07
August

Pakistan Navy: Serving the Nation

Written By: Usman Ansari

Concepts of ‘generational improvement’ and social mobility essentially outline how successive generations should aim for better life than their predecessors with improved living standards and status, are heavily tied to access to good quality education. Furthermore, should a good quality education be unobtainable due to lack of financial resources and/or lack of suitable educational facilities, the lower class of society finds itself permanently locked in a cycle of poverty. These factors may exist due to various reasons all over Pakistan, but are especially pronounced in Balochistan that has suffered sustained lack of opportunities if compared to other provinces. For a number of reasons literacy rate is extremely low in Balochistan.

 

pnservingnation.jpgPakistan Navy is fully aware of this situation in Balochistan being an established military force across the entire coastal area in Balochistan. PN has therefore, expended considerable effort to improve educational facilities and prospects for the Baloch youth in the coastal areas and has improved recruitment opportunities for the young Baloch students to have a successful career in Pakistan Navy. Pakistan Navy also runs education facilities that provide both free education and has reserved seats in these institutions for the local students. These institutions not only serve the immediate and long term aspirations of the local communities to achieve an element of generational/social mobility but bring them into the mainstream of Pakistani society as well as increasing the Pakistan Navy’s talent pool from which to potentially draw recruits.


One of Pakistan Navy’s flagship educational projects is Cadet College Ormara (CCO). CCO is a major educational facility in Balochistan in support of federal government initiatives to improve education in the province, and is providing education from Class VIII to HSSC level. CCO facilities include full range of academic, accommodation, administrative, and recreational (including a swimming pool), and prayer facilities amongst others to support the full range of educational and extracurricular needs of students. CCO is undoubtedly a standout education facility as four batches of 60 cadets made up the initial intake, making the present number of students approximately 260. Perhaps more important than the facilities themselves; however, are the efforts to widen access to CCO to all levels of local society in which fifty percent of seats are reserved for the Baloch students who are provided free education as well. Of the current student intake, 109 cadets at CCO are the local Baloch students.


The inclusion of cadets in CCO’s intake is notable as the scheme has been revived exclusively for Baloch candidates in which all expenditures, i.e., education, boarding/lodging, messing, and others are borne by government of Pakistan. Under the scheme 25 Baloch candidates will be selected each year to undergo studies from Class VIII to HSSC. Should they complete this course of study and get recommended by the ISSB, they will then be cleared to join Pakistan Naval Academy as PN cadets. This gives them the opportunity to not only have good education, but the opportunity for a career as well, something perhaps equally important in a region where employment opportunities to suit a higher level of education are limited. Additionally, it is ensured that the scheme is available to students from humble backgrounds who otherwise are unable to avail such opportunities.


These schemes will be indispensible in setting up local students with a chance to have successful careers. However, there is no escaping the fact that a sound primary education is the key giving children the initial chance to make the best of their abilities. Unfortunately due to financial constraints, Montessori level education is beyond the reach of many parents who also struggle to provide their children with a primary level education. To overcome this constraint, the Bahria Foundation has established subsidised educational facilities to provide students with the firm foundation from where they may progress, starting from Montessori level. These include Bahria Model College Ormara (BMCO), Bahria Model School Gwadar (BMSG), Bahria Model School Jiwani (BMSJ), and Bahria Model School Turbat (BMST). It is worth looking at these schools individually as they have been established recently.


BMCO was established in 2004 to offer classes from Montessori as a primary school, but has since become a college offering classes to HSSC and is affiliated with the Quetta Board. Of the current 650 students, 500 are local Baloch students, which indicates that BMCO is one of the main educational facilities in Ormara. Pakistan Navy is further supporting the BMCO by providing pick and drop facilities for students and staff besides providing staff and financing the running of BMCO. Bahria Model School Gwadar (BMSG) runs classes from Montessori to Class IX, and was established in 2010 to provide subsidised education to local Baloch children. 417 students currently registered at the school are entirely locals, with the eventual aim to increase this to 1,000 when the new school building currently under construction is completed. This will also allow provision of education up to intermediate level. New building will feature a library, science laboratory, plus indoor and outdoor sports facilities. Not only will BMSG evolve into a standout educational facility for the port and surrounding region, but is also set to become a significant employer in Gwadar. Running costs of the school are presently being met by grant from Pakistan Navy though students also pay a nominal fee.


