Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sunday brunch

Owais Mughal is in Pakistan these days. This post tells us what he is upto, at least part of it.

This past sunday I got chance to buy halwa puri breakfast for the family. My brother and I drove to a halwa puri vendor near Aisha Manzil in Federal-B-Area. It is called Dhamthal sweets Bakers and Nimko. Time was around noon and I was surprised to find a long queue of people waiting to buy breakfast. When we left home I thought we’ll have hard time finding breakfast, but seeing the crowd it seemed like whole city now eats breakfast fashionably late.

Dhamthal sweets had set up breakfast tables on a covered side walk. On one table a whole cricket team was sitting and enjoying greasy puris with boistering talk of cricket heroics. At another table a whole extended family was sharing family gossips over niwalas of sweet halwa.

Customer cars were double parked on the main road interjected with a few motorcycles between every two cars. Amidst all this hustle bustle a queue of take away customers was waving around the sidewalk like a snake. As I wrote earlier, this queue was atleast 25 people long and I was standing at position twenty five.

People were hungry but still full of manners. I had to ask the person infront of me to move aside a bit so when I asked him:

bhai saheb zara hatiyay ga

he replied polietly:

aaiye saheb aaiye

I was impressed but my impression was quite short lived as very soon I heard a middle aged lady shouting at the management. She was complaining that whole queue comprised of men and the Dhamthal management didn’t make adequate arrangements for women customers. Many people in the queue agreed with her and the matter was escalated to the manager-on-duty who was feeling very important in this escalation.

While all this action was going on the queue kept moving quite fast. Within five minutes I had advanced to position number ten. At this time I saw another matter which surprised and un-surprised me at the same time. A guy wearing police uniform and accompanied with a Dhamthal employee, bypassed the whole queue and went directly to the distribution point where the escorting employee told the cashier:

ye police ka aadmi hai - is ko pehle do

I was surprised that in such blatant disregard of common social etiquettes by police was still going on - but then a part of me was not surprised at all.

Anyways within few more minutes I reached the top of the queue, paid money to the cashier and another guy started filling our breakfast in a brown bag. The line behind me was still 25 or so people long.

As I was paying for the breakfast, a person just walked to the cashier and demanded that he be served breakfast right then. The cashier asked him to stand in the queue but this guy didn’t budge. He kept insisting that he was in a hurry and that he will not stand in the queue. This made the cashier angry and a heated argument ensued with lots of arms and hand gestures. Finally the customer walked off without buying any thing.

While all this was going on the lady who had earlier escalated her complaints to the manager was still arguing. The manager who had earlier felt important now looked quite bored and was scratching his face with one hand and his head with the other. He was trying to find a way out. At this instance I remember one sentence of the complainig lady which went like this:

ab mein line mein khaRa karne ke liye mard kahaaN se laaoN. kia mard market mein milte haiN

Quite a few people were on her side by now and I saw many people moving their heads up and down in agreement with her.

Finally the manager reached a deal by saying and shouting to his staff:

oye yaar, is amma ko hamesha pehlay naashta dia karo

This solution seemed to pacify everyone including the lady and after that it was business as usual.

We brought the breakfast home. By then the time was well past noon and I thought it was time well spent. The 30 minutes experience of buying breakfast was a live course on human anthropology and behaviors of Pakistani society.

The breakfast itself proved to be a good buy. There were ‘puris’ in it as well as two different curries made from chick peas and potatoes (tarkaari). There were some pickles to go with the curries and above all there was a very tasty halwa (sweet dessert). After eating this heavy duty meal nobody in our family was ready to have another meal for several hours.

I thoroughly enjoyed my exxperience of buying and eating halwa puri from a local vendor after several years.

