Ziarat: History and Tourism

Ziarat is famously known for Quaid’s Residency. However, the place also offers scintillating natural beauty to its visitors, orchards of fresh fruits and pleasant weather in summers.

Ziarat is widely known as a place that our revered leader Quaid-e-Azam loved and where he spent the last few months of his life. The ex-official residence of the Commissioner of Ziarat, later known as the Quaid’s Residency, which was built in 1882, has a lot of history behind it. How much importance does this place hold can be judged from the fact that the red-coloured Rs. 100 Pak Rupee bill carries picture of the Quaid on the front and Quaid-e-Azam Residency in Ziarat on its back. It is here that the Quaid spent some of his most memorable days.
The Ziarat Residency was attacked by terrorists, numbering four to five, riding on motorcycles, who torched it around midnight on May 15, 2013. It evoked feelings of rage amongst people all across the nation and internationally. It was considered a national loss, because this heritage monument is closely identified with Quaid-e-Azam. Mr. Jinnah stayed in Ziarat from the end of June 1948 through August 13, 1948, where he was attended by his sister, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, and his doctor, Colonel Ilahi Bakhsh. 
The Residency was rebuilt by Pakistan Army and restored to its original form in the best possible manner. The Residency contains personal furniture used by the Quaid, Miss Jinnah and Colonel Illahi and a few personal effects. Headquarters Frontier Corps Balochistan, that was given the task of security and supervision of its renovation and restoration, has added to the gallery some rare pictures and artifacts of the Quaid.  This is a place that attracts tourists from all over the world.
What is Ziarat and how did this place get the name Ziarat? The original name of this hill station was called “Gwashki” or “Ghoskai” till the name was changed in 1886 to Ziarat after the tomb of a local saint, Mian Abdul Hakim alias Kharwari Baba. One would wonder who was this saint? Kharwari Baba rendered great services to the cause of Islam in the early 18th century. His shrine is situated about 9 kilometers from the town and a large number of people who visit Ziarat go to the mazar (shrine) to offer Fateha (prayer). 
Kharwari Baba became a disciple of Nana sahib. A number of miracles are attributed to him. A large number of people visit his shrine and offer sacrifices. During Eid, the traditional festival of the Muslims, the tribes gathers around the shrine and hold wrestling contests and marksmanship competitions.
The history of Ziarat during the British colonial administration is the same as that of Sibi District of which it was a part until 1986. The area came under British colonial influence and was made a part of British India in 1887 like the rest of the old Sibi District. Two years earlier, in 1885, the British Government had acquired land for the construction of a civil station (at present Ziarat town), on payment of Rs. 1,400,000 to the Saidzai sub section of the Sarangzai tribe. Before the creation of Sibi District (in 1903), Ziarat used to be the summer headquarters of Thal and Chutiali District (Duki Sajavi Sub Division). Later, when the Sibi District was created in 1903, it became Sibi District's summer headquarters. It formed a part of Shahrigh Tehsil of Sibi District till 1974 when it was given the status of a sub-Tehsil. 
Before independence, the camp offices of the Agent to the Governor General in Balochistan; the Revenue Commissioner, Balochistan; the Civil Surgeon, Balochistan; the Political Agent and the Colonisation officer, Nasirabad, used to shift to Ziarat during the summer. Following the creation of Sibi Division in 1974, the divisional offices shifted to Ziarat during the summer.
The founder of Pakistan spent his last days at Ziarat Residency which is now a national monument. The residency building is a majestic piece of architecture, but people visit it primarily for its association with the leader.
Ziarat is situated 133 kilometers (3 hours by car) from Quetta. Ziarat is a holiday resort amidst one of the largest and oldest Juniper forests in the world. It is said that some of the Juniper trees are as old as 5000 years. 
Some other important places in Ziarat are: 
Zizri Valley. The valley, situated on the southern edge of the district, possesses breathtaking beauty. The road leading to the valley is rough and tractable, mainly by four-wheel drive vehicles.

Before independence, the camp offices of the Agent to the Governor General in Balochistan; the Revenue Commissioner, Balochistan; the Civil Surgeon, Balochistan; the Political Agent and the Colonisation officer, Nasirabad, used to shift to Ziarat during the summer. 

Prospect Point. Six kilometers from the town, this place offers a spectacular view of Koshki Valley. There is a local government rest house on this spot and a wide-open space for picnic/camping.

Mana Valley. This lush green valley with its apple orchards and scintillating blue lake is a popular tourist site.
Dumyara Valley. Travelling to Dumyara Valley is not for the faint-hearted. The road to this valley, although metaled, is treacherous. Naturally-grown olive trees line the valley on its peripherals but the fruit is not of premium quality, and hence, is fed to the goats. In summer, trees loaded with cherries, apples, and apricots in the orchards present a picture from one's imagination of heaven. Finding a tortoise or a hedgehog during the visit can be considered a bonus.
Sandeman Tangi. Within easy reach of the town, this narrow gorge between lofty mountains culminates in a perennial spring. This is another major tourist attraction.
Chakor Tangi. Around 18 kilometers from the main city is the Chakor Tangi water stream. What is amazing is that over the years this stream has sliced the hill into two and given it the shape of a narrow alley. The area is surrounded by orchards and thick juniper forests that lace the landscape. 
Khilafat Peak. This is the second highest peak in the province, i.e., 3,488 meters high. For climbers, it presents a real challenge. The district is blessed with an overall natural beauty. There are many more places of interest than those mentioned above. In the summer season, thousands of tourists visit the area.
Forestry. Ziarat has the distinction of having the second largest area of juniper forests in the world. Its total forest area is 51,335 hectares. Juniper is a major specie of trees, the other major species are Wild Ash, Wild Almond and Olea. 
Extensive research is being carried out in the forest nurseries to replace the juniper forest with fast growing trees as the regeneration of the juniper is very slow. The magic of Ziarat lies in its honey-flowers which attain a large size here, its lush green grass and cool weather even in the hottest months of summer. 'Shinshoab' a lavender-like wild bush, looks lovely in twilight. Hundreds of hectares in and around Ziarat are utilized for apple orchards. Apple grown in the orchards, particularly the black and red Kulu variety, are simply delicious. A fair amount of black cherry is also cultivated in Ziarat. The cherry season lasts from the 1st to 15th of June. 
Wildlife. The wildlife reported in the district comprises Suleman Markhor, Chakoor, Seesee, wolf, and rabbit, etc. In order to protect the wildlife, several areas have been declared wildlife reserves. Enforcement of laws on wildlife is generally satisfactory.
Beekeeping. Beekeepers from the erstwhile North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) come to Ziarat District with their bee boxes when the fruit trees are in blossom. They stay there for two or three months and then move to other places. No information is available about local beekeepers. At many picnic spots, pure honey is sold to the tourists.
Tourist season is all year round, particularly from May to October. Ziarat remains quite cool during hot summer months and receives enough snowfall during winters. Light woolen clothing for summer and heavy for winters, is recommended. All in all, Ziarat offers a nice cool vacation spot for travelers of all ages.

The writer is a military historian and biographer. 
E-mail: [email protected]

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