Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


The lost city

Published Jul 14, 2012 04:16pm


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

“And I reached there after travelling for days. The whole city wore a gloomy look. On the first night of the new month, everyone in the city gathered at the foot of the adjacent hill. Soon after, a strange looking monster descended from the top and everyone started running madly, until few of them panted and fell. The creature picked up the fallen and went back. I wanted to turn around but my host pulled my hand and took me away. On reaching the safe confines of his house, I asked him about this strange phenomenon? With swollen eyes, he replied: The city was a beautiful city with peace and tranquillity and suddenly we were cursed with this monster. He comes every month and takes few lives. The city is named as Neem Sheher”

This excerpt is from the famous “Qissa Chahar Dervaish” of Meer Aman’s book “Bagh-o-Bahar,” but the city is Quetta. Its famous Jinnah Road is dotted with flags coloured red, white and green. A remembrance for the lives lost in the blast yesterday. For as long as these dead bodies lived, they were Pashtuns or Hazara. Only when they died, they graduated to become human beings.

One day after the blast and two days after the dead bodies were recovered, Quetta wears a look of uncertainty. Promising panflex boards shadow closed shops. Everyone is rushing to nowhere. The shopkeepers talk to the customers but continue looking over their shoulders, searching for a probable assassin. The shopping area of Jinnah Road is few metres away from the safe haven of known as the Cantonment. On both sides of the security check-post, people live a life infested with fear. One side, however, is able to put up a brave front.

A young man in his early twenties, the shopkeeper wears a concealed look of Hazara but he does not respond when I greet in his native dialect, Persian. The language which was once a source of calm is now a motive for murder. Before I can ask more questions, he disrupts the communication and tells us that he is packing up. He works with one hand and with the other; he holds the keys of his motorcycle tightly. The reason for such behaviour, he says, is the impending fear of death. He believes that everyone here in Quetta awaits destruction.

Anytime anybody will appear from anywhere and it will all be over. Even the remains will have to wait for some time before rescue teams show up. His voice sends ripples across my nervous system; this is the terror that reigns supreme here.

The city derived its name from the Pashto word ‘fortress,’ yet insecurity dampens the air. The Hazara community are locked inside their housing societies. Their young are either moving to Australia where asylum is much easier or Scandinavia, the universal refuge of Pakistanis. Those who cannot afford the legal way, opt for the sea route of Malaysia- Indonesia-Australia. The poorest spend their time sitting in front of their houses, for regardless of the poverty their mothers still hold them valuable. Outside the society, they are chased after and eventually murdered. The menial workers from Punjab move without their ID cards under a constant threat and Pashtun killing is also on the rise. What remains behind is the Baloch community, the otherwise neglected fraction of largest province of Pakistan for the largest part of the history. Many in the privileged sides of the country ask for their responsibility and I am reminded of Dante Alighieri from Italy, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.”

Amidst the closed shops, few aged shopkeepers have refused to succumb to fear. They sit in front of their shops with eyes swollen, only recalling the days when the city “was a beautiful city with peace and tranquillity and suddenly we were cursed with this monster. He comes every month and takes few lives. The city is named as Neem Sheher.”

The author is a federal government employee.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

Author Image

Muhammad Hassan Miraj is a federal government employee.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (42) Closed

