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Makran (Urdu/Persian: مکران) is a semi-desert coastal strip in the south of Balochistanmarker, in Iranmarker and Pakistanmarker, along the coast of the Arabian Seamarker and the Gulf of Omanmarker. The Persian phrase Mahi khoran, fish-eaters (Mahi = fish + khor = eat) is believed to be the origin of the modern word Makkuran.

The narrow coastal plain rises very rapidly into several mountain ranges. Of the 1,000 km coastline, about 750 km is in Pakistanmarker. The climate is very dry with very little rainfall. Makkuran is very sparsely inhabited, with much of the population being concentrated in a string of small ports including Chabaharmarker, Gwatar, Jiwanimarker, Gwadarmarker (not to be confused with Gwatar), Pasnimarker, Ormaramarker and many smaller fishing villages.

The Pakistani government is currently developing Ormaramarker as a major naval base and Gwadar as a major new commercial port as well as a new highway along the entire length of the coast. These projects have been prompted by the commercial and military bottleneck at Karachi. The new naval base at Ormara will host about half of the Pakistani Navy, whilst Gwadar is planned to reduce the pressure on the two international ports at Karachimarker.

The Iranian government planned to develop Chabaharmarker in the 1970s, but the toppling of the Shah put an end to those plans.

The coast of Makran possesses only one island, Astola Islandmarker, near Pasnimarker, and several insignificant islets. The coastline can be divided into an eastern lagoon coastline and a western embayed coastline. The main lagoons are Miani Hor and Kalamat Hor. The main bays of the embayed coast are Gwadar West Bay and Gwatar Bay. This latter bay shelters a large mangrove forest and the nesting grounds of endangered turtle species.

History

Ancient era

Two ancient Harappanmarker era settlements have been found at Sutkagen dor (on Dasht River) and Sokhta Koh (astride Shadi River). The coastal sites are evidence of trade between Harappan and Sumerian cities as well as those of the Persian Gulfmarker region, possibly from around 3000 BCE.

Alexander the Great marched through Makkuran during a disastrous exodus after the Indian Campaign (325 BCE). According to one theory, Alexander's well-stocked fleet under Admiral Nearchus was supposed to have continuously provisioned the army as it marched West along the barren coast towards Persia. In the event, a major portion of Alexander's route through Makkuran (Bela-Averan-Hoshab-Turbat and then south to Pasni-Gwadar) turned out to be much further inland than expected, apparently due to faulty knowledge of the terrain. The fleet and the marching army were able to eventually rendezvous in Susa, Persia.[2]

Islamic conquest

Central Makkuran range
The first Islamic conquest of Makran took place during the Rashidun Caliphate in the year 643 A.D. Caliph Umar’s governor of Bahrainmarker Usman ibn Abu al-Aas, who was on his campaign to conquer the southern coastal areas of Iranmarker send his brother Hakam ibn Abu al-Aas to raid the Makran region, the campaign was not meant for whole scale invasion but merely was a raid to check the potential of the local inhabitants. The raid was successfulIn late 644 A.D Caliph Umar sent an army for whole scale invasion of Makkuran under the command of Hakam ibn Amr. Reinforcement from Kufamarker joined him under the command of Shahab ibn Makharaq and Abdullah ibn Utban, the commander of campaign in Karman, also joined them, no strong resistance was faced by them in Makran until the Hindu King of Rai Kingdom in Sindmarker, along with his army having contingents from Makran and Sindmarker stopped them near River Indusmarker. In mid 644, Battle of Rasil was fought between Radhisun Caliphate and Rai Kingdom where Raja's forces were defeated and retreated to eastern bank of river Indus. Raja’s army included War elephants, and they didn’t make any trouble for the Muslims veterans who handled War elephants during the conquest of Persia. According to the orders of Caliph Umar the war elephants were sold in Islamic Persiamarker and the cash was distributed among the soldiers as a share in booty. In response of Caliph Umar’s question about the Makran region, the Messenger from Makkuran who bring the news of the victory told him:

Umar looked at the messenger and said:"Are you a messenger or a poet? He replied “Messenger”.Thereupon Caliph Umar, after listening to the unfavorable situations for sending an army instructed Hakim bin Amr al Taghlabi that for the time being Makkuran should be the easternmost frontier of the Islamic empire, and that no further attempt should be made to extend the conquests. Thereupon on of the commander of Islamic army in Makran said the following verses:

Referring to the Hindu Temple in interior Sindmarker where prostitutes used to give a part of their earning as alms.It remainned the part of Umayyad Caliphate and Abbasid Caliphate and was also ruled by Muslim Turks, Persians and Afghans. It was conquered by Mongols in 13th century A.D, and in 16th century A.D it became part of Mughal empire, it remained so until it came under the rule of British Empire.

Balochi attack on Mahmud Ghazni

Modern era

From the 15th century onward, the area was ruled by Zikri families and sometimes by the Iranian government. In the late 18th century, the Khan of Kalat is said to have granted sanctuary at Gwadarmarker to one of the claimants for the throne of Muscatmarker. When that claimant became Sultan, he kept hold of Gwadar, installing a governor, who eventually led an army to conquer the city of Chabaharmarker some 200 kilometres to the west.

The sultanate held onto the Makran coast throughout the period of British colonial rule, but eventually only Gwadar was left in the hands of the sultan. On the independence of Pakistanmarker, Makran became a district within the province of Balochistan, minus an area of 800 km² around Gwadar. The enclave was finally transferred in 1958 to Pakistani control as part of the district of Makran. The entire region has been subdivided into new smaller districts over the years.

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