Town & Places

The most northerly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa districts, Chitral figures in Alexander's campaigns and was, during the course of history, subdued by the Chinese and Timurid armies also. An early inscription in Sanskrit, carved on a rock, records that around 900 A.D. the inhabitants were Buddhist and the area was under jaipal. Muslim sources also mention a king of this name who was defeated by Sabuktagin, the father of Mahmud of Ghazni. Subsequent historical evidence shows that one Rais ruled Chitral in the sixteenth century. The Rais was ousted some time after 1570 and the new ruler styled himself as "Mehtar". This dynasty continued to rule till the State, on the initiative of Mehtar Muzaffar ul-Mulk, was incorporated in Pakistan during 1948.

Under the British,Chitral existed as a princely State. The Mehtar,Aman ul-Mulk(d. 1892) received an annual subsidy from them. As the Great Game was afoot and it necessitated defending this remote part of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Mehtar accepted the advice of the British Government in matters pertaining to foreign policy and defence. In-fighting between contenders for Chitral persisted. The Gilgit Political Agent, Major George Scott Robertson (author of The Kafirs of the Hindu Kush) with 400 soliders arrived in Chitral to resolve the matter. They occupied the Fort but were badly beaten by the people who joined Sher Afzal, a contender. Besieged in the Fort for 46 days, reinforcements from Gilgit - hauling, heaving cannons over the Shandoor Pass in deep snow relieved them. The heroic crossing of the Pass in winter is one of the more celebrated exploits of the British Indian army. The. relief of Chitral in 1895 resulted in the award of one V.c. to Surgeon-Captain Whitechurch, a knighthood for Robertson and three D.S.O.s. Chitral was administered as a Political Agency, like Gilgit in the northern areas, and Shuja ul-Mulk (d. 1936) was confirmed Mehtar. To strengthen internal and border security, Chitral Scouts were raised in 1903. They were also deputed to defend the Passes into Chitral in the event of invasion. They continue to form an important part of the Pakistan army.

The Chitral district is believed to have inspired Rudyard Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King. It was renowned as much for its scenic splendour and its valleys that are home to the unique Kalash tribe, as for the Trich Mir peak. The overland route is through two Passes. The Lowari Pass (3,118m) connects Chitral with Dir, and the Shandoor Pass (4,000m) connects it with the upper Gilgit Valley. The principal town, also called Chitral, is 1,500m above secHevel and can be reached by one of the most thrilling plane rides in the country. Skirting high mountain peaks, the aircraft descends into a valley that is a winding mosaic of green crops, fruit orchards and shades of lush foliage. The town sprawls along the Chitral River and has expanded considerably over the last few years because of its importance .as a commercial centre and tourist stop. Chitral also hosts the world famous, annual, week-long mountain-polo tournament when this game is played in the rougher, original manner.

The Mehtar's Fort, on the banks of the Chitral River, sports some fine old pieces of artillery. Site of the 1895 siege, it is still used by the family of the Mehtar. The old Shahi Masjid, in close proximity, suffered from an earthquake in the second decade of the twentieth century. The Mehtar Shuja ul-Mulk (1919-24), reconstructed the minarets, added domes and refurbished the mosque. The colonial-style bungalow
of the Political Agent, now District Coordination Officer, embellished with some of the largest Urial and Marco Polo sheep heads, was visited by Princess Diana during her trip to Pakistan. The signature of the late wife of the Prince of Wales is a coveted addition to the visitors' book. The residence has a terraced garden where fruit trees bloom and blossom in spring. It has a private swimming pool and some of the oldest Chinar trees in the area. The dining room with a sky-light is built to the traditional architectural design of the Kalash.

in the 3,700 ft high valleys of Chitral dwell a people distinct in manner, belief and dress. The Kafir-kalash or "Wearers of the Black Robes" are a primitive pagan people, nature's children, who number about 2,000 persons. They are spread over two dozen villages scattered in the smaller valleys of Bumburet, Birir and Rumbur. Tradition traces this tribe to Hellenic ancestry, to Alexander the Macedon's soldiers who settled here in 327 B.C. However, recent linguistic research has shown that the Kalasha language they speak, derives from the Dardic family. "Phonetic peculiarities" indicate that they were there before Alexander crossed into Kafiristan. Hellenic influences asserted, and inter-marriages took place, subsequently. To this remote area they were driven by the Chitralis in the fifteenth or sixteenth century.

The traditional Kalash house consists of a hearth, "pure area" reserved for men, larder, living quarters and altar to Jestak, the goddess and protector of home. The house is generally windowless and constructed of wooden logs in the masonry which act as cushions to absorb earthquake shocks. The roofs are thatched with mud and wild grass. The Kafir-kalash still practise customs and traditions that date back at least to the second century A.D. Shamanism forms a vital part of their belief system with a pantheon of gods such as Surisan, the protector of cattle, Praba who looks after fruits and Sajlgor, the god of everything. They still refer to Yarkhand, a town in Chinese Turkestan as one source of their customs.

The women wear black, multi-pleated garments like frocks and sport elaborate headgear with cowries and complicated colourful patterns. The kupas, the coiffeur of the women is a mark of Kalash identity... protection and fecundity. No women may go bareheaded, without the kupas or at least without the coiffeur support, the shushut, which is also decorated with cowries, bead, bells, buttons.

The arrival of spring, as in many cultures, is celebrated by the Kalash also. The festival of Chilim Jusht lasts for four days. During the festivities honey and milk, nectars of nature, feature prominently and are presented to the participants from every household. The main event of the festival is the collective wedding ceremony in which the whole tribe participates.

The town of Dir, which gives its name to the Agency, lies on a stream and forms an important link between the former States of Swat and Chitral. It is linked to Chitral through the Lowari Pass located in the Hindu Raj Range which forms a boundary between the two districts. This picturesque and dangerous Pass rises breathlessly steep on the Chitral side.