Photo Credits: Ejaz Khan.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sri Mata Hinglaj

Salman Rashid

We do not know if Nania was created in the Sindhu Valley and sprinkled across the two thousand five hundred-kilometre landmass separating the Sindhu from the Tigris-Euphrates system, or if it came the other way

The setting is idyllic. A narrow gorge with walls of contorted rock rising up to heights of several hundred feet. The streambed, all of fifty metres wide, with a trickle of water richly endowed with trees of all sorts where white-cheeked bulbuls sing with abandon. Overheard, the tawny eagle quarters the peaks on broad wings with splayed primaries and, if you are lucky, you may espy a wolf warily eyeing you from a thicket of reeds before melting away as if it was never there in the first place.

Here and there, the dun-coloured walls of the gorge have been eaten away by eons of flowing water to create dramatic overhangs. And occasionally the streambed, gouged out by the infrequent flash floods sweeping down it, forms a deep pond of liquid emerald. One of these overhangs is the shrine of Durga and right below it is the sacred pond. Considered unfathomable, it is the recipient of coconuts thrown in with full force by pilgrims. The quantum of bubbles that escape tells the thrower of impending happiness or misery: the greater the fizz, the happier the person. Fast bowlers, take note.

Hindu legend maintains that upon her death, the goddess Durga was rent asunder in many parts. The bits fell all over the earth, each sanctifying the spot where it came to rest. One of those spots was under the rock overhang in this dramatic side valley of the main Hingol River valley. The place became one of the most celebrated shrines in all India and though the annual pilgrimage takes place every year in the third week of January, stray pilgrims are met with any other time as well. While the Hindus burn their sacred lamps for Durga, Muslims perform obsequies after their own fashion for Bibi Nani who is believed to be buried here. It is not without interest that during the annual pilgrimage bus caravans from Karachi and other parts of Balochistan bear followers of both religions.

Now, Durga is fine. But who is Bibi Nani who, besides being buried here, also rests under a bridge at the south end of the Bolan Pass not very far from Sibi town? Five thousand years ago, the people of Mesopotamia worshipped Nania, goddess of love and war, who was also known as Ishtar. She was evidently a much-revered goddess whose divinity was jealously acknowledged even in southern Persia.

In 2280 BCE, Kudur-Nankhundi, the king of Elam (southwest Persia), attacked Erech in the kingdom of Ur (Mesopotamia) and among other booty made off with the idol of Nania. For sixteen hundred years the Mesopotamians smarted under the shame of this debacle. Then in 645 BCE, king Assurbanipal, taking advantage of the weakness of Elam, sacked Erech, retrieved the Nania idol and restored it to its rightful sanctum in the Land Between Two Rivers.

Now historical record shows that Nania’s land was Mesopotamia. But we have her being worshipped here in Balochistan as well. Archaeology shows us that Mesopotamia and the valley of the Sindhu River enjoyed regular and heavy human traffic both ways. There were traders, craftsmen, professionals, fakirs, what have you, who worshipped her and their other gods and travelled across the lands under their protection. As they came and went across this vast landmass, they sanctified suitable sites across the Balochistan-Iran seaboard to different gods. Hinglaj near the banks of the Hingol River was dedicated to Nania.

A few thousand years were to pass before the fair-skinned singers of Vedic hymns descended into the subcontinent. The cult of Nania may then have been moribund and the new-comers found the lovely, well-watered and sylvan valley good enough to worship their own deities. Durga was thus grafted over the dying memory of Nania. But as in the work of a poor plastic surgeon the graft did not make the scar tissue altogether disappear. As part of the collective human memory, Nania remained barely discernible under the Durga legend.

Two more millenniums went by and Islam became the prevalent religion in the region. But the crowded and lively pantheon of the subcontinent corrupted the purity of its strict monotheism. The newly-converted Muslims, unable to shun the graven images they had worshipped for thousands of years, turned to prostrate at the tombs of those at whose hands they had received conversion. They also incorporated early, sometimes pagan, worship sites into their ritual after duly giving them ‘Islamic’ names. Hinglaj was just one among dozens of such ancient sites.

