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ORIGINAL PAPER

An overview of tectonosedimentary framework of the Salt Range,


northwestern Himalayan fold and thrust belt, Pakistan
Shahid Ghazi & Syed Haroon Ali &
Mohammad Sahraeyan & Tanzila Hanif
Received: 14 August 2013 / Accepted: 16 January 2014
#Saudi Society for Geosciences 2014
Abstract The Salt Range is the youngest and the most south-
ern part of the western Himalayan Ranges in Pakistan. The
oldest rocks that crop out are the Infra-Cambrian Salt Range
Formation. The Salt Range Thrust separates the Infra-
Cambrian from Proterozoic rocks, and deposits ranging in
age from Infra-Cambrian to Recent are present in the Salt
Range. A particular feature of the Salt Range is the presence
of a thick salt sequence, and its distribution has affected thrust,
normal, and reverse faults. The structural changes across the
Salt Range area reflect a systematic variation in the stage of
their tectonic development. These structural features are relat-
ed to the presence of incompetent formations in the succes-
sions. The sedimentary record of the Salt Range is filled with
thick Infra-Cambrian calcareous to siliciclastic sediments of
the Indian Plate and relatively very thick Miocene-Pliocene
mollassic deposits of the Indus foredeep. To better understand
the relationship of the main tectonic features, these features of
the Salt Range are marked on Landsat satellite imagery. Over-
all, structural interpretation associated with sedimentation
styles permits the differentiation between the eastern, central,
and western Salt Range.
Keywords Regional geology
.
Tectonics
.
Sedimentation
.
Infra-Cambrian to Recent
.
Salt Range
Introduction
About 70 km south of the main Himalayan Ranges, the Salt
Range rises as a 180-km-long and 85-km-wide ridge of hills at
the southern edge of the Potwar Basin, Pakistan. It is widest in
its central part, between the Khewra and the Warchha (Fig. 1),
where it also contains the best exposures of Palaeozoic and
Eocambrian sequences (Fig. 1). The name Salt Range was first
used by Elphinston, a British envoy to the court of the Kabul.
He visited this territory (18081815) and noticed the extrac-
tion of salt from the Salt Range. Hence, historically, the Salt
Range derives its name after the occurrence of gigantic de-
posits of rock salt embedded in the Precambrian bright red
marls that are stratigraphically known as the Salt Range For-
mation (formerly Punjab Saline Series). Apart from the easily
available roadside geology, here are some prominent gorges
cutting the Salt Range. Among these gorges, the most famous
are Khewra, Nilawahan, Warchha, Nammal, and Chichali
gorges, which provide the fantastic locations to study the
sedimentary successions.
The Salt Range contains wealth of geological features, for
which it has been rightly called as the Field Museum of
Geology. In fact, it represents an open book of geology,
where the richly fossiliferous stratified rocks such as the
Permian carbonate succession contains brachiopod fauna with
recently established conodont biostratigraphy (Wardlaw and
Mei 1999) and foraminifera biostratigraphy (Mertmann
2000). The Salt Range is also famous for the study of
Permian-Triassic marine sections. Ammonites are especially
well studied and provide an excellent stratigraphic framework
of the region (e.g., Brhwiler et al. 2010, 2011, 2012).
The Salt Range represents a longitudinal east-west trough,
bounded on the east by the Jehlum River and on the west by
the River Indus, between 3215330 Nand 7134

7345 E
(Fig. 2). Beyond the River Indus, it takes a hairpin bend to
develop a north-south trend. The east-west extension is the
S. Ghazi (*)
:
T. Hanif
Institute of Geology, University of the Punjab, Lahore 54590,
Pakistan
e-mail: ghazigeo6@gmail.com
S. H. Ali
Earth Sciences Department, KFUPM, Dharan, Saudi Arabia
M. Sahraeyan
Department of Geology, Khorasgan (Esfahan) Branch, Islamic Azad
University, Isfahan, Iran
Arab J Geosci
DOI 10.1007/s12517-014-1284-3
Salt Range, while the north-south segment is the Trans Indus
Salt Range. It is arcuate and convex to the south with a general
east-west trend but turns to the north-west near the western
end and to the north-east near the eastern end (Fig. 2). The
average elevation of the Salt Range is about 800 m, and the
highest peak, Mount Sakesar (3232 N, 7156 E), is 1,570 m
high. The upper part of the scarp exposes Permian or Eocene
limestone, or Tertiary sandstones. The Potwar Basin, with an
average altitude of 500 m, is bounded on the south by the Salt
Range and on the north by the Kala Chitta Hills, which are a
short distance north of the Rawalpindi (3337 N, 738 E;
Fig. 2).