The Khan of Dir was the traditional overlord of the country and exacted allegiance from the chieftains. The strategic importance of Dir became apparent during the colonial era when the British pushed northwards to bring the mountain tribes and states under their control, if not rule. Like the corps of scouts raised in Chitral, in Dir a levy corps was organlsed to look after the security of communications, provide escorts for mail and maintain law and order on the Chakdarra-Chitral Road.The Mughals had built a fort on the Swat River at Chakdarra, in 1586. In 1895 the British occupied it, as it was strategically placed on the Dir-Peshawar road, to guard the entry into the Swat and Dir valleys. The British expanded the fortifications to station the troops required for campaigns up-country. At present it houses a contingent of the Pakistan army. To the west on a hill stands Churchill's Picket. It commemorates the youthful Winston, later Prime Minister of Britain. His eye-witness despatches on the 1879 Malakand Campaign as a frontline war correspondent, earned him fame and fortune and made him a house hold name back home. From the vantage point of this crumbling structure one can still survey the panorama of three districts, the lazy progress of the river and the fields where the armed clashes took place. In 1895 the force sent for the relief of Chitral crossed the river at Chakdarra that became an important outpost throughout the campaign. In July 1897 Mulla Mastan besieged this outpost. The Chakdarra museum,situated in the proximity of the fort, has a fine collection of Gandhara sculptures and reliefs excavated in the surrounding areas.

Of the charmed land of Swat, Khushhal Khan Khattak thus:

Swat is meant to give kings gladness,
Every place in it befits a prince...

Not surprisingly even in ancient times it was known as Udhiyana / "Garden", as recorded in Hindu epics. On the banks of the Swat River or Suvasta, records Rg Veda, the Hindu scripture, was a battle fought and won in 1700 B.C. by invading Aryans. The Swat River is formed by the junction, at Kalam in Swat Kohistan, of the Gabral and the Ushu rivers. From here it flows southwards for about sixty-eight miles until it joins the Panjkora. Together they appear in the Peshawar Valley. Swat, inhabited during the Stone Age was, and is, prized for its fertility and health-enhancing qualities. Spread over 10,360 sq. kms, at an elevation of 975m, this mountainous enclave, with lush, green valleys, snow-fed lakes and streams and abundant fruit orchards, remains amongst the most endearing places in the country.

Alexander of Macedon fought four battles, met severe resistance and suffered two arrow wounds - in the shoulder and ankle-when he passed in 326 B.C. through this region known as Souastos or Souastene in Greek. His successor Seleucus, unable to hold the territories of Kunar, Bajaur, Buner and Swat surrendred them to Chandragupta Maurya twenty years later.8 During the Maurya dynasty Buddhism spread to, and flourished in, Swat for a millennium. Once it had as many as 1,400 Buddhist monasteries. It was a flourishing centre of Gandhara civilization in the fifth and sixth centuries when the Chinese pilgrims Hiuen-Tsang and FaHien journeyed to these parts. Ruins of Buddhist stupas and monasteries are still scattered across this undulating expanse.

The Swatis resisted Mahmud of Ghazni, killing his General, Khushhal Khan at Udegram. The Mughal Emperors Babur and Akbar also suffered serious setbacks when they attempted to subjugate them. As a princely State, Swat was ruled by the Yusufzai tribe from the capital Saidu Sharif. The Vali of Swat, though lampooned in the "Akhund of Swat" by the English poet Edward Lear (1812-1888), was a most enlightened ruler. The Akhund who created the State started as a herdboy, acquired the titles of "Akhund" and "Buzurg" for his wisdom and piety and died in early 1877.9 His domain was left to his contentious grandsons. Mian Gul Abdul Wadud one of them, finally succeeded and ruled the State for thirty years. His fierce independence obliged the British to recognize Swat as a separate State in 1926. The prosperity and peace which he brought to his people and the network of schools and hospitals are testimony to his vision and foresight. Such enlightened rule continued under his son Mian Gul Jahanzeb till 1969 when Swat merged in Pakistan and became a part of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Among the larger town of Swat are Mingora, Saidu Sharif, Marghazar, Bahrain and Kalam. Mingora has been a trading centre for over two millennia. In its north are located the famous emerald mines. Saidu Sharif is its twin town. Marghazar is famous for the White Marble Palace built by the Vali of Swat in the early 1940's. Royalty including Queen Elizabeth II of Britain have stayed here. Bahrain on the banks of the foaming Swat River sports some fine mosques and buildings constructed entirely of local timber and massive pine logs and embellished with traditional motifs. Kalam, the main town of upper Swat, provides access to such picturesque valleys as Ushu (2,286m), Utrot (2,225m) and Gabral (2,550m). Connecting Swat with Buner to the south, is the Ambela Pass scene of the famous British- Yusufzais battle during 1863. The graveyard of Muslim martyrs, the Baba Ji Kanda, where Saidu Baba camped, the Craig Picket and Eagle's Nest can still be seen as one travels through the Pass.
The Bajaur Agency comprises the valleys of Chaharmung, Babukara, Watalai, Rud and Sur Kamar. It is bound on the north by Panjkora River, on the west by Kunnar River and has a very fertile belt in the Rud Valley. It is connected to Afghanistan through Nawagai Pass that Alexander crossed. Though of lower elevation than Dir, Bajaur hills are not as densely forested.

During Emperor Babur's reign the area acquired some fame when he married the daughter of Malik Shah Mansur, the head of the Yusufzai clans and established his short sovereignty over Bajaur.