To worship Durga was out of the question, however. Fortunately there was at hand the lingering memory of Nania wafting like a ghost on the fringes of consciousness. The Muslims converted her to become Bibi Nani — Respected Elderly Lady. Today, Hindus and Muslims alike attend the annual festival to petition, each according to their own sensibilities, Durga or Nani nee Nania for sons and wealth.

In the pre-dawn darkness of a cool January morning in 1986, I rode an army truck from Karachi to the Hingol River. The truck was loaded down with a concrete mixer and once off the RCD Highway short of Uthal we were on dirt trails. Because of our ungainly payload and fear of overturning, the journey was excruciatingly slow. We bumped and lurched along, first in darkness and then in the golden light of a winter morning, through a landscape of weirdly shaped hills and sand dunes. The journey lasted seventeen hours.

My most memorable image from that trip is of the several mud volcanoes we passed. Though the driver did not agree to stop to permit me to climb up and look into the maw, the image is yet etched into my mind. I had to wait sixteen years for the chance of climbing up the cone to watch the grey concoction bubble and explode upward in little shafts.

Then Sri Mata Hinglaj was rather unspoilt, the absence of roads making it nearly impossible to reach. Pilgrims during the annual festival travelled from Karachi in buses that took three days to complete the journey. Though I was on the heels of the festival, the place was still clean despite the splotches of blood at a place where the ritual slaughter of goats takes place.

Returning in 2002, my friend and I sped along the brand new Coastal Highway that connects Karachi with Gwadar. Compared to the seventeen hours in the army truck, it took us less than four hours in a car. Hinglaj was a bit disappointing. A black-top road now branches off from the main highway to lead right up to the shrine which now has a steel gateway as an entrance. Inside, there is an ugly shed and bathrooms for pilgrims and the shrine of Durga is now duly affixed with fancy bathroom tiles.

Even in 1986, I was disappointed to see the ugly masonry cubicle stuck under the overhang. The primal setting, I strongly felt, should have been left as it was. This time around it looked even more tacky with the bathroom tiles. The stench from the toilets and the heaps of discarded plastic and paper packing material did nothing to uplift. Between my two visits, much had been taken away from pristine Hinglaj.

We do not know if Nania was created in the Sindhu Valley and sprinkled across the two thousand five hundred-kilometre landmass separating the Sindhu from the Tigris-Euphrates system, or if it came the other way. But one thing we do know without a shadow of doubt: that Nania is the longest-surviving cult. It has weathered six thousand years with the same name. That is what we know from the records. Who knows if she had been around even earlier?

Friday, July 23, 2010


Those who take their chance to cross the River Ravi from Saghian Bridge to go to Sheikhupura in the suburbs of Lahore have to pass through the flower nurseries. Also, along the road has come up a Flower Market near Saghian Bridge. After turning on Sheikhupura-Sargodha Road from the Chowk where a beautiful replica of Hiran Minar (The Deer Tower) has been made, you drive along the bumpy two-way road lined up on both sides with smoke emitting factories of different kinds: fabrics, chemicals, glass, and paper pulp. At places the pungent whiff reminds as if one is driving on Grand Trunk Road near Kala Shah Kaku. Wall chalking, religious and or commercial slogans - is another thing that one notices all along the road to Sheikhupura.

Jehangir Abad turned Sheikhupura is situated in Ravi-Chenab corridor and fast turning from a market agricultural town to an industrial city. Adjacent to Lahore, the town is surrounded by old places like Sangla Hill (old Sakala), Nankana Saheb (birth place of Baba Guru Nanak) and Jandiala Sher Khan (last resting place of Waris Shah).

Hunting grounds were an important part of the physical environment of Moghal emperors. The place where the town stands today was one of Jahangir's (Prince Salim) princely dominions during his father Akbar's reign. The town was founded by Jehangir, near village Sahu Malli, during his rule in 1607. The king declared the barren jungles adjoining the place as royal hunting ground. After the death of king's darling deer Mans Raj, this hunting ground was changed into a protected sanctuary and hunting was prohibited. In the memory of his favourite antelope, the king also constructed an octagonal tower in 1607 at the foot of the grave of the deer. In 1620, a square lake like pond and Baradari was added to the monument. A causeway with its own gateway connects the pavilion with the mainland and minaret. At the centre of each side of the tank, a brick ramp slopes down to the water that used to provide access for royal animals and wild game. Later he conferred the entire area upon Sikandar Moin.

