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Quetta Cantonment

Quetta (or sometimes-spelled kwatah), the provincial capital of Baluchistan, is still locally known by its ancient name of Shal or Shalkot. It is the divisional and district Headquarters and is considered to be an important marketing and communications center located at the north end of the Shal valley about 1690 meters above sea level. It is the southern most point in a long line of frontier posts and within the system of strategic roads and railways near the Northwest (Afghanistan) border.

Commanding the Bolan and Khojak passes, the British occupied Quetta in 1876 and it is there that a residency was founded by Sir Robert Sandeman. Until the British arrived, Quetta was little more than a fort and a small training post. The British army led by Sir Robert Sandman was charged with the responsibility of keeping the road link between the then India and Afghanistan via Balochistan open. Equally important was the responsibility to keep open the Bolan Pass connecting Balochistan with Sind. The British army, therefore, made Quetta a military center from where to operate against the Balochis unwilling to accept foreign subjugation. Slowly and Gradually the town developed around its strongly crowded army station. Incorporated as a municipality in 1896, its Army commands and Staff College was opened in 1907.

During the last quarter of the 10th century Quetta grew from a dilapidated group of mud buildings, with an inferior bazaar and a few scattered remnants of neglected orchard cultivation, into a strong fortress, and one of the most popular stations of the Indian army. Quetta was visited by the Prince of Wales (George V) in 1906, and a staff college for the Indian army was opened here in 1907. It has become the trade mart for western Afghanistan, eastern Persia, and much of central Asia. The population of the town and cantonment in 1901 was 24,584.

After independence from British rule, the Infantry School was established at Kakul in 1947. Colonel N J G Jones, MBE was appointed the first Commandant of the School on 12 January 1948. The School was moved to its present location at Quetta in 1948 and was assigned the responsibility of weapons training only. Tactical training was organized under the Command and Staff College Quetta.

Quetta is situated at an elevation of 5,500 ft (1677m). Quetta has a dry climate with no factory chimneys to pollute its fresh and invigorating mountain air. Winter sets in by November and lasts till end February. Snowfall is light, though it is not unusual to have one as late as March.

Quetta has the fourth largest airport in Pakistan. Visitor can come to quetta by air via Lahore, Karachi or Islamabad. Domestic flights are available on daily basis. PIA also runs direct flights from Dubai to Quetta. Quetta is also connected to other majors cities of Pakistan by road and railways.

The Quetta Valley itself, although not profusely vegetated, is turning greener by the year. In the summers, fruit laden orchards present a very attractive sight. Very few places can compete with Quetta valley in having wide range of tasteful fruits, exported to all parts of the country as well as abroad. There you can find plums, peaches, pomegranates, apricots, apples, olives, different types of melon, water-melon, cherries, pistachios, almonds and other dry fruits. Saffron and tulip are also grown and cultivated on a commercial scale. The fruits heaven is Urak, called SAMARISTAN meaning the land of fruits in Persian.

Excavations in the Quetta valley have proved that the pre-historic humans used to live there.Mehergarh is a unique site revealing a continuous sequence of cultures in the Province. The archeological sites are considered to have been flourished between 7000 BC & 800 BC.

Although a small city, Quetta has over the years acquired the typical hustle and bustle of a provincial metropolis with a population of over 1.6 million. Both, the city and cantonment continue to modernise at an equally fast pace.

Quetta is a major tourist attraction. It is advertised as a thrilling location, full of adventure and enjoyment. Some prominent bazaars of Quetta are located on the roads Shahrah-e-Iqbal (the Kandahari Bazaar) and Shahrah-e-Liaquat (the Liaquat and Suraj Gang Bazaar, Alamdar road (little Tokyo). Here, tourists can find colourful handicrafts, particularly Balochi mirror work and Pashtun embroidery which is admired all over the world. The Pashtun workers are prominently expert in making fine Afghan carpets, with their pleasing and intricate designs, fur coats, jackets, waist-coats, sandals and other creations of traditional Pashtun skills. local handicrafts, specially green marble products, mirror work and embroidered jackets, shirts, and hand bags, pillow covers, bed sheets, dry fruits, etc. Balochi carpets are made by the nomadic tribes of this area.

They are generally not nearly as fine or expensive as the Persian city products, or even the Turkoman tribal rugs from further North, but they are generally better than Afghan carpets and more authentic than the bad copies of Turkoman and Persian designs that the cites of Pakistan produce. They definitely have a charm of their own. They range from relatively crude rugs that can, with some bargaining, be had at very reasonable prices to quite fine and valuable pieces. Many are small enough to be fairly portable. For those interested in local cuisine, there are many sumptuous dishes to feast upon. The "Sajji" (leg of lamb) is said to be very good by locals. The Pathan tribesmen of the valley also enjoy "Landhi" (whole lamb), and Khadi Kebab. "Landhi" is a whole lamb which is dried in shade and kept for the winters. "Kebab" shops are very popular, the best being Lal Kabab, Tabaq, Cafe Farah and Cafe Baldia. They serve Pakistani and Continental food, while Cafe China is one of the oldest and most reputable Chinese restaurant that specializes in Chinese cuisine. Some of the finest mutton in the country is raised around Quetta. It has a delicious smell which can be sampled in the "Pulao" that most of the eating houses offer. Small and clean hotels in Alamdar road provide real comfort for tourists in peaceful environments.

Once a vibrant tourist resort, the years of political turmoil since 2005 have meant Quetta today found its tourism industry collapsing. Not only had the number of foreigners visiting 'Little London', as the provincial capital was once billed, declined dramatically, but even domestic tourists, keen to witness Quetta and Ziarat's 'white Christmas', were a rare sight here.

The Taliban's 'Quetta shura' headed by Mullah Omar is located in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan and the 'Peshawar Shura' is based in the capital of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province. The Taliban group based in Quetta, Pakistan - the Mullah Omar or Quetta Shura Taliban - is one of America's principal enemies in Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban council, or Shura, operates openly in Quetta, Pakistan, without interference from the government. The Taliban operations in Quetta are different from operations in the mountainous tribal areas of Pakistan. American and other Western officials have long said they suspect that Pakistani security services do little to address the presence of senior Taliban commanders in Quetta. The Quetta Shura operates not from Pakistan's tribal areas, but from populated areas in and around the Baluchistan provincial capital of Quetta.

In January 2009 Balochistan National Party (BNP) Information Secretary and former senator Sanaullah Baloch disclosed that the supporters of Taliban had captured land worth Rs 2 billion in the eastern and western parts of Quetta with the covert support of the 'establishment' in order to undermine the Baloch nationalist movement and promote Talibanisation in Balochistan. Several parts of the provincial capital have become 'no-go areas' where the Taliban and their supporters have consolidated their position, he said. Baloch said the government was fully aware of these encroachments but it was deliberately silent because the Taliban enjoy the support of the government and its intelligence agencies who wish to pit the religious elements against the Baloch nationalists.

Crippling the Taliban leadership by attacking the 'Quetta shura' and weakening its influence over Taliban fighters in Southern Afghanistan, seemed to be an important element of the new Obama Administration strategy on Pakistan and Afghanistan. By April 2009, fearing US drone attacks, a large number of Taliban's Afghan leaders had moved from Quetta to Karachi, Peshawar and other cities.

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