Zhob (Fort Sandeman)

Located some 320 kilometers from Quetta in Balochistan is the small town of Zhob which was once a strategic dwelling in the times of British in the late 19th century for its closeness to Afghanistan. The town lies on an open plain just east of the Zhob River. Before the British came to the area, the place was known as Apozai, a name which is still used by the locals.  The town was found by Robert Groves Sandeman, who was a Colonial British Indian officer and administrator, and renamed it Fort Sandeman in 1889 ( Sandeman was the governor-general in Balochistan since 1877 till his death in 1892 at Bela, the capital of Las Bela state, and there he lies buried under a handsome tomb).

The Epitaph on the grave of Colonel Robert Groves Sandeman at Bela

In 1889 the Zhob Valley and Gomal Pass were taken under the control of the British Government. The Zhob Valley was the scene of number of British expeditions in 1884 and 1890. In 1890 Zhob was formed into a district or political agency, with its headquarters at Fort Sandeman. In 1890 the district of Zhob was formed with Fort Sandeman, as the capital. The population according to the 1901 census of India was 3,552, the garrison included a Native cavalry and a Native infantry regiment and was also the headquarters of the Zhob Levy Corps. In 1894 a supply of water from the Saliaza valley was established - which allowed irrigation and planting of fruits and trees as well as drinking water. Being a tribal area, the major tribes of Zhob include Madokhail, Kakar, Babar, Lawoon and Nasa.


Zhob River (left) - Hills near Zhob

The present day name of the town takes its relation to the Zhob River and the Zhob valley running from the hills near Ziarat first eastward and then northward parallel to the Indus frontier, till it meets the Gomal river at Khajuri Kach . That is why the for the British it was a strategic line of great importance, as being the shortest route between the North-West Frontier Province and Quetta, and dominates all the Pathan tribes of Balochistan by cutting between them and Afghanistan. To the north of thee town is a ridge rising 150 feet (45 metres) above the plain; on which stand the ruins of a castle, the political agent’s residence during the time of British rule.

Zhob valley expands beautifully, providing breathtaking views throughout the valley of fruit orchards.  In the month of April the flowers bloom and one can see an extraordinary site with flowers and snow together. For tourists, the Chromits mines near Muslim Bagh are breattaking and it is said that one hasnt stopped to see these mines, the tour is but a waste. Fort Sandeman sits at 10,000 feet above sea level and Sheenghar (Green Hill) at this height is covered with Pine forest and is the best area in the valley to shoot Chakor (Partridge)

Zhob is also the terminus of a branch railway of Pakistan Railways. The British laid a narrow gauge line till the town, which was finally replaced with a broad gauge in 2006. The Zhob line junctions off the Chaman line north of Quetta at Bostan ( a new and more direct route to the capital via Dera Ismail Khan and Darya Khan is under consideration which is likely to link Quetta with Peshawar via Bostan, Zhob, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu and Kohat). Incidentally, Muslim Bagh is the Asia's highest Railway Station Kanmehtarzai Pass, which is on the road, that connects Fort Sandeman with Bostan.

The name of the place was changed from Fort Sandeman to Zhob on 30 July, 1976 when the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto. Zhob means bubbling water. It refers to the karez water which pops up everywhere when there is no drought situation. In the winter, the weather is cold and the snow is normal. In the summer, although the temperature can get up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, there is little moisture which makes it fairly comfortable for its populace.

Very recently, Sabakzai Dam, completed at a cost of Rs1.58 billion in Zhob with a capacity to store 32,700 acre-feet of water, to help irrigate 10,000 acres of water starved arid lands of the area. The establishment of a cadet school in Zhob has recently been approved which would subsequently be elevated to a cadet college. The town is linked by air with Quetta, Karachi, Pasni and Gwader ports.

Related Links: | Video Clips of Zhob |


This page was created on 20 December 2008

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