Towards the western coast at Jiwani, Bahria Model School Jiwani (BMSJ) was established in 2012 where students from Montessori to Class IV are allowed addmissions. All the 163 students presently enrolled at the school are locals, and its running cost plus salaries are being met by Pakistan Navy. The newest of Pakistan Navy run educational facilities is Bahria Model School Turbat (BMST) that was established in 2015 to provide education from Montessori to Class III for the 159 students presently enrolled. The school building is being constructed in phases with ten classrooms and associated facilities presently available, but will eventually be expanded to offer college level education.


Considering the small population of the towns in which the above schools have been established, (with only Gwadar and Turbat approaching anywhere near 100,000 residents, and the others far fewer), they offer an important avenue for the long term advancement of the local population over and above the existing educational facilities already present. Certainly in the smaller towns, such as Jiwani and Ormara, the schools established by Pakistan Navy are the only quality educational facilities making them all the more important. Considering Ormara is Pakistan Navy’s operational base it stands to reason that much of its development efforts are focused there. Therefore, Pakistan Navy has also endeavoured to support existing schools at Ormara City. These include the Government Boys High School Ormara, Government Girls High School Ormara, and Government Middle School for Boys Ormara – Pakistan Navy is providing assistance such as furniture, stationery, teachers and maintenance of the school buildings. Additionally, a serving naval officer (a Lieutenant or Lieutenant Commander), is also appointed as the principal of Government High School Ormara. Children from the coastal strip in Balochistan are also the beneficiaries of the Chief of Naval Staff 'Sponsor a Child Scheme' whereby students from humble backgrounds can be sponsored to allow them to benefit from free education at Bahria Model Schools, and some may also be eligible for provision of books, stationery, uniform, and shoes. 129 students are currently benefiting from this generous scheme. Not all efforts are restricted to the coastal strip however, a scheme is in place to reserve two seats for Baloch students and one from Dera Bugti at the prestigious Cadet College Petaro (CCP) in Sindh.


Efforts to increase the educational opportunities for Baloch students are not just confined to Balochistan. Having been the main focus of naval activity since independence, Karachi has by far used the most naval facilities, and this also includes Bahria Model Schools. To take advantage of these educational facilities, and avail them for the use of Baloch students, a scheme has been put in place to provide free (fully funded) education. Pakistan Navy meets all boarding/lodging, and educational costs to 10 Baloch students per year in Karachi from Class VIII to HSSC. Presently there are 30 students that are benefiting from the scheme, and upon completion of their studies they will have the opportunity to join Pakistan Navy. In recognition of the need to nurture the talents of local Baloch students to their fullest and allow them to reach their full potential, access to higher education has also been taken care of through reservation of places in Bahria University. One place each has been reserved in the MBA and BBA programmes at the university’s Karachi campus. Those selected for these places are spared tuition and associated fee. Furthermore, one place each is reserved in the MBBS and BDS Departments at Bahria University Medical & Dental College. As a service to the nation at large, its efforts to support education in Balochistan are an excellent example of Pakistan Navy serving the nation at land as well as sea.