Previous work suggests the idea that thrust sheets have
been elevated from the Punjab Foreland Basin, because they
thrust over the basin (Khan and Chen 2009). The Salt Range is
the youngest and southernmost east-west trending frontal fold
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Salt Range Formation
(Base not exposed)
ERA PERIOD EPOCH GROUP FORMATION
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Dhok Pathan Formation
Nagri Formation
Chinji Formation
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Miocene
Rawalpindi
Kamlial Formation
Murree Formation
Eocene
Chorgali Formation
Sakesar Limestone
Nammal Formation
C h h a r a t
Palaeocene
Patala Formation
Lockhart Limestone
Hangu Formation
Cretaceous
Lamshiwal Formation
Chichali Formation
Samana Suk Formation
Shinawari Formation
Datta Formation
Kingriali Formation
Tredian Formation
Mianwali Formation
Jurassic
Triassic
Chhidru Formation
Amb Formation
Wargal Formation
Sardhai Formation
Warchha Sandstone
Dandot Formation
Tobra Formation
Baghanwala Formation
Jutana Formation
Kussak Formation
Khewra Sandstone
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Cambrian
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Musakhel
Zaluch
Nilawahan
Jhelum
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Makarwal
Lei Conglomerate
Fig. 1 Generalized exposed
stratigraphic units with major
breaks in deposition in the Salt
Range, Pakistan
Arab J Geosci
and thrust belt of the Himalaya, which developed as a result of
ongoing collision between the Indian and Eurasian plates
(Baker et al. 1988; Grelaud et al. 2002). Two regional scale
distinguishing features are the characteristics of the Salt
Range: the first is the occurrence of the thick salt deposits
and the second is the presence of several regional and local
scale nondepositional events ranging from Eocambrian to
Pleistocene age (Gee and Gee 1989). To the north, the Salt
Range overrides its own fan material along the active Salt
Range Thrust (Yeats et al. 1984). Along its northern slope, the
range is comprised of simple, broad, and shallow folds and a
gentle northerly dipping monocline. To the south, the folding
becomes tighter, and east-west-trending faults and over-folds
are developed along the southern scarp. Tectonically, the
Himalayas are recognized as a young collisional mountain
belt formed as a result of collision between the northward
drifting Indian Plate (to the south) and the Asian Plate (to the
north) that occurred at about 67+2 Ma (Powell and Conaghan
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PESHAWAR
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Warchha
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Rawalpindi
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Mirpur
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Zaluch
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Kingriali Peak
Bannu
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Measured section
Localities
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Lahore
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INDEX MAP OF
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Fig. 2 Location map of the Salt Range in northern Pakistan
Arab J Geosci
1973; Powell et al. 1988). This collision was not accompanied
by major mountain building, but only accommodated by
closure of the Tethyan Ocean and the lateral displacement of
rigid blocks, out of the way of the Indian sub-continental with
no crustal thickening.
The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of the
regional geology of the Salt Range in terms of main tectonics
and their mutual relationship, stratigraphy and sedimentation,
and structural style. The extracted structural features from
Landsat imagery (courtesy of Google Earth) are marked to
highlight the relationship between tectonic processes and to-
pography in the Salt Range region. Also, the lateral distribu-
tion of the thrust front is explained with help of these images.
Regional geological setting
The Indo-Pakistan Plate belongs to the east of Gondwanaland
(Valdiya 1984, 1997). Gondwanaland was named after a
district in India where the fossil plant Glossopteris was found
(Gansser 1964, 1981; Krishnan 1966; Smith and Hallam
1970; Wadia 1994). The Gondwanaland domain is character-
ized by a continental crust and crystalline basement consoli-
dated in the Precambrian and a platform type developed in the
Palaeozoic times known as the Indian Shield and it forms the
Indo-Pakistan Plate. Its northern margin comprises the crys-
talline thrust sheets of the Himalayan fold and thrust belt.
Wadia (1994) divided the Indo-Pakistan Plate fromnorth to
south, into three principal physiographic and geologic parts,
namely, (a) the Himalaya, (b) the Himalayan foredeep, and (c)
the Peninsular Region.
The Himalaya represents the most extensive and active
collision belt in the world. The great Himalayan fold and
thrust belt extends westward from Burma through India, Ne-
pal, and southern Tibet into northern Pakistan. Southward
migrating thrust sheets fromthe Himalaya shed their erosional
products into the active foredeep (e.g., Ganga Basin in India
and Punjab Plain in Pakistan) which itself migrated south-
wards (Acharyya and Ray 1982; Johnson et al. 1985, 2009;
Raynolds and Johnson 1985). The Peninsular Region is main-
ly comprised of elements of the Indian Shield and it is char-
acterized by granite-greenstone terrains comprised of Archean
to Proterozoic age magmatic rocks, banded gneiss, and gran-
ites. Proterozoic mobile belts (eastern Ghat and Aravalli-
Delhi) were tectonically wrapped around the earlier Archean
and Proterozoic rocks. Late Cretaceous age basalts (Deccan
Trap) are covering vast tracts of the Peninsular Region.
Subdivision of the of Himalaya in northern Pakistan
Gansser (1981) subdivided the Himalaya from south to north
into the six parts (Fig. 3).
Indian shield and Punjab Plain Foreland
The Indian Shield consists of Archean granite and gneiss
which are overlain by Precambrian strata of various ages,
including the more metamorphosed Aravalli systemand large-
ly unmetamorphosed Vindhyan systemwhich may extend up-
section into the Cambrian (Gansser 1964). The Malani acidic
volcanic rocks and pinkish, medium-grained granite are also
younger than the Aravalli system and are dated as 500
700 Ma (cf. Krishnan 1966; Kochhar 1982). Rhyolite and tuff
of the Kirana Hills, south of the Salt Range, may also be part
of the Malani volcanic (Heron 1953; Davies and Crawford
1971). The Aravalli Range and to a lesser extent the Vindhyan
Range trends are at the right angle to the Himalaya, and it is
generally believed that the Aravalli structural belts continue
northward at depth beneath the Ganga Basin and the Himala-
yan thrust sheets (Krishnan 1966). Structurally, the Siwaliks
of the Ganga Basin have faulted contact with deformed
Siwaliks of the foothills along the Late Quaternary Himalayan
Frontal Fault (Yeats et al. 1984; Davis and Engelder 1985;
Baker et al. 1988; Jaum and Lillie 1988; Sinha 2013), called
the Main Frontal Thrust (MFT) (Gansser 1981). Rocks of the
Indian Shield are exposed in Pakistan only at Nagar Parkar
near the Ran of Cutch and in the Kirana Hills south of the Salt
Range. The Kirana Complex occurs as isolated hills extending
out of the alluvium of the Indus Plain covering an area of
about 200 km
2
. The outcrops occur in Sargodha, Chiniot,
Sangla, and Shahkot areas and lie between longitudes 7238
48724800 and latitudes 315100321500 (Fig. 3).
