As he knelt in prayer to mark one of Islam's holiest days, Ali Raza Qurban saw a childhood friend and dozens of others die in a suicide attack on their Shi'ite mosque.
Sunni militants were again targeting minority ethnic Hazaras in this city of narrow streets and wide-open hatreds.
Qurban decided it was time to leave. He found an agent who would hook him up with a smuggler in Indonesia and, for $US8,000 ($A7745), get him to Australia.
But he never made it to Australia.
He disappeared on December 17, 2011, aboard an overcrowded, rickety wooden boat that capsized within hours of leaving the Indonesian shore.
Four months had passed since the suicide bombing at the mosque in Quetta, where the violence has spawned a vibrant human smuggling business.
The smugglers operate out of small, unidentified shops.
Selling promises of a safe and better life in Australia, they largely capitalise on the fear and desperation of the Hazara, a largely Shi'ite community that is facing attacks not only here but in neighbouring Afghanistan.
In Quetta, Shi'ite leaders say many of the attacks against Hazaras are carried out by the Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Janghvi, which they contend is backed by elements within Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI.
Pakistan's Chief Justice Iftikar Chaudhry and a panel of three judges last month ordered authorities to investigate allegations that vehicles illegally imported by the ISI were used in suicide bombings targeting Shi'ites.
Most of the Afghans who cross into Pakistan with the intention of going on to Australia and elsewhere are thought to be Hazara.
'Every month hundreds of Hazaras leave Afghanistan for another country,' said Waliullah Rahmani, executive director of the Kabul-based Centre for Strategic Studies, a privately funded think tank.
In the past two months, more than 20 Hazaras have died in targeted killings blamed on the Taliban, he said.
Hazaras, who were massacred by Afghanistan's ruling Taliban in the late 1990s, fear that the religious militia will return to power after NATO powers leave in 2014, according to Rahmani.
'With 2014 getting closer, most of the Hazaras think that the history will repeat again,' he said.
'So that is why they risk their lives for illegal immigrations to Australia and other places.'
Many choose Australia because it already has an established Hazara community.
The trip to Australia usually begins in Pakistan's port city of Karachi, stopping either in Thailand or Malaysia before arriving in Indonesia's East Java, according to testimony of survivors and Malaysian authorities.
'Asylum seekers from Pakistan often fly either from Karachi or Lahore to Kuala Lumpur and sometimes enter through Malaysia's northern border with Thailand,' said a Malaysian home ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
He said laws had been tightened in the last two years, sea patrols increased and co-operation stepped up with Pakistan and Afghanistan.
'The people-smuggling groups that facilitate them are generally Pakistani, but Malaysians are sometimes hired for logistics to help in transportation,' said the official.
Once in Indonesia's East Java, asylum seekers are packed into boats bound for Australia.
The booming business is confounding the governments of Indonesia, which has hunted down and arrested some smuggling kingpins, and Australia, which is being bombarded with more refugees than it is willing to accept.
Australia is trying to discourage prospective asylum seekers with offers to take more refugees who enter legally and by reopening offshore processing centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
In 2011 four boats sank, killing 109 people. So far this year 23 boats have capsized with 200 people missing and 2225 rescued. Most of the passengers have been Afghans, Pakistanis and Iranians.
Afghans, mostly ethnic Hazaras, make up the largest number of so-called boat people, according to a report by Australia's Department of Immigration and Citizenship.