 

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15
August

یہ موسم کب بدلے گا ؟

Published in Hilal Urdu August 2016

تحریر: ڈاکٹر ہما میر

اگرکسی کو کینیڈا آنا ہو تو اُسے چاہئے جولائی اگست میں آئے۔ موسم کے اعتبار سے یہ بہترین وقت ہوتا ہے۔ ونکوور میں خاص طور پر یہ سیزن بہترین ہوتا ہے۔ سیاحوں کے لئے خصوصی پروگرام ترتیب دیئے جاتے ہیں‘ مختلف فیسٹول بھی ہوتے ہیں‘ سیر و تفریح کے لئے یہ مہینے موزوں ہیں۔ دن لمبے ہوتے ہیں‘ گھومنے پھر نے کے لئے زیادہ وقت ملتا ہے‘ سکولوں میں تعطیلات بھی ہوتی ہیں لہٰذا ہلاّ گلاّ رہتا ہے۔


یکم جولائی کو کینیڈا ڈے کے موقع پر عام تعطیل ہوتی ہے۔ کینیڈا ڈے کو نہایت جوش و خروش سے منایا جاتا ہے۔ ڈاؤن ٹاؤن میں میلا لگتا ہے اور اس کی سب سے خاص بات وہ پریڈ ہے جس میں کینیڈا میں بسنے والے مختلف ممالک سے تعلق رکھنے والے لوگ اپنی ثقافت کا پرچار کرتے ہیں۔ اس مرتبہ مجھے یہ پریڈ دیکھنے کا موقع ملا‘ وقت شام کا تھا مگر میں میلا ٹھیلا دیکھنے صبح دس بجے ہی ڈاون ٹاؤن پہنچ گئی۔ خوب رونق تھی‘ میوزک‘ کنسرٹ‘ کھانوں کے اسٹال‘ دلکش پہناوے‘ مجھے اچھا لگا۔ ایک اسٹال پہ فری میک اپ اور ہیئراسٹائل بنایا جارہا تھا‘ میں نے بھی شوق پورا کیا اور میک اپ کروایا‘ پھر دیکھا فری پیزا کے لئے قطار لگی ہے‘ میں نے بھی پیزا کھایا‘ پھر ایک مشہور جم کا اسٹال دیکھا جو ہفتے بھر کی فری ممبر شپ دے رہے تھے۔ یہ مفت کا آئٹم بھی ہاتھ سے جانے نہ دیا۔ ایک اسٹال تھا جہاں خواتین ٹوٹی پڑ رہی تھیں۔ بس عورتوں کے رش نے حوصلہ توڑ دیا ورنہ میں بھی گل بوٹے ضرور بنواتی۔ دراصل یہ جو لفظ ’فری‘ ہوتا ہے اس میں بڑی کشش ہوتی ہے۔ میں‘ جتنے فری اسٹال تھے‘ جوس کے‘ چائے کے‘ دودھ کے‘ کھانے کے‘ تقریباً سبھی سے مستفید ہوئی۔ بس ایک مہندی رہ گئی۔ خیر کوئی بات نہیں۔ شام سات بجے پریڈ تھی جس میں پاکستان قونصل کی جانب سے وطنِ عزیز کی نمائندگی ہونی تھی۔ میں نے سوچا کیا کروں کیا سڑک کے اطراف کھڑے لوگوں میں شامل ہو کر تمام ممالک کی پریڈ دیکھوں یا پھر پاکستان کا جھنڈا اٹھائے اپنے ملک کی نمائندگی کروں؟ ظاہر ہے پاکستانی گروپ کا حصہ بننا باعثِ فخرہے‘ جھٹ اپنا سبز ہلالی پرچم تھاما اور پریڈ میں شامل ہوگئی۔ پاکستانی گروپ میں بچے سب سے آگے تھے‘ پھر ایک کھلی گاڑی میں ایک صاحب کو شیروانی اور جناح کیپ پہناکر کھڑا کیا گیا تھا۔ اسی گاڑی میں ایک نوجوان رباب بجا رہا تھا۔ پریڈ میں حصہ لینا ایک شاندار تجربہ تھا‘ ہم سب پاکستان زندہ باد کے نعرے لگاتے رہے۔ پریڈ کے اختتام پر قونصل خانے میں تواضع کا اہتمام تھا۔

