Sunday, July 9, 2017

History of Quetta

The name Quetta originates from the Pashto word Kwatta which means a fort. A story is told by Brahuis that that Ahmad in conferring the district on the mother of Nasir Khan, Bibi Mariam, said “this is your shal,” i.e., your present.” This statement does not have any historical evidence. The historical incidences show that Shal is an ancient name and the place was known by this name a thousand years ago. Geographers of the Islamic period have mentioned this region, which stretches from Mastang to Seyoon, as Walishtan.  Arab traveler Abu Abdullah Mohammad bin Maqdasi, writing in 898 AD, name the cities of Walishtan as Eishin (Pishin) Asbedja, Mastung, Shal, Sekeera, and Seywa (Siwi or Sibi). He repeats these names in page 297 of his book. Shal is also mentioned in 'Tarikh-nama-i-Herat (written in 1318 AD) to be a place in Afghanistan in the narration of events of 1250 AD.  According to historian Allama Habibi ," It (Shal) is not a new name and the people of Kandahar, until the present time, call the fruit merchants of Quetta as Shaalkotyan. Kote is an old Pashto word which means a fortress and Shaal Kot means the fortress of Shaal".

Gulbadan-Begum (sister of Emperor Humayun) mentions Shal and Mastung in the biography Humayun-nama ;
".....The Emperor (Humayun) was stupefied and bewildered , and said : 'What is to be done? where i am to go?' They all consulted together. Tardi Muhammad Khan and Bairam Khan gave it as their opinion that it was impossible to decide to go anywhere but to the north and Shal-Mastun(g), the frontier of Qandahar. 'There are many Afghans in those parts', they said , 'whom we shall draw over to our side." (Humayun-nama, English translation by Anetta.S.Beveridge, p-165) 
According to Ain-i-Akbari of Abu Fazal (written around 1590 AD) , Shal was dependency of Kandahar in later half of sixteenth century . Shal had mud fort at that time and its lands were assessed at four and half tumans in money, 940 sheep and 780 kharwars in grain. The Kasi Afghans of Shal (along with Balochs) had to furnish 1,000 horse and 1,000 foot.

In the reign of Shahjehan (1628-1655) Rajo and Zangi, Rind chiefs raided Shal by way of the Bolan. They were defeated by the Kasis after a severe engagement about three miles south of Quetta. Since then the small stream of Zangi Lora was given its name , as the action took place at its source when Zangi, the Rind chief, was killed. (Memoir on Kalat by G.P.Tate as quoted by A.Aziz Luni in 'Afghans of the frontier passes' p-228)

When Ahmad Shah Abdali became king, the valley of Shal formed a part of his dominions and the office of Arbab was conferred upon Muhammad Thalib Kasi. Mahbat Khan Brahui of Kalat killed him when he was at village Katir. News of the occurrence immediately was dispatched to Kandahar, and Ahmad Shah summoned Mahbat Khan to Kandahar to explain how he came to slay the Shah's representative in Shal.  (Memoir on Kalat by G.P.Tate as quoted by A.Aziz Luni in 'Afghans of the frontier passes' p-229)  

Qazi Nur Muhammad Kalhora (a servant of Mir Nasir Khan) in his Jangnama contends that Ahmad Shah Abdali, on return from one of his Indian campaigns, on a written request from Mir Nasir Khan, granted Shal to and also sanction some cash awards for the Brahui Mujahids. Kasis say Shal always remained theirs. Compiler Hatu Ram, also, on page 624 of his Tarikh-i-Baluchistan (1907) quotes a Sanad granted by Ahmad Shah Abdali to Tarin Afghans in which the Shah incidentally acknowledged the fact that Shal valley belongs to Kasi Afghans. This the compiler considers an astonishing statement especially in view of the common impression that Ahmad Shah Abdali bestowed Shal on Naseer Khan Brahui. Hitu Ram therefore, conjectures that it is quite possible that the Shah subsequently restored Shal to Kasis because of his annoyance at the subsequent rebellious conduct of Mir Nasir Khan. Hitu Ram also quotes a document given to Kasis by Nasir Khan I in which the precise outer limits of the Shal valley (owned by Kasis) were defined. This shows that at least Abdali and Nasir Khan both considered the valley of Shal to be a legitimate possession of the Kasi Afghans. (Afghans of the frontier passes' by A.Aziz Luni, p-229)    

Description of Quetta by Sir Keith Alexander Jackson who was a captain in the Fourth Light Dragoons in the British army, part of the Anglo-Indian force that set out for Afghanistan from British India in December 1838 ;

"Kwettah , the capital of the Beloochie (Kalat's) province of Shawl, is a small town surrounded by a wall of mud ; the houses are built of the same material , and are but few in number, the population being poor and inconsiderable. In the center, is the citadel , where is the residence of Governor : it is built upon an elevation, overlooking the town, which may be about four hundred yards across. There are four gates in the wall surrounding it , which open on to a very luxuriant part of the valley. The situation of Khettah, from its proximity to the mountains, is grand and striking. It was from this part of the valley , during its occupation by the Bengal column by the army , that the Kakur (Kakar) freebooters carried off about fifty of the commiserate camels ; they were pursued by a party of troops of the 2nd light cavalry , and a company of native infantry, but without a success, as the booty had been driven into the mountains , and no trace of them could be discovered. They afterwards made another sally from their mountain fastnesses, and carried off some camel that were grazing , belonging to the troops. Sir John Keane and Shah Shoojah , on their arrival, shortly afterwards, made Kwettah their headquarters. The gardens surrounding the town are full of English flowers and fruits , and its vicinity abounds in the buttercup and cyanus, and many other varieties of English field vegetation. "  

Sir Thomas Holdich writing in 1884 in the Baluchistan District Gazetteer stated that, 'The crown of Quetta was the miri. The miri has been the fortress of Quetta from time immemorial and the basis of the fortress is what was probably a mud volcano in days that are prehistoric'

'Kwettah', 1839 (c).

Quetta, view looking to the fort with hills in the background ,1880.  From Macnabb collection