By Fakhar Alam/Aftab Zahoor
TIMERGARA, Aug 14 (APP):With seasonal flowers blooming in a cloudy weather showering erratic rainfall over the hills of Panjokra Valley in Dir Lower district, the settlement reveals saga of centuries’ old civilization.
Tourists and nature lovers throng the area to explore its mountainous beauty and archeological treasures of Ghandara civilization besides enjoying fragrance of roses and budding seasonal flowers of Amaranthus, Dendelion and Jasmine.
Amalgamation of natural beauty with rich archeological sites becomes more amusing for the visitors when Dir Chakdara Museum unfolds before them the tales of ancient times.
Dir people are embracing modernism after decades’ old primitive living with its infrastructure, health, education and tourism facilities improving with every passing day.
Local people today have far better accessibility, education and health facilities than their ancestors who used to walk miles to avail basic amenities of life.
“Dir occupied a key position in history as it was centre of Gandhara civilization along with Peshawar, Swat, Bajaur and areas extending westwards to Hadan and Bamiyan in Afghanistan and eastwards to Taxila Valley in Punjab Pakistan,” said Mohib Gul, Incharge Dir Chakdara Museum.
“Its history goes back to centuries as testified by excavations of the burials of Aryans at Timargara and other places dating from 18th to 6th century BC,” Mohib said. “Aryans were followed by Achaemenians – who were later ousted by Alexander in 327 BC after tough resistance by the local population.”
Later on, Gandhara civilization established roots as signified by monumental remains of Buddha’s stupas and monasteries, showcased at Dir museum, Mohib explained.
Thereon, he said, Yousafzai Pathans had settled here in 5th century AD and Akhund lIyas Paindakhel of Malaizi tribe (1640) had enjoyed popular support among local people.
Also recognized as a spiritual leader, the descendants of Paindakhel extended influence to local population and laid down foundation of a political state – “the state of Nawabs.” This state was ruled by Nawab Aurangzaib Khan and his son Nawab Shah Jehan Khan for many years.
The British demarcated Dir boundaries after its annexation in 1897 but after their departure it enjoyed a separate state status. Dir annexed to Pakistan in 1960 as a tribal agency and merged to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 1969 as a district.
British regime in sub-continent had faced stiff resistance in taking control of the region and this saga has also been revealed by Sir Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, in newspaper columns and his book, “The Story of Malakand Field Force.”
Churchill visited this area as a military officer when Malakand fighting was ripe as he described the siege of Malakand and campaign against Pashtun tribes in his book ‘as a period of significant transition.’ Named after him, the Churchill Post is still a source of attraction for tourists and historians.
Artifacts and relics recovered during excavation of the area and displayed at Dir Chakdara Museum are no doubt a great achievement and reveal centuries’ old history and culture of Dir.
“Rahatulah Khan Jaral, the then Political Agent of Dir, had allocated Rs 250,000 in 1970s for construction of Dir museum,” Mohib Gul said. An additional amount of Rs 490,000 was granted by the provincial government for expansion and renovation of the museum with Malakandi stone to reflect vigor and dynamism of local people.
This museum houses over 2,200 ancient artifacts including 1444 artifacts of Ghandara civilization including statues of Lord Budha and 2,000 years old remains of Bhuddhists fresco paintings recently discovered during excavation at Aba Shahib Cheena in Swat.
Mian Wahab Shah, curator archaeology and museums has informed that the art pieces were recovered from sites of Andan Dheri, Chat Pat, Baghrajai, Bumbolai, Jabagai, Shalizar, Ramora, Tri Banda, Macho, Amluk Darra, Nasafa, Damkot, Bajaur and Talash, Dir, Malakand, Balambat, Timargarha, Shamlai Graves, Inayat Qila, Shah Dheri Damkot, Gumbatuna, Jandol, Matkani and Shalkandi.
“Chat Pat and Andan Dheri are well preserved ancient archaeology sites and Gumbatuna and Churchill picket are frequently visited spots,” he said.
Revealing the history of ages old civilization and culture, the area is now on journey to modernism with rising number of health, education and other civic facilities.
“Today, the total number of registered primary, middle, high and higher secondary schools in Dir Lower and Dir Upper districts are 2,538 with an enrolment of 583,678 students and 20,348 teachers,” informed a spokesman of Independent Monitoring Unit (IMU), KPK Education Department.
“This figure was 1,559 schools with students’ enrollment of 445,155 and 6,479 teachers during 2012-13,” he added.
Once lagging behind in health facilities, the area now has category-B and category C hospitals in Dir Khas, Mayar, Lal Qila, Munda, Talash, Barawal, Patrak and Wari in Dir Upper and Lower Dir.
“These facilities are being strengthened in terms of doctors, paramedics, laboratories and equipment to provide quality treatment to patients at their doorsteps,” said District Health Officer Lower Dir, Professor Dr Irshad Khan.
“Prior to 2002, the total number of hospitals in Dir Lower was recorded as 68 that rose to 72 by 2022 including construction of four new hospitals in recent years,” he added.
Roads infrastructure is also being updated to facilitate local people and promote tourism. After the approval of Dir Motorway by Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC), the KP government has started process of executing this Rs 3227.75 million project under public-private partnership.
This motorway will not reduce travelling distance between Chakdara and Dir but also turn Dir districts into trade and tourism hub.
“The KP government has proposed 14 kilometer long ‘Cable Car’ between Kumrat Valley in Upper Dir and Madaklast Chitral Lower,” informed Muhammad Ali Syed, General Manager, Cultural and Tourism Authority KP. “This Rs 32 billion project is hoped to attract over 10 million tourists to Malakand division annually.”
Moreover, he said, the KP government has also decided to establish new camping pods at Larum Top and Shahi Bin Shahi and Kumrat valley to provide affordable accommodation to tourists.