Quetta

Quetta kw?t? [key], city (1998 pop. 560,307), capital of Baluchistan prov., W central Pakistan, at an altitude of c.5,500 ft (1,675 m), ringed by mountains. Deriving its name from the Pashto word kawkot [fort], it commands the entrance through the strategic Bolan Pass into Afghanistan and is a trade center for Afghanistan, Iran, and much of central Asia. The city's cottage industries produce textiles, foodstuffs, and carpets. Quetta has a military staff college (est. 1907) and a geophysical observatory. The city and surrounding areas are dependent on groundwater, and overextraction of that water has led since 2010 in significant land subsidence in the region and threatens to exhaust the city's main water source.

The city was occupied (1876) by the British following the Second Afghan War, and it gained prominence as the seat of British resident Sir Robert Sandeman. It became a strongly garrisoned British military station. Much of the present city was rebuilt after a disastrous earthquake in 1935 that killed some two thirds of the population. Like many major Pakistani border cities, Quetta was a magnet for some of the millions of Afghan refugees who fled after the 1979 Soviet invasion; the refugees who remain have swelled the local population to an estimated 2 million people. As a result of war and ongoing fighting in Afghanistan, Quetta has become a center for arms and drug smuggling and a base for ousted Taliban leaders. In the 21st cent. Sunni extremist have increasingly attacked Shiites Hazaras living in Quetta.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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