Sunday, September 26, 2010

Karakoram Highway (KKH) – A True Example of Pak-China Friendship

Karakoram Highway (KKH) – The Marvel of Civil Engineering:
A new all-weather road, the Karakoram Highway connecting Rawalpindi/Islamabad with China’s Xinjiang Province runs through the Northern Areas.
The Karakoram (the 'crumbling rock' in Turkish language) Highway is an incredible feat of engineering and an enduring monuments to the 810 Pakistanis and 82 Chinese who died forcing it through the world's most difficult and unstable terrain, making it possible to surface on earth the Eighth Wonder of the World. Karakoram Highway has a strategic importance that overarches the whole region. It forms the Asian 'high road' loop that binds Pakistan and China and can also serve as a link between China and the Central Asian states. In 2003, the Silver Jubilee celebrations (1978-2003) of the construction of the road were held both in Pakistan and China. Pakistan Post issued a Re. 2 special commemorative stamp on the occasion. However the road was officially opened on 27 August 1982.
The 1300 kilometres (800 miles) long KKH, or the N-5, originates from Hassan Abdal, a place some 45 kilometres from Islamabad on the Islamabad - Peshawar Highway, goes through Abbotabad, Manshera, crosses the River Indus at Thakot, on to Gilgit (through Besham, Pattan and Sazin) and then to Chilas, Hunza and Sost before crossing the Khunjerab Pass at the height of some 4800 metres (15,750ft) - the Zero Point between Pakistan and China. It then enters the high Central Asian plateau before winding down through the Pamirs to Kashgar, at the western edge of the Taklamakan Desert. It is a marvel of human endurance, ingenuity and determination. Both Pakistani and Chinese workers and engineers worked day and night over some of the most formidable and inaccessible mountain ranges of the world, with deep gorges and torrential Indus running along the track with its full might. The Indus River flows northwest, dividing the Himalaya from the Karakoram. The KKH runs along the Indus for 310 kilometres of its climb north, winding around the foot of Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world. Not far north of Jaglot the Gilgit river joins the Indus from the west. The highway then leaves the Indus for Gilgit, Hunza and Khunjrab rivers to take on the Karakoram Range - where 12 of the 30 highest mountains in the world overlook the KKH. At Khunjrab Pass, the KKH proudly stands as the highest metalled border crossing in the world. En route to Khunjrab, before Gilgit, there is a road sign inviting the attention of the tourists to stop and see the the Hindu Kush mountains converge with the Karakoram Range, a part of the Himalayan mountain system. While traveling along the KKH, many a tourists wonder as to how the Pakistanis and Chinese ever get this road through? Since the road has been carved through a tectonic collision zone and still generally kept open.
Karakoram Highway (KKH) – History:
China and Pakistan became long time strategic friends when President Ayub Khan of Pakistan visited China in 1964 and soon both great countries realized that a north - south link from China to the Arabian Sea can become a reality with the revival of the old “Silk Route”.
Silk Route - a fairy tale like travellers' dream route from Central Asia to the rest of the world; it existed as trade link between the East and the West around 100 BC and lasted until the 15th Century, when with the invention of ships, the trade became more cheaper and easier than the rugged mountains through which the Silk Route passed. Since mostly the traders from the West imported the Chinese silk, the route became to be known as the Silk Route. Besides trade, the route was also used by the explorers, invaders, missionaries and philosophers.. Buddhism, Islam and Christianity mainly came to this region through this trade linking route. The Zero Point of the route started from Xian in China through the great Gobi Desert to Dunhuang, where it bifurcated via Taklamakan Desert to Kashgar and through Yarkand to Kashgar. It is from Kashgar that it entered the subcontinent over the Pamirs and the Karakoram Mountains.
Keeping in view the importance of this route; in 1966, Pakistan and China agreed to construct the KKH - the Karakoram Highway. The KKH has opened up remote villages where little has changed in hundreds of years, where farmers irrigate tiny terraces to grow small patches of wheat, barely or maize that stand out like emeralds against the grey, stony mountains. One of the workers narrates an interesting anecdote about the remoteness of the area. When after lot of difficulties, a Pakistan Army jeep managed to reach a so far inaccessible village, a villager ran and brought a vase full of water and placed under the front of the jeep. When asked what he was doing, the villager innocently replied, "Sir, your animal must be thirsty."
Karakoram Highway (KKH) – Visit Plan:
Since the KKH passes through some of the most rugged mountain ranges, which become rather inaccessible during the snow falls and the rainy season, one should plan to travel on the KKH in the spring or early autumn. Heavy snow during harsh winters can shut the highway down for extended periods. Heavy monsoon rains, around July and August, cause occasional mudslides that can block the road for hours or more. The border crossing between China and Pakistan at Khunjrab Pass is open only between May 1 and October 15 of every year. These days, the trade between Pakistan and China thrives and Pakistani traders frequent the KKH very often to go to Kashgar and bring back cheap Chinese cloth, decoration pieces and electronics, which have flooded the Pakistani markets from Peshawar to Karachi.
The KKH is at its most spectacular between Ganesh and Gulmit. The road rides high on the eastern side of the river, twisting and turning round the barren foot of the Hispar Range, which boasts six peaks over 7,000 meters (23,000 feet). On the opposite bank, villages cling implausibly to the side of the 7,388 meter (24,240 foot) Ultar Mountain. Between the villages, grey screen slithers down to the river, looking in the distance like piles of find cigarette ash. Above, the jagged teeth along the ridge hide the highest snow-covered peaks from view. The KKH crosses back to the west bank at Shishkot Bridge, from which the view upstream of the serrated ridge of mountains above the river is one of the most photogenic prospects of the entire drive. From here to Tashkurgan in China the people speak Wakhi.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Polo - - The King of Games and The Game of Kings