 

yehmosamkb.jpgکچھ اور پروگراموں کا حال تحریر کرتی ہوں۔ ایک تو کینیڈا اُردو ایسوسی ایشن کی جانب سے محفلِ طنزو مزاح تھی دوسری مہدی حسن خان صاحب کی یاد میں محفلِ موسیقی۔
محفلِ طنزو مزاح ایک دلچسپ تقریب تھی جس میں شرکاء مزاحیہ شاعری‘ لطائف‘ چٹکلے اور طنزو مزاح سے بھرپور اقتباسات پڑھ کے سناتے رہے۔ مشتاق احمدیوسفی‘ ضیامحی الدین‘ معین اختر‘ کمال احمد رضوی اور رفیع خاوریعنی ننھا کو اس موقع پر یاد کیا گیا۔ انور مسعود‘ عبدالحکیم ناصفؔ اور دیگر شعرا کا مزاحیہ کلام بھی سنایا گیا۔
اب کچھ احوال محفلِ موسیقی کا جو شہنشاہِ غزل مہدی حسن خان صاحب کو خراجِ عقیدت پیش کرنے کے لئے منعقد کی گئی۔ اس میں پاکستان کے علاوہ دنیا کے دیگر ممالک سے تعلق رکھنے والے گلوکاروں نے اپنی آواز کا جادو جگایا اور اپنے اپنے انداز سے مہدی حسن کی گائی ہوئی مقبول غزلیں پیش کیں۔


میں سوچتی ہوں ہم کتنے خوش نصیب ہیں کہ مہدی حسن پاکستانی تھے‘ ایک عالم ان کے فن کا معترف ہے‘ سبھی ان کی آواز کے قدر دان ہیں‘ اب چاہے کوئی کسی ملک کا رہنے والا ہو یا کسی مذہب کا ماننے والا ہو وہ مہدی حسن کا پرستار ہے۔ دل خوشی کے احساس سے بھر جاتا ہے جب لوگ اُستاد نصرت فتح علی‘ مہدی حسن‘ غلام علی‘ ملکۂ ترنم نور جہاں‘ عالم لوہار‘ کی تعریف و توصیف کرتے ہیں۔ ابرار الحق‘ راحت فتح علی اور استاد امانت علی کے خانوادے کو بھی بہت پسند کیا جاتا ہے۔ عارف لوہار‘ ریشماں‘ اور تصور خانم کے علاوہ مسرت نذیر کو بھی بے حد مقبولیت حاصل ہے۔
قارئیں کرام ! کینیڈا میں ہونے والی ثقافتی اور علمی سرگرمیوں کے بارے میں تومیں آپ کو باخبر رکھتی رہوں گی‘ مگر اس مضمون میں مَیں اپنے سفر کیلونا کے بارے میں بھی بتانا چاہوں گی۔گزشتہ دنوں میرا دو روز کے لئے کیلونا جانے کا اتفاق ہوا۔


