'Buffer Zone, Colonial Enclave or Urban Hub? Quetta: between four regions and two wars'
Working Paper No : 69 (series 2)
Author: Haris Gazdar, Sobia Ahmad Kaker, Irfan Khan
Date : February 2010
Quetta straddles four significant historical regions and plays a role in two major armed conflicts - the war in Afghanistan, and the Baloch nationalist insurgency in Pakistan. The city itself has remained relatively peaceful, though a closer look reveals the ways in which the two wars have encroached upon urban life. Quetta is an international border post as well as an internal buffer zone between major ethnic groups. It is a colonial enclave that was originally populated for the purposes of subduing its expansive tribal hinterland. The city is also an urban hub where possibilities of modern political development have been imagined and pursued, and one which bears potential for the appropriation and disbursal of massive economic rents. An analysis of Quetta's geography, history and institutional development shows that three aspects of the city's character - border/buffer zone, colonial enclave and urban hub - have remained significant through its evolution since the late 19th century. A description of the city and its context enables the identification of the various elites and non-elites that have a stake in Quetta and in projects of state-building and state-breaking in its hinterland. The colliding and overlapping interests of the Pakistan central state, its military and political elites, provincial patrons, Baloch and Pashtun ethnic nationalists, settlers, Afghan migrants, and Islamic clerics have shaped Quetta's contributions to state-building in Balochistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Whether it is the border/buffer zone, colonial enclave or urban hub that prevails depends on the balance of power between and alignments within these various elites.