Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Soon Valley


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posted by Salman Rashid @ 8:37 AM, , links to this post

We who hate shade trees

Pakistanis hate shade. And by extension they hate shade trees. The sight of a banyan or shisham or mulberry sickens them and their first instinct is to chop it down, destroy it. They will happily do it even when they do not stand to gain anything and doubly happily if there are only a few paltry rupees in it. In my fifty odd years have seen countless trees fall victim to unthinking greed, so-called development and just plain foolishness. Sadly all these trees were indigenous species planted by the farsighted and prudent white man when he ruled over us.


These indigenous trees grew wide crowns that provided much needed shade against our burning summer heat that lasts no less than seven months a year. In their stead, we imported that accursed water-guzzling eucalyptus from Australia to sully our land, a tree that is good neither for shade nor for birds to nest in. Look into the millions of eucalyptus around you and you’ll have to do a good deal of looking to spot a bird’s nest in this damned tree. The rare nest that you do spot will be that of a crow’s.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM, , links to this post

jhelum: City of the Vitasta

jhelum: City of the Vitasta by Salman Rashid

View from the bank of River Jhelum [from jhelum: City of the Vitasta]

Odysseus Lahori one year ago: Ferry Tale

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 9:30 AM, , links to this post

Capital of the Salt Range

Even though the only monument of Chakwal is the century old Brandreth Gate, the town can rightly be assigned the status of ‘capital’ of the Salt Range. Now neglected and falling into decay, this gateway was built in 1892 to commemorate the services of a British civil servant.


Whatever local ‘historians’ may claim, no historical work mentions Chakwal even in recent history before the settlement of the 1850s. The name, however, appears to mean ‘Of the Chaks.’
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM, , links to this post

General or a saint

Khwas Khan, son of a handmaiden and a soldier of some rank, rose to eminence in the court of Sher Shah Suri, the ablest Pathan ever to rule anywhere in India. A man as proficient on the battlefield as he was in peacetime administration, Khwas Khan was highly trusted by the king. And so when it came time to build Sher Shah's grandest monument in Punjab, the fort of Rohtas near Jhelum, Khwas Khan was given the responsibility of the first administrator to oversee construction work. After completion, he governed over the Rohtas garrison as long as Sher Shah lived.

As one enters from the Khwas Khani gateway in the north, there is, just inside the massive timbers of the gate on the right side, a small enclosure. The legend on the wall of the tiny sarcophagus in the enclosed space says 'Hazrat Sakhi Khwas Khan Shah'. An utterly imbecile and vague legend current in the village of Rohtas has it that this generous (sakhi) Syed died in a battle between the Muslims and the Sikhs.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:39 PM, , links to this post

Grand Canyon of Sindh

It was in 1996 that my friend Wali Mohammad Manganhar of Shahdadkot arranged for us to travel to the most fascinating natural sight in all of Sindh: Toshangi. HT Lambrick, Deputy Commissioner, Larkana in the 1940s called it the Grand Canyon of Sindh. He was right on the ball.

Here is a rift in the Kirthar Mountains west of Ghaibi Dero (seat of the Chandio Nawab) with walls 200 metres high and a blue-green stream of considerable depth at the bottom. Where the rift opens up at the southern end, the stream, too, fans out to form a lovely tarn. In this placid sheet of water, there lives a colony of gavials. The whole place is straight out of the wildest imagination of a designer of film sets.

Our guide and mentor was the unbeatable Hasil Chandio of the tiny settlement of Rahu jo Aitho. It was a goodly walk from his village to Toshangi and we had to stay overnight in Lohira with Hasil’s kinsfolk. Early on that March morning, we climbed up a large knob of rock to marvel at this remarkable chasm. Created first, perhaps, by an earthquake and then enlarged by millions of years of flowing water, it was indeed a grand canyon.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM, , links to this post

Trees that look at God all day

In 1914, Alfred Joyce Kilmer wrote a poem titled Trees: I think that I shall never see/ A poem lovely as a tree. A tree whose hungry mouth is prest/ Against the earth’s sweet-flowing breast; A tree that looks at God all day,/ And lifts her leafy arms to pray; A tree that may in summer wear/ A nest of robins in her hair; Upon whose bosom snow has lain;/ Who intimately lives with rain. Poems are made by fools like me,/ But only God can make a tree.

But we in Pakistan think that is hogwash. The Express Tribune issue of May 9 carried a news item about the cutting down of seven trees in Jinnah SupermarketIslamabad. It detailed that the builder of a new plaza did not agree with the ugly view (as reported) that these 40-year-old trees presented to the plaza. I ask you! We are told that the Capital Development Authority only acted after the trees were destroyed to suspend the official concerned and impose a fine of Rs 50,000 per tree.
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My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand


Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

Books of Days