Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Living by the Quran

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‘Most Pakistani want legislation to be influenced by Quran: Survey.’ So goes a back page headline in Dawn today, 28 April 2016. It goes on to say that a report issued by Pew Research Centre confirms that there are 78 percent of us 200 million who want it that way. To me this confirms, yet again, that we Pakistanis are the most hypocritical, two-faced, double-dealing bunch of liars and crooks.

And before I go on, let me reiterate what I have long maintained: Religion is the first refuge of the scoundrel.

For starters, why does every scoundrel want a religious law to guide his/her life? Doesn’t every bastard among us know or at least pretend to know what religion ordains? Is it largely not known that to steal, kill, be discourteous and generally be a bloody nuisance is not right and therefore, since Islam is a way of life, anti-Islam? Why does every blackguard want a law to keep him/her from skimming off billions of tax payers’ money and that which foreign financial institutions bestow upon our beggar state as aid? And why does this same rogue of insatiable lust for lucre need a Quranic law to keep him from stashing his ill-gained riches in an off-shore bank is a distant land?
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The great highway of history

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Semiramis, the legendary queen of Mesopotamia, is said to have invaded India late in the 9th century BCE. After the adventure, she left the country by way of Makran in whose waterless and desolate wastes she lost her entire force, save 20 men. Three hundred years later, Cyrus the Great, the Achaemenian king of Persia, duplicated the same feat. He was even less fortunate being able to lead away just seven of his great army to safety.


In 325 BCE, Alexander’s choice of exit from India was guided by word of the disastrous marches of these two earlier monarchs. Hoping to go one better on these illustrious predecessors, Alexander resolved to reach Persia by land through Makran. Though he lost some 20,000 souls, and considerable treasure, either to the intense autumn heat of the parched land or to the fury of a flash flood in one of the rivers, he and his army did make it to safety more or less intact.
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Gut Bela: the Lost Valley

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Ashraf Ali, my friend who was taking me from Saidu Sharif to Gut Bela said he called it the lost valley. Even though it is less than seven kilometres from the Khwazakhela-Malam Jabba road, separated as it is from the latter by a high ridge, it is yet remote, said Ashraf. It’s a beautiful valley with friendly people but one where no tourists ever go.


Having picked up Ehsanullah Khan, a most likeable friend I had never met until this day, a man who grows quality fruit and lives in a beautiful little cottage amid apple, peach and pear trees we went up the winding road to Malam Jabba. Ehsanullah Khan, sixty-three, clean cut, good looking and suave is the archetypal Khan as they once made them. Well-bred, cultured and educated he, a right proper gentleman, yet prefers to live in his village and mind his orchard. In fact, even in the dark Night of the Terrorists, he stayed put. He says he was periodically stopped at the terrorists’ check post but always let off without any trouble.
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The Fort of Rannikot: The Great Wall Of Sindh

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Doc24 - 28th August 2015 by aneesmalik12

Related: The Fort of Rannikot

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Lighthouse

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Stairwell of the Manora Lighthouse (looking up from the ground floor).

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Ghazva e Hind

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My Twitter friend Harsh [@hashkeys] from, I think Bombay, is a smart young man with an open mind. And I like him very much. The idea for this piece came from one of his flippant tweets about them (the Indians) mounting Ghazva e Hind against us. And then he went, ‘Umm, that didn’t come off quite well.’

Now those of you who do not know what this phrase means are obviously not accustomed to listening to a lunatic in a red hat. The man goes on about how Muslims will one day liberate India from the wicked Hindus. Of course that will be shortly before the entire world converts to the one and only true religion, that is, Islam. And then before we can even get a hang of it, it will be Judgement Day.

I hope between getting rid of the Hindus and turning India pure and Judgement Day we have enough time for us Muslims to kill at least 200 million of our own kind. The same way as we are these days busily doing in Pakistan.
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How the State has fallen

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‘A group of lawyers on Tuesday locked a woman additional district & sessions judge in her courtroom allegedly for not rendering a favourable decision. AD&SJ Najaf Shahzadi and her staff remained locked in the courtroom for hours. District and Sessions Judge Nazir Gajiana took notice of the incident and got the courtroom unlocked. The D&SJ summoned the lawyers and the woman judge and reconciled the matter.’

