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Capital of Balochistan, Pakistan, Quetta is an important city on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and is the trade and communication centre between the two countries. Quetta is the ninth-largest city of the country and is situated 1,680 meters (5,510 feet) above sea level, making it Pakistan's only high-altitude major city. The city lies on the Bolan Pass route which was the only gateway from Central Asia to South Asia. Most of the Population of this City belongs to Pastun Tribes i.e., Alizai, Kakar, Daavi, Khilji, Tareen, Kasi, Achakzai and Durrani.
Quetta is also known as the fruit garden of Pakistan, due to the numerous fruit orchards in and around it, and the large variety of fruits and dry fruits produced there. The immediate area has long been one of pastures and mountains, with varied plants and animals relative to the dry plains to the west. The population of Quetta was 11,000 in 1891 to a total of between 1,865,137 and 2.8 million according to the 2012 reports which makes it the 6th largest city in Pakistan.
The name Quetta derives from kwatta, Pashto for fort is a natural fort, as it is surrounded by imposing hills on all sides. The hills have the resounding names of Chiltan, Takatu, Mordar and Zarghun. It is believed that the earliest inhabitants of the city were the Pashtun Kasi Tribe.
The earliest evidence of human occupation in what is now Quetta and Pakistani Balochistan is dated to the Paleolithic era, represented by hunting camps and lithic scatters (chipped and flaked stone tools). The earliest settled villages in the region date to the ceramic Neolithic (c. 7000–6000 BCE), and included the site of Mehrgarh (located in the Kachi Plain). These villages expanded in size during the subsequent Chalcolithic, when interaction was amplified. This involved the movement of finished goods and raw materials, including chank shell, lapis lazuli, turquoise, and ceramics. By 2500 BCE (the Bronze Age), the region now known as Pakistani Balochistan had become part of the Harappan cultural orbit, providing key resources to the expansive settlements of the Indus river basin to the east.
Very little is known about the human settlement in the area. However, it is certain that the Afghans and Brahuis are recent immigrants. The Pashtoons appear to have entered the area from the north east, emigrating from their home round the Takht-i-Sulaman. Kasis (A branch of Afghan) are said to have migrated from their home around the Takht-i-Sulaman about eight centuries ago. They made their first settlement at Samli, a village near Quetta city. The Brahuis are an offshoot from the Kalat territory and their presence in the district dates back to the eighteenth century.
The area was in control by Kasi Tribe Pashtun. The first important incident of Quetta is from the 11th century when it was captured by Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi during his invasions of South Asia. The powerful Khans of Kalat held the fort from 1512. In 1543, the Mughal emperor Humayun rested in Quetta on his retreat to Safavid Persia, leaving his one-year-old son Akbar in the city. In 1828 the first westerner to visit Quetta described it as a mud-walled fort surrounded by 300 mud houses.
Although occupied briefly by the British during the First Afghan War in 1839, it was not until 1876 that Quetta came under full British control and Robert Sandeman was made political agent in Baluchistan. In 1876 Quetta was incorporated into British controlled territories of the subcontinent. British Troops constructed the infrastructure for their establishment as it was a strategic location. By the time of the earthquake on 31 May 1935 Quetta had developed into a bustling city with a number of multi-story buildings and was known as Little Paris because of that. The epicentre of the earthquake was close to the city and destroyed most of the city’s infrastructure and killed an estimated 40,000 people. The reconstruction started soon after.
Till 1947 Quetta was a small town. People used to call it small London. But rapid population growth in terms of rural - urban migration, and influx of Indian refugees increased the population in Quetta. Influx of Afghan refugees during the 1980s helped the slums to grow. New settlement in the form of housing schemes emerged at Satellite Town, Jinnah Town, Samungli Town, Model Town and Shahbaz Town. In Kachi Abadies, slums also begun to develop. The process of settlement continues. Now Quetta has turned into an over-populated city.
During the independence movement of Indian subcontinent the predominantly Muslim population of the region supported the Muslim League and the Pakistan Movement. On joining Pakistan, Quetta was made the capital city of the newly created province of Balochistan before it was combined with other Balochi princely states (Kalat, Makran, Lasbela and Kharan) to form the Baloch province. Quetta remained the capital of the province until 1959 when the provincial system was abolished under Ayub Khan. After the 1971 war, the provincial system was re-instated, and Quetta was once again made capital of Balochistan.
Quetta has an area of 2,653 km2 and consists of series of small river valleys which act as a natural fort surrounded on all sides by hills; these are named Chiltan, Takatoo, Murdar and Zarghun. Although a mostly rocky landscape, there are few natural boundaries between Quetta and its adjoining districts of Dera Ismail Khan to the northeast, Dera Ghazi Khan and Sibi to the east, Sukkur and Jacobabad to the southeast, Karachi and Gawadar to the south and Ziarat to the northeast.
Quetta as a city has a vast historical background due to which there culture and tradition are very strong. There are many ethnic groups in Quetta but there cultural values are closely linked. The reason can be the same religion they share.
People of Quetta are not violent as they are portrayed in previous years, they are loving, caring and very welcoming. It has been only a decade or two when the people have turned like this. Maybe it is their necessity to protect themselves and their families from the hostiles which have entered their city and creating violence.
The mode of dress among the Balochi, Pashtun and Brahvi tribes is very similar having a few minor dissimilarities. Turban is the common headwear of the men. Wide loose shalwar and knee-long shirts are worn by all. The dress of the woman consists of the typical shirt having a big pocket in front. The shirt normally has embroidery work with embedded small round mirror pieces. Big ‘Dopatta’ or ‘Chaddar’, a long rectangular piece of cloth cascading down the shoulders and used to cover head, are used by the women.
Traditional Pashto music is mostly klasik ghazals, using rubab or sitar, tabla, portable harmonium, flute and several other musical instruments. The famous two dance of Pashtuns is the Attan and Khatak dance, which was mainly done in the war time for the leisure time but later on being made a part of their culture. And now it is famous all over the world and these dances are shown not only part of Quetta but as part of Pakistan Culture.
Buzkashi is a festival or sport celebrated by Pashtuns in which two teams ridding on horse, attempt to snatch a goat from each other. The people of Quetta like football as a sport more than cricket or hockey which is National Game of Pakistan.
Quetta’s bazaars are specialty full of colourful handicrafts, Balochi mirror work and Pashtun embroidery. Afghan rugs, fur coats, embroidered jackets, waistcoats, sandals, and other traditional Pashtun items are also famous and imported in western countries as well.
The Pashtun traditional dishes such as Kadi kebab and Lamb Roash and Balochi Saji and other traditional delicious dishes are available around the city especially at Prince Road, Jinnah Road, Serena hotels. The Pashtun tribal cuisine “Roash” which non-locals call “Namkin” is to be found in both city restaurants as well as in the outlying areas. Some of the finest mutton in the country is raised around Quetta and is a mainstay of local cuisine. The Pashtun tribal dish, “Landhi”, is made of a whole lamb which is dried and kept fresh during the cold winters. “Khadi Kebab” is a lamb barbecue while “Sajji” and “Pulao” are other local dishes.
There are some mounds and karezes of ancient time in the area. The most important archaeological site is a Quetta Miri (a mass of indurated clay). The base of Miri is 183 meter long by 122 meter wide and rises 24.4 meter above the plain. The Miri is now used as an Arsenal. Among other noticeable mounds are one between Katir and Kuchlak, known as the Kasiano Dozakh, Tor Ghund near Baleli and Tor Wasi between Panjpai and Muhammad Khel. Besides, some karezes of archaeological interest are found at Kirani, Sariab and Kachi Baig.