Swat valley, a paradise that was

Published Aug 23, 2012 07:40am

A villager walks to a Buddhist stupa called the "Amlukdara," which was damaged by thieves looking for statues in Pakistan's Swat Valley. A team funded by the Italian government is working with Pakistan's archaeology department to restore and preserve centuries-old Buddhist sites in northwest Pakistan. Swat was once an important center of Buddhist culture and trade. The monk credited with introducing Buddhism to Tibet, Padmasambhava, was born in Swat.–Photo by AP

PESHAWAR:  The Valley of Swat is famous for its fruit laden orchards, fertile lands, snowcapped peaks, the mighty and zigzagging River Swat, waterfalls, lush green pastures, azure lakes and not the least, the relics of Gandhara and Darada civilisations.

But extremists distorted its hospitable image by their activities.

It is rightly called Switzerland of Pakistan. In 2002, a Swiss tourist declared Swat more beautiful than her homeland.

When asked how she found Swat she replied, “In beauty Swat is more than Switzerland but there is no Gul Khan there in my homeland”. Gul Khan was the name of the security personnel assigned with the duty to escort the tourist. She was very tired of the gun.

Thus security issues destroyed every aspect of our lives. These have even damaged the image of our heavens like Swat. Adding to the destruction by the insurgency the floods in Swat two years back damaged the remaining infrastructure, particularly of the upper narrower valley of Swat. This part is usually termed as Swat-Kohistan, the mountainous valley in the extreme north of Swat.

This valley is almost equal to the rest of Swat in terms of area. The valley begins upward from Madyan and ends with Ghizer (Gilgit-Baltistan) and Chitral in the north; with Indus Kohistan in the west while it meets Upper Dir in the East. This is the part for whose beauty Swat is famous for. Here lie the gleaming peaks of Koshein (Mankiyal Peak) and Palasaar or Falak Ser. Along the main valley of Swat Kohistan a number of sub-valleys lead to the vast pastures and precious forests.

Each of these side valleys has dozen of azure lakes. Mahudand and Kandol lakes are just two among many that have so far been accessed. By the banks of these lakes are the glaciers which feed the River Swat. The sub-valleys have great potential of winter sports such as skiing. Moreover, they can be used for trekking and other eco-tourism ventures.

Ethnically Swat-Kohistan is home to the ancient Dardic languages Torwali, Gawri, Badeshi and Ushojo with Torwali in majority.

Total population is estimated 265,000 with fewer sources of livelihood in the form of terraced and scarce arable land. This is the main reason why the people of Swat Kohistan migrate to cities especially in winter, and almost 30 percent of the Torwali people have permanently migrated to major cities of Pakistan. Other sources of income for a fringe of society are tourism and the loyalty from forest logging.

Men carry carpets through the streets in Badkhhala, in Pakistan's Swat Valley.–Photo by AP

Blessed with natural resources in the form of water and forest Swat Kohistan is equally cursed with acute poverty and utter ignorance. Poverty here is more than 85 per cent while literacy rate in male is hardly 12 per cent and in female it is less than two per cent. Being mostly ignorant people cannot even identify their problems let alone to fix them.

The Taliban insurgency was not as severe here as it was in lower Swat. Only a couple of schools had been blasted by the militants here. But Swat Kohistan is the worst victim of the terrible floods two years back.

The bazaars of Bahrain, Kalam and Madyan along with whole villages along the river bed were damaged by the floods; all the link bridges over the River Swat were washed away and the main road of 70 kilometers from Fatepur to Utror was damaged completely.