Polo in Pakistan:
The sport of free style polo had its beginnings in Baltistan Northern Area of Pakistan. Baltistan's princely kingdoms adopted the sport and made it their own, with their natural proclivity for riding. Kingdoms kept special stables for polo ponies, and their teams included among the very best in the world. Very often, the players were the rulers and members of their families, though their armies also encouraged the sport. In fact, if the sport has a presence in the country today, it is because the former royal families have continued to provide encouragement for it.
Polo continues, as it has done for so long, to represent the pinnacle of sport, and reaffirms the special bond between horse and rider. The feelings of many of its players are epitomized by a famous verse inscribed on a stone tablet next to a polo ground in Gilgit, Pakistan: "Let others play at other things. The king of games is still the game of kings."
History of Polo:
Polo is possibly the oldest recorded team sport in known history, with the first matches being played in Persia over 2500 years ago. Initially thought to have been created by competing tribes of Central Asia, it was quickly taken up as a training method for the King’s elite cavalry. These matches could resemble a battle with up to 100 men to a side.
As mounted armies swept back and forth across this part of the world, conquering and re-conquering, polo was adopted as the most noble of pastimes by the Kings and Emperors, Shahs and Sultans, Khans and Caliphs of the ancient Persians, Arabs, Mughals, Mongols and Chinese. It was for this reason it became known across the lands as "the game of kings".
British officers themselves re-invented the game in 1862 after seeing a horsemanship exhibition in Manipur, India. The sport was introduced into England in 1869, and seven years later sportsman James Gordon Bennett imported it to the United States. After 1886, English and American teams occasionally met for the International Polo Challenge Cup. Polo was on several Olympic games schedules, but was last an Olympic sport in 1936.
Shandur Polo Festival:
At various tourist festivals in the North, polo has been introduced as a friendly, competitive sport. Perhaps the only place in the world where it is played, the game provides a great deal of amusement and mirth, but is not yet a serious pursuit.
In Pakistan Shandur invites visitors to experience a traditional polo tournament between the teams of Chitral and Gilgit. Along with Shandur, Chitral and Gilgit there are also formidable polo teams in Shigar Baltistan, Kharmang, Rondu, Khapulo, Skardu, Astor, and Nagar.
Held once a year during the months of July or August, it is one of the most outstanding festivals that are held on Pakistan's Northern areas - The Shandur Polo Festival. The polo ground placed in Shandur (Chitral) is the highest polo ground in the world at 3,700 meters and visitors spend a whole week watching exciting polo matches with traditional music.A whole new world is built at Shandur before the event. Visitors take the advantage of having a breath-taking view of Shandur with its beautiful lush green mountains and not to forget its pure water lake. The festival provides visitors with the thrilling excitement of polo in its true form. Its true form means no rules and regulations, plus the traditional music played throughout each match. Along with polo, you will find hundreds of local and foreign tourists. The archrival teams of Gilgit and Chitral fight for the trophy. As hundreds of spectators watch the two teams take on each other.
Gilgit, Chitral and Skardu have always played the game of polo closest to its original form. In the past, local Khans, Mirs and Mehtars were the patrons of the game. At times, more than 50% of the annual budget of their principalities would be spent on supporting the game.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Badshahi Mosque: Artistic Piece of Architecture from Mughal Era in Sub-continent