A special feature of Hiran Minar is its location and environment: the top of the Minar is perhaps the best place in the province of Punjab to get a feel for the broader landscape and its relationship to a Moghal site. Looking north from the top of the Minar, one can see a patch of forest which is similar to the scrub forest vegetation of Moghal times, while to the west are extensively-irrigated fields, a product of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but similar in size and appearance to the well-irrigated fields of the Moghal period. The Lower Chenab Canal has turned the land into one of the most fertile area in the country now.

In eighteenth century, Nadir shah and Ahmed shah Abdali passed through Jehangir Abad once they came to attack India. Punjabi poet Syed Waris Shah had composed some pointing details of the attacks and conditions of the society of the time in his classic folk romance Heer Ranjha. Sikh came to the power in the later half of eighteenth century when Moghal authority weakened after the death of Aurangzeb Alamgir. It is during Sikh rule that the name of the town was changed from Jehangir Abad to Sheikhupura.

Sheikhupura was separated from Gujranwala and declared district in 1920 with Sharq Pur and Khankah Dogran as two of its tehsiels. Electricity came into the town in 1931. During independence movement, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah addressed a huge crowd in Sheikhupura while going to Faisalabad (then Layal Pur) in 1942. Later, the geographical boundaries of the district were again changed in 1962. The remains of once majestic Sheikhupura Fort, constructed by King Jehangir, reminds of the times gone by. Five storied building of the Fort speak of the expertise of its architects. The Moghul Fort was built in 1619 for use as a hunting lodge. The Fort is built of bricks rather than stone, a common feature of Moghul forts. The Fort was later used by Sikh Princess Rani Nakayan and her private quarters are decorated with superbly preserved frescoes depicting dancing girls, hunt and court scenes and images of Guru Nanak. History has it that Arbeel Singh fired one hundred rounds on the Sheikhupura Fort to break in. During Ranjeet Singh's time, the Fort was renovated. Some of the murals are still there on the walls of the Fort. Around the Fort, some wood carving on doors, windows and balconies of old havelies can be seen being eaten by termite.

Maharani Jind Kaur (some time called Rani Jindaan), who was described by Lord Dalhousie as the only woman in the Punjab with manly understanding and in whom the British Resident foresaw a rallying point for the well-wishers of the Sikh dynasty, was kept under close surveillance in Sheikhupura Fort. Henry Lawrence laid down that she could not receive in audience more than five or six sardars in a month and that she remain in purdah like the ladies of the royal families of Nepal, Jodhpur and Jaipur. Maharani Jind Kaur was later exiled from the Punjab. She was taken to Firozpur and then to Banaras. Her annual allowance, which according to the treaty of Bharoval had been fixed at one and a half lakh of rupees, was reduced to twelve thousand. Her jewellery worth fifty thousand of rupees was forfeited; so was her cash amounting to a lakh and a half. The humiliating treatment of the Maharani caused deep resentment among the people of the Punjab. Even the Muslim ruler of Afghanistan, Amir Dost Muhammad, protested to the British, saying that such treatment is objectionable to all creeds."

Old Rai Pur and now famous Nanakana Sahib, a birth place of Guru Nanak and last resting place of Waris Shah in Jandiala Shekhan are also claims of Sheikhupura to international fame. Gazetteer of the district written by British reads, Nanakana Sahib was then in the heart of jungle thirty miles from the nearest railway station and on the anniversary of the Guru's birth was visited by a few hundred pious pilgrims. These days much more Sikhs from all over the world visit the birth place of Baba Nanak.