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Comments (30) Closed




Aftab Ahmad
Aug 23, 2012 08:10pm
Being a resident of Bahrain in Swat Kohistan, I fully endorse what the writer has expressed in this piece. Swat is blessed with natural resources. It has a huge potential of tourism, especially echo-tourism which is environment friendly. But unfortunately the beauty of Swat is awaiting its visitors. This year we saw some tourists coming here. But once they come, they never think of coming again to Swat not becuase of any fear but because of the weak infrastructure. Two years passed after the flood but the roads are yet to be reconstructed which were washed away by the floods. Though our government gets a huge revenue from the tourism of Swat but still no attention is paid to boost it up. If proper measures are taken and the infrastruce rebuild and the basic fascilities provided then i am sure tourist will flock into Swat not only from Pakistan but from the whole world.
takeitoffline
Aug 24, 2012 01:11pm
The plan would be to do positive marketing about Pakistan internationally. People read a lot of horror stories coming out of Pakistan and somehow, Pakistan gets very negative publicity abroad. What is required is to promote Pakistani culture, media, music, traditions abroad. Show the world the positive side of the country and not only the negative side of it. People are really biased as a result.
Syed
Aug 23, 2012 09:20pm
Swat is a perfect example of when things go wrong for a country. still neglected, still ignored, gone are the days when Pakistan used to "build" itself after a tragedy.
DaMan
Aug 24, 2012 07:41pm
I too stayed at Mountain View Hotel. Getting a phone connection was next to impossible, the manager was heard yelling in the handset "Hellooo Mingoreee"
monsieur
Aug 23, 2012 10:46am
I live in Switzerland and I can without any doubt say, North pakistan easily outclasses Switzerland in its natural beauty!
mujahid_sym@yahoo.com
Aug 23, 2012 10:55am
Really paradise on earth...
Umair Khalid
Aug 23, 2012 12:18pm
so typical of us Pakistanis. The sole purpose of our lives is to destroy ourselves and our land. Allah has blessed us with abundant precious resources and we have the most captivating valleys, lakes & mountains in the northern areas. Proper administration and management would have made Pakistan one of top tourist spots in the world. Yet we have destroyed and we are bent on destroying whatever good we have left :(
pankajdehlavi
Aug 23, 2012 10:06am
people and their culture makes the place beautiful and prosperous. This once prosperous center of knowledge and and trade is itself telling the tales of the kind of people living here.
Naseem
Aug 26, 2012 06:24am
so true
desi
Aug 23, 2012 09:54pm
Singh G,you are talking about India Pakistan lol.No respect for one another,everyone wants to out do eachother.We are humans first and everything else second,we ought to have respect for eachother,that means respecting what everyones beliefs are.There is no reson why we can't live side by side,we all live with mutual respect here in America,amazing how people think when there is no extreme thinking with law and order in presence.
Razzy
Aug 24, 2012 09:52am
dont say about things u know not off..the people of swat have braved militants since 2009 and are still courageous enough to live there...can u do that..ud have ran away for your precious life with your tail tucked between ur legs..
Aftab Ahmad
Aug 24, 2012 08:59am
Lack of information. I wonder you cant differentiate between Swat and the tribal agencies. Swat is a settled area and so for no drone strike is struck here. In 2009 it was taken by taliban but now it is more peaceful than rest of Pakistan. Just come and see the flow of tourists here. You will get astonished.
Sharique
Aug 24, 2012 07:50am
dont just cry and do something good urself.... its habit to just cry... the people of Swat are very nice and friendly and love peace. It were attacked from outsider extremist elements and not the local people!
Sharique
Aug 24, 2012 07:47am
sorry there are no drone attacks in Swat.. u r misinformed!!
takeitoffline
Aug 24, 2012 08:11am
I remember being in Swat when I was very young. It is such a beautiful place with rich culture, language, and history. It can easily be turned into a paradise. I hope that some day people will get there acts together and make that place a paradise again. I am happy to contribute if someone has a plan to restore that place and make safe for tourists.
Talk4real
Aug 24, 2012 06:19am
Should have also posted some pics ;)
G.a
Aug 24, 2012 12:20pm
We should target the Middle Eastern market for potential tourists for a start as its highly unlikely that Westerners would come here in droves due to the security situation. Invest in infrastructure and bring in tourists. Once people realize the income potential, militancy will end.
AbdulShek
Aug 24, 2012 05:09am
...now see nobody is living peacefully...we need to see the future of these policies taken by governments.. Really beautiful..i have seen some snaps in the year 2001.
Yawar
Aug 23, 2012 06:10pm
I remember visiting upper Swat during three different summer holidays in the early to mid 70s. Twice I stayed in Madyan in Mountain View Hotel run by Major Getley and once as a scout in a tent at the foot of Mankiyal in Kalam. I have not seen a more beautiful place on earth.
Tariq
Aug 23, 2012 05:42pm
No doubt Swat valley is most beautiful place on earth and the best way is to promote it for is tourism after developing it in an eco-friendly way which would provide much needed employment for the local people and earn the country equally important foreign exchange. BUT the security of the region is first and foremost which only the government of Pakistan can provide!
Arya
Aug 23, 2012 05:35pm
Swat today is more popular for the drone attacks, lawlessness and It sure is the paradise of the Taliban
BRR
Aug 23, 2012 04:46pm
Nature is nice to people if you treat nature with respect. If people tear up nature, its vengence can be cruel - floods and landslides. Ignorance does not beget heaven, and neither does militancy. Its about time people in Swat pick up their shovels and clean up the mess from the floods as well as the horror created by the Taliban.
sanjay
Aug 23, 2012 04:05pm
rightly said Pankaj bhai
Dr satpal Jabbal
Aug 23, 2012 02:52pm
Such a beautiful place, great potential. All we need is peace.
sanjay
Aug 24, 2012 04:46pm
'people' here doesn't mean the people of Swat, but the people of Pakistan as a whole because of their fundamentalist thinking
Apoorva
Aug 24, 2012 04:24pm
I am so aghast to see the apathy of Pakistani government shown in maintaining Hindu and Buddhist structures. Then I suddenly remember,if you guys cant respect living human beings then how can you respect dead monuments
Hannan ahmed
Aug 24, 2012 12:02pm
Please send more photos and full map
generalcuriosity
Aug 24, 2012 01:54pm
Did you even read the original comment?
taranveer Singh
Aug 23, 2012 09:05am
there is no difference heaven and hell. it is only difference between people some make a place hell and others heaven. i remeber a story " a person had choice to go to either heaven or hell. he first decided to visit both first he entered hell. it was a very beautiful place. people had delicious kheer to eat in deep bowls. they had very long spoons tied to their hands so they were almost unable to fed themselves. and they were creating trouble for each other by stopping each other to eat. people were sick and unhealthy. then he decided to visit heaven he entered and saw it was same as hell. same place same food same spoons tied to hands but people were feeding each others so it was very easy to eat from other s spoon. people were happy and healthy.
taranveer Singh
Aug 23, 2012 09:54am
there is no difference between heaven and hell. it is only difference between people some make a place hell and others heaven. i remeber a story " a person had choice to go to either heaven or hell. he first decided to visit both first he entered hell. it was a very beautiful place. people had delicious kheer to eat in deep bowls. they had very long spoons tied to their hands so they were almost unable to fed themselves. and they were creating trouble for each other by stopping each other to eat. people were sick and unhealthy. then he decided to visit heaven he entered and saw it was same as hell. same place same food same spoons tied to hands but people were feeding each others so it was very easy to eat from other s spoon. people were happy and healthy.