Syed Jul 15, 2012 08:47pm
I will repeat again as I have been for a while now, why is clergy silence on this? when innocent dies in the name of the religion, where is their islam then? silence = hypocracy
Syeda Jafri Jul 16, 2012 04:08am
Such a nice article! My heart goes out for all the innocent victims of terrorism
saleem Jul 15, 2012 08:32pm
It is so sad what has happened to balochistan; i have such beauiful memories of quetta, zhob, ziarrat; i was deeply touched by the hospitality and warm feelings of the people i met there;
Holynickers Jul 16, 2012 10:31am
I really don't know what the fuss is all about? Paks love to identify themselves as; Punjabi, Sindhi, Mohajir etc etc and of course Shia; Sunni etc etc. Indeed there who life is spent discrimination again each other based on this. Look for yourself the venom which rest of the country throws at Mojhairs fairly or unfailrly Mojhair and Punjabis & others on each other. I am not why Paks are surprised with this turn off events. To All Pakis: This is what happens would your identity is not your religion, not humanity but pathtic, local languages & customs. Good luck to you all, happy discrimination….
Ram krishan Jul 16, 2012 11:28am
Please wait . Good times are coming. One day there will be peace and prosperity in this region as used to be in the Gupta Period of the Indian history. During that period , the part which is now called Pakistan was ahead in knowledge of trade and commerce and was a place of learning where students from neighbouring countries came to study Sanskrit. May God bring that peaceful time again.
Sad Jul 15, 2012 11:34pm
well written. As everything else in this cruel world ,media is corrupted as well. But thanks to some pure souls the truth find it's way out. God bless you. Let's work and hope for peace and love to come back to Pakistan and other parts of the world.
Feroz Baloch Jul 15, 2012 01:36pm
It is really hurting with thousands of cruel stories behind it. Everything has a reason so what goes wrong if the real motive behind this frequent tragic phenomenon. O my people , for God sake please wake up as this government may not fall into the category of Good Governance... Nation is left at the mercy of corruption ,terrorism, exploitation of the unprivileged. And the blame game continues further Mark my words ! An eye for a eye makes the whole world blind.
Irfan Hussain Jul 16, 2012 07:48am
The only way to stop this monster is to stop Saudi money coming in the country. Taliban and other banned organizations are using this Saudi money to kill innocent people.
Cyrus Howell Jul 16, 2012 12:35am
It is not going to recover because we wish it so. No hope of that.
Cyrus Howell Jul 16, 2012 12:55am
These two men are crying because they were taught , wrongly, that the world is good.
Cyrus Howell Jul 16, 2012 12:37am
Others are hungry for more than just food.
Adnan Jul 16, 2012 04:03am
May Allah help people my people... Ameen
john Jul 16, 2012 02:33am
A Country born out of the Inability to live with others has no Hope it will live with each other.,,,,,I give a quote by gandhi, I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.
Devendra Jul 16, 2012 04:59am
It is astoundingly shameful that all the politicians, the military and the religious fanatics get bent out of shape over drones that are killing terrorists but none of them comes out and sheds a tear for the miserable, trapped souls of Quetta who are being murdered daily and systematically.The silence is deafening. What kind of humanity these above mentioned groups believe in? Or, do they even have the concept of humanity?
Arash Jul 16, 2012 03:54am
Persian is a language but it has many dialects. One of them is Hazargi in which only Hazaras communicate.
ahmed41 Jul 15, 2012 07:53am
looks like the reverse quote : " ??? ???? ??? ?? ??? ? ???? ??? ? ? ???? ??? ? ???? ???---- !!!?
Paki Jul 15, 2012 04:27pm
I totally agree, our right wing politician and associated media is only concerned with saving life of taliban they don't care about Pakistanis
@zulfieurfriend Jul 15, 2012 10:35am
I miss my city, streets, mountains, cold water, hot Nan, every thing, we are internally dispalced people, with least care estended by the government, In si years of unrest, I still see all those faced in power remain intact, and most importantly alive and financially florishing, while we are missing and struggling not to be lost.
Faisal Jul 15, 2012 10:22am
The picture portrayed nicely. Gone are the days when the streets of Quetta were rushed with people coming from far flung, hottest areas to spend the summer. Even though the quality of weather remains the same, yet the city welcomes no more any of the outsiders. Terror reigns the entire Quetta. Nobody's life and property is safe. Such is the atmosphere prevailing in the provincial capital.
mhs Jul 15, 2012 03:50pm
What a revolution that has no meaning! Or is it an anarchy that you say "revolution"?
cross Jul 14, 2012 04:29pm
'the shopkeeper wears a concealed look of Hazara but he does not respond when I greet in his native dialect, Persian.' what is a concealed look of Hazara? Persian is a language, not a dialect.
Parvez Jul 14, 2012 05:29pm
