffered from the encroachment of Brahvis, and it fell into the hands of Mir Ahmed whose reign lasted 30 years, from 1666 to 1696. Mir Wais obtained possession of Kandhar in 1709. It is curious that this feat was accomplished in connection with Pishin Brahvi. History relates that around 1725 Pishin has been annexed by Mir Abdullah. However, in 1733 Shah Hussain Ghilzai made a move against the Brahavis and he garrisoned in Pishin. Moving forward, he crossed the Ghaza Bund and took Quetta. He advanced to Pishin where the Brahvai submitted. Quetta remained under Kandahar and was transferred to Nadir Shah. It is said that Ahmed Shah Durrani finally conferred it on the Brahvis after the campaign in eastern Persia in 1751, when he received gallant aid from Nasir Khan I. Pishin meanwhile remained under the Durrani’s control. Ahmed Shah is said to have given Pishin as a jagir with the condition of the supply of military services to Pakar Khan. From the Durrani’s Pishin passed into the hands of Barakzai.

During the period of the first Afghan war, Quetta was annexed by the British in 1839. After the British retired in 1842, Pishin and Shorarud were occupied by the Afghans. The first phase of the Afghan war closed with the signing of an agreement in May 1879 stating that the district of Pishin, along with some other districts, was to be ceded to the British government. It was in 1882 that final orders were given for the permanent retention of Pishin and British authority was extended over the valley.

When Quetta district was handed over to the British government on April 1883, it was combined with Pishin into a single administrative charge. Before its occupation in 1878 and its subsequent assignment in 1879, Pishin always formed part of the province of Kandahar. The Batezai Tarins played important part as governors. Before the British occupation and, up to 1882, it was under an assistant to the Governor General. From 1883 onwards, when Pishin was combined with Quetta, together they fell under one political agent, the Deputy Commissioner. Until 1975 Quetta Pishin remained a single administrative unit. When Pishin was separated from Quetta it was given the status of a district. In 1993 Pishin was split into Pishin district and Killa Abdullah district. Now there are three districts: Quetta, Pishin and Killa Abdullah, which before partition came under one administrative division, known as Quetta Pishin. The district consists of one tehsil, Pishin, and three tehsils: Huramzai, Barshore and Karazat.

An old Balochi war ballad describes the land of Balochistan. It reads:

“Mountains are the Balochi’s forts; the peaks are better than any army; the lofty heights are our comrades; the pathless gorges our friends; our drink is from the flowing springs; our bed the thorny bush; and, the ground we make our pillow.”

But one sees a splash of color in Pishin Valley in spring, when most of the plants are in bloom. Nomadic tribesmen pass through the valley during spring and autumn with their herds of sheep and camels and have their assorted wares for sale. This seasonal movement also adds color to the life of the town.

Apart from fruit, the quaint little market town is famous for food Sitting on ground, we used to have their famous mutton dish known as rosh, specially made in lamb fat. Curry used to be charged whereas rotis (bread) was free. Among the delicacies “Sajji” (leg of lamb) is the most famous, which is roasted to a delightful degree of tenderness and is not very spicy. The people also enjoy “Landhi” (whole lamb), which is dried in shade and kept for the winters. Kabab shops in town are very popular.

Water is the major problem in the valley. The ground water present is most likely safe for irrigation, domestic and livestock consumption. The quality of ground water also varies from place to place. In Karazat tehsil from Kily Qasim Bostan to Choormian, the water is of very good quality, whereas in Pishin bazaar and its surroundings the quality of water is poor. The water from saline basins – Karbala, Khudaidad zai – is not suitable for drinking and irrigation. In Pishin Valley water is supplied through different sources: tube-wells, hand pumps, wells, karezes and springs. Tube-wells by far have become the major source of water supply. Children and women are still seen fetching potable water from far off areas. If the water problem is solved, Pishin can be a rich fruit basket of the country.

S A J Shirazi is a Lahore (Pakistan) based writer. He has authored two books (Izhar, Ret Pe Tehreer) and translated Din Mein Charagh by Abbas Khan into English. His blog is here.

7 responses to “Pishin: Food, Fruit and History”

  1. Jawaid Ahmed says:

    I am writing from St Paul, Minnesota, USA. I just read your story about Pishin. During 1950’s, my father was posted in Pishin. I spent my early childhood there. There was no electricity. Our yard had grapes, figs, and apricot trees. The colors of spring bloom are forever etched in my mind.

    The school was on the outskirts of the town, right on the road leading to Quetta. There was a garden called “sarkari bagh” behind the school. A small canal used to lead from this garden toward where we lived. I walked by this canal quite often.

    An apple orchard was part of the school. The classroom windows had a lot of broken glass and in winter it used to get very cold. I remember Chowdhury Mohammed Ali, our math teacher, would go to tyhe apple trees, break a bough, and come back and punish us by hitting our palms with the stick. In cold winter months, it would cut like a knife. Some of his sons still live in Pishin.

    It was a rough but a beautiful place. My favorite fruits were apricots, peaches, ‘shehtoot’ and plums. I also remember a bad earthquake while we lived there.

    Two of my classmates were brothers named Sa’ad Ullah and Hafeez Ullah. Another classmate was Nasrullah.

    In 1958, we left for Karachi. I have always wanted to go back and visit Pishin. I am sure it is not a small town anymore. I would love to hear from some of the Pishin residents.

  2. Ahsanullah says:

    i m AHSANULLAH LIVE IN PISHIN,,the fruits of pishin is really tasty..specially the water millon of my village name(KHUDAIDAZAI)…i love it very much

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