کیلونا شہر کینیڈا کے صوبے برٹش کو لمبیا کے جنوب میں واقع ہے۔ یہ اوکناگن ویلی میں ہے۔ اس شہر کی خاص بات یہ ہے کہ یہ ہمارے بلوچستان کے صوبائی دارالحکومت کوئٹہ سے مماثلت رکھتا ہے۔ کوہِ زرغون‘ کوہِ تکاتو‘ کوہِ چلتن اور کوہِ مردار کے دامن میں واقع وادئ کوئٹہ اپنے بے مثال موسم‘ تازہ پھلوں‘ دلکش پہاڑوں‘ چشموں‘ ہنہ جھیل کے باعث مشہور ہے۔ کیلونا بھی پہاڑوں کے دامن میں واقع ہے‘ یہاں بھی ایک وسیع و عریض جھیل ہے‘ یہاں نہایت عمدہ‘ تازہ اور رسیلے پھل ملتے ہیں۔ خاص طور پر چیری اور سیب بہت ذائقہ دار ہیں۔ کیا خوب اتفاق ہے کہ کوئٹہ کے بھی سیب اور چیری لاجواب ہوتے ہیں۔ مجھے کوئٹہ سے خاص انسیت ہے۔ اپنے شہر کراچی کے بعد اگر کہیں میرا دل لگتا ہے تو وہ کوئٹہ ہے۔ کوئٹہ کے سنگلاخ پہاڑ‘ گلاب کی جھاڑیاں‘ سرد اور خشک موسم میرے لئے سحرانگیز ہے۔ یہاں کی لوک موسیقی‘ پکوان‘ لباس بھی شاندار ہے۔ پتا نہیں کیوں‘ لیکن شاید کوئٹہ سے لگاؤ کے باعث کیلونا بھی مجھے اچھا لگا۔ یہاں آبادی دیگر شہروں کے مقابلے میں گنجان نہیں‘ سبھی ایک دوسرے کو جانتے ہیں‘ زیادہ تر لوگ کھیتی باڑی کرتے ہیں۔ ونکوور سے کیلونا بائی روڈ چار گھنٹے کی مسافت ہے۔ کینیڈا میں اگر سفر کرنا ہو تو بندہ بائی روڈ ہی سفر کرے۔ خوبصورت نظارے‘ کشادہ سڑکیں‘ جگہ جگہ پٹرول پمپ اور اس سے ملحقہ اسٹور‘ کہیں بھی کوئی پریشانی نہیں ہوتی‘ راستے آسان ہیں اگر خدانخواستہ کسی کی گاڑی کے بریک فیل ہو جائیں تو سائیڈ پہ پہاڑوں میں اضافی راستہ بھی بنایا ہوا ہے۔ گاڑی کی رفتار مقررہ حد سے زیادہ ہو جائے تو فوراً ٹکٹ مل جاتا ہے‘ زیادہ اوور اسپیڈنگ کی جائے تو گاڑی بند کر دی جاتی ہے۔ اگر کسی کی گاڑی بند کردی گئی تو سمجھیں لمبا خرچہ ہے۔ بند کرنے سے مراد یہ ہے کہ گاڑی کو پولیس اپنے قبضے میں لے لیتی ہے‘ اسے چھڑانے کے لئے ہرجانہ دیناپڑتا ہے اور جتنے دن گاڑی بند رہے گی اس کا کرایہ بھی روزانہ کے حساب سے بھرنا کرنا پڑے گا۔ قانون کی عملداری دیکھنا ہو تو کینیڈا میں دیکھیں۔ یہاں خاص و عام کی تفریق نہیں‘ قانون سب کے لئے یکساں ہے۔ انصاف کسی بھی معاشرے میں امن و امان قائم رکھنے کے لئے ضروری ہوتا ہے۔ یہاں پولیس اگر کسی کو گرفتار کرلے تو کوئی وزیر یا سیاسی شخصیت اُسے فون کرکے یا اثر و رسوخ استعمال کرکے نہیں چھڑوا سکتی۔ پولیس بھی یہاں نہایت فرض شناس اور مہذب ہے۔ کبھی کبھار ہی کوئی پولیس والا کہیں نظر آتا ہے‘ لوگ پولیس کی عزت کرتے ہیں‘ پولیس بھی عوام سے بدسلوکی نہیں کرتی‘ یہاں پولیس میں سیاسی بھرتیوں کا کوئی تصور موجود نہیں۔ چونکہ نہ سفارش ہے نہ رشوت لہٰذا ہر کام شفاف طریقے سے ہوتا ہے۔


