A civilisation at risk in Swat

By Khurshid Khan

When Sung Yun, the famous Chinese pilgrim, came to Swat in 519.A.D, he observed “several renowned Buddhists scholars delivered Buddhist Philosophy as well as contemporary sciences in the valley. The Monasteries and schools are densely populated by uncountable students who have traveled here from far off lands. They are provided with accommodation and food.” The Chinese traveler was also impressed extremely by the heavenly peace, happiness and agricultural produce of the valley. He says “jungle fowls, deer and other wild animals openly roam the streets of the villages”. Hiuen Tsiang (630 A.D) describes its favourable climate and abundance of forests, flowers and fruit-trees. He speaks of fourteen hundred Monasteries on both sides of the river swat in the valley.

The rulers of Swat were the true heirs of Gandahara civilization. They transformed Swat into a cradle of peace which had been devastated by the Huns or other barbarians. During Swat State Era, an array of schools and hostels were constructed and it seemed that the spirit of Udyana and Gandahara civilizations was reincarnated. Now it seems that this cradle of peace is once again invaded by the “modern” barbaric Huns. Undoubtedly this nation of barbarians is not native but has infiltrated from some where else.

Before the establishment of Swat state, the valley was a victim of extreme restlessness, violence and anarchy. The day to day skirmishes and killing had entangled the society of Swat in its venomous tentacles. Famous saying about Swat was “Swat dakk da fasad” (Swat full of violence). But the intelligent central authority of the Miangul Abdul Wadood 1917-169 put the affairs on the right track and Swat became a peaceful and prosperous area in the region.

The rulers brought about a positive change in the temperament of the Pukhtuns of Swat. Tallaan (looting of property/houses) was discouraged and security of property and valuables was ensured. The State buildings were constructed with out any fortification to show the people that the age of anarchy had come to an end. But now the dormant demon is out again and the centuries old culture of looting has been revived once again. The people start looting whenever they find a handy opportunity. Its living examples are Public School Sangota, Excelsior College, the villages of Koza Bandai,Chindakhwara, Sarsinai and the houses of nobles, banks and the World Food Organization depot in Kanju.

Desecration of corpses, slaughtering human beings, chopping the legs and hands of living persons, tormenting a person before killing him are not the traditions and norms of Swat’s culture. Although revenge is considered obligatory, but abusing a corpse and butchering a human being is deemed savagery and brutality here. It is said that once a person killed the murderer of his father, after slackening his thirst of revenge, he noticed that the dead body of his enemy was lying in sun. He gently dragged the body towards the shadow of a tree.

Religion has never taught the barbaric acts committed today in Swat nor it is a part of our tradition and culture. Taking revenge is considered an honourable act in Pukhtun community but Jirga and Nanawatay is also an essential fragment of our heritage through which bloody enemies are forgiven.

If someone insists to avenge himself then he has to conform to certain codes of conduct in this matter. The elders of our society have always been reminding the sentimental youth about the obligations of revenge as it is not possible for a Pukhtun to live the life of coward.

But they have also forbidden killing the enemy when he is celebrating or mourning an occasion with his family or on sacred days of Eid or when he is accompanied by his minors. Respecting and regarding the elders and women of the enemy’s family is compulsory for every Pukhtun. But today, these norms and values are consigned to oblivion and several people have been killed in the presence of their terrified children. The children are massacred before the tearful eyes of their helpless mothers and the rivers of blood flown even on sacred days in the houses of God.

The inheritors of Gandhara Civilization spread peace and harmony in the valley. The name Udyana denotes a garden, such a garden where fragrant flowers, chirping birds, peace and tranquility reign supreme.

The valley of Swat is replete with historical relics from the banks of River Swat to the peaks of the snowy mountains. This Udyana civilization originated here and spread from Swat to Tibet in China. Several enchanting stupas and relics still embellish the landscapes of which some are in perfect condition while the others are in miserable state. The sublime epitome of Gandharan Art, Swat museum, still boasts the conserved Buddhist relics and beautifully stone carved artifacts in an admirable state. May God bless the soul of the last Wali of Swat, Miangul Jahanzeb, who generously supported the Italian archeologist who excavated the ancient historic heritage of Swat and won international status for Swat. These cultural heritages and legacy of swat are the substantial examples of the civilized people of Swat.

The way America exploited religion against Russia in Afghanistan in securing its vested interests was perhaps unrivalled by the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Americans departed victorious but left behind the fierce Arabian tribal culture in the disguise of Islam which devastated the centuries old legacy of Afghanistan and stigmatized the Afghan community all over the world.

The Wahabi germ has penetrated the frontier and overwhelmed this side of the Durand Line. The unique, ancient and historic heritage of Swat is being destroyed in the name of religion. The historic stone carved statue of seated Buddha in Jan Abad, which was second to Bamyan, was wiped out in this on going turbulence. This historic master piece of art can never be reversed again which has also destroyed the soft image of the valley worldwide.

These extremists are national criminals and the people who are silently watching this sad spectacle are also allies in a sense. The government has always ignored the conservation of these historic relics because the Establishment denies the history before 712 A.D. but the irony of the situation is that they talk of interfaith harmony and consider tourism as a potential source of revenue but have not yet been able to define tourism.

A status of a “historic valley” should be given to swat instead of a district. The beauty and historic heritage of Swat can not only wash away the deplorable stain of ignorance from the face of the world but can play a vital role in revenue generation of the nation and poverty alleviation.

The conservation of historic heritage is necessary and the government can inculcate the sense of propriety in the children by including it as a compulsory subject in the syllabi. The electronic and print media can also play an important role in ground work in this context. The National Assembly should legislate laws to restrain the vandals and treasure hunters.

The valley is fertile and all the ingredients of building and maintaining a civilization are profuse. In spite of possessing all these valuable resources, if we still keep silent, then barbarism will certainly replace the civilization of the valley.