The Kirana Complex constitutes the oldest remnants of wide-
spread volcano-plutonic suites, which mark important
tectono-magmatic events in the Late Proterozoic period in
Pakistan.
Sub-Himalaya
The Himalayan foothills form the Sub-Himalayan zone,
which is bounded to the north by the Main Boundary Thrust
(MBT) and to the south by MFT or Himalayan Frontal Fault
(HFF) (Fig. 3). The area of the Salt Range and the Potwar
Basin belongs to the Sub-Himalaya. The Sub-Himalaya of
Pakistan in a longitudinal sense can be subdivided into Azad
Kashmir Zone in the east and Punjab Zone in the west.
Southward, the folded Siwalik sequence is covered by the
alluvium of Indo-Gangetic and Punjab Plain.
The Punjab Plain Foreland, in a transverse sense is
subdivided into:
1. Northern Potwar or Rawalpindi Zone: a fold and thrust
belt culminating in the Khairi Murwat structure.
2. The Soan Zone comprises a broad syncline under a pla-
teau in the east and the Kohat Basin in the west.
Arab J Geosci
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Fig. 3 Generalized tectonic map of northern Pakistan, showing subdivisions of the Himalayan Mountains (modified after Gansser 1981; Kazmi and
Rana 1982)
Arab J Geosci
3. The only slightly deformed Punjab Platform is further to
the south.
4. The Punjab Zone of the Sub-Himalaya is characterized by
a salt-related decollement and the salt-related tectonics
known as the Salt Range.
Lesser Himalaya
The zone is bounded to the north by the Main Central Thrust
(MCT) and to the south by MBT (Fig. 3). The Hill Ranges,
Plio-Pleistocene basins, and Southern Kohistan probably ele-
ments of the structural block are included in the Lesser
Himalaya (Seeber and Armbruster 1979; Seeber et al. 2013).
The Lesser Himalaya is comprised of Precambrian to Late
Palaeozoic meta-sediments and Palaeozoic sedimentary and
volcanic rocks, in its western part. These meta-sediments have
been overridden by thrust nappes of high-grade gneisses de-
rived from the Central Crystalline Axis (Valdiya 1980, 1984,
1989, 1997; Sinha 2013). The southern sedimentary zone of
the Lesser Himalaya occurs in the form of a fringe along
PirPanjal, Kaghan, and over the Hazara Kashmir Syntaxis
(HKS) and as a rider belt in the area of southern Hazara, Kala
Chitta, and Attack Cherat Ranges.
Higher Himalaya
The MCT marks the base of a huge 1015-km-thick slab of
high-grade metamorphic rocks, which overlie the Lesser Hi-
malayan sequence (Gansser 1981). This intracrustal thrust
sheet of Precambrian Central Crystallines forms the High
Himalaya that lies between the Indus Tsangpo Suture Zone
or Main Mantle Thrust (MMT) to the north and MCT to the
south (Fig. 3).
Tethyan or Tibetan Himalaya
The Tethyan Himalayan Zone occurs north of Higher
Himalaya (Gansser 1964). The Late Precambrian sequences
of turbidite, deltaic, and shelf sediments grade upward into
similar Cambrian and Early Ordovician sediments (Thakur
1981). The Ordovician limestone forms the summit of the
worlds highest peak, the Everest. The Tethyan Himalaya is
limited to the north by the Indus Tsangpo Suture Zone known
as the Indus Suture in the northwest Himalaya. The Tethyan
sequence has developed as a continental margin shelf deposit
on the northern edge of the Indian Plate (Thakur 1981). The
Tibetan-Tethys Himalaya is truncated to the north by the Indus
Tsangpo Suture Zone in the central and eastern Himalaya
(Valdiya 1989).
Indus Tsangpo Suture Zone
The Indus Tsangpo Suture Zone is an ophiolite belt which
follows the Tsangpo River and the upper part of the Indus
River for nearly 2,000 km
2
, mostly in Tibet. This suture zone
terminates the Tethyan Himalaya on the north and marks the
boundary between the Late Mesozoic India and various con-
tinental fragments (Valdiya 1989). Some of these fragments
were part of Gondwanaland, and they migrated northward
separately from India in the Early Mesozoic (Valdiya 1984,
1989). It seems probable that most of the continental slope and
the continental rise deposits of the former, passive margin
have disappeared, presumably due to subduction beneath
Tibet (Gansser 1981).
Regional tectonics of the Salt Range
Stratigraphy and sedimentation
The Precambrian to Miocene succession is exposed in the Salt
Range (Fig. 1). The oldest rock unit exposed in the area is the
Salt Range Formation and the youngest are the Recent Con-
glomerates. The base of the Precambrian rocks is not exposed,
but it is confirmed by subsurface data that beneath the Salt
Range Formation sequence of metamorphic rocks are present
(cf. Gee and Gee 1989). The whole sequence of the rocks in
the Salt Range is punctuated by several regional and local
scale unconformities (Fig. 1).
