Has Quetta’s charm been lost forever?

Published: October 6, 2015

Unfortunately, in recent years Quetta has lost its charm of tranquillity and serenity.

While travelling on the Regional Cooperation for Development Highway (RCD) and the National Highway under the moonlight, which shone so bright that one could clearly see the crossing, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia. It made me reminisce about how Quetta used to be a peaceful, calm, and content valley – once upon a time.

Photo: Ijaz Younus Baloch

Over the past few years, Quetta has lost its charm of tranquillity and serenity. Gone are the days when roaming on Prince Road to find the right eatery for dinner and queuing in front of Flora for ice cream and milk shakes was a common trend. Memories of camping at Hanna Lake and Hanna Urak (picnic points in Quetta) linger on in my mind and I feel these memories will not be relived any time soon.

These areas of interest have become entirely inaccessible to the common public. So much so, that it feels like one needs a visa to be able to enter the Quetta Cantonment area since the military cantonment area has been sealed off with tight security arrangements. People need to submit their ID card to go through the military check posts and at times many civilian vehicles are not even allowed to go through despite having ID cards. So much for freedom and accessibility.

Hanna Lake. Photo: Israa Shah

Hanna Urak. Photo: Tariq Javaid

The absence of fear is desperately missed in Quetta. The current situation is dismal and citizens of Quetta have to literally search for an opportunity to enjoy life. I would like to believe they try to live their life without being fearful of the prevailing situation, but the glaring insecurity makes them realise that life in Quetta has become extremely stressful. With the recent spate of bombings, murders and disappearances, I am not surprised that people fear for their lives with every passing minute.

A couple of years ago, the chief minister of Balochistan and a Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) said citizens in the country are under the impression that they will get shot or killed once they enter the city.

“However, it is not like that,” they said.

Yes, of course, how convenient. Those who say that Quetta is safe are residing behind barriers in their mansions. It’s easy to claim that Quetta is safe from the comfort your palatial home. All they can probably see from their windows are their privately owned orchards.

The common man knows the reality of Quetta and the common man feels that he is in danger.

All major buildings such as the office of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the CCPO office, the FC (the para-military force) head quarter, the DIG office, the Iranian Consulate have similar security arrangements. They all are secured behind massive barriers. This highlights the disparity which is prevalent in Quetta. Rather than securing the common man, the officials in power have decided to secure themselves.

In terms of media portrayal, somehow Quetta manages to always make headlines, be it bombingstarget killings, or sectarian violence. Even when the city is free of violence, a natural disaster strikes causing great damage to human settlements, and yet again, we make headlines.

Photo: AFP

How can the media write anything positive about Quetta, considering every time a woman goes to the market, her son must make frequent phone calls to find out if she is safe?

If a man is late, his mother worries and flips through news channels to see if there was a bomb blast.

A family is constantly worried that their son could be picked up and detained.

But these concerns are valid. I do not see common citizens content and secure in Quetta. Over the past few years, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, policemen, journalists, politicians, nationalists, tribal elders, religious clerics, refugees, students, and minorities have been victim to all kinds of terrorist attacks and activities.

Therefore a question arises, who is safe in Quetta?

A few naive media people published reports regarding the government imposing bans on pillion riding and carrying arms under section 144. I cannot remember if the ban was ever lifted in Quetta since 2006. I asked the CCPO and the spokesperson for the government of Balochistan whether the ban on pillion riding would be lifted anytime soon and they responded saying that the ban has been extended because the notification needs to be renewed after every month or two. That means pillion riding is still banned.

I am not a pessimist or cynic by nature, but I highly doubt we can get the authentic charm of Quetta back, the harmony, the love, and hospitality that we once felt. I feel terrible whenever I hear the common man talking. It pains me to hear their concerns and they get worse with time. I can’t assure them of their security and stability while safety arrangements for security officials are always on the increase and the development safety arrangements for citizens is stagnant.