Despite being near Lahore, the town has not developed and all the civic facilities are over burdened. Over crowding, population increase, litter, and power outages have all played a part in turning small hamlet into a teeming sprawling slum. Moghal King who founded it would not be able to recognize the town if he comes back. There are no sufficient healthy recreations in town and people of Sheikhupura go to Lahore to have an eating experience at Food Street, for celebrating basant bash or for other recreations. The main road that passes through the town was once landscaped on both sides. Now the landscape and green strips along the road have vanished. The bifurcation railing in the middle of the road has broken down at places and people have made crossing points there. Completion of Jinnah Park was very festive for the residents of Sheikhupura but now it gives a repulsive look rather than that of a recreational place. On entering the gate one realizes that the park is not being maintained. Result: polythene bags and wrappers are scattered every where, the grass has not been mowed, there are no flowers, and benches are broken and dusty. A rehriwalla who sells 'Dahi Bhallay' in front of the park says, "I used to do much better business when the park was newly completed but now no body comes here."

The main attraction of the town is a Hiran Minar Complex. Aside from common visitors, foreign dignitaries, guests of the federal or the provincial governments, who visit Lahore, are sometimes taken to Hiran Minar in Sheikhupura for a short break. It is also on the schedules of some tourist operators. But the monument is not being maintained properly and local population is not benefiting from it. Given proper care, it could be turned into a real restful facility for locals as well as foreigners.

What Sheikhupura really needs is: an identity, completion and commissioning of bypass, some grass in Jinnah Park and along the road and development of Hiran Minar.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

World’s Top 20 Yachts

Some have missiles; some have swimming pools; some have 90-person staffs—all of these boats are enormous vessels of power, expense, and luxury.

The newest yacht in Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich's fleet is the largest private yacht now in existence. It boasts a missile-detection system, a luxury spa, two helipads, a swimming pool, and a miniature submarine. It reportedly cost more than $400 million. To keep out the prying eyes of the paparazzi, the yacht has an electronic "shield" that can detect light sensors in digital cameras and make them unable to take photos. View the rest of them here

Trekking Experience

The Northern Areas of Pakistan are called Bam-i-Dunya. As graphic in names they are foreboding in majesty, the Himalaya translate as "the abode of the snows", The Karakoram, the "black gravel mountains", and the Hindu Kush, "the Paariyaatra Parvat". Adventurous trekkers from all over the world congregate here to trek for pleasure and to test their personal endurance.The word trek has a history and different meanings. Walking in jungle or even along the road is also a trekking of its kind. For the purpose of this article, let us assume that trekking means walking up the mountains. Depending on the altitude, treks fall in various categories from easy to hard. Any trekker who knows it dreams to tread on unique mountain mass in Pakistan. In addition, some mountaineers also come here to train and acclimatize for more serious climbs, rock repelling and other forms of mountain exploration. Here is why.

Nowhere in the world is such a great concentration of high mountains, peaks, glaciers, lakes and passes except in Pakistan. Of the 14 over 8,000 meters high peaks on our earth planet, four occupy an amphitheatre at the head of Baltoro Glacier in the Karakoram Range: K-2 (8,611 meters, originally called Chogo-ri which in Balti language means 'king of the mountains,' of all the world's mountains second only to Mount Everest), Gasherbrum-I (8,068 meters), Broad Peak (8,047 meters) and Gasherbrum-II (8,035 meters). There is yet another, which is equally great, Nanga Parbat (8,126 meters), located at the western most corner of the Himalayas. In addition to that, there are 68 peaks over 7,000 meters and hundreds others over 6,000 meters. The Northern Pakistan is also home to some of the longest glaciers outside Polar region; Siachen (72 kilometers), Hispar (61 kilometers), Biafo (60 kilometers), Baltoro (60 kilometers) and Batura (64 kilometers). Two more ranges, by unique comparison minor in size, thrust their sinews and limbs into the Pamir Knot: the Pir Panjal with its peaks of just over 20,000 feet, and China's celestial mountain, the Kun Lun. Where these ranges merge, they form what many regard as the most impressive landscape that sometime recalls Shangri-La. This concentration makes northern Pakistan a trekkers' paradise.

