The most northerly of Frontier 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.
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 necessitat¬ed
defending this remote part of the Frontier, 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.
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 covet¬ed
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
peculi¬arities" 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.
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,
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.
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 occu¬pied
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 Frontier Province.
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.
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
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 peri¬od 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 the
Sikhs 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
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 (2,800mj9,452ft).
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 Secretary of the Province.
Now it has developed into a popular holiday resort
for people from the Frontier 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
1853, 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
boulders 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 (4,1 75m) 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 fasci¬nated by the Frontier. 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
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.
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
pres¬ent 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:
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
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...
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.
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
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
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".
opulent life-style of Frontier'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
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
attract¬ing scholarly attention. Excavations had
been, and were being, undertaken and many of the prized
pieces such as "the Fasting Buddha" discovered
in the Frontier 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
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, Frontier'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
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 North-West
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
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.
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 Frontier 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.