The above is the transcript of a news item filed by Dawn’s staff reporter on Wednesday 6 April 2016. It illustrates the most abjectly shameful abdication of the authority by the State of Pakistan. It is all the more appalling because this is not the first time such a reprehensible act has been enacted.
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What I told the Girls at LCWU

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Moneeza Hashmi is a very dear friend who values my work. It was in her tenure as General Manager PTV Lahore Centre that we did the 19-part, 30-minutes each, travel/history series titled Nagri Nagri Ghoom Musafir. It was also under her stewardship that I made the 13-part documentary Sindhia main Sikander on Alexander’s Indian Campaigns, once again each episode of 30 minutes.


The first series was executed in 1998-99 and the second in 2001. This was more than a quarter century after the now vaguely remembered masterpiece travel show titled Selani kay Saath had enthralled PTV viewers. That was the work of the one and only, the great doyen of documentary makers in Pakistan: Obaidullah Baig. OB, as we who had the great good fortune of being his friends, called him, was the master story-teller. The raconteur par excellence who leapt straight out of the pages of some thick medieval tome of fairy tales. When he spoke, his gravelly voice and the turn of phrase held so many of us rapt for he easily matched (if not outdid) Scherazade of the Thousand and One Nights.
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Travel writers are myth busters

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I first wrote in 1986 that the Kalasha people of Chitral are NOT of Greek descent. That was a time when everyone, including everyone, believed that. Now, thankfully, DNA testing has shown my assertion to be true.

There have always been quasi-religious stories of the power of holy men. The story of the struggle between Wali Kandahari and Guru Nanak and the resulting hand print in Hasan Abdal is shown to be false by history. Wali Kandahari died twenty years before Guru Nanak was born. Not that Guru Nanak was not one of the greatest spiritual leader.

The myth of the Karakoram Highway being the old Silk Road. The road between Hunza and Kashgar was a local travel route. No long distance trade came into the subcontinent this way. Least of all silk. The old trade route from, say, Yarkand or Kashgar was over the Karakoram Pass in the east that led to Leh (Ladakh) and eventually Srinagar via Kargil.
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Identity

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Maryam Mohiyuddin and Rahimeen Ahmad are two very bright young stars who I met sometime in February. They are the kind of people who give you faith and hope in the future just when you begin to lose these two essentials of life. The girls came to my home to invite me to a seminar on Identity at the Social Innovation Lab. Though it has nothing to do with LUMS, the girls said they used the university’s premises for their events and that was where the seminar would be held on 25-27 March 2016.


I was asked to be part of a panel discussion on Sunday (27 March). The other bright lights were the venerable Raza Kazim, lawyer, a great mind, and a man of courage to be emulated; Kamil Khan Mumtaz, the noted architect and architectural historian and Yusuf Bashir Qureshi who teaches at the Indus Valley School of Arts and Architecture (Karachi). The moderator, Nedhra Shahbaz, was so incredibly lucid in whatever she said that she almost brought tears to my eyes.
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Stewards of the Ring

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The art of crafting rings from the horns of wild goat became popular because it was soon seen that such a ring worn on leprosy-stricken fingers cured the dreaded disease. There may be no scientific confirmation of this but many believe in the therapeutic quality of these unique rings. Others wear them for their striking and vibrant colours.

A ring with holes ready to be threaded with different coloured lac
Islamuddin of Chitral town claims his father was the creator of the first-ever such ring. Except the claim is contestable on the grounds that the art of fashioning rings from horns is known to have been practiced in Chitral from a time much before that time. What is true, though, is that these delightfully colourful rings are made only in Chitral. Nowhere else across the district or swathe of Gilgit-Baltistan are they to be found.
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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