The first major stratigraphic break is marked by the
glaciofluvial conglomeratic deposits of the Tobra Formation
overlying the Cambrian succession (Ghazi et al. 2012). In the
Salt Range, the second major unconformity occurs between
the Jurassic age Samana Suk Formation and the Palaeocene
Hangu Formation, marked by the presence of laterite deposits.
The third major unconformity is between the Early Eocene
and Mio-Pliocene sequence. The last major unconformity is
recognized between the Mio-Pliocene sediments and the Re-
cent Conglomerates.
The Eocambrian age Salt Range Formation is widely dis-
tributed in the Salt Range and it is about 8002,000 m thick
(Fatmi 1973; Gee and Gee 1989). The most important feature
of the Salt Range Formation is its behavior as a zone of
decollement between underlying rigid basement and overly-
ing sequence. This evaporite sequence is mainly composed of
rock salt, gypsum, anhydrite, dolomite, marl, and occasionally
oil shale. It was developed in the arm of the Tethys Sea that is
cut off by the main sea during regression and adopted the
shape of a lake (Latif 1970; Calkins et al. 1975). It shows a
shallow marine-restricted environment under arid conditions
in which evaporite sequence developed and extended up to the
Hazara area (Latif 1970; Calkins et al. 1975). The rocks of the
Cambrian age are collectively known as the Jehlum Group
Arab J Geosci
and extensively exposed along the southern boundaries of the
Salt Range.
During the Cambrian times, mostly warm climatic condi-
tions existed in the Salt Range area in which mainly shallow
marine clastics were deposited (cf. Shah 1977). The Jehlum
Group represents different cycles of sedimentation during the
Cambrian and composed of the Khewra, Kussak, Jutana, and
Baghanwala formations (Noetling 1901; Fatmi 1973; Fatmi
et al. 1984; Yeats and Hussain 1987). The Permian succession
in the upper Indus Basin is exposed only in the Salt Range
which has been divided into Nilawahan and Zaluch groups.
The Nilawahan Group in the Salt Range represents the conti-
nental environment with glaciofluvial and marine conditions
in early Permian (Ghazi et al. 2012). The Zaluch Group of the
Upper Permian widely distributed in the western Salt Range is
characterized by highly fossiliferous shallow shelf carbonate
deposits (Fig. 1).
Triassic rocks are mainly exposed in the western Salt
Range and composed of the Mianwali, Tredian, and
Kingriali formations of the Musa Khel Group (Fatmi
1973; Shah 1977). The Lower Triassic Mianwali Forma-
tion overlies unconformably the Chhidru Formation of the
Upper Permian age (Balme 1970; Kummel and Teichert
1970; Mertmann 2003). Shallow marine conditions
prevailed during most of the period, supporting a charac-
teristic cephalopod fauna in the lower shale-limestone unit
in the Mianwali Formation, arenaceous deposition with
the preservation of imperfect plant fragments in the
Tredian Formation during Middle Triassic, followed by
calcareous and dolomitic sedimentation of the Kingrialli
Formation during Late Triassic times. In the Late Triassic
to Early Jurassic, a break in sedimentation occurred which
represents a major unconformity. The Jurassic succession
in the Salt Range is composed of the Datta, Shinawari,
and Samana Suk formations of the Baroch Group (Fatmi
1973).
The Jurassic system shows varied environments of deposi-
tion ranging from continental, deltaic to high energy oolite or
reef. The advent of the Jurassic is marked by large deltaic
deposits of the Datta Formation, mainly composed of conti-
nental arenaceous, with carbonaceous and lateritic deposits. A
widespread marine transgression followed and continued dur-
ing Middle Jurassic times, resulting in deposition of the
Shinawari and Samana Suk formations, predominantly com-
posed of limestone (Fatmi and Haydri 1986). The absence of
the Cretaceous sedimentation from the sloping shelf of the
Punjab Platform and in the eastern Salt Range marks the limit
of final regression in the Upper Cretaceous times (cf. Fatmi
and Haydri 1986). In the Upper Jurassic to Lower Cretaceous
age, the Chichali Formation was deposited in reducing envi-
ronments and is followed by the Lower Cretaceous age
Lumshiwal Formation that was deposited in shallow marine
conditions. Regression and emergence occur near the end of
the Middle Jurassic and were followed by the clastic, shallow
marine sedimentation in the Late Jurassic and Early Creta-
ceous times (Fatmi 1973; Hallam and Maynard 1987). The
latter part of the Cretaceous period witnessed a regression of
the Tethys Sea towards northwest. At the end of the Mesozoic
time, the land surface consisted of the Lower Triassic and
Upper Permian formations over the central part of the Salt
Range. Prior to widespread marine transgression of the
Palaeocene time, the land surface was weathered at many
places to form an impure laterite and bauxite.
Late Cretaceous uplift, erosion, and weathering of the
land surface were followed by the Nummulitic marine
transgression in the Early Tertiary times during widespread
subsidence. In the Salt Range, deposition of the Makarwal
Group commenced with a variable sequence of sandstone,
shale, and limestone, the Hangu Formation. Subsequent
deposition included the predominantly calcareous Lockhart
Formation that is overlain by the carbonaceous shales of the
Patala Formation. During the Late Palaeocene, a lacustrine
environment developed over part of the eastern and central
Salt Range resulting in the formation of workable sub-
bituminous coal within the Patala Formation. More stable
marine conditions followed during the Early Eocene, with
the deposition of calcareous Nammal, Sakesar, and Chorgali
formations of the Chharat Group. Towards the end of the
Palaeocene, a second Tertiary regression is evident in most
parts of the region. Marine sedimentation continued in the
upper Indus Basin with deposition of a mainly calcareous-
argillaceous sequence. The larger forams are present in the
Eocene rocks showing shallow marine conditions. Upper
Eocene rocks are absent in the Salt Range, suggesting that
epeirogenic movements resulting in the emergence of the
area above sea level had commenced and continued with
erosion, during the Oligocene time. Following the marine
regression of the Late Eocene-Oligocene time, sedimentation
occurred in lacustrine and fluviatile environments. Clastic
deposition took place rapidly, with no regional unconfor-
mities until Late Pliocene time.
