Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan province. At 5500 feet above sea level it is one of the most important military locations in Pakistan. The borders of Iran and Afghanistan meet here and the Bolan Pass forms an important venue of communication in this region.
The name Quetta is derived from kwatta, meaning fort in Pushto (the regional language). Imposing hills on all sides surround Quetta. These include Chiltan, Takatoo, Mordar and Zarghun.
Quetta was first mentioned in the 11th century when Mahmud of Ghazni captured it on one of his invasions of the subcontinent. In 1543 the Mogul emperor Humayun rested here on his retreat to Persia, leaving his one-year-old son Akbar until he returned two years later. The Moguls ruled Quetta until 1556, when the Persians took it, only to be retaken by Akbar in 1595. The powerful khans of Kalat held the fort from 1730. 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 permanent British control and Robert Sandeman was made political agent in Baluchistan.
After partition, in 1947, the population of Quetta has increased dramatically. Because of its military base and trading activities, and the introduction of commercial fruit farming, Quetta District now supports half a million people.
Before the massive earthquake of 31 May 1935, Quetta was a bustling city, with multi-storeyed buildings. It was almost completely destroyed in this great earthquake and was razed to the ground in the small hours of the morning of that fateful day, when about 40,000 souls perished within a few minutes. After the great disaster, Quetta houses were generally rebuilt as single level dwellings. These houses are built with bricks and reinforced concrete. The structures are generally of lighter materials.