Trekkers from all corners of the world are interested to have trekking experience in northern Pakistan. There are some common concerns though: Lack of information. Though there are numerous options, yet choosing an operator in Pakistan is easier said than done. What to talk of cross country trekking, deficient infrastructure and backup logistic support along major routes is another let down for trekkers. Take off from the road heads and trekkers are at their own; only with what they carry along. Unexpected delay in sorting out the preliminaries and unpredictable weather are some more problems.

Trekking is not like a morning walk. However reasonable hill walking looks to a person seated inform of a computer screen, they take on a different hue when the same person is rambling along the trek. It is thrilling but can be daunting sometime as well. So come prepared. Bring along a strong body and an open mind, be ready to accept with gratitude the diversity, and revere and protect the natural environment, which sustains life in mountains.

What are your plans this summer?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

City of Saints

Standing in Qila Kohna Qasim Bagh - accumulated debris of ages - one can think of Alexander the Great, Muhammad Bin Qasim, Saints, Mystics, Sultans, Gardezis, Gilanis, Qureshis, and Khawanis. But what you see is the ageing town hall and Ghanta Ghar, Hussain Agahi chowk - Hide Park of Multan - with the nerve jarring rattle of auto rickshaws, tangle of tonga and donkey carts vying for space with mechanical transport, vendors and shoppers, blaring music of audio video music centers and second hand cloths (landa) hung on the walls.

A city of monuments, Multan has been around for centuries. History of Multan dates back to ancient times. As per the legend, its origin is assigned to the time of Hazrat Noah (A S). Under the various Hellenic forms of ancient designations (Kasyapapura, Kashtpur, Hanspur, Bagpur and Mulasthan) Multan figures into works of Hecataeus, Herodotus and Ptolemy. It has been an empire, a kingdom, a province, a state, a capital and now a divisional headquarters. Thousands years after Macedonians, the conquerors of Multan present an amazing variety of races: Graeco-Bactrians are followed by the Kushans who in turn give place to White Hans. The Arab first arrived here in 662 A.D. and it came under Muslims rule in around 712. Multan also remained under Karmatians, Lodhis, and Ghaznivids. Between 1221 and 1528, ten invaders swept through the city till it finally fell in the hands of Mughals in 1528. Under the Mughal rulers, Multan enjoyed years of peace and prosperity. Nawab Muzzafar Khan remained in power from 1779 to 1818, when Ranjit Sing stormed the city. After a resolute defense, British captured Multan on 22 January 1849. From Alexander to Aurangzeb the city was built, damaged, repaired, destroyed, demolished, and reconstructed many times. After the British rule, partition once again changed the face of the city and it witnessed the new demographic and socio-economic order in 1947. Multan has been reinventing itself ever since.

Today, there are 'two' Multans. One is the city of inordinate glory and unique architectural style: imposing citadel, Agha Khan International Architecture Award winner Shrine of Saint Shah Rukn-i-Alam and shrines of Bahawal Haq Zikaryya, Shah Yousaf Gardezi (also other shrines of religious, architectural, and historic values) and landmarks like the newly constructed building of State Bank of Pakistan. It is a city of calligraphers, writers, poets, actors and actresses who make difference in the lives and outlooks of others. The other Multan is a soot-choked city (spread over 28 square kilometers area) developed haphazardly without any planning and foresight. This is a city where old trees are ruthlessly cut and all the open spaces have been converted in jungle of concrete in the last 55 years.

The walled city - one of the living examples of old Muslim urbanization in the world - is crumbling. Refuse is everywhere, the air thick with flies. Electric connections are loose and dangerous wires are hanging about. The narrow streets are dark at night. As you roam about in the old city called androon shehr, you will see aged palace-like havellies, shrines, remains of defensive walls, historic gateways, and mosques in the most unexpected places. That is Multan's charm. There are probably more heritage sites in Multan than in all of Pakistan, which is why this city should be recognized by UNESCO as a "World City of Heritage".