The Salt Range remained relatively elevated during the
Early Miocene. The Miocene Rawalpindi Group consists of
the Murree and Kamlial formations. The fluvial and fluvio-
deltaic Rawalpindi Group deposits indicate the initiation of
significant Himalayan uplift (Johnson et al. 1985). The Plio-
Pleistocene Siwalik Group consists of the Chinji, Nagri, Dhok
Pathan, and Soan formations. These strata are nonmarine, time
transgressive, and molassic facies that represent the erosional
products of southward advancing Himalayan thrust sheets
(Wells 1984; Yeats and Hussain 1987). The Siwalik Group
records continued uplift of the Salt Range (Keller et al. 1977;
Abid et al. 1983). The Lei conglomerate provides important
timing information, and the conglomerate, which has a basal
age of about 1.9 Ma (Raynolds and Johnson 1985; Fig. 1), is a
valley fill deposit with Eocene clasts. Disregarding the recent
Arab J Geosci
alluvial cover, the youngest deposit is the Potwar silt (Yeats
et al. 1984) which reflects pounding behind the rising of the
Salt Range and its age is less than 0.7 Ma (cf. Raynolds and
Johnson 1985).
Structure of the Salt Range
The Salt Range is an east-northeast trending complex salt
anticlinorium with a series of salt anticlines, bent northward
at both ends (Fig. 4). The Kalabagh Reentrant bounds it on the
west, on the east the frontal thrust becomes blind, and the Salt
Range dies out into the Chambal Ridge and Rohtas Anticline
(Krishnan 1966; Yeats et al. 1984; Fig. 4). The Pabbi Hills
anticline appears to be the eastward extension of the deforma-
tion front across the Jhelum River. The Jhelum Plain marks its
southern boundary. Its southern escarpment, rising 800900 m
above the plains, marks the southernmost extent of significant
deformation along the Himalayan fold and thrust belt in
Pakistan (Figs. 3 and 4). The northern slope of the Salt Range
is gentle, gradually passing into the Potwar Basin (Fig. 3). The
Salt Range and Potwar Basin form a large allochthonous
block, which has been thrust and differentially rotated along
a decollement within, or at the base of, an incompetent,
evaporite-bearing sequence that directly overlies metamorphic
basement (Gansser 1964; Crawford 1974; Seeber and
Armbruster 1979; Yeats et al. 1984; Yeats and Lawrence
1984; Lillie et al. 1987; Wadia 1994; Grelaud et al. 2002;
Seeber et al. 2013). Krishnan (1966) divided the area of the
Salt Range and Potwar Plateau into four zones: Salt Range,
Soan Syncline, anticlinal zone, and faulted zone. The south-
ernmost zone is the scarp slope of the Salt Range, where a
thick evaporite-clastic sequence is exposed along the Salt
Range (Fig. 5). The Salt Range Formation evaporites have
been interpreted as the decollement zone responsible for the
anomalous rotation of the Salt Range relative to the Himala-
yan trend (Seeber and Armbruster 1979; Kazmi and Rana
1982; Seeber et al. 2013).
Southeast of the Salt Range, in the Punjab Plain, the Indian
Shield slopes gently northward, interrupted by the Precambri-
an exposures in the Sargodha High, a basement ridge that has
Himalayan trend (Farah et al. 1977; Yeats and Lawrence 1984;
Fig. 5). However, this basement ridge is considered as an
integral part of the Aravalli Range (cf. Gansser 1981; Wadia
1994). In the northern part of the Punjab Plain, the Jehlum
River flows west-southwest along the present axis of the
Himalayan Foredeep. To the north, the Salt Range overrides
its own fan material and alluvium along the Salt Range Thrust
(Yeats et al. 1984). Major structural features of the Salt Range
include a number of flat-based synclines separated by some-
what narrow, sharp-crested anticlines (Krishnan 1966;
Gardeszi and Ashraf 1974; Yeats and Hussain 1987). As in
inverted topography, the synclines occupy spurs, transverse or
oblique to the main east-west structural trend of the
homocline. The anticlines occur along the deeply eroded
gorges and canyons, locally known as Wahans. Even the side
streams seem to follow the anticlinal trends. Axial lines of
various anticlines and synclines show no particular parallel-
ism. Rather, in certain cases, the angular divergence becomes
as large as 80 or so. As far as faulting is concerned, small-
scale normal faults are numerous, particularly along the steep
slopes of deep ravines, more or less in the manner of step
faulting (cf. Krishnan 1966; Gardeszi and Ashraf 1974).