ابھی اخبار میں خبر آئی کہ پولیس نے ایک ایسے شخص کو گرفتار کیا جو جعلی پستول لئے بس میں گھوم رہا تھا۔ پولیس کا کہنا ہے کہ جعلی سہی مگر کسی کو کیا معلوم کہ پستول اصلی ہے یا نقلی‘ اس کے خطرناک نتائج ہو سکتے تھے لہٰذا نقلی پستول بھی کوئی ساتھ لے کے نہیں گھوم سکتا۔ اس خبر کو پڑھنے کے بعد میرا دل چاہا کہ کراچی کا کوئی اخبار اٹھاؤں اور یہاں کے لوگوں کو پڑھواؤں‘ پھر انہیں پتا چلے گا کہ اسلحہ لے کر گھومنا کیا ہوتا ہے۔ ٹارگٹ کلنگ‘ موبائل چھیننے پر گولی مارنا‘ قتل و غارت گری‘کیا ہوتی ہے؟ دولتمندوں اور سیاسی شعبدہ بازوں کا ذاتی محافظوں کو کھلی گاڑی میں لے کے پھرنا کیا ہوتا ہے؟ بڑی بڑی بندوقوں اور خوفناک مونچھوں والے یہ گارڈ کسی کو بھی مار سکتے ہیں‘ کینیڈا والوں کو کیا پتا کہ وی آئی پی کس چڑیا کا نام ہے۔ یہ بیماری تو ہمارے یہاں عام ہے۔ یہ وہ لاعلاج مرض ہے جو روز بروز بڑھتا جارہا ہے۔ میں حیران ہوں وہ لوگ جو وطنِ عزیز میں وی آئی پی کلچر کے باضابطہ نمائندے ہیں‘ جو عوام کے لئے محض باعثِ آزار ہیں‘ وہی ملک سے باہر جا کے ’بندے کے پتر‘ بن جاتے ہیں‘ وہاں کوئی پروٹوکول کا تماشا نہیں لگتا‘ کوئی اسلحہ بردار غنڈے ان کے ساتھ نہیں ہوتے‘ راہ چلتے عام لوگ بھی ان سے کلام کرلیتے ہیں۔ (یہاں میں نے ’کلام‘ تہذیب کے دائرے میں رہتے ہوئے لکھا ہے) پھر جانے کیوں پاکستان میں یہ سب فرعون کے وارث بن جاتے ہیں۔۔۔؟ کاش کبھی ایسا بھی ہو کہ ہم بھی دنیا کی دیگر قوموں کی طرح مہذب‘ تعلیم یافتہ‘ اپنے حقوق وفرائض سے باخبر ہو جائیں۔ کاش ہمارے معاشرے سے کرپش کا ناسور ختم ہو جائے۔ کاش ملک میں حقیقی جمہوریت قائم ہو جائے‘ اعلیٰ عہدوں پر صرف اہل لوگ ہی ہوں۔ سیاسی بھرتیاں‘ سیاسی انتقامی کارروائیاں‘ سیاسی بندربانٹ‘ جرائم اور مجرموں کی سرپرستی ختم ہو جائے۔
اے کاش کوئی عوام کا درد سمجھے‘ کاش دولت کی ہوس ختم ہوجائے‘ کاش نظام ٹھیک ہو جائے اور اﷲ نے چاہا تو وہ دن ضرور آئے گا جب سب درست ہو جائے گا۔ جب کوئی غربت و فاقہ کشی سے تنگ آکر خود کشی نہیں کرے گا‘ جب غریب کا بچہ بھی اچھے سکول میں تعلیم حاصل کرے گا‘ جب سب پاکستان میں ہی اپنا علاج کروانے سرکاری ہسپتال جائیں گے‘ جب تعلیم ‘ صحت‘ پانی‘ بجلی‘ گیس‘ سکیورٹی جیسے بنیادی حقوق عوام کو ملیں گے‘ جب قانون پر عمل درآمد ہوگا‘ جب کوئی قوم کا پیسہ نہیں لوٹ سکے گا‘ جب کوئی کسی پر ظلم نہیں کرسکے گا۔ انشاء اﷲ وہ دن ضرور آئے گا۔

مصنفہ ‘ مشہور ادا کارہ‘ کمپیئر اوردو کتابوں کی مصنفہ ہیں۔

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18
August

For Educated Balochistan (A Letter from Baloch Girl)

Written By: Salma Mohammad Hassni

am using my pen at a time when my native province Balochistan is facing many problems in its educational system owing to the negligence of our federal and provincial governments as well as the feudals, sardars and nawabs who want the masses to remain ignorant, slaves, and not progress. More so, my province is blessed with natural resources and the longest coastal area, and has attained the attention of many big powers. It is the potential wealth of my province that makes it important in the entire region and, to me, is major cause of the disturbance in Balochistan.

