FROM JAMRUD TO TURKHAM
I visited Peshawar and Khyber agency in connection with the survey for branches of a bank and my journey took me to Khyber agency which I revisited after more than 46 years.
We started our journey early in the morning from SHAHKAS, the traffic was light and our speed was good. This road has recently been built by F.W.O and is a mettle road, more than 60 feet wide on which you can drive in the cruising gear above 80 Kms per hour.
The first check post that comes on this road is at TAKHTA BAIG where the settled area of K.P.K finishes and Frontier Region Khyber agency starts.
You have to cross the JAMRUD NALLAH and go through BAB – E – KHYBER (Gate way of Khyber) with the overlooking Jamrud Fort on the right.
JAMRUD is located at an altitude of 1512 ft, above sea level and is 10.2 miles from Peshawar city and continues to be of strategic significance.
JAMRUD was conquered by Sikhs in 1836 and SARDAR HARI SINGH NALWA the well-known Sikh general, built this fort, it was also known as FATEHGARH.
BAB-E-KHYBER is a monument which stands at the entrance of the Khyber Pass in (FATA). It also is a historical land mark of N.W.F.P and now K.P.K, and is a pride for K.P.K citizens.
Worth mentioning spot after you leave the BAB –E KHYBER is TEDDY BAZAAR. Why it is called teddy bazaar is another interesting folklore which could not be authenticated by me despite my inquiry and interaction with the locals.
The folklore goes like this that about five decades ago when the borders with Afghanistan were open and there was free trade between the two countries, the busiest shopping point was LANDIKOTAL.
There was very strict customs checking after LANDIKOTAL hence the cloth was smuggled on horseback through mountainous mule tracks and brought to this place which is now called Teddy bazaar as in those days the fashion of tight pants and shirts was very common hence this place came to be known as teddy bazaar. This is the biggest Cloth Market depot in Pakistan from where cloth from all over the world comes to this place and then made in to smaller lots and sent to the rest of Pakistan for resale.
On the right side a little after teddy bazaar is the shrine of Shabnam Wali Baba Ziarat which is held very sacred by the orthodox and religious locals.
Next is Sur Qamar a small hamlet after which you cross the Bagiari check post which is over a small Nallah and the majestic structure of SHAGAI FORT welcomes you on your way.
SHAGAI FORT was built by British forces in 1927 to oversee the Khyber Pass and to house the Khyber Rifles, and is today used by the Pakistan Army.
A very interesting phenomenon here is that the drinking water to this fort is brought by pipes all the way from WARSAK DAM via the KATTA KISHTA route.
The drive beyond this point is a small incline as you traverse this road to climb up to SHAMSHAD PAHARI (Hillock) and ALI MASJID comes on your right side.
The road from JAMRUD to TURKHAM is full of check posts due to security reasons and next check post is PARANGSUM which in the local language means Cheetah as towards the beginning of the 17th century this area was full of wild animals in which Cheetah was in abundance.
The beauty of this road is that the broad gauge railway line from Peshawar to LANDIKOTAL closely runs parallel to this road on the right side which passes through about 34 tunnels which may be a record at such a height and was opened on November 3, 1925.
The irony of fate is that this railway line which was once the envy of tourists and pride of Pakistan railways is in a deplorable and dilapidated condition. It was closed in 2006 due to washing away of railway tracks and bridges by floods.
For a distance you can see a very big dome like structure which is the KHYBER GULWALI STUPA on the Hillock, the information about the historical aspects of this STUPA are lacking.
After crossing the STUPA the next point is CHARWASGAI which is a bigger hamlet.
Finally you reach the LANDIKOTAL cantonment area from where the road forks and on one side leads to the Khyber Rifle Mess which has got historical land marks in it and on the right side is the cantonment area and you take the bypass road and go towards LANDIKOTAL bazaar.
LANDI KOTAL traditionally marks the entrance to Afghanistan. It is the highest point along the pass and is a tourist destination due to the historic KYBER PASS.
Back in 1960 this was the first port of call by all the Begum’s and youngsters who used to throng to this shopper’s paradise for shopping.
Another historical turning point was the great fire somewhere in the 80’s when LANDIKOTAL bazaar was completely gutted by the blazing inferno.
After you have crossed LANDIKOTAL the road zigzags and finds a descent down wards when on the left side of the road after two ravines you can see a small citadel like structure which is called the KASSAB KHANA or PHANSI GHAT where prisoners were sent to the gallows. The locals say that it was built by TAIMOR LUNG during his reign but I could not find any corroborative evidence.
The next important landmark is the MICHINI FORT which is now the home of the Frontier Constabulary unit by the name of Khyber Rifles which is preserved in its original condition and maintained by the Khyber Rifles regiment.
Fishing enthusiasts interested in fishing will find MICHNI FORT area as an angler’s paradise.
The mountains on the side are the TATARA MOUNTAINS which are about 3500 to 4500 feet high which have the small town of MICHINI CHARBAG and the bye pass of LANDIKOTAL meets at this place and you have the water filtration plant at LANDIKHANA short of TURKHAM.
A very interesting historical point is that at this filtration plant, Mineral Water is processed and exported abroad and the place where the filtration plant is situated in called GURK KHULA.
We were now at a vantage point from where we could see the valley down below which was full of trucks busses and other forms of transportation as they were lined up for export to Afghanistan.
To the front is the great border crossing between and Pakistan and Afghanistan where small hand driven carts come and go from either side carrying with them veiled women and children along with their belongings as a easy mode of transpiration between the two countries.
On the right side perched high up on a hill like a sentinel is Piquet No. 02 which now belongs to Pakistan and is also called the water piquet because this was exchanged with Afghanistan in return for water provided to the Afghan Piquet and the Afghan TURKHAM area.
A very interesting phenomenon occurs here in this border area that most of your mobiles give this message welcome to Afghanistan by EHTISALAT as the phones catch Afghanistan mobiles system and go on roaming. Beware don’t use your phones as your balance will be eaten up due to the roaming charges.
The ministry of tourism and the archeology department must take special interest in this area to open up new vistas of foreign and domestic tourism.
Dr. Babur Zahiruddin