Salt Range Thrust
The Salt Range is truncated along the southern margin by Salt
Range Frontal Thrust (SRFT), which is bounded between
Jehlum and Indus River (Figs. 4 and 5). It has pushed the
older successions of the Salt Range upon the less deformed
tertiary sequences of the south lying in the Punjab Plain. The
thrust zone is largely covered by Recent fanglomerates and
Jehlum River alluvium (Yeats et al. 1984). However, near the
Jalalpurand the Kalabagh areas, the thrust is exposed and
shows the Palaeozoic rocks overlying the Neogene or Quater-
nary deposits of the Punjab Plain (Yeats et al. 1984; Gee and
Gee 1989). Along the Salt Range Thrust, effective decoupling
of sediments from the basement along the salt layer has led to
southward transport of the Salt Range and Potwar Plateau in
the form of a large slab over the Punjab Plain. The Salt Range
is thus the surface expression of the leading edge of the
decollement thrust (Yeats et al. 1984).
Jehlum Fault
The Jehlum Fault marks the eastern limit of the Salt Range
(Figs. 3 and 4). Kazmi (1977) pointed out that Jehlum Fault is
a left-lateral strike slip fault that originated along the western
margin of the axial zone of the Hazara-Kashmir Syntaxis
(HKS). Baig and Lawrence (1987) described the JehlumFault
as a left-lateral strike slip fault and reported that along this
fault, Murree, Abbottabad, and Hazara formations are highly
deformed between the Balakot and Muzaffarabad areas.
Blocks of the Panjal volcanics and Eocene limestone have
also been dragged several kilometers southward. The rocks
are brittly deformed and a left-lateral offset of about 31 km is
indicated on the western limb of the syntaxis. The Jehlum
Fault apparently dislocates the MBT and terminates the east-
ward continuation of some of the structures of northwest
Himalayan fold and thrust belt, which shows that it is the
youngest major tectonic feature in the syntaxial zone (Baig
and Lawrence 1987). A number of east-west trending faults
join the Jehlum Fault at an acute angle pointed towards
northward, indicating a relative left-lateral strike slip
movement.
Arab J Geosci
Kalabagh Fault
The Kalabagh Fault forms the western margin of the Salt
Range (Figs. 3 and 4) and extends about 20 km north of the
Indus River, before bending to the west along several north
dipping reverse faults (McDougall 1989; McDougall and
Khan 1990). It cuts folds and faults in the Eocambrian of the
Salt Range Formation into Quaternary Conglomerates
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Fig. 4 Generalized regional tectonic map of the Salt Range, Pakistan (modified after Kazmi and Rana 1982)
Arab J Geosci
(Kalabagh Formation). Tectonic slivers of the Permian and
older rocks occur along the fault zone (Gee 1980). In the
western Salt Range, the Salt Range Formation forms diapirs,
which are localized along high-angle faults including the
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0 10 20 30 Km Locality
Central Salt Range Western Salt Range Eastern Salt Range
east
Salt Range Thrust
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b
Fig. 6 a Schematic illustration of the three subdivisions of the Salt Range (modified after Gee and Gee 1989). b Generalized map showing major
structural trends in different parts of the Salt Range
North
Kala Chitta
Range
Potwar Basin
Soan Basin Murree
Thrust
Salt Range
Thrust
Salt Range
(central part)
Sargodha
High
Punjab Plain
Karampur
Well
South
200 km
80 km
120 km
Tertiary Rocks Mesozoic and Palaeozoic
Rocks
Basement
Rocks
Salt Range Formation
Fig. 5 Generalized cross section across the Potwar Basin and the Salt Range, showing Salt Range decollement (modified after Gee 1983). No vertical
scale is intended
Arab J Geosci
right-lateral tear faults. The largest of these diapirs is found at
Kalabagh near the Indus River. The Siwaliks are overlain with
angular unconformity by Late Quaternary conglomerates
(Kalabagh Formation), which themselves are folded. These
conglomerates have been dated as 2.91.9 Ma, which also
constrain the Kalabagh Fault (Yeats et al. 1984).
Structural style
The Salt Range is structurally very complex and consists of
three basic structural styles: (1) compressional deformation
(thrusting and folding), (2) transform deformation (strike
faults), and (3) extensional deformation (normal faults).
Compressional deformation
The uplift of the Salt Range is due to the compressional
deformation, which represents the southern part of the Hima-
layan orogeny (Krishnan 1966). Thrusting is a specific feature
of the compressional deformation. The lowermost thrust, that
is, the MFT, brings the entire sequence over late Quaternary
fanglomerates and Jehlum River alluvium (Baig and
Lawrence 1987). It is covered by the younger fanglomerate
deposits of the Salt Range provenance but evident at few
places, e.g., west of the Jalalpur at the eastern end of the Salt
Range. Where near the foot of the scarp, the Cambrian se-
quence and the uppermost stage of the Salt Range Formation
are thrust upon late Tertiary sandstone. Similar reverse
faulting is evident near the Indus River at the Kalabagh
(Yeats et al. 1984). At several localities along the foot of the
scarp, local outcrops of conglomerates of probably late Pleis-
tocene age are overthrust by the Palaeozoic sequence. This is a
clear evidence of the very recent age of the earths movement
(Yeats et al. 1984).
The effect of compression on the strata is increased mark-
edly towards the north (Krishnan 1966). In addition, high-
angle fault-bound narrow horsts bring Salt Range Formation
to the surface. Because the Salt Range Formation is easily
eroded, these horsts form deep gorges in which some of the
classic stratigraphic sections of the Salt Range (Khewra,
Nilawahan, and Warchha gorges) are found. The Salt Range
Formation plays a role of decollement zone in this process.
Gravity and seismic data support the existence of detached
zone under the Potwar Basin and the Salt Range (Gee and Gee
1989; Grelaud et al. 2002).