The attitude of local authorities and politicians have pushed the common man into more miseries. The majority of the population is poor and mostly work the little lands they have and the cattle herds. With the advent of 21st century, and revolution of media in Pakistan, the level of awareness in the province is on rise where elders, though poor, are inclined towards educating their children. Although, some of them are facing difficulties in fulfilling their dreams of educated Balochistan also due to cultural issues, lack of resources and attitude of sardars; yet they are inclined to send their children to schools.

However, I feel that the decades old system of education has became dysfunctional. A number of brilliant teachers, lecturers, professors and PhD doctors from Balochistan have been targeted by militants, who play in the hands of foreign elements. Of late, the people of Panjgur (a far town in Balochistan), are facing threats by the militants to shut down government schools and have asked locals not to send their children to schools. Resultantly, students are scared go to schools. The parents are uncertain what would happen to their loved ones if they send them to schools. Many young students and teachers have, so far, lost their lives and many have fled the area. Though the government-run-educational-institutes are less in numbers yet the locals of Panjgur have started to enroll their children in private schools.

Education of the females is another issue of the province. On the one hand, religious extremists are discouraging locals to send girls to schools, and on the other hand, tribal elders often forbid women education due to cultural issues. The religious extremist and hard liner groups use different tactics to fulfil their agenda. Sometimes they attack female vaccination teams, the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and a few of them distribute pamphlets or threaten people against sending their girls to schools. For example, recently in Quetta, a private school female teachers were attacked with acid. However, a strong response from political and social circles against these advances gave a clear message that these kind of activities are not backed by the masses of Balochistan, who are more than willing to educate the next generation, especially females.

I request that the government should focus on Balochistan, particularly in the western areas for provision of schools, colleges and universities so that these people get on their feet and become capable of earning their daily living. More education will lead to elimination of extremism and feudalism in the province.

In the end I would appreciate Pakistan Army that has opened hundreds of schools and colleges in the far flung areas of the province that shall go long way in development of the province.

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The writer belongs to Khuzdar and is President Devote Balochistan.

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16
August

Swat and Tourism

Written By: Zubair Torwali

Although the idyllic Swat valley is now known more for the worst ever Taliban atrocities during 2007-09 but it still remains the cherished destination of many domestic tourists. Because of Swat's cultural heritage, diversity and natural beauty, it also used to host many foreigners in the past, who are again showing interest in visiting this place due to improvement in security situation.

Swat is the seat of the Buddhist relics and a significant part of the famous Gandhara civilization. Another historical fact many people might not be aware of, is Swat being the home to the ancient Darada or Dardic civilization.

Apart from the historical attractions, the Swat Valley is also visited extensively by summer tourists who come here to get respites from the sweltering summer in cities due to the shortage of electricity in the down country.

While the keen researchers and the Buddhist pilgrims take their ways to Saidu Sharif, Barikot, Odegram, Ghalegey, Punjigram or But Kada (Gul Kada), the common tourists would take their way to Kalam, Bahrain, Madyan, Malam Jaba, Miandam, Utror or Mahu Dand (Mahi Dhaan). The former are places with excavations of Gandhara, and the lately discovered Darada, civilizations whereas the latter are the places blessed with natural beauty and freshening climate. Alongside the Gandhara and Darada, Swat has some great but old monuments built by the Muslims during the 10th and 11th centuries.

There was a time when the foreigners, hippies and the pilgrims used to walk in the mountains during nights as well. There was also a time when the bazaars of Bahrain, Saidu Sharif and Madayan used to have a large number of foreigners. Swat used to be the most peaceful place in Pakistan. A foreigner could sleep in the open for the night without any fear.

 But then came a time when even the locals feared going out of their homes during daytime as well. The decade old rising religiosity, combined with the rising terrorism and extremism, resulted in a situation that made lives difficult for the locals of Swat.

