Saturday, December 3, 2016


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



About a year ago, I wrote an article THE WONDER FIBRE in the Heritage Magazine which was very much appreciated by the readers and I got many calls asking about the various beneficial aspects about the use of ISABGHOL.
Greatly encouraged by this response, this time I would like to dilate upon a common edible commodity which is also known as the FRUIT OF PARADISE. Most of you visit the market to buy dry fruits but very few of you bother to bring this fruit of paradise home for consumption. 

I myself have been consuming this fruit for the past 30 years as a sweet appetizer but I did not know about the great medicinal and health benefits of this fruit of paradise till date when my research led to this fact that cases of A.R.M.D (Age Related Macular Disorders) that the medicinal properties of figs are very beneficial to A.R.M.D patients and Protection against Macular Degeneration. I as a consultant ophthalmologist now prescribe and advise my patients of A.R.M.D to consume this fruit of paradise.

Reference of this fruit of paradise can be taken from SURA 95, of the THE HOLY QURAN which is named AL-TĪN (Arabic for "The Fig"), as it opens with the oath "By the fig and the olive. Within the Hadith, SAHIH UL-BUKHARI records that The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stating: "If I had to mention a fruit that descended from paradise, I would say that it is because the paradisiacal fruits do not have from these fruits for they prevent hemorrhoids, piles and help in gout."
The common FIG (Ficus carica) is a species of flowering plant in the genus Ficus. It is the source of the fruit which is also called fig. It has been sought out and cultivated since ancient times, and is now widely grown throughout the temperate world, both for its fruit and as an ornamental plant. 

The fig tree is a deciduous large shrub, growing up to a height of 7–10 metres. It has fragrant leaves which are 12–25 cm long and 10–18 cm across.
The botanical specification of fig plant is very complex as it comprises of an inflorescence which consists of a hollow fleshy structure called the SYCONIUM, which is lined with numerous unisexual flowers.
The flower itself is not visible outwardly, as it blooms inside the INFRUCTESCENCE. Although commonly referred to as a fruit, the fig is actually the INFRUCTESCENCE or scion of the tree, known as a false fruit or multiple fruit, in which the flowers and seeds are borne. The small orifice (ostiole) visible on the middle of the fruit is a narrow passage, which allows the specialized fig wasp Blastophaga psenes to enter the fruit and pollinate the flower, where after the fruit grows seeds. 

The fertilized female wasp enters the fig through the scion, which is a tiny hole in the crown (the ostiole). She crawls on the inflorescence inside the fig and pollinates some of the female flowers. She lays her eggs inside some of the flowers and dies. 

The edible fruit consists of the mature SYCONIUM containing numerous one-seeded fruits (druplets). The fruit is 3–5 cm long, with a green skin, sometimes ripening towards purple or brown. The sap of the fig's green parts is an irritant to the human skin. 

The fig plant can tolerate seasonal drought, and the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean climate is especially ideal for the plant. If situated in favorable surroundings, old specimens when mature can reach a considerable size and form a large dense shady tree. 

It thrives in both sandy and rocky soils. As the sun is really important for its growth some varieties are more adapted to harsh and wet climates.

Common fig tree is mostly a PHREATOPHYTE (a plant with a deep root system that draws its water supply from near the water table.) that lives in areas with standing or running water, grows well in the valleys of the rivers and ravines saving no water, having strong need of water that is extracted from the ground. The deep-rooted plant searches groundwater, in aquifers, ravines, or cracks in the rocks. 

The fig tree, with the water, cools the environment in hot places, creating a fresh and pleasant habitat for many animals that take shelter in its shade in the times of intense heat.

Fig fruit is an important food source for much of the fauna in some areas, and the tree owes its expansion and survival to those that feed on its fruit. 

Two crops of figs are potentially produced each year. The first or BREBA CROP develops in the spring on last year's shoot growth. In contrast, the main fig crop develops on the current year's shoot growth and ripens in the late summer or fall. The main crop is generally superior in both quantity and quality to the BREBA crop. 

Figs can be eaten fresh or dried, and used in jam-making. Most commercial production is in dried or otherwise processed forms, since the ripe fruit does not transport well, once picked the shelf life is short.
Dried figs are a rich source of dietary fiber and essential minerals, like manganese, while vitamin K and numerous other minerals are in moderate content.

The Health benefits of figs are that it is low in calories, excellent source of minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants such as carotenes, lutein, tannins, and chlrogenic acid.
Research has suggested that chlorogenic acid helps lower sugar levels and controls blood-glucose levels in type II Diabetes Mellitus.   

Dried figs also contain Calcium, copper, potassium manganese, iron, selenium and zinc and the B-complex group of vitamin such as niacin, pyridoxine, folates and pantothenic acid. 

Apart from this fresh fig also contains adequate levels of some of the anti – oxidant vitamins such as vitamin A, E and K, which have a protective affect from cancers, diabetes degenerative and infectious diseases.

It is important to wash figs in cold water and then mop and dry those using soft cloth and tissue then one may eat fresh figs whole or peeled.
In some people eating fig fruits may cause elicit allergic reactions ranging from vomiting, diarrhea and itching of skin and mucus membranes. Those people who have allergy to figs may exercise caution in eating figs.

It is a sweet way to lose weight as figs are a good source of dietary fiber. Fiber and fiber-rich foods may have a positive effect on weight management.

The leaves of the figs have repeatedly been shown to have anti-diabetic properties and can actually reduce the amount of insulin needed by persons with diabetes who require insulin injections.

Some studies have shown that they have good effect on the Cardiovascular system as they have been shown to lower levels of triglycerides (a form in which fats circulate in the bloodstream).

So next time when you go to the market please ensure that the purchase of fig fruit is on the top priority of your shopping list.