The Badshahi Mosque (Punjabi, Urdu: بادشاھی مسجد), or the 'Emperor's Mosque', in Lahore is the second largest mosque in Pakistan and South Asia and the fifth largest mosque in the world. It is Lahore's most famous landmark and a major tourist attraction epitomising the beauty, passion and grandeur of the Mughal era.

Capable of accommodating 10,000 worshippers in its main prayer hall and 100,000 in its courtyard and porticoes, it remained the largest mosque in the world from 1673 to 1986 (a period of 313 years), when overtaken in size by the completion of the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad. Today, it remains the second largest mosque in Pakistan and South Asia and the fifth largest mosque in the world after the Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) of Mecca, the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (Prophet's Mosque) in Medina, the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca and the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Eid ul Fitr 2010: The Prize From Almighty Allah (S.W.T) For Fasting in Ramadan

Eid ul Fitr is linked with the Holy month of Ramadan. It signifies the end of the month of fasting (the first day of the month of Shawwal, 10th month of Islamic year). Sacrifice and kindness are the two things that are associated with Eid ul Fitr. The month of Ramadan is completely devoted to these kind deeds, in order to be answerable to God after death and this day is also celebrated to thank God for everything that he has given to the mankind.
Eid ul Fitr is a unique festival. It has no connection with any historical event nor is it related to the changes of seasons or cycles of agriculture. It is not a festival related in any way to worldly affairs. Its significance is purely spiritual. It is the day when the Muslims thank Allah (SWT) for having given them the will, the strength and the endurance to observe fast and obey His commandment during the holy month of Ramadan.
This day, in Muslim world, brings rejoicing and happiness. The rejoicing is not, however, at the departure of the month of Ramadan; it is the happiness which man feels after successfully completing an important task. It is celebrated for three days in a holiday called Eid ul Fitr (the Feast of Fast Breaking). Gifts are exchanged. Friends and family gather to pray in congregation.

After 30 days of fasting from August 12 to September 10, 2010, Ramadan has finally ended with a celebration called “Eid ul Fitr” or sometimes spelled as Eid ul Fitr. It is also called "Meethi Eid" (Sweet Festivity) becuase Muslims follow the Sunnah of Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) of eating something Sweet before going for Eid Prayer. The word “Eid” is an Arabic word referring to as festivity while the word “Fitr” means break-fasting. As commanded by Quran, Muslims should complete their fasting on the last day of Ramadan and then recite the Takbir or “Allahu Akbar” all throughout the period of Eid.
Typically, during Eid al Fitr, Muslims try to follow the Sunnah of Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H). Here is what the Prophet (P.B.U.H) use to do on the day of Eid (Sunnah), May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him:
  1. To rise early in the morning.
  2. Take a full bath.
    Clean the teeth.
    Wear the best cloths that he had.
    To use perfume (Gents Only).
  3. To eat something sweet like dates before leaving home.
  4. Go to the Eid prayer location very early. (The Prophet (P.B.U.H) use to offer Eid prayer in the central location that is not to offer it in a mosque of a locality without any legitimate excuse).
  5. The Prophet (P.B.U.H) used to go to the Eid Prayer location by one route and will return through another route.
  6. He (P.B.U.H) used to go for Eid on foot.
  7. He (P.B.U.H) used to chant slowly on the way to the Eid prayer location the following words: “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Laa ilaaha illallahu Wallahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Wa lillahil Hamd.” (Translation: Allah is the greatest, He is the greatest. There is no god except Allah. He is the greatest. All praises and thanks are for Him)
  8. The Prophet (P.B.U.H) used to give Sadqa-e-Fitr (zakatul fitr) for before the Eid day. But if you have not done so please give now before the Eid. (Giving just before Eid is ok but against the spirit and the purpose of it.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"Chand Raat" 2010 - - Alwida Ramadan Kareem, Welcome to Eid