I know stability will not prevail through a miracle and a messiah will not just show up. The situation will only worsen because people responsible for the maintenance of law are not doing their job as effectively as they should.

The worst part is that each person thinks that the law enforcers are responsible for this terrible situation; it is true that there have been tribal feuds in Quetta but individuals were never killed because of their ethnicity and sect. The situation of Quetta can greatly improve if the security forces curb the sectarian violence, target killings and bomb blasts in a speedy manner.

The required authorities need to man up and take a stand for the citizens of Quetta. We need our old Quetta back.

Shezad Baloch

Shezad Baloch

A research journalist and former Express Tribune correspondent. He tweets as @shezadbaloch (twitter.com/Shezadbaloch)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Blunt

    Sitting in the Germany and writing about the latest in Quetta? No wonder.Recommend

  • N.S

    My friend has visited Quetta two weeks ago and the law and order has improved with the cooperation of Core commander and the common man. This report would have been true about two years ago.
    Now all the markets are full with customers, the football grounds, the cricket and other sports have picked up. Just look at the 14th August celebration in Quetta this year.
    Quetta got the peace it deserved, but people need to be vigilant and at the same time optimistic.Recommend

  • Godar

    North ‘Balochistan’ should be made a separate province with Pashtun and Hazara majorities.

    The Baloch can have hr southern parts it’s native too.Recommend

  • Samandri

    Baloch aren’t even native of Quetta, we should ask a local Hazara or Pashtuns instead for the reality.

    Baloch writing about Quetta is like a Sindhi writing about Chakwal.Recommend

  • Videlicet

    It is indeed sad that your idyllic Quetta is no more and that the joy of such places can be found nowhere except in our nostalgia. It’s great injustice we do to our successors.

    “[..] can greatly improve if the security forces curb the sectarian violence”
    Alas if it were only that easy. Sectarian violence is a product of two factors- feeling of disunity/discord/uniting against the ‘other’ and lack of tolerance of the non-conformist, lack of respect for dissent and a lack of regard for the other’s right to live. Security forces are powerless to help!

    Besides, Pak army/ISI will be in power only with people’s support. So, people have to have the constant fear of the Enemy (India among others). So, it is in army/ISI interest to not let Pak citizens switch to economics mode from war mode in which case the civil establishment will gain upper hand.Recommend

  • Dogra Pride

    Same can be said about Indian occupied Kashmir. In order for the Indian army to have legitimacy over it’s occupation and it’s war crimes is to keep the masses in fear of the ‘other I.e innocent Kashmiri nation, Pakistan state,Dalits,Sikhs etcRecommend

  • sanzarkhan

    Just to have your piece of writing featured did you really have to paint the situation here so much badRecommend

  • Bibloo

    What the blogger wrote is true. Just because he is in Germany
    he forfeits his right to tell the truth? It is people like YOU who
    need to deal with the TRUTH. The Quetta of bygone years is gone,
    no longer there. The stark beauty is there, enjoy it at the risk of
    your life.
    Quetta is Baloch. through and through. Not Pathan.Recommend

  • awein bakwas karta hai

    Same situation was here in Karachi, especially 2010 onwards, however we let the Rangers do their work and they made Karachi more peaceful than police or civillian authorities/government ever could. And also there has been peace in quetta for quite a long time now and definitely isnt as bad as this article states, you can tell that the person is exaggerating by his words as wellRecommend

  • Quetta wala

    The BLA, BLF, Jundullah, Le J and other extremist/terrorists outfits
    are present and causing trouble with the help of RAW.
    Ask the Hazaras? How they feel? They can barely come out of their neighborhoods. They go to the bazaars in large groups only. Sometimes
    under police escort. And unless 10 or 15 are shot down, blown up, or
    massacred it will not even make the news. You are one with tunnel vision.Recommend

  • Syed Muhammad Antiq

    i wish every inch of Pakistan sees Peace.Recommend