Three severing historic gates (Haram, Delhi, and Bohar gates), Hussain Agahi entrance, Khooni Burg (bloody tower), remains of the wall, and Alang (ring road) around the medieval Old City are crowded with stalls and cubbyhole shops and rehriwalas. As per an estimate, there are about 40,000 venders working in every nook and corner of the city selling every thing from Nali Nihari to new carpets.

Clay pot made in Multan Keeping part of its historical and cultural heritage in tact, Multan has accepted the modern trends. People still like to eat Doli Roti, Daal Mong served on tree leaves, specially cooked Sohanjna (curry) and Tabakhi ke Bor (curry). Word is out and it says that a food street (like Gawalmandi in Lahore) is being planned near Hussain Agahi where conventional Multani food will be served. Needlework on Dopatta (head scarf for women), golden work on Khussa (sandals), and items made of clay and camel skins and Sohan Halwa are very popular. At the same time the blue pottery, glazed tiles, cotton sheets, bed spreads, and towels of Multan are in great demand in Pakistan and abroad. Historian Al Masudi wrote, "Multan is a gold mine" and Dr. Karim Dad says, "Multan is a cotton mine with 35,000 power looms manufacturing exported cotton goods." Gard, Garma, Gada and Goristan are no longer the gifts of Multan.

The last thing on the minds of city planners is preservation of Multan's old and legendary heritage. Historic buildings disappear without regret and even the protected monuments are suffering from vandalism. Only 24 historic monuments have protected status in the city. Whereas at least 131 sites of intrinsic and irreplaceable value have been recommended to be protected by Gilmore Hanket Kirke Limited, London based architects, engineers and planning consultants firm who carried out a survey of the city, in cooperation with the World Bank, a decade ago. The list does not include historic houses, narrow streets and engraved 'jarokee' and bay windows - being eaten by termites - inside the walled city that are a vital and living part of present Multan.

Multan building The services of the Corporation and other city development agencies are barely visible in the city. Multan Development Authority, since inception, has hardly been able to do any thing evident in 362 square kilometers area of jurisdiction. A cricket stadium with seating capacity of 18,000 built in Qasim Bagh, 50 feet above city level, was declared unfit for international cricket in 1984 and construction of the stadium inside the cluster of historic monuments, shrines of Shah Rukn-e-Alam, Bahawal Haq Zakaria and Nawab Muzzafar Khan, memorial Obelisk, Barood Kana, Damdama, and Babe Qasim, has been a classic example of ignorance of city planners about our heritage conservation.

During the last days of Tughlaqs, when the whole of their empire was in pieces, Multanis selected Shah Yousaf Gardezi, a religious leader and a saint, to run the affairs of the city. If nothing else, the governance of the city should be improved for the saint's sake whose shrine - a unique specimen of architecture - is venerated by many in the Old City.

Multan is rich in both history and archaeology that make for good tourism. In this age when the word tourism is top most industry, Multan could still be a tourist's paradise. The mall road in the cantonment could be extended to the other (Fertilizer Factory) end of city through Airport, Sadar, Abdali Road, Haleem Square, Khanewal Road, touching Bahaudin Zikria University, Qila Kohna and walled city on the way. The encroachments and other bottlenecks could be removed from the road. "It should be called Nawab Muzaffar Khan Road after the name of a lieutenant of Liberty from Multan," says Professor Atta Ur Rehman Khan.

Not withstanding the aforesaid and other typical misdemeanors, I shall still adore preserving the gard (dust) of Multan with Sraiki speaking, passionate and full of love Multanis.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fort Munro

Fort Munro was originally known as Anari Mool, Balochi language words meaning hilltop with Pomegranate trees. In 1880, the British Commission of Layyah Division Mr. Munro developed this place and shifted here the summer headquarters of Layyah Division. The road from Dera Ghazi Khan to this place was constructed in 1880 and the name of place was changed to Fort Munro.

