Saturday, October 8, 2011


Many Pakistani’s are not aware about our rich cultural heritage landmarks and monuments which are found in plentiful in northern areas, Kyber Pakhtoon-khawa and Potohar regions.

As you leave the motorway which leads to Peshawar at the RASHA KAI interchange and come down to the exit after the toll plaza its says Mardan 10 kms.

And at the same time milestone also shows chitral 229 miles away. As we leave the Motorway the road becomes Narrow and we are met with typical frontier traffic slow and impatient, as if everyone is in a hurry and the world is on fire.

We pass the Punjab Regimental Centre the home of the training of famous Punjab Battalions of Pakistan Army and go pass Takht Bai one of the oldest Buddhist Monastery and Stupa are located here. SHINGARDARA STUPA about three kilometers from Barikot, one gets a glance of a magnificent Buddhist Stupa on the right side. Just about one and a half km away from this Stupa, one can see large figures of Buddha carved on the rock.

Our journey then takes us to Shergah and we enter in to Malakand agency to Sakhakot. We pass Malakand agency markaz and started climbing the incline. It is a very good road made by Frontier Works Organization (F.W.O), a tribute to the Army Engineers. We pass through the Malakand Tunnel and the mobile services work very well in the hilly areas. We reach Batkhela (home of Malakand levies) and go pass the Malakand fort.

The Malakand Fort is situated on a high point of the mountain and some parts inside and outside the building bear 1896 as the period of construction of the Fort. It is surrounded by a stone wall with fire slits and iron shutters.

In 1897 Sir, Winston Churchill as a War correspondent stayed in one of the rooms in the Malakand fort which I visited courtesy of the 37 division headquarters of the Pakistan Army. The room where Churchill stayed is marked by a marble commemorative plaque which says Sir Winston Churchill the future prime minister of Great Briton stayed in this room in 1897.

I specially requested to see this room and had to pass through many ups and downs of steep stair cases and ascent to reach the room where Sir Winston Churchill stayed.

This fort needs a full day visit but these days it is occupied by one of the battalions of the Pakistan Army a part of 37 divisions which has now moved for Operation RAHE-RAST in the Swat valley.

We then start our descent down hill to Pirano pass Batkhela Canal and there we encounter a great mad rush on the road hence the speed has to slow down to an ant crawl.

As you reach Batkhela a small sleepy town where main bazaar is more than 2 kilometers long, there are no intersections (junctions) so no traffic lights. Therefore it is the longest bazaar in the country that has no traffic lights or junctions.

Batkhela has many beautiful and big mosques. Some of them are located over fast flowing rivers which increases the beauty of these mosques.

This beautiful valley is covered by tall hills from all sides and there are many fast flowing rivers which are a contribution to its wonderful landscape. One water canal that pours into a small dam in Jaban area is the main source of electricity production.

Churchill Picket, Swat

As you go pass the Chakdara bifurcation the road on the left curves over the Swat River and on the right side is the Chakdara fort, now housing the first wing of the Chitral scouts. About 30 years ago when I visited this place it was the home of the Bajaur Scouts.

As you cross the swat river on the new bridge which was recently washed away by the floods and now two spans have been repaired by the launch of BAILEY BRIDGE a tribute to the Engineers of the Pakistan Army.

This watch tower (Churchill Picket) in Swat Pakistan, is said to be named after Sir Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of England. It is said that he was stationed here in his military days. Going from Chakdara to Timar Garaha you can not help noticing the sentinel picket which is a local landmark - Churchill's Picket - a lonely spot at the far extremity of the then British Empire where in 1897, the future wartime leader of Great Briton was nearly killed in a ferocious battle against the Mad Mullah of Malakand.

Just across the bridge on the left side is a well marked incline walk way which is further highlighted by white wash stone markings on either side of the path.

It is quite a steep incline and novices and people with hypertension and arthritis should not try to attempt to climb this path in one go.

For the fit and regular walkers it is about 25 – 30 minutes climb to the top of the hill on which is perched the Churchill picket.

It is a well maintained monumental building which is made of stone with an elevation of about 2 ½ stories high.

At the present moment the entry to the picket is not allowed because of the security purpose for which permission has to be taken from the Army Authorities.

On the front side on the picket there are white neat stone markings, which say CHURCHILL PICKET and can be viewed from a distance across the swat river and beyond.

Sir, Winston Churchill came here in 1897, as a war correspondent for the Allahabad Pioneer and Daily Telegraph. He used to signal his messages from this spot to Malakand and onwards by Heliograph. A heliograph meaning "sun", graphein, meaning "write") is a wireless solar telegraph that signals using Morse code flashes of sunlight reflected by a mirror. Heliographs were standard issue in the British and Australian armies until the 1960s, and were used by the Pakistani army as late as 1975.

That is why the picket is also known as "Shisho Picket" (Shisha for Mirror in local language). The present picket was constructed by the British and commands the area around it like a sentry guarding a vantage point which covers 45 degree’s angle of visual eye ball contact on each side.

The picket is set a top a hill in such a way that it over looks 4 valleys at the same time.

On the front is the Swat river on the right is the Malakand agency on the back is the road leading to Timar Garaha on the left side is the Chakdara fort.

The Chakdarra Fort occupies a small detached hillock that provides observation of the surrounding areas on the backside of which is small fishing hut which is a paradise for trout anglers.

So next time when you are visiting Swat Valley for Holidays, please find time to make a small detour to visit Churchill Picket and enrich yourself with the first hand knowledge of our rich cultural heritage.


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