The Bolan Pass

The Bolan Pass is one of the famous mountain passes in the world. The pass traverses the Toba Kakar Mountain Range of the Balochistan Province in West Pakistan. The distance of the pass from the boundary of Afghanistan is almost 120 km. The coordinates of the pass are 29°45′N and 67°35′E. The altitude of the pass is 1,793.4 m (5,884 ft).

About Bolan Pass

The Bolan Pass is famous for its tactical location. This is the reason why businessmen, attackers, and migratory clans have used the Bolan Pass as an entryway to and from South Asia. It is a major pass on the boundary of Balochistan and joins Sibi and Jacobabad with Quetta. This boundary had a key role in the chronicles of the battles of the British Army in Afghanistan.

Historically, the Brahui of the Kurd ethnic group are in command of the law and order situation in all over the Bolan Pass Region. This ethnic group is still residing in the contemporary Balochistan province in Pakistan.

In 1837, the British Army was intimidated about a probable raid by the Russian Army on Southern Asia through the Bolan and Khyber Passes. As a result, they sent a diplomat to Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, to get the patronage of Dost Mohammed, the Emir. In February 1839, under the headship of Sir John Keane, the British Ground Forces transported 12,000 men through the Bolan Pass and penetrated Kandahar, which was forsaken by the princes of Afghanistan. From this place, they went on to raid and cause the downfall of Ghazni.

Sir Rober Groves Sandeman entered into conciliations with Khudadad Khan, Khan of Kalat and ascertained British command over the Bolan Pass in return for a yearly cost.

Bolan Pass Railway

The Bolan Pass Railway runs from Sibi to the southwest, evading the mountains to Rindli, and originally went by the itinerary of the Bolan torrent to its source on the terrain. The devastating activities of inundations, nevertheless, resulted in desertion of this position. The rail tracks now run according to the Mashkaf Basin (which emerges and flows into the terrains near Sibi) and pass from close to the beginning of Mashkaf to an intersection with the Bolan at Machh. A substitute itinerary from Sibi to Quetta was discovered in the Harnai Basin to the northeast of Sibi, the streak beginning in precisely the opposite way to that of Bolan and moving into the mountains at Nari. The Harnai itinerary, though more extensive, is the one followed for all normal traffic movements. On the other hand, the Bolan ring is set aside for crises situations. At the Khundilani canyon of the Bolan itinerary, a cluster of steep rocky formations surrounds the basin, mounting to an elevation of 800 feet. At Sir-i-Bolan, the channel amid the sandstones barely accommodates three individuals hiking alongside each other. In the summer months, the temperature of the Bolan Pass is quite hot, while in the winter months, close to its top, the cold is intense. The sub-zero breeze flowing down the thin vent becomes detrimental to life. From 1877, when the Quetta Agency was established, the liberty of the Bolan Pass from aggressive gangs of Baluch Marauders (mostly Marris) had been protected by the British Indian Army.

One of the famous engineering achievements of the British Raj in India was the Bolan Pass Railway Track. The railway track has a history of more than one hundred years. It is still a matter of respect among the tourists who visit this area.

The plan for Bolan Pass Railway Tracks was laid down by the British Authorities way back in 1876. The construction began for a short stint in 1880 but was stopped in 1885. At last, a steam engine moved into Quetta in the month of August 1886. In 1889, a heavy deluge damaged the track, which was initially established on the embankments of the Bolan River. In 1890, instructions were given to set up an all season railway track over the pass. This track was opened on April 15, 1897 and is still functioning. At certain areas beside the track, you will be able to see the deserted burrows and rail bed of previous two endeavors to set up railway tracks at that place.

Moving to the west from Sibi, the railway tracks gather elevation. Given below are the names of the stations and their respective altitudes between Sibi and Quetta:

  • Sibi 435 ft 0 km
  • Mushkaf 469 ft 17 km
  • Peshi 1,456 ft 50 km
  • Ab-i-Gum 2157 ft 63 km
  • Mach 3246 ft 75 km
  • Hirok 4552 ft 89 km
  • Kolpur 5874 ft 101 km
  • Spezand 5858 ft 117 km
  • Quetta 5499 ft 141 km
For convenience, the distance of Sibi station has been taken as 0 km. On Pakistan Railway Network, Kolpur is the station with the maximum altitude (5,874 ft).

The engines that are utilized in Bolan Railway Tracks are particular and are fitted with Dynamic Braking System.

On the itinerary from Sibi to Quetta, there are 17 passageways or subways. The railway tracks traverse the Bolan River many times in a zigzag trip.