The Mohmand country lies in the north-west of the Province, between Peshawar district and the Afghan border. The Mohmand tribe settled here when it was driven eastwards by the Mongols during the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. Till recently Mohmands were known as Do-Kora / "Two Homes" because they would leave for the highlands during summer and return in winter. With increasing security of travel through the Khyber Pass, the harsher routes once used have lost importance. The tribe, reputed for bravery, proved a bane for the British colonizers during the early period. Many an armed conflict took place resulting in numerous casualties of British officers. In 1895 the tribe joined the resistance, to the Chitral relief force, under the influence of Adda Mullah. In 1897, they were in the vanguard of Mulla Mastan's movement against the British.
Malakand district figures in historical accounts for the famous Pass which leads into the Swat Valley. The Pass was used by ancient Buddhist travellers as well as traders and invaders. Early in the sixteenth century Yusafzai Pathans entered Swat through the Malakand Pass. It was also controlled for a few decades by the General of Emperor Akbar, Zain Khan who built a fort here in 1587.
In colonial annals one of the toughest fights took place here in 1895 and graphically described by the young Winston Churchill in the book that catapulted him to fame, The Story of the Malakand Field Force. The military post then established continues to function till date. On July 26, 1897 the post was beseiged by Swatis under the leadership of Mulla M~stan whom the British dubbed as the "Mad Mulla". He was a man of firm beliefs and preached the need for freedom from the colonial usurpers. After an intense conflict the British garrison was relieved by reinforcement troops. Many of the fallen British soldiers are buried in the cemetery in the bazaar. A few years later, in 1901, railway was extended from Nowshera to Dargai at the foot of the Malakand Pass in order to bring these tribes under control.
Mardan, an ancient town, gives the district its name. When a. Buddhist proselytizer was sent by Asoka to convert the people of Gandhara in 256 B.C., it was at Shahbaz Garhi in the district, that rock edicts of Asoka were carved. In more recent history, the town became a British military cantonment, the permanent headquarter of the Queen's Own Corps of Guides. The fort was built by Hodson of the Guides in 1854.
Haripur district borders the Punjab district of Rawalplndi and gives a foretaste of the high mountains further north. The Hazara hills, of relatively low height, are covered with firs, pines and oaks. The hills cut In tiers are cultivated with maize and wheat. Haripur was the gateway to Kashmir during the Mughal and 'SIkh periods. Now the Karakorum Highway starts from the town of Havellan and Indus "the Lion River" flows through this region.

The Hazara area, spread over Abbottabad, Harlpur and Mansehra districts, has been identified with Abisara, after the chief of the tribes, Ablsares whom Alexander encountered. The name Hazara occurs In the A/n-/ Akbar/. During the Mughal period it was administered by the Governor at Attock. With the weakening of Mughal hold, Hazara came under the control of Ahmad Shah Durranl In 1752. When theSikhs began to expand northwards, they annexed Hazara In 1818. However, stiff resistance by the people in 1820-21 led to the defeat and death of the Sikh General, Amer Singh. For a short while it became a part of Kashmir under Raja Gulab Singh. But in 1847 the area was exchanged and returned to the Lahore Durbar. Major James Abbott, sent to settle the country, through sagacity and firmness managed to win the Hazara people over. He founded a new town - picturesquely situated between 4,000ft and 5,000ft above sea-level - and with typical Imperial panache, named it after himself: Abbottabad. He administered It for several years as the first Deputy Commissioner (1847-1853) and composed lovingly, if not very competently, on it:

I remember the day when I first came here
And smelt the sweet Abbottabad air
The trees and the ground covered with snow
Gave us indeed a brilliant show
To me the place seemed like a dream
And far ran a lonesome stream
The wind hissed as if welcoming us
The pines swayed creating a lot of fuss
And the tiny Cuckoo sang it away
A song very melodious and gay
I adored the place from the first sight
And was happy that my coming here was right
And eight good years here passed very soon
And we leave you perhaps on a sunny noon
Oh! Abbottabad we are leaving you now
To your natural beauty do I bow
Perhaps your winds will never reach my ears
My gift for you is sad tears
I bid you farewell with a heavy heart
Never from my mind will your memories thwart.

The Abbottabad municipality was created in 1967 to look after the needs of the divisional headquarters and expanding town. Today a city, it still evokes the colonial air with British style bungalows, church, club and cemetery.

Abbott not only founded this town but "discovered" the Murree and Galis and more particularly the twin summits of Miranjani (9,747ft) and Mokhspuri (2,800m9,452ft). Located in the east of the district are the Margalla Hills in which the stations of Nathia Gali (2,501m), Dunga Gali (2,800m), Changla Gali and Thandiani are situated. Thandiani or "Cold" in the local dialect, is a village perched high (2,700m) on a narrow plateau surrounded by thick forests. These hill-villages were developed by the British into summer resorts, and for stationing British mountain batteries, infantry attachments, various schools of musketry and other military establishments during the summer months. Some of the densest forests of the Province, and indeed in the country, are in the Hazara tract.

