Quetta: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
I remember spending four years of my childhood in Quetta back in 90s. I returned to the same city two years ago but of course as a fully mature adult. Quetta is different today and so am I. This place holds a noteworthy place among my most cherished memories. Taking a stroll down memory lane, I can still muse over the scenic beauty of blue waters of Henna lake and Spin Carez; scrumptious big round apples of Orak Valley, breathtakingly beautiful Wali Tangi dam, Urak and Ziarat valley, such naive and ingenuous people of Quetta and most amazingly the perfect shopping spree. Since I returned to the same place after two decades, I thought I should summarize the good, the bad and the ugly about this city.
Quetta is the provincial capital of the largest province of the country. It has a population of 1,001,205 according to the 2017 census, while Quetta District has a population of 2,275,699. The city is 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.
Big juicy round apples of this valley are definitely the best thing about this place. Picking up your favourite apples from the orchards and the mere sight of such fruit gardens makes one swoon. Besides apples, delicious grapes and Afghani pomegranates also show up as the fruits of this valley. Finding nature’s bounties loaded on trees makes one impossible to resist himself. Year round, all these fruits are sent to different parts of the country.
Lush green Ziarat with the oldest of Juniper forests is a treat to eyes. The Quaid-e-Azam Residency – also known as Ziarat Residency in Ziarat is one of the most widely visited national monuments in Pakistan. In the same way, beautiful Hanna lake, Urak valley and Wali tangi dam takes to another world of beauty. Sunset point in Quetta cantt gives a breathtakingly beautiful view of the city especially after dusk. Miri fort is also situated in cantt and it is a military garrison built by the British Empire for their strategic use. The fort is also known as Sandeman Fort and it is a great site to visit.
Besides all these fascinating places of this valley, pleasantly warm summers and mesmerizing snowfall of winters are definitely cherry on the top of everything. The blazing sun during summers never gets to bake the valley because of the cool breeze blowing all the time. This is the reason that summer mornings and nights are always pleasantly cool. In the same way, winters are very frosty and chilly but the snowfall creates magic in the valley. The countryside covered in a sheet of snow looks ethereal and serene. The delectable dry fruits of this valley are enjoyed in winters not only in Quetta but also in the whole country.
Apart all this, Quetta is known for the perfect shopping spree especially Iranian carpets and blankets. Braich market is a heaven for all kinds of Iranian products. The most beautiful handicrafts, embroidery, shawls, crockery, traditional jewellery and decorations are available at the famous markets. Some of the famous markets are shabnam market, liaqat bazaar and Mariabad. NATO market and Dubai Plaza are also considered important for the purchase of good quality second hand products especially electronics and gadgets. Shopping in Quetta is amazing and I am sure it cannot disappoint anyone who has an eye for good things.
Though Quetta is not very well-known for its cuisine the way Lahore is known for it but its Rosh, Sajji and Mutton Karahi are really known for its own unique delectable taste. Dubai hotel and Meer Afzal Karahi are really known for its amazing cuisine and taste. The city’s most famous local ice cream called sheer-e-yakh is also popular.
There are plenty of natural recourses in the province. Gas was discovered in Balochistan in 1952 and we need to give credit to this province for supplying gas to all of the country. In the same way, coal and other mineral resources are also found in this region of the country.
Now if one talks about the bad aspects of this city, water scarcity would top the list. This province can face droughts in the future if water crisis doesn’t get solved. This can severely affect the agriculture of the region and it can worsen the condition of the already underprivileged people of this province. The federal and provincial governments must devise plans to solve this very important issue by taking measurements like judicious harvesting of rainfall and building mini dams.
In the same way, infrastructure of the city needs to be improved. More educational institutions and opportunities should be offered in this part of the country. Healthcare facilities should be enhanced as well. Baluchistan is the largest province of the country geographically but it has lowest population otherwise. Despite having the lowest population, more than 50 percent population is living below the poverty line. Government definitely needs to offer more employment opportunities to these people.
Ziarat, which was once famous for oldest of juniper forests, has been destructed by the deforestation. Ziarat’s juniper forests are the second largest of its kind in the world but it is unfortunate that now Ziarat is striving hard to preserve this rank.
Last but not the least, this region lacks an industrial base and this definitely makes another strong reason for the unemployment. Quetta has two shopping malls as per the current trend in the country and this definitely has counted towards the employment opportunities but of course more efforts are required.
The ugly thing about this city is only one and that is how this beautiful city has been targeted and got terror stricken. International lobbies and external forces are trying their best to bring insecurity to this region so that locals demand to make this province free and independent. Here it is worth mentioning how army and frontier corps has put in tireless efforts and sacrifices to bring security to this specific region. The overall security of this region has improved and the credit goes to army and frontier corps but still more efforts and strategies are required to bring complete peace in the region.
The entire Baluchistan province is beautiful and implausible. Pakistan is incomplete without this region. Every city and province has its own issues exactly the way Quetta has. Government should ponder over all the issues and should devise long term strategies to solve them. I am not a native of this city but I can say that anyone after spending even just a year here would leave this place heavy hearted. Quetta is like a beautiful dream destination and those who are consumed by wanderlust should visit this atleast once in life.
Hadia Rahman: An International relations Scholar by education; former news anchor; an academician, freelance host and writer by profession; environmentalist at heart. She tweets @hadiarah