Transform deformation
Transform deformation causes strike slip faults. Strike slip
faults are well developed in the Salt Range. Two major strike
slip faults, namely, the Jehlum Fault and the Kalabagh Fault,
mark the eastern and western boundaries of the Salt Range,
respectively. The sense of shear of the Jehlum Fault is left
lateral while the Kalabagh Fault is a right-lateral strike slip
fault (Gee and Gee 1989). Some small-scale high-angle strike
slip faults, which are also called tear fault, are present in the
Salt Range. The southward movement of the Salt Range
becomes easier due to the presence of these faults.
Extensional deformation
In the Salt Range area, a number of normal faults are observed
which show extensional deformation. Extensional deforma-
tion is mostly caused by tectonic activity but it is due to salt
diapirism. Salt diapirism is formed due to the upward move-
ment of the salt of the Salt Range Formation.
Subdivisions of the Salt Range
Based on structural style, stratigraphy, and sedimentation, the
Salt Range is divided into three parts: eastern, central, and
western Salt Range (Gee and Gee 1989; Figs. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,
and 11).
Eastern Salt Range (Jogi Tilla to Khewra)
The area between the Jogi Tilla and Khewra is marked as
the eastern Salt Range (cf. Gee and Gee 1989). The
easternmost end of this unit of the Salt Range loses its
stature and bifurcates into two prominent narrow northeast
trending ridges, the Diljabba and the Chambal Jogi Tilla
(Fig. 7). The latter comprises steeply dipping monoclines,
complicated by complex thrusts and tear faults, whereas
the Diljabba Hill is a steeply dipping anticline, which is
transversed by Diljabba Domeli Thrust (Fig. 8). With the
exception of the Domeli Thrust, other faults at the surface
display relatively less displacements. The eastern Salt
Range is dominated by northeast-southwest trending folds,
which show a wide contrast to the east-west trending folds
in the central Salt Range and northwest-southeast trending
folds on the eastern side of the Jehlum Reentrant (Fig. 6).
On the basis of stratigraphic studies and seismic analysis
across the eastern Salt Range/Potwar Plateau, several im-
portant characteristics are revealed which can be summa-
rized as follows:
1. Overall, anticlines are tight structures, separated by broad,
open synclines. Dips in the axial zones of most of the
anticlines are steep to overturn. Despite the intense defor-
mation in the cores of the anticlines, surface faulting is
comparatively rare (cf. (Martin 1962; Raynolds and
Johnson 1985).
2. Disharmonic folding and thrusting of all strata above the
gently north dipping basement indicate that the regional
Arab J Geosci
10km
0 5
Fig. 7 Landsat image shows Mangal Dev Rigde, Chambal Ridge, and Jogi Tilla Ridge, the easternmost part of the Salt Range. The dominant style of
deformation is brittle deformation (courtesy of Google Earth)
20km
0 10
Fig. 8 Landsat image shows the Karangal-Diljabba Thrust terminating
near the locality of Choa Saidan Shah and replaced by one of similar
trends but of the opposite throw repeating the complete sequence in the
Ghandhalla Valley known as Ghandhalla Nala Thrust, eastern Salt Range
(courtesy of Google Earth)
Arab J Geosci
20km
0 10
Fig. 9 Landsat image shows both brittle and ductile deformation in the central Salt Range. Note steep angle fault zones like Vasnal and Kalar Kahar
running oblique to the general east-west trend of the Salt Range (courtesy of Google Earth)
Nammal
Uchalli
Khabhiki
20km 0 10
Fig. 10 Landsat image shows maximum width in the western part of the central Salt Range. The dominant structures are the series of narrow anticlines
and broader synclines, which are often faulted (courtesy of Google Earth)
Arab J Geosci
decollement in the eastern Salt Range lies within the Salt
Range Formation (Davis and Engelder 1985; Lillie et al.
1987; Fig. 8); the decollement has not cut up-section into
molasse (Butler et al. 1987). Surface folds are cored by
both foreland and hinterland dipping, blind thrusts. Salt
has flowed away from beneath synclines into the cores of
adjacent anticlines.
3. Basement offset appears to localize thrusting in some
instances (Fig. 9). Fault propagation folds and triangle
zones and pop-up structures are all common deformation-
al styles (Butler et al. 1987).
Johnson et al. (1985, 2009) suggested that the folded
structures in the eastern Salt Range and Potwar Basin
are cored by blind thrusts. They argued that these
thrusts cut up-section due to increased basal friction
caused by an eastward thinning of salt along the edge
of an extensive Eocambrian salt basin, as predicted by
Davis and Engelder (1985). However, Jaum and Lillie
(1988) suggest that thrusts may cut up-section due to
the extremely shallow dip of the basement (<1
0
), an
idea also consistent with the mechanical model devel-
oped by Davis and Engelder (1985) for fold and thrust
belts that have developed over evaporites.
Central Salt Range (Khewra to Warchha)
The area between Khewar and Warchha is marked as the
central Salt Range (cf. Gee and Gee 1989). Within the central
Salt Range, the general trend of the folds is east-west, but few
north-south trending and northward plunging anticlines,
which are actually nose type structures, have also formed
(Fig. 6). The Eocene formations, capped at many places by
the early Miocene strata, occur as broad, east-west plunging
anticlines and synclines of varying wavelengths. The plunge
variation has resulted in the formation of large domes and
basins, e.g., between Dhariala and Kalar Kahar and westward
via Vasnal and Khabakki in the propinquity of the Sakesar and
Chorgali formations (Fig. 9).