Nathia Gali, well-remembered playground to hundreds of British colonials who sought solitude in these fir-clad slopes, was the summer headquarters of the Chief Commissioner, later Chief Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Punjab Provinces as it lies almost mid-way between Murree and Abbottabad; It has a fine church sporting an impressive steeple and a pine-wood exterior darkened by seasonal snow and sun. Built completely of local timber and designed by a colonial architect, its simple vocabulary reminds one, in shape if not in material, of the many village churches that dot the Cotswolds countryside. It is now managed from Peshawar but can be entered when the ageing Muslim chowkidar obliges.
A cluster of four modest mountain-villages, now thriving holiday stations, Khanspur, Khaira Gali, Changla Gali and Ghora Dhaka comprise the Ayubia hill resort. Much of this area forms the A yubia - National Park, spread over 101,1 74 hectares, in which the mountain fauna and flora thrive.The other main towns of Hazara are Haripur and Mansehra. Haripur was founded around 1822 by, and named after, Hari Singh Nalwa, the Sikh General and Governor of Hazara. In1853, the British abandoned it as the main town for Abbottabad. Mansehra was founded by Maan Singh another Sikh luminary. The town is renowned for the three graniteboulders inscribed with the edicts of Asoka dating from the third century before Christ.
From Mansehra a winding. road through forested hills leads D the mouth of the Kaghan Valley: the town of Balakot pread across the two banks of Kunhar River. Balakot suffered widespread destruction in the October earhtquake of 2005. Here the final battle between the Sikhs and Ahmad hah Berailvi was fought leading to his decapitation. Unlike the Swat Valley which fans out like a palm, this 155 km / 96 mile long forest-valley is narrow and the mountains steep. It lenetrates into the heart of the Himalayan system. The road rst built between 1893 and 1895 is prone to periodic landslides and leads northwards to the villages of Kaghan and batakundi, the lush mountain-meadows of Shogran and leyond, to the Babusar Pass (4, 173m) and the Chilas region. he parallel mountain ranges rise up to 1 7,000ft and the lopes provide grazing grounds for seasonal nomads and lighland dwellers. The Kunhar River, known for fresh trout "hich thrives in its crystal clear water, is fed by three alpine ikes. The most famous and accessible of these is the Saif ul-Muluk, named after a legendary prince, Saif. The legend bout this lake, on the lips of the Kohistanis / "Mountain wellers", was celebrated by many but immortalized in a lassical romance in Punjabi verse by the Sufi-poet Mian /luhammad Bakhsh (1830-1907). According to the tale rince Saif ul-Muluk hid to watch a fairy-princess Badar lmal, who came every full-moon night to bathe in the lake.On seeing each other they fell in love. But the evil djinn of the Malika Parbat became jealous. He broke the banks of the ake and flooded the valley below in order to drown them. Luckily they hid in a cave near the village of Naran - the cave still exists - and made good their escape out of the valley. It 3,212m the lake, as a nature reserve, provides a pristine pectacle despite increasing human intrusion. The lake sits in all glory reflecting the surrounding snow-capped peaks Malika Parbat (5,291 m), the highest mountain in the valley among them - that guard it like a precious emerald.

Further up the road, 59 km beyond Naran (3,498m) near the Besal village, lies the largest lake of the valley, the Lalusar (3,439m). Crescent-shaped, it is also known as the Horse shoe Lake and from it flows the Kunhar River. The locals believe in the curative powers of its water. Legend has it that the sight of a daughter of Emperor Akbar was restored following a bath in it. The third mountain-lake is the Dodisarpat.
All along the. Kaghan Valley many a vantage point is available which changes human perception on the lay of land and perspective on life. Far from the madding crowd, such a point provides a permeating serenity. The meadows of Shogran (2,362 m) are among the most beautiful plateaus in the Province. Rolling forests, sporting ancient deodars, cover several hills around Paya (3,079m). Sharan affords a splendid view of the highest peak in the area, Malika Parbat. Lalazar (3,634m), a spread of highland meadows fragrant with alpine flora, is the summer pasture for the herdsmen. And at Babusar Pass (4,175m) a panoramic view of the valleys unfolds. Dervla Murphy writes about the Babusar Top in her book Full Tilt:

From the plateau I could see, about 1,000 feet below me, a vividly green valley some eight miles long and two miles wide, with a foam-white nullah flashing down its centre.

Rudyard Kipling, the Nobel laureate (1865-1936), was fascinated by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Though trained as a journalist in Lahore, he composed some of his most memorable verse on this terrain Of Peshawar as a merchantile hub, he writes:


When spring-time flushes the desert grass. 
Our kafilas wind through the Khyber Pass. 
Lean are the camels but fat the trails,
Light are the purses but heavy the bales,
As the snowbound trade of the North comes down
To the market-square of Peshawur town.

The capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it has been identified as Paskapuros of the Greek, Kaspaturos of Herodotus, Po-Iu-sha-po-Iu of the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang, and as Purshapur or Pushabur in early Muslim sources such as AI-Biruni and others.These variations are derived from Pushpapura the Sanskrit word meaning the "City of Flowers". Not surprisingly the city attracted migrants, invaders and refugees from the north, through the Khyber Pass and other routes. Herodotus, the Greek historian, mentioned Peshawar in 430 B.C. as a frontier town. Conquered by the Greeks, it remained an important town of the Gandhara kingdom. It was here that Buddhist scholars composed the texts of Mahayana Buddhism that was to spread into China and Japan. When the Chinese pilgrim Fa-Hien (c 404) visited the city it was the capital of Gandhara. Destroyed by the White Huns, invaded by the Ghaznavids, the town was rebuilt after Emperor Babur (r. 1526 - 1530) established the Mughal empire in 1526. Following the weakening of that great dynasty, it fell prey, in the early nineteenth century, to the Sikhs who annexed it to the Kingdom of Lahore. Elphinstone, as member of the British mission, spent less than four months (February 25 June 14) in Peshawar during 1809. He gives a fairly comprehensive view of the geography and the people. His observations are acute, his analysis and understanding discerning. Bala Hissar, which he visited, was in full Pathan glory as the king's palace. In 1823 the scourge of the Khalsa army reduced this magnificent building to "a Sikh barrack affair". On its north side were the immaculately kept royal gardens, later destroyed and all its trees axed by the Sikhs. The present Shahi Bagh is a sorry reminder of that great green stretch. The Bala Hisar Fort was then a place of grandeur where Shah Shuja held court:

We thought at first that he had on armour of jewels; but, on close inspection, we found this to be a mis take, and his real dress to consist of a green tunic,with large flowers in gold and precious stones, over which were a large breastplate of diamonds, shaped like two flattened fleur de lis . . . large emerald bracelets on the arms (above the elbow), and many other jewels in different places. In one of the bracelets was the Cohi Noor, known to be one of the largest diamonds in the world... The crown was about nine inches high. .. the whole so complicated, and so daz zling that it was difficult to understand, and impossi ble to describe... The room was open all round. The centre was supported by four high pillars, in the midst of which was a marble fountain. The floor was covered with the richest carpets, and round the edges were slips of silk embroidered with gold, for the Khauns to stand on. The view from the hall was beautiful.Immediately below was an extensive garden,' full of cypresses and other trees, and beyond was a plain of the richest verdure; here and there were pieces ofwater and shiny streams, and the whole was bound ed with mountains, some dark, and other covered with snow.