so sad alas iam in usa i wish all my brothers and sisters in quetta be safe like me and i feel the pain of my Hazaras and no Hazars GOD give his Brains Ameen
Aamir_younis Jul 14, 2012 05:52pm
A sad story of Quetta. Out people will keep loving Taliban and remaining silent over Lashkar-E-Jhangvi.
Bangash Jul 14, 2012 06:24pm
Quetta and Peshawar are excellent illustrations on how damaging the policy of strategic depth has been to Pakistan. I wish someone in Fauj had some ghairat and shame to realize the catastrophic damage they have done to the country.
Naseema Perveen Jul 14, 2012 06:46pm
well written... while going through it, it remind me words of one of my friends who always use to say,"Once upon a time our Quetta used to be a peaceful and a calm, but alas now we cannot go out of our homes easily because of horror." I wish and hope the beauty of the city recover soon, so that innocent people over there can spend a peaceful life..
yasir Jul 14, 2012 07:30pm
Govt needs to take immediate steps to bring peace back to the city. Its sad that a province which is rich in natural resources has turned into a battle ground where innocent lives a re killed.
loveforall Jul 14, 2012 07:40pm
The monster that haunts Quetta today comes in many names. One is called religious prejudice another is called race/ethnicity prejudice. This monster ceases to exist when love and harmony is replaced by hate and ignorance.
BRR Jul 14, 2012 09:44pm
Some revolutions are very violent, and anarchy takes over for a few years, at the end of which the exhausted remainents of society regroup to start afresh, perhaps with a new understanding, at least for a while.
Lakshmidhar Malaviya Jul 14, 2012 11:24pm
If tears can carry comment, I have shed a few, for those whose plight has been described in this sad narrative. I am reminded of the following lines by Bulle Shah : "lok kamale, laddi-laddi jaane ve / TuT gaiyaan yaariyan, phuul kumlane ve / naa vanj ..." But who listens - in the mad house! Lakshmidhar Malaviya, Kyoto, JAPAN
Syed Ahmed Jul 15, 2012 12:29am
What we are waiting for, democracy is the best solution, now we have democracy we are still falling, we have our own elected people in national and provincial essambly, nothing is changing. are we waiting for any micracle, God will come down to earth and he will make peace for us, we are dreaming and keeping dreaming until somebody will touch our shoulder and will said wake up, story end, go home and cry.
G. Thind Jul 15, 2012 02:00am
The writer seems to have a knack of explaining a grim situation as it prevails in Quetta. I am the type of guy who packs the stuff and go – go to strange places with no fear; I even visited Pakistan 2 times traveling from Moenjodaro to Harappa. But this story has scared the hell out of me. I guess the Pakistanis should not only worry about saving the city of Quetta from the ‘monster’ but the same monster if not brought under control is liable to devour Pakistan.
Asif Jul 15, 2012 02:27am
A painful narrative of our once beautiful homeland, Pakistan. Well done, Mr. Federal Employee.
Hitesh Jul 15, 2012 05:24am
"The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.” Well Said !
Naved Jul 15, 2012 06:13am
Good article, atleast somebody is feeling the pain of Quetta people. Otherwise as per the media & our right wing politicians people are getting killed only in Drone attacks.
Ammar Jul 15, 2012 07:08am
Feel sad for my country. "The poorest spend their time sitting in front of their houses, for regardless of the poverty their mothers still hold them valuable. Outside the society, they are chased after and eventually murdered. "
Abdus Salam Khan Jul 16, 2012 05:25am
May I give you the original quote in Persian, a couplet uttered by the Moghul Emperor when he first saw Kashmir: " agar firdous ber roo-ai zamin ast hamin asto hamin-asto hamin ast.! My heart cries for Quetta that used to be such a nice peaceful cantonement town. This article should serve as a wake-up call for all those who are at the helm of afffairs in Pakistan. not only Quetta, the whole country is sinking into anarchy.
VLRA Jul 16, 2012 05:42am
Quetta is not becoming QUIT-TA
Zulfiqar Haider Jul 16, 2012 05:58am
Al Qaeda is winning, Islam is bruised, Insaniat is vanishing, Quetta is sinking in fear, Pakistanies are waiting for someone to come and rescue us.
maz Jul 16, 2012 08:11am
its a shame anarchy does not stop in quetta...what we see in karachi is worse, innocents die the rich take the advantage of the mayhem and prove corruption is at the best years for them...anarchy rules to buy vices without limits, This shameful patterns are just passed to their young generation and the cycle of pain continues.
Zeenaz Jul 16, 2012 08:32am
Bravo for being so biased.... "the otherwise neglected fraction" the Baloch community.
Naseema Perveen Jul 17, 2012 09:47am
every thing is possible provided having courage and spirit to bring change!
Masud Jul 21, 2012 06:12am
It's Quetta today, it was Lahore yesterday, it's been Peshawer and Karachi for years, and it will be your city tomorrow. The monster is roaming free, and getting hungrier and more ferocious. It's not difficult to identify it because part of it lives in all of us.