The structural style of the central Salt Range can be clas-
sified into five categories: (1) minor folds with axis approxi-
mately parallel to the range front; (2) high-angle faults; (3)
minor thrusts within the allochthon; (4) diapiric salt structures;
and (5) strike slip fault zones.
The east-west orientations of the minor folds suggest that
they were formed by the same compressive stresses that
emplaced the Salt Range Thrust sheet. Most of this folding
appears to be concentric, although nonparallel folding occurs
locally, near the range front. The intensity of folding increases
20km 0 10
Fig. 11 Landsat image shows the right-lateral strike slip fault, known as
the Kalabagh Fault, western Salt Range, Pakistan. The characteristics of
this area are many steep angle faults that are associated with the Kalabagh
Fault, which resulted mainly by vertical movement of salt of the Salt
Range Formation (courtesy of Google Earth)
Arab J Geosci
southwards, towards the toe of the thrust, as well as toward the
eastern Salt Range. Three active strike slip faults lie oblique to
the Main Frontal Thrust that occurred within the central Salt
Range (cf. Yeats et al. 1984). These three faults appeared to be
a function of tear faults, segmenting the Salt Range (Fig. 9).
Western Salt Range (Warchha to Kalabagh)
The area between the Warchha and Kalabagh is marked as the
western Salt Range (Gee and Gee 1989; Figs. 10 and 11).
Westward of the Warchha area, the Salt Range takes a north-
west bend (Fig. 6). This directional change coincides with the
change in the strike of the formations accompanied by the
complex fault lineaments (Gee and Gee 1989). The Salt Range
Thrust is abruptly truncated by the Kalabagh Fault System(cf.
(McDougall and Khan 1990; Fig. 10). This fault extends
20 km north of the Indus River, before bending to the west
along several north dipping reverse faults (McDougall 1989;
McDougall and Khan 1990).
In the western Salt Range and northward in the Kohat
Plateau, the Salt Range Formation forms diapirs which are
localized along high-angle faults including the right-lateral
tear faults (Fig. 11). The largest of these diapirs is found at
Kalabagh near the Indus River. The northern Salt Range is a
fold belt which includes strata as young as the Siwaliks. The
Siwaliks are overlain with angular unconformity by late Qua-
ternary gravels (Kalabagh Formation) which are themselves
folded (Yeats et al. 1984).
Discussion
One dataset was used to extract the structural and tectonic
features. These were interpreted from five Landsat images
(courtesy of Google Earth). To get the whole map view of
the study area, five scenes were taken. The quality of images
was enhanced by geo-referencing, fine adjustments, color
balancing, and brightness matching, thereby helping to iden-
tify structures and lateral variations. The image was obtained
by combining red, green, and blue bands, respectively. This
procedure was found useful for extracting the features of
interest for the study from the Landsat imagery (courtesy of
Google Earth).
Overall, the regional structural style of the Salt Range
region is a function of compressional, extensional, and trans-
forms forces. A sharp bend near the easternmost part of the
area is marked near Chamkon Valley and identified as the
Jalapur Structure. The Salt Range here (Mangle Dev Ridge)
bends into Chambal Ridge and Jogi Tilla Ridge. The Mangle
Dev Ridge shows decollement level at Pre-Cambrian Salt. In
Chumkon Valley, a set of stacked ridges has been trapped
between Mangle Dev and Chambal ridges, striking northwest,
and each ridge is bounded by a thrust fault verging southwest.
The Karangal-Diljabba Thrust is replaced by a similar thrust
having the same trend but opposite throw near the locality
ChoaSaidan Shah. This thrust repeats the same succession in
the Ghandhalla Valley and is known as Ghandhalla Nala
Thrust (Fig. 8).
In the central Salt Range area, both brittle and ductile
deformation is present in this area. Kalar Kahar and Vasnal
are the steep angle fault zones running oblique to the direction
of the Salt Range. The thickest part is near the western part of
the central Salt Range. Most of the structures identified here
are anticlines and synclines, which are often faulted (Fig. 10).
A right-lateral strike slip fault is identified near the western
Salt Range. This shows a displaced Salt Range trend, which
divides the Salt Range from the Trans Indus Range. The
characteristics of this area are the steep angle faults which
have resulted in vertical outcrops of the Salt Range Formation
(Fig. 11).
Conclusions
The Salt Range structure in the northwestern Himalayan fold
and thrust belt, Pakistan accommodates differential thrusting
induced by lithological deviations along the basal
decollement. Due to topographical and structural data, the
Main Salt Range Thrust is marked that controls the whole
succession from Precambrian to Recent. Based on structural
style, stratigraphy, and sedimentation, the Salt Range is divid-
ed in to three parts, i.e., eastern, central, and western Salt
Range. The image interpretation shows a sharp bent near the
easternmost part of the area, Karangal-Diljabba Thrust, which
is replaced by thrust near ChoaSaidan Shah. The thickest part
is identified in the central Salt Range. The Kalar Kahar and
Vasnal are identified as the steep angle faults running oblique
to the direction of the Salt Range Thrust. A right-lateral strike
slip fault is identified near the western Salt Range that
displaced the Salt Range and separates the Salt Range from
the Trans Indus Range.
Acknowledgments Ghazi is supported by a scholarship from the Uni-
versity of the Punjab. We are grateful to Nigel Mountney for providing
valuable discussions regarding the interpretation of this manuscript. We
express our gratitude to Aftab Ahmad Butt for the advice and guidance.
We also acknowledge the careful reviews performed by Abdullah M. Al-
Amri (Editor-in-Chief).
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