The fabulous jewel Koh-i Noor / "Mountain of Light" he saw, is claimed to be the oldest large diamond in the world. It was to become, within a few short decades, part of Queen Victoria's Royal Jewels. It was recut into a "brilliant" in 1852 and the Duke of Wellington made the first facet watched by voorsanger, the cutter from Amsterdam. Now part of the British Crown Jewels, it is, much reduced, studded in the late Queen Mother's crown on display in the Tower of London.

By the time Alexander Burnes visited Peshawar during 1836-1838:

The Sikhs had changed everything: many of the fine gardens round the town had been converted into cantonments; trees had been cut down; and the whole 
heighbourhood was one vast camp...

The Bala Hisar, a square of 200m, was strengthened by round towers at each corner and two rows of encircling fortifications were erected. The inner wall of the fort is 50 ft high, nearly twice as high as the outer one. The overall height of the fort walls is 92 ft. The area of the fort inside the outer parapet is about 15.4 acres or 4,400 sq, yards (220x200 yards) and that of the inner parapet is 10 acres.A plaque above the inner gateway was installed by Sikhs to commemorate their occupation of the bastion. Under the British it was strengthened with baked brick. On top of the north-western and north-eastern corners two British-made 24-pounder guns were positioned. One gun bears the date 1785. The headquarters for the Frontier Corps, created in 1907, was shifted here in 1949. Now manned by the Pakistan Frontier Force, it continues to dominate the Peshawar skyline.
The Sikh Army General Avitabile who built a mud-wall around the city, was known for cruelty. Shahamat AIi, the Persian Secretary with the mission of Lt. Colonel Sir C.M Wade to Peshawar in 1839 was an eye-witness to it. He writes: "Both in approachingand leaving the city we observed a row of four or five 
gibbets on a height to the right, with corpses hanging from them."Then he goes on to give a graphic description of putrefying bodies.
During the British Raj, Peshawar became an important border town and prosperous as a centre of trade. People from diverse nations, speaking many languages, clad in an array of colourful garments thronged the bazaars. Houses, three or more storeys high were built of unbaked brick and wooden frames. Some of these can still be seen in the old quarters of the city. By the 1920's the city was surrounded by high walls with several massive gates which were closed at night.

Among walled Peshawar's most historic landmarks is the Kissa Khwani Bazaar / "The Bazaar of the Story-Tellers", or according to Edwardes, the "Piccadilly of Central Asia". It is the main city street and accessed from the Kabuli Gate, one of the original sixteen gates. As the name suggests, the gate faces Kabul. 

Destroyed during Sikha Shahi, it was renovated by Sir Herbert Edwardes, who in a self-aggrandizement gesture, re-named it Edwardes Gate. Here traders on the Silk Route would break journey to rest awhile and refresh their bodies and souls. Once the bazaar was alive with stories of the Amir of Bokhara and the Khans of Khiva and the regionallove-Iore of "Adam and Dur Khani".The kahva khanas, or tea-rooms, along its labyrinthine lanes, continue as social institutions, humming with the sound of many languages and dialects,overlooking or looking out to other bazaars and lanes. They provide steaming kahva laced with cardamom and fine herbs, bubbling aromatic hookahs to smoke,the comfort of caravan-serais, and the relaxed atmosphere to lounge and gossip in. Tales of travels and adventure, resistance against the Soviet invasion of, and the American and British presence in, Afghanistan are told and retold, embroidered and elaborated. And trade deals are finalized. Travellers were,and still occasionally are, entertained by balladeers and story-tellers. The rich oral traditions of the region-Pathan romances, battle accounts, burlesques and love songs-all weave into a rich tapestry of human voice and music from simple string and wind instruments.

In the Kissa Khwani Bazaar area is located the Ghanta Ghar / "Clock Tower". An imperial symbol, it was erected in 1900 to the memory of a popular Commissioner of Peshawar, Sir George Cunningham. Close by Is the Yadgar Chowk/ "Memorial Square". Initially it was named after Colonel LC. Hastings (d.1884) and a commemorative fountain was also erected. During the 1940's it celebrated those who died in the struggle for Independance. Now the Chowk also commemorates the heroes of the India-Pakistan War of 1965.

In the heart of Andar Shehr / the "Inner City", or the older quarter, the twice Governor of Peshawar, Mahabat Khan built a mosque. He served two Mughal emperors: Shah Jahan (r. t 627- t 659) and Awrangzeb (r.1659-1707). Mahabat Khan Masjld Is the only Mughal mosque in Peshawar that survived the pillage and plunder of Sikha Shahi, when its minarets were used as gibbets to hang people by the Neopolitan Governor of Ranjlt Singh, General Avitabile. In 1898 the mosque suffered extensive damage from fire and was restored to the original high-Mughal style complete with fluted domes. The Mosque measures about 56m. by 50m. and Is built on a raised terrace. With an open courtyard 'and the ablution tank in the centre, it is planned along traditional lines. Its finest feature is the interior of the prayer cham ber which is covered with a profusion of hand-painted arabesque and calligraphy.

Gor Khatri is an open space in the old city surrounded by houses several storeys high. It was once a holy place where Hindu pilgrims repaired and shaved their heads in a religious ritual. A reference to it occurs in Emperor Babur's memoirs,Babur-namah. During Emperor Jahangir's reign, a row of buildings were constructed as resting chambers for travellers on the orders of his queen, Nur Mahal. It also remained the residence of Avitabile, who built a mud wall around the old city. Alexander Burnes observed wryly:

The active mind of Monsieur A vitabJe has done much to improve the town and tranquillize the neighbour hood: he was building Fine bazaars and widening streets; nay, that most conclusive proof of civilization, the erection of a gallows, proved how much he had done towards bringing this wild neighbourhood under subjection.

Under the British, Gor Khatri became a tehsil / "revenue office" and also housed the town's first fire-brigade established at the turn of the twentieth century. Two vintage fire engines, complete with working accessories, are still garaged there. Now it has been converted into a public place. The structures from several eras are being conserved or renovated. Through the gateway, above which a white marble slab commemorates Avitabile's stay, a path leads into the Mohalla Sethian / "Precinct of the Sethis".