"Chand Raat" ... Festival Before Eid:
'Chand Raat' is considered to be the eve of Eid Moon or the night of the sighting of the new moon. The term Chand Raat refers to the evening on which first lunar crescent of the month of Shawwal is observed. It is celebrated as a very special occasion by Muslims all over the world. Chand Raat (pre-Eid night) is a multicultural Islamic celebration/event. Chand Raat which means 'night of the moon ' in the Urdu language marks the end of Ramadan and the start of Eid ul Fitr. Since the Islamic Calendar is lunar, Eid ul-Fitr is on the first of Shawwal - the tenth month of the Islamic year.
"Chand Raat" ... Markets and Bazaars:

On this special night, City streets, markets, shopping malls gives a look of a festival. They are decorated very brightly. Markets and shopping malls remain open till late night. This is the eve on which gifts are exchanged among friends, family and loved ones. People wear their best dresses to celebrate and enjoy this eve. Parents try their best to get the best clothes and Eid gifts for their children so that they can enjoy the full excitement of Eid day.

Young girls shopping on Chand Raat

Read the latest and more comprehensive article on Chand Raat 2011 and its festivities  

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Jewel of Sindh: The Great Manchar Lake of Dadu

Lake Manchar is the largest freshwater lake in Pakistan and one of Asia's largest. It is located west of the Indus River, in Dadu District, Sindh. The area of the lake fluctuates with the seasons from as little as 350 km² to as much as 520 km². The lake collects water from numerous small streams in the Kirthar Mountains and empties into the Indus River.

It is located in Dadu.

Being a natural
storage it was free from the defects and drawbacks of an artificial
storage. Manchar Lake has been substantially supporting various economic
activities. It provided a livelihood for a large number of fishermen,
irrigation water for various crops and aquatic plants including lotus.
The lake could have also contributed a lot in boosting up tourism
industry if its beautification was properly maintained. However due to
various reasons the primitive beauty and usefulness of the lake have
been degraded.


The lake was created in the 1930s when the Sukkur Barrage was constructed on the river Indus. The lake is fed by two canals, the Aral and the Danister from the river Indus. Until recently the lake supported thousands of fisherfolk it is in near to village kot lashari bobak railway satation.who depended on the freshwater fish they caught in the lake. However, the lake is now undergoing environmental degradation resulting in the water becoming saline killing off the fish and forcing the fisherfolk to look elsewhere for employment.

Environmental Degradation:

The degradation has been occurring for a long time but only recently have the effects been felt. The diversion of water from the Indus and a diminished storm runoff from the Kirthar mountains have contributed to the reduction in fresh water supplies. At the same time, saline drainage water from agricultural fields in surrounding areas has started to flow into Lake Manchar. However between 16 august to 22 august 2009, 700 cusecs of water was introduced in the lake via Indus River.

The lake was a stop-off on the Indus flyway for Siberian migratory birds, but recently the numbers have fallen from 25,000 birds counted in 1988 to just 2800 bird counted in 2002, because the lake no longer provides the birds' main food, the lake fish. In the place of the birds, the lake now hosts a saline water reed.

The lake also provided large volumes of water for irrigation but this has also been reduced and has resulted in a great reduction in the area irrigated by the lake.


Nowadays, Lake Manchar is populated by the houseboat people of Mohana.
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