The extremist elements virtually turned the 'paradise on earth' into a living hell. To them every sign of civilization was a stigma, and every un-conforming human being was infidel who was consequently punished to death. The valley was in full control of the Taliban when, in May 2009, Pakistan Army launched 'Operation Rah-e-Rast,' to save the people of Swat from the brutes. And truly proving the saying, 'when there is a will there is way' correct, the Army cleared Swat of the militants by the end of 2009. Peace began to resume, and things are much better today.

While Swat was recovering from the deadly scars by the militants, the people faced the wrath of nature due to irregular monsoon rains and huge floods ravaged the entire valley in July 2010. The floods obliterated many parts of the upper beautiful valley beyond Fatepur and people faced worst kind of troubles. Roads were almost washed away to an extent that it took more than 3 months for the Army to make a jeep-able track from Fatepur to Kalam.

After clearing the area of the militants and restoring the writ of the government, the Army and the government tried hard to reconstruct the infrastructure of Swat and revive its tourism which was mainly destroyed by the militants.  One of such measures was to hold sports and entertainment festivals in the entire valley, with its culmination in Kalam. Since 2010, Pakistan Army has been arranging one such big festival in Kalam with the name of Swat Summer Festival. This year it was scheduled from August 7 to 10 in Kalam and the valley of Mahu Dand. Such like festivals are excellent measures to boost tourism in Swat.

The entire beautiful valley beyond the town of Madayan including the valley of Chail to the east of Madayan is known as Swat-Kohistan or Kohistan of Swat due to its different ethnic identity.

Bahrain town is 64 km from Saidu Sharif and is located in the centre of Swat-Kohistan. The Wali of Swat named Bahrain after two rivers in the area  Daral and Swat.  It was also known by the names of Braniyal, Bhoonal and Darshah in the past. Bahrain is a considerably well-off town with an amicable local Torwali population. The town has pleasant weather during summers with chill breeze going past you while it is also accessible during winter. The old town of Bahrain has the intact structures of old houses with beautiful wood carving works  a specialty of the Darada culture.

The town of Mankiyal is locally known as Manekhaal. It has the famous 'Koshein' (Mankiyal Peak) which is also visible from many parts of lower Swat such as Barikot. Mankiyal valley has beautiful pastures of Jaba and Tape Baan and both places are best for skiing.

Kalam is known as the crown jewel of Swat and is considered to be the most beautiful town and valley in the entire Swat district. It was merged with Swat State in 1947; and with Pakistan in 1969 alongwith with Swat. The central mosque, known as Kalam Mosque, is a blend of modern and old architecture. Huge wooden beams with carved pillars and doors fascinate the visitors. The deodar forest in Kalam on a plain land is simply matchless.

Mahu Dand or Fish Lake is locally known as Mahi Dhaan. It is about 35 kilometres from Kalam in the Mitiltan valley. An azure water lake, a sanctuary of the trout fish; with lush green pasture around, and deodar trees in between the island the Mahu Dand, is best for camping in summer. Travelling to this place is extremely fascinating as one may find sharp steep waterfalls, meadows and valleys en route. The famous Plasaar (Falak Sair) mount is seen on the way which is also known as mini K2 because of its resemblance with K2.

On the other side, to the west of Kalam, is the valley of Utror. Utror has the beautiful lake known as Kandole (bowl). Places of Shahi Bagh and Ladu Valley are worth visiting in the near vicinity.

I will suggest Pak Army to further promote the local culture of Bahrain, Kalam and rest of Swat in these festivals. In this regard they can arrange musical shows, local sports’ games and making exhibition stalls.

All valleys of Swat-Kohistan area are fairylands. These are places where one finds everything: snow packed high mountains, lush green pastures, lakes, green lands, culture, camping grounds, foggy waterfalls and deodar forests. I suggest people to visit these areas more often because of improved security situation which will also attract foreign tourists.

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The writer is a journalist based in Swat.

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