Quetta - Encyclopedia

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QUETTA, the capital of British Baluchistan, India, which also gives its name to a district. It rose to prominence in 1876, when Sir Robert Sandeman founded a residency there. The name is a variation of the word kwat-kot, signifying a fortress, and the place is still locally known as Shal Kot. Quetta is the southernmost point in the line of frontier posts and system of strategic railways on the north-west frontier of India, 536 m. by rail N. of Karachi. It forms the headquarters of the fourth division of the southern army, with a strong garrison of all arms. The railway was built in 1879, with a view to its continuance to Kandahar; but its present terminus is New Chaman on the Afghan border. A branch line to Nushki was completed in 1905. The cantonment and civil station of Quetta stand in the open plain about 5500 ft. above sea-level, within a ring of mountains (such as Takatu, Murdar and Chiltan), which overlook it from a height of over 1 1,000 ft. To the north-west the view is open across the base of the Pishin valley to the Khojak Pass and Kandahar. Southwards is the open valley leading to the Bolan Pass, traversed by the railway. North of Quetta is the open plain leading to Pishin and the Harnai, also traversed by the Sibi-Pishin railway, which passes through the fortifications. These defensive works, stretching from the base of Takatu to the foot of the Mashelak hills on the west, bar the way to advance from the Khojak Pass. 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.

The District Of Quetta (including Pishin) has an area of 5 12 7 sq. m. Pop. (IQ01) 114,087, of whom more than threefourths are Afghans, showing an increase of 45% in the decade. The general aspect of the country is hilly, rocky and sterile, particularly towards the north; but in many parts the soil is rich and good, yielding wheat, rice, madder, tobacco, and lucerne, besides numerous grasses. The district has abundant orchards, furnishing grapes, apples, pears, pomegranates, figs, &c.; melons and all kinds of English vegetables are also largely cultivated. The valley is watered by the Pishin Lora and by government irrigation works, including artesian wells. Wild sheep and goats abound in the hills of the district. The climate appears to be healthy and the temperature moderate, ranging from 40° F. in the winter to about 78° in the summer. The annual rainfall (including snow) averages about 10 in. The actual line of valley which contains Quetta and the Bolan Pass was originally rented from the khan of Kalat on terms which were changed in 1882 to a quit-rent of Rs25,000 per annum, and a further compensation of Rs30,000 in lieu of transit duties in the Bolan Pass. This perpetual leasehold was afterwards extended so as to include Nushki and give the British government the command of the trade route to Sistan. The Quetta district is now administered, together with the assigned districts of Pishin, Tal Chotiali, and Sibi (assigned by the treaty of Gandamak as being nominally Afghan territory) by a regular staff of civil officials.

See Thornton, Life of Sir Robert Sandeman (London, 1896); Quetta-Pishin District Gazetteer (Ajmer, 1907). (T. H. H.*)

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