Some more information on Bolan Pass

The Bolan Pass is an important pass in Pakistan. The way from Jacobabad to Sibi and moving across the Bolan Pass till it arrives at Quetta, moves through the Brahui hill range and hostile Kacchi desert.

This pass was the original entranceway to India till it was replaced by the Khyber Pass, and offered a way for trade and commerce for the traders and businessmen of Afghanistan and Central Asia.

The British Army were compelled to make use of the Bolan Pass when the military forces of the Indus, stopped by Maharaja Ranjit Singh from moving across Punjab, gathered at Sukkur/Rohri and subsequently advanced to the northwest through the pass till it arrived at Quetta on April 20, 1839.

A high-spirited depiction of Quetta as it emerged to a tired associate of the military forces of the Indus, Captain Richard Kennedy, offers an outline of old Quetta. The Captain portrayed it as “a little area of pitiable look and its inhabitants pulverized to the soil by the levies imposed by the government and the open trade pattern of its bordering areas. Till the time their tents reached and were grounded, they took rest in a fine plantation. Excellent instances of the dimension of jungle plants, pear, apple, peach, apricot, and plum were projected and lying over enormous vines, which were garlanding and encircling the stems, and stretching to the most secluded limbs. They were adorned from plant to plant in a natural abundance of development. This was not experienced by Captain Kennedy in any other fruit plants. It was the initial month in spring season and the grapevine trees were wrapped with flowers, which filled the air with fragrances, and offered an image of horticultural splendor going beyond explanation.

Nature, generous but unpredictable, demanded a levy from Quetta for this bounty when on March 31, 1935, the city had undergone and endured a destructive earthquake which took the life of 23,000 people and destroyed many of its prehistoric structures.

Captain described that the gateway to this major pass is around half mile in breadth, situated above an entirely rocky way, beside the embankment of the Bolaix or Kanhi River, which meanders across the basin, differing substantially in breadth. On either side of the pass, there are hills, to some extent created by composite rocks of a dull auburn shade in a number of areas and the elevation is one thousand feet. Some areas are coated with grass, varying with high rushes and reeds. At the same time, other areas offered just a plane of complete barrenness. Close to the tiny village of Kirta, the Bolan Pass broadens to a degree of three or four miles and is in control of a Balochee leader.

The head of the Bolan torrent is known as the Sin Bolan and it is close to the end of the pass, ahead of which is the mouth of a most beautiful gorge, outcropped by rocky and shady cliffs. Subsequently, the pass extends to a much broader area, enveloped with southern forest. While thinning once more, following a stride of approximately two miles further, the canyon releases itself on an infertile terrain of Afghanistan. The military forces took eight days to move over the pass, its span being 83 miles.

At the moment, this itinerary is only open for aid workers and indigenous people.

This is a substitute to the Khyber Pass further north. The tribal people and risks are likewise.

Languages of the local people

The language of the indigenous people is Pushtu. Nevertheless, a large number of inhabitants also speak in Urdu language of Pakistan or Dari language of Afghanistan. A limited number of people converse in English.


The pass connects Quetta in Pakistan to Kandahar in Afghanistan. There are little townships in the middle.


This territory, since the middle of 2008, is certainly insecure. You have to take a sentry with you, who will be carrying weapons.

Bolān Pass is a significant natural entry through the Central Brāhui Mountain Range in Balochistān province, Pakistan, linking Sibi with Quetta by railway and road. For a number of centuries, the pass has been a course for businessmen, raiders, and migratory ethnic groups amid India and higher Asia. The pass consists of a sequence of extensive, thin basins or canyons and stretches for 89 km (55 miles) from Rindli in the south to Darwāza in the north close to Kolpur. The broadest spot is 26 km (16 miles) and is located in the Laleji Plain, to the south of Machh. The Nāri-Bolān Channel Scheme supplies water for irrigation of around 24,000 acres (9,700 hectares) through blocking the monsoon stream of the Bolān River in the Sibi basin.

For a traveler, who wants to trip through the pass via rail, a range of trains and lodging is available. Since summer 2006, two trains ply everyday between Quetta and Karachi and they are Baluchistan Express and Bolan Mail. One runs between Quetta and Rawalpindi through Lahore (Jaffar Express), one runs between Quetta and Peshawar through Lahore (Quetta Express), and one runs between Quetta and Faisalabad (Chiltan Express). Minumum three of the abovementioned five trains have air conditioned facilities on them. A rail trip through Bolan Pass is definitely a unique kind of an experience for any traveler in the world.

Last Updated on 02 February 2011