Dealing with Students’ failures

Dealing with students’ failure
TAHIR ALI

WEEKEND MAGAZINE (July 31 2010): Result of the examination is one of the biggest yardsticks for judging the ability or otherwise of a student, teacher or institution. The occupational and educational excellence of an individual and institution is judged from high grades and good results in examinations. The more the frequency of upper grades in educational career, the more chances of getting a coveted job.

And the worse the result, the bleaker the future of the concerned student and college. That’s why, as a student, you always try to out-perform others, in the studies, so that you could reserve a place for the job of your dreams and a lifetime of happiness. You must set a high standard, your parents and peers tell you, because you have to compete with the world. There is no room for failure for you. And that’s why parents, siblings, teachers and institutions urge students to excel others in marks. Parents want their children to be trophy children. Siblings like and pride themselves as good achievers. Teachers also expect them to add glory to the school. School like/attract the talented students and reject/expel ones with poor memory/performance. Students are pushed from all sides to be the leaders.

Weaker and failed ones are disliked, ridiculed, neglected and maltreated. Derogatory remarks and nick names by siblings, friends and teachers are a common pattern of behaviour towards them. Their needs, problems, aptitudes and limitations are neglected but expectations from them are above their capabilities. The learners, as a result, are burdened and often overloaded beyond their capacities. So, they have to over strain themselves to fulfil the high ambitions of their families. They develop psychological disorders and may even become recluse and temperamental. They also grow an acute test-anxiety that invariably entails mental and psychological problems in most of the cases. This may even compel them to commit suicide.

The behaviour of parents, peers and siblings towards them is also characterised by extreme positions. They are either too lenient or stern. They neglect or give even undue support in examinations. They leave them to their own choice or overload them. Parental attention and co-operation proves beneficial and improves overall performance. But parents also spoil children by seeking sefarish or trying for unfair means in their examinations.

Attaullah was a student of class 8. His father threatened him of dire consequences and even asked him not to come home in case he fails. Unluckily for him, he failed. He fled from home but didn’t know where to go. However, he reached Kohat and worked with a local diary-farmer as animal-attendant. He remained there for four months. Back home, the entire family underwent mental agony during the time. Their ordeals eventually came to a finish when a villager spotted him grazing the cattle there, informed his family and he was brought home.

According to Dr Mohammad Farooq Khan, a psychiatrist and well known scholar, the common behaviour of parents towards failed students ranges from aggression to dereliction and from indifference to derision. “Parents’ initial response to the news is that of shock and denial – they are shocked to know but tend to believe that their children may have been unjustly failed. After that, when emotions subside and they begin analysing the situation, their aggression turns towards the children. This aggression may take the form of physical or mental torture or both. Intelligent and clever parents console and support their children in this hour of need. Some may even show indifference or negligence towards them. Again, many a time, their obsession with the children’s future and love for them can push them to give undue support- for example, they can try to use unfair means for their success,” says Dr Farooq.

He opines that parents are under increasing pressure to see that their children are high achievers. “Our cultural values have changed. Love for money, materialism, and prestige matters now more than anything else. Parents spend huge sums on their children in expensive schools, on their home-tuitions and other expenditures and they want to get the fruit. They fancy their ambitions fulfilled through their children. When a child fails, they react harshly to the news. This behaviour may even prove disastrous for the child and may expose him/her to inferiority complex but it is quite natural.”

He also points out that there is a huge difference in the way illiterate, poor and rural parents and their educated, rich and urban counterparts behave towards failed children. “The former by and large behave positively while the latter’s behaviour demolish their confidence,” claims Dr Farooq Khan.

The behaviour patterns of teachers relating to the failed students vary. Few teachers show indifferent attitude towards failed students; fewer give individual attention; most display unwarranted aggression and pass insulting remarks against their personality; hardly a few support and guide them the right way; and many urge them to give up studies and start doing some other ‘profitable’ work/job.

Students also say their teachers tell them to do well or leave the school. In public sector schools where there is no robust system for supervision upon the teachers, some teachers declare the failed students as ‘Raja’ or ‘prince’ and completely ignore them – these students are neither questioned nor is their homework checked for they ‘don’t/can’t understand’.

Plato, the great Greek philosopher, thinks that child is like a plant, which if properly nurtured must necessarily grow into all virtue and if planted in alien soil becomes the most obnoxious of all seeds. A hardworking, committed and friendly teacher can totally transform a student’s life and vice-versa. Dictatorial and unfriendly Teachers’ attitude proves harmful because it associates the latter with hatred and affects the tender atmosphere in the class, a must for successful learning. Individual attention by teachers towards weaker students is a sine-qua-non. “Some students who failed in English were given individual guidance and help in our school and they improved their performance as a result,” says Fazle Mabood, the principal of a high school. According to him, superior teachers like and inferior ones dislike children.

Parents mostly blame the failures of their children on the teachers. “Teachers work less in the class and have little commitment as they are in the profession not by choice but by chance. Teachers are role models for their students. When they are dull and weary themselves, what can the students learn from them? They must be knowledge-thirsty to instil a yearning for learning in their students,” remarks Khalil Khan, the father of Aiman. He holds teachers responsible for 90% of students’ failures and opines that students are punished for the wrongs of their teachers.

Tragedy and failure can become a source for prosperity and development provided right guidance is given. Tragedies and failures can push people to get to greater heights. Though failure