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MINGORA: While travelling from Mingora city to Malakand one can see mountains on the left side of the road along the Swat river, but it might be difficult to say that people realise the history which these mountains have preserved for hundreds of years.

Swat is famous for its sites of Gandhara civilisation all over the world. After Alexander the Great, who came to the area in 326 BC, Buddhism emerged as a dominant religion in Swat valley and its centre was based at Odigram village, which is about seven kilometres from Mingora on the GT road towards Peshawar. Odigram also has the historical landmarks of Islam.

The oldest mosque of northern Pakistan, which was constructed by ruler Mansoor, nephew of Sultan Mehmood Ghaznavi, in 1048-49 AD, is also situated in Odigram.

The mosque, named after Mehmood Ghaznavi, was discovered by Italian archaeological mission in 1985. Mehmood Ghaznavi Mosque is not a tumbledown building, but it reflects the Muslims’ commitments to Islam, says a guide of the mosque, Raham Zeb.

Talking to Dawn, he said that Mehmood Ghaznavi attacked the North West Frontier Province (present Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) through Bajaur Agency, adding that he came to this historical valley during 11th century.

“The Sultan divided his forces into two groups to conquer the area,” he said and added that the second group was led by the Sultan himself. He said that they crossed the river and reached this historical place, where headquarters of the last king, Raja Geera,was attacked.

Pir Khushaal, locally known as Ghazi Baba, played a vital role in the defeat of Raja Geera, who later fled to Kohistan district, Mr Zeb said and added that the mosque was later built by ruler Mansoor on the advice of Sultan to promote Islam in the valley.

He said that the Sultan passed away 18 years before completion of the mosque, which remained open for prayers for quite some time.

Mehmood Ghaznavi Mosque reflects the great victory of Sultan and his forces since its excavation in 1985.The government later also constructed access road to the mosque.

“By reaching here one can have a glimpse of history,” says Rafiullah, a resident of Khwazakhel, Swat. He said that he was glad to see a well-constructed access road to this historical mosque. He said that the government should launch a programme for the promotion of historical sites in Swat district.

Mateen, a resident of Matta, said that the people should also take the responsibility of preserving the historical places by avoiding any act that could cause damage to them.