Tuesday December 11, 2018

100-year-old British-era Bridge going strong in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province

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Islamabad, May 28, 2017: A suspension bridge built by the British rulers on Laspur river connecting two villages in Chitral district of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province will complete 100 years in June this year as recorded on the plaque in its pillar.

The British forces had crossed the Shandur Top in Chitral from Gilgit side to annex it in 1895 and began building communication infrastructure in the area for the first time in the form of mule tracks and suspension bridges that facilitated them to mobilise the mountain infantry, Dawn online reported.

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Mohammad Ashraf Khan, an elder from Laspur valley in his early 90s, said the British Army transported cannons and other gadgets of light infantry through this route from Gilgit to Chitral to establish their sway here and extend it in the south where warlord Umara Khan of Jandool challenged them.

Mohammad Ashraf said the people of Chitral were introduced for the first time to road infrastructures and telecommunication facilities in the form of telephone and telegraph which the British brought here in 1904 and established telegraph and telephone office in Mastuj near Laspur.

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He said that besides the one at Shahdas village, Harchin village had another suspension bridge which was completed in 1919. In the recent times, both the British era bridges are bypassed as the Shandur road was realigned in 1980s.

The two bridges connected the Lusht village of over 400 households with the rest of the valley and gave an ample testimony to the high standard of construction the British engineers maintained.

Quoting his elders in the valley, Ashraf Khan said the British transported steel and cement from Nowshera and Deodar wood from Chitral forests.

According to the Dawn, the construction work was carried out by the Bengal Sappers and Miners and locals were engaged for labour work.

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Altaf Hussain Shah, an engineer working with an NGO, said both the bridges were in a comfortable state without undergoing any major repair, and predicted they would remain intact for many more decades to come.

Extolling the British engineers, Shah said they had accomplished an excellent job in all the stages of the construction from the site selection to use of quality material and fixing of bridge parts, including suspension cables, which still withstood the load.

Shah said that initially the two bridges were built for mules and pedestrians, but they readily came to be used for motor vehicles in 1976 when the locals constructed the road from Mastuj town to Laspur as the strength and width of the two bridges supported the passage of vehicles.

Chitral was connected with Ghizar district of Gilgit Baltistan in early 1980s via Shandur Pass and all this was possible due to the two bridges built by the British who invaded Chitral using the route.

Mir Taoos Khan, a political worker of Laspur Valley, said people would have been waiting for more than five decades to see a motor vehicle in their valley if the British ruler had not constructed the bridges.

He said the British had constructed the mule track in such a way that it easily accommodated the vehicular traffic.

Both the bridges are now maintained by the communication and works department whose officers intend to celebrate the first 100 years of Shahdas bridge in June.

The British had also opened a Post Office in Mastuj village in 1896 just one year after they had arrived here and it was the first ever facility of its kind in the district.

According to Shah, the government should make efforts for inclusion of the bridges in the world heritage sites and take steps for their conservation. (IANS)

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The Hindu Temple of Gulyana and Sikh Samadhi in Pakistan

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Gulyana, Pakistan

By: Wali Imran (Hindu Council of Australia)

900 years old Gulyana town of about a 50,000 people, just a few kilometers South of Gujar Khan, was raised to the ground once several centuries ago, by raiders from the West. The second time it was destroyed during the 1947 partition riots.

Gulyana, Pakistan

Before 1947, the Gulyana town center was mostly Hindu and Sikh. The Hindus and Sikh owned all the businesses in the town center and Muslims were their tenants, peasants and laborers. Muslims sold their lands to pay off their debts and also handed over their crop of wheat. The Dewan, Dutt, Mohyal Brahmin, and Singh families were always part of royal elite.

Bollywood Star Sanjay Dutt is from the same branch of warrior Brahmin Dutt and belongs to the same place.

Gulyana, Pakistan

Land owners were guaranteed protection from military’s presence in Gujar Khan from the North and a rivulet from the south. This land produced sheer gold and wealthy Sikhs and Hindus lived like kings in mansions make of stone, several storey high.

Gulyana, Pakistan

Bakshi Tek Chand, Dewan Prithvi Chand Dutt, Bakshi Moti Ram and Tara Singh were the dominant names of those times.  They built temples, dug up wells for the 30-50 kanal holdings each and distributed these lands amongst their permanent serfs. They did however, treat their serfs with respect and gave them a good share of the crop — what do you expect from absentee landlords.

Gulyana, Pakistan

The Sikh had a timber business. Logs from Kashmir valley were dumped into Jhelum River and recovered downstream near Jhelum city to be sold at Gujar Khan.

The Hindus were mostly traders, money lenders and retailers.

Gulyana, Pakistan

Muslims were mostly illiterate and poor and were destined to stay that way considering the only quality boarding school in nearby Gujar Khan had 95% non-muslim attendance.

During the 1947 riots, one Sikh Bali Singh and one Hindu Lady Banto were killed in the riots but the rest were whisked away with their gold, in the safety of Gorkha soldiers. The Muslim riot crowd burnt to the ground the several symbols of oppression and got rich in the process, during the looting.

One Hindu tehsildar had the magistrate’s powers to jail someone for 6 months.

Gulyana, Pakistan

When the British left suddenly in 1947, the carefully crafted social experiment in native subjugation came crumbling down within days.

Otherwise, one 100 years old resident of Gulyana tells me, “the Hindus and Sikh were very friendly towards the Muslims, their women played around with the boys, molvi were not trouble makers then; they cared about their serfs and neighbors’, built schools, hospitals and wells for the general public. No Muslim was allowed into their kitchen however. Balraj, Sita, Beera, Ramu Shikari, Gujrati, Peecha Singh, Mangat Singh, Jawals Singh, Raab Singh, Gurdyal, were the well-known Hindus and Labbu, Gurra, Jagdev, Santa, Paacha, Chatru were the known Sikh of the time. One Tek Chand Never left for India and embraced Islam. His wife and three sons left for India. Tek Chand married a Muslim lady and had seven children. They are all in poverty now. Several of the old mansion, one dhramsala, one temple, several bowlis (watering hole) have been lost to time.

Gulyana, Pakistan

The surrounding farms around Gulyana were refreshing. The old styled spoke wells, Sikh Samadhi, Hindu temple and 100 years old Gujarati’s mansion still survives.Gulyana, Pakistan

I went into the temple inner sanctum and saw the most beautiful frescos of mixed Hindu and Sikh religious figures like hanuman, Krishna, Sita, Baba Guru Nanak, Bala, Mardana, etc.

Gulyana, Pakistan

 

Pakistan government build a dam 5 km upstream, called the Ugahaun; it’s a lovely place to fish and boat around.

The union council in 1947 had more financial powers than it does today.

In short, all the entrepreneurs, educators, administrator, jurisprudence people, revenue people, land record people and large scale farmers left in 1947.

Gulyana, Pakistan

I am astonished how Pakistan survived with an illiterate mass of people, steeped in poverty — traumatized by exploitation and mass killings.

Other interesting places in Potohar region are:

Also Read: Protecting The World, The Hindu Way

Bedi Mahal, Pharwala fort, Malot fort, Sangini fort, Rawat fort and Mankial Stupa. (Hindu Council of Australia)