The vacation spot is now abounded by the rest houses of different government departments and private residences. Plaque of Munro house on the remains of old commissioner house and name plate of Robert Sandeman (the originator of Forward Policy) can also be seen near the relics of one of the old houses. It is impossible to describe the fort and other old buildings as all the traces of ancient remains have vanished.

The tribal area conceded to Punjab in 1950 under an agreement between the Pakistan government and eight of the prominent Tumanders. The names of the Tumanders who signed the agreement are written on the monumental slab standing near the old commissioner house.

There is an old Christian graveyard in Fort Munro. The signs of only few graves are left by the rages of time. One prominent grave with a cross on the top is of Maude Evelyn - the wife of Captain Frerrar who died in 1906 at the age of 26 years. Another that can be recognized is of an infant who died at the age of six days.

Trimun waterfall is one of the most beautiful sights in Fort Munro. Droplets of clean and cold water fall into a bowl cut out from stone. Local lore assign that a sufi named Ali Muhammad Laghari made this bowl. People and animal used to take water from these sources before the water supply scheme started with the installation of tube wells in village Kaha Sultan. The people of the villages around Fort Munro living in tough but graceful subsistence still do the same. Covered with huge trees and about 100 steps down is Demis lack. Boat that used to be here for tourist is lying broken in one corner of the lack. There is a need of a small shop where people can buy tea, drinks and other eatables. And, the benches should be installed around the lack.

Tourism Corporation has constructed a hotel on the location. Having no other choice, the tourists might stay here but they invariably settle for “Sajji” lunch and or dinner that are famous in the area.

The only resort in Southern Punjab deserves much more attention than what it is getting. It could be developed into a popular, busy and income generation resort in the area. Presently, sadly, what all one gets in Fort Munro is a bit of cool breeze. Extensive tree plantation is required in the entire area. Some attractions like Chair Lift (project for the installation of chair lifts from village Annari to Demis lack is already there in papers) will also do wonders with the good old Fort Munro.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Moving Art

Pakistani moving art find its way in Australia.

The World Heritage

International travelers can add a few more places to their must-see list.

UNESCO named 21 new World Heritage Sites at its annual meeting in Brazil this week, raising the total of earth's most important cultural and/or natural locations to 911 - at least according to the nominating committee.

Among the new sites designated by UNESCO (United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and located in or near the U.S. are the prehistoric caves of Mitla and Yagul in Oaxaca, Mexico, and the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (Royal Road of the Interior Land), a 400-mile old trade route running through New Mexico, Texas and Mexico that is part of the U.S. National Historic Trail system.

Hawaii's Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, known for its coral reefs and ancient shrines, made the cut as both a cultural and natural site.

Being designated a World Heritage Site is no empty honor. A UNESCO site can be a natural wonder or a man-made structure - from a building to a city - deemed to be of major significance to history and humanity. They're not only a prime destination for intrepid world travelers - locations considered to be endangered can receive preservation funding from the organization.

The four sites deemed endangered this year includes Florida's Everglades National Park, which was named because much of its water is being diverted to cities, according to AP. The Everglades was also on the endangered list from 1993 to 2007.

A long-deserted bunker built for observing atom-bomb tests near Bikini Atoll.

According to AP, UNESCO's newest cultural sites include the 17th-century canal district in Amsterdam; the 16th-century Sao Francisco Square in Sao Cristovao, Brazil; an astronomical observatory in Jantar Mantar, India; and even 11 penal colonies in Australia that housed thousands of convicts in the 18th and 19th centuries, when Oz was just a British colony.

Some of the natural sites added this year are Piton de la Fournaise (Peak of the Furnace), a volcano in the Indian Ocean. Bikini Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific and where the U.S. conducted atom-bomb tests in the 1940s, was named a World Heritage Site because of its historical significance as the place where the nuclear age was born.

Of the 911 sites on the list, 704 are cultural, 180 are natural and 27 are considered to be both. Via