The opulent life-style of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's merchant community is best exemplified by the grand havelis / "town mansions" in this area. These merchants traded with Central Asia and China. Among the most prosperous was Haji Ahmad Gul. The havelis are built in small Kashmiri or "Waziri" brick similar to the type used in Lahore during the Mughal and Sikh periods. These fine mansions however, date from the third quarter of the nineteenth century and the precinct remains a crowded part of the old city. Some have living quarters at the rear, others above the shops and a few at the street level. Down severals lanes havelis can be seen as exclusive, commodious residences. The wood-work, both on the exterior and the interior, is exceptional. "Richly carved doors, balconies, pillars and arches, walls and ceilings hand-painted with motifs familiar from carpets and textiles, mirrored rooms and patterned, coloured glass windows, intricate lattice-work screens, show a joyous indulgence". Such abundance and ornate tracery speaks of an age when leisure and high quality craftsmanship was prized.

Following the British annexation in 1848-9, two miles west of the walled city, the cantonment was laid by Sir Colin Campbell, later Lord Clyde and famous as a commander in the Crimean War. The fast changing geo-political situation in Central Asia led to reinforcement of the station by railway in1881. The new cantonment had no walls. It was surrounded by "a barbed wire entanglement" for protection against raids of Afridi and other tribes. Barracks and guardrooms were strategically located on the north-western perimeters and interspersed with residential houses. The trees, then planted along main roads shading the gardens of houses on either sides, are now a fine tribute to the planner's foresight. Pipals, banyans, pines and palms are still visible and some may well have survived from the famous garden of Ali Mardan Khan described by Elphinstone. A back-drop to these tall, spreading trees is the barren mountains.

Nearby is the Peshawar cemetary which dates back to 1851.Beyond its pitched-roof entrance are the graves of the British. Marble, coloured stone slabs headstones, Celtic and English crosses mark the graves of men who died fighting forimperial designs as well as of their women and children who succumbed to the heat and hardship of the station.

Amongst the medical and educational works started by Sir Herbert Edwardes, the Commissioner of Peshawar (1853-58) was the Edwardes High School in 1855. It was an acknowledgement of his long relationship with the Pathans: "How much faith I have had occasion to place in the rudest and wildest of these people, how nobly it was deserved, and how useless I should have been without it." In "the classical mid-Victorian mould of soldier-administrators with evangelical Christian convictions" he acquired the palace of Sardar Yar Muhammad Khan Durrani to house a school and church. Initially it was located in the old city and by 1862, 219 boys were enrolled (70 Muslims, 137 Hindus and 12 Christians). In 1872 a boarding house was constructed at the present site in the "Moghul-Baroque style" .College classes were started on May 1, 1900. Appropriately, commemorated by the Church Missionary Society, it was originally known as the Edwardes Church Mission College.

Behind the original building is the famous "Shalimar Quad" which is surrounded by various academic, administrative,boarding and lodging buildings in the same architectural style. The building was constructed with a "generous gift from a member of the University of Oxford - Fellowship in Furtherance of the Gospel". Affiliated to the Punjab University, Lahore, it was the only college in the Province.As some families were hesitant to send their sons to a college with Missionary links, another institution was started in1913. Two visionaries were responsible for founding the Islamia College in 1911. The very fine building in the Anglo-south Asian Muslim style" was a beguling mutation of the Oxbridge pattern", with hostels named "after some grandee-benefactor of the Raj - Chelmsford, Grant, Hardinge". It stands on the site where the battle between Akbar Khan and the Sikh General Hari Singh Nalwa took place. Thus started a long and friendly rivalry between the two institutions" which between themselves were to groom most of the future leaders of the Frontier in practically every field. While Edwardes College had been motivated by the Christian spirit of the colonizers, Islamia College was imbued with the requirements of the colonized. The former was an imposition, the latter an aspiration. The Quaid-i-Azam was particularly fond of these two institutions and visited them whenever he toured the Frontier. In 1950, the University of Peshawar was established adjacent to it, on the College's land. It is perhaps the only University campus which has a primary school, a secondary school, a college and a university all in one place.

The newly founded Province required an appropriate place to display its varied heritage which was increasingly attracting scholarly attention. Excavations had been, and were being, undertaken and many of the prized pieces such as "the Fasting Buddha" discovered in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been sent to the Central Museum at Lahore. In 1906 the Peshawar Museum was inaugurated in the Victoria Memorial Hall designed by "the most accomplished of all exponents of the Indo-Saracenic style," Colonel Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob (1841-1917). Built in the architectural grammar similar to that of the Punjab University or the Mayo School of Arts at Lahore, in the Anglo-South Asian Muslim style, it is a redbrick building with crowning domes at four corners.

The Museum houses one of the finest collections of Gandhara artifacts in the country. These sculptures and reliefs from almost nine centuries of Buddhist primacy (first century B.C to eighth century A.D.) were objects of worship and decorated the countless stupas and monastery-niches. The Buddha is depicted in all "gestures of re-assurance, meditation, area. Kurram re-appears in history in 1552 when Emperor Humayun occupied it before his reconquest of India. Resistance to Mughal rule was initiated in Kurram by the followers of Peer-i Roshan.Although they were suppressed under jahangir, the residents of Kurram continued to exercise independence.

During the early British period a force under Brigadier General Neville Chamberlain was sent to the Valley on a punitive expedition. Serious differences and clashes continued till 1878 when General Roberts' entry in Kurram was more decisive. The administration of the Valley was finally taken over in 1892.The Valley stretches for 90 km. from Thall to Peiwar. With a width varying from 10 km. to 42 km., it is bounded by Safed Koh Range in the north and Kohat district to the east, Waziristan to the south and Afghanistan in the west. The Kurram River which emanates from the western slopes of Sikaram Range watershed i.e. the highest point of Safed Koh Range (15,602 ft.), flows through the Valley. Parachinar is the main town of the Kurram Agency and the headquarter of the Kurram Militia. The name may have its origin in the phrase "Da Para Chinar" / "The Chinar Tree of the Para Tribe". Common belief has it that jirgas, or meetings, between the elders of Para and Turi tribes were held under the tree. The remaining trunk of this 400 years old tree can be seen in front of the Militia fort even today. Another origin of the name may be the corrupted form of "Para Chinar" / "Big Chinar Tree", as the tree was referred to by the Royal Indian troops stationed there after the Second Afghan War.36 The Valley is known for its agricultural produce and specially its fruits such apples, pears,grapes, cherries, pomegranates and peaches.

The road from Peshawar to Kohat passes through a stretch where rock-salt mounds rise in an unusual landscape among the barren hills, and the land is white and bleak with deposits. The quarried salt, in the Kohat district areas of jatta,Malgin, Bahadur Khel and Karak, is grey to black in colour and of good quality.The road continues to wind through the mountains to the tribal town of Darra Adam Khel, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's centre of ammunition and arms, many hand-made. Here the skill of craftsmen combines with the enterprising spirit of the gun-loving tribals to produce a whole range of weapons replicated to high standards. European or Russian brands can be, and have been,reproduced here.

This is a tract where honour is jealously guarded. Casting glances at a house, let alone entering and searching one, is considered violation of privacy and purdah. Houses here have towers built to withstand attack or siege by rival tribesmen. They are appropriately called qillay "fort" and ghari/"dwelling". From here Ajab Khan crossed the Kohat Pass into the garrison town of Kohat to execute a daring kidnapping. During the Soviet-Afghan war, Darra Adam Khel, like Peshawar, was home to thousands of Afghan refugees whose adobe settlements are still visible.

Under the Handyside Gate, in stone at the highest point of the Pass, the road passes before it snakes down into the bowl of Kohat. The Gate was erected in the memory of Eric Charles Handyside C.I.E., O.B.E. of the Indian Police who commanded the Frontier Constabulary and was killed in action on April 11, 1926. This point provides a panoramic view of Kohat, first mentioned in the memoirs of Emperor Babur. It was then ruled by two tribes, the Bangash and the Khattak. He raided this district in 1505 and sacked the towns of Kohat and Hangu. However, he was unable to maintain a permanent foothold. Even under Durrani rule in the early eighteenth century, the Bangash and Khattak continued to exercise autonomy. The town of Kohat lies in the amphitheatre of hills at some distance from the old town said to have been founded by the Bangash in the fourteenth century. Elphinstone in 1809 found it to be "a neat town", with "a little fort on an artificial mound, which had been ruined in a struggle for the chiefship ... Near the town runs a stream, as clear as crystal, which issues from three fountains..."

Lord Birdwood, who in 1887 had joined the XI Regiment, later called the Probyn's Horse, commanded the Kohat Independent Brigade between 1909 and 1912. For forty years he served in the army, rising to the highest rank of Field Marshal and the Commander-in-Chief in India in 1925. As the Master of a Cambridge University college, he looked back at his long and distinguished career and observed fondly in his autobiography, Khaki and Gown: "Kohat - still my favourite station."39 Important as a market and garrison town, Kohat is divided into two sections, of which the cantonment area is the more structured. A neat grid of roads and ancient trees speak of the colonists' effort in creating a conducive environment for themselves. A small church was erected and later Lord Birdwood laid the foundation stone of the "much-needed" extension. But it burnt down and all its trophies, of the early British period, were lost. Among these was a memorial to Cavagnari. The garrison section, spread across an undulating terrain is known for two figures: the daring Cavagnari and the swashbuckling Ajab Khan.

Cavagnari, the son of Adolphe Cavagnari one of Napoleon's generals, had the political charge of Kohat for more than a decade. He was only thirty-eight when killed in Kabul during the Second Afghan War. By then he was Sir Louis Cavagnari K.C.B., C.S.\. His sprawling residence modelled after Thomas Jefferson's house at Monticello, Virginia40 was constructed beside a stream. It sports an extensive garden and a handsome dome inspired by the Italian Renaissance architectural aesthetic. A colonnaded verandah which surrounds it keeps it cool during the long hot summer. Long occupied by the Deputy Commissioners of Kohat, the splendid building has now been adapted for use as a public library. It stands today as a fine memorial to him.

In 1923, the cantonment witnessed a heroic, defying act which has acquired legendary aura in a land where honour and courage, above all else, are prized. It was triggered by a British operation in which Ajab Khan's house and his women-folk were searched. To avenge this slight the Afridi spent a whole night in the old pipal tree near the residence of the Commissioner, Major Ellis and then kidnapped his daughter Molly. She was carried through the Bosti Khel Valley to the Tirah mountains. The abduction became an international scandal, its symbolism reverberating in the corridors of imperial power in Dehli and London as in the dwellings of the tribals. For the recovery of Molly Ellis a large military operation was launched in which local tribesmen were also inducted. In order to pay their way through the tribal belt, mules laden with silver accompanied the expedition. On reaching Tirah, Molly was discovered dressed like a powindah or a gypsy girl. Her rescue was effected, her honour intact. This cause celebre is now commemorated in a road named after Ajab Khan in the old quarters of Peshawar and immortalized in several motion picture versions in Pashto and Urdu.

The district of Bannu is like a circular basin, blocked on all sides by mountains and is connected by a winding road to Kohat. It is irrigated by the Kurram and Tochi Rivers. Between these Rivers and the Bhittanni Hills lie the tracts which are perennially irrigated. The district otherwise is sandy and dependent on rainfall. The general elevation is about 1,OOOft above the sea. The area has been identified as Falana of Huien-Tsang.41 It remained nominally under the Dehli emperors till 1738, when it was conquered by Nadir Shah. Ahmad Shah Durrani marched several times through the Bannu Valley to receive tribute from the locals. In 1838 the Valley came under Sikh rule. But after the First Sikh War, Lt. Edwardes (of Edwardes College fame) arrived in Bannu and within a few months was able to bring the area under British control. In order to ensure security a chain of out-posts were built along the border. Some of these continue to be functional till date.

Bannu town, founded in 1848 by Edwardes, was for some time known as Edwardesabad. The bazaar he laid out on the grid plan, was called Daleepnagar and the fort constructed at the same time, Daleepgarh. Both these honoured the young, Sikh Maharaja of Lahore. The lad was later deposed and sent off to Queen Victoria's court in London. Around the bazaar grew the town enclosed by a high wall, some sections of which are standing to this day. Bannu town remains a centre of commerce where agriculture produce and products, livestock and birds are bought and sought. It remains one of the most popular places for the trade of Demoiselle Cranes / Koonj which fly seasonally over this area. They are hunted in the traditional manner by using a simple, age-old sling-like contraption which entangles their legs and brings them to the ground. The railway station, once operative, has fallen into disuse. John Nicholson who succeeded Edwardes constructed a fine residence which sits, surrounded by a sprawling lawn, in faded colonial grandeur.

It was harsh, arid, rocky, weird, lonely, forbidding threatening, rugged, misshapen, strange, alien; yet at times it had a spectacular beauty and breath taking colour. One feared the ferocity of the peopleand abhorred their cruelty, yet admired their sturdy manliness, democratic pride and love of freedom; and warmed to their hospitality and ready wit and humour.

Thus Fraser Noble, the Assistant Political Agent at Miranshah about North and South Waziristan spread over 11,327 sq. km. and inhabited by over half a million Wazir and Mahsud tribesmen. Waziristan was part of the Mughal empire but when the Sikhs extended their rule to Bannu, they did not dare into this belt. During the early British period the tribes continued to resist British incursions. The Punjab Government described the Mahsud in 1881 as:

more worthily admired for the courage which they show in attack and in hand-to-hand fighting with the sword. From the early days of British rule in the Punjab few tribes on the frontier have given greater or more continuous trouble, and none have been more daring or more persistent in disturbing the peace of British territory..

In 1889 Sir R. Sandeman succeeded in opening up the strategic Gomal Pass on the Afghanistan border in return for Rs. 50,000 in annual allowances. The attack on Wana by the Mahsuds under Mulla Pawinda resulted in the third punitive expedition in 1894-95 under Sir W. Lockhart. The boundary with Afghanistan was finally demarcated and in 1896 southern Waziristan was constituted as a Political Agency with headquarter at Wana. But tribal uprisings continued till well into the twentieth century. Three British Officers were murdered in 1904-05.

In 1910 a full-fledged North Waziristan Agency was constituted with the headquarter at Miranshah. Major H.A. Barnes, the Political Agent in 1933, also taken by the country, remarked:

Oh Lord, this is a gorgeous life! Here is freedom and scope and interest that are little short of overwhelming. One lives the whole day and every day, and only lacks for having one pair of hands and one personality.

Despite superior arms, the British were unable to establish peace. During 1937 and 1938, the inhabitants again rose against them, this time under Mulla Sher Ali Khan, a disciple of the Faqir of Ipi. After the creation of Pakistan, the tribes of Waziristan through a jirga decided to join the new State.

South Waziristan affords good grazing for goats. The outer spurs of the Wazir hills are barren and desolate. The inner hills, of higher elevation, are thickly wooded with ilex and pine. Here chalghoza or pine-nuts, walnuts and apricots are found in abundance. The only river is the Gomal which snakes through the Sulaiman range and debouches on the Derajaat plains.

The most famous visitor to Jandola, headquarter of the South Waziristan Scouts, was T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia. He came in the guise of Airman Shaw in 1928. A broken-down truck obliged him to spend some time in the Officers' Mess. He and the officers must have swapped stories of rifle-thieves and enthralling tales of far Arabia. When he left, he presented the Mess with a volume of his celebrated work which is still treasured. Inscribed on the flyleaf are the words:

This book was written by me, but its sordid type and squalid blocks are the responsibility of the publisher.It is, however, the last copy in print of Revolt in the Desert, and I have much pleasure in presenting it to the officers of the South Waziristan Scouts in memory of a very interesting day and night with them. T. E.Shaw.

The southern-most district of the Province is Dera Ismail Khan. Baloch settlers migrated to the area towards the end of the fifteenth century and founded the town which is named after their chief, Ismail Khan. Situated on the traditional trade routes between South Asia and Khorasan, it became an important centre to which the caravans of travelling powindas or gypsies and merchants repaired after cross-ing the Gomal Pass. It is known for turned and lacquered wood-work of excellent design and quality. The other trade centres were, and are, Tank and Kulachi.

In 1750 the area came under Ahmad Shah Durrani and was annexed in 1836 by Nao Nihal Singh to the Lahore Durbar. With the coming of the British, the district became part of the empire. In 1870 it acquired "melancholy notoriety" due to the death of Sir Henry Durand, Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab. He was crushed against an arch of the gateway when entering the town of Tank on an elephant. This man who had negotiated the border between Afghanistan and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and gave it his name, the Durand Line, lies buried in Dera Ismail Khan.

The district is bound on the west by the Sulaiman Range. The cultivated tract is watered by the occasional hill torrents in the upper reaches. The famous water channel built by Macaulay, during his seventeen years tenure as Deputy Commissioner, irrigates a larger area. To the east flows the Indus River. In the hot season the Indus was crossed by a steam-ferry with paddIes, the sort Mark Twain wrote about in Town SawYer and Huckleberry Finn. It transported families, camels and other animals. In winter a bridge of boats was installed. Those who could not afford the nominal fee could be seen till as recently as the 1980's clinging to air-filled animal skins and swimming across the divide. Now a modern bridge links the Punjab town of Darya Khan with Dera Ismail Khan.


Get a better hosting deal with a hostgator coupon or play poker on party poker
Copyright 2011 Towns & Places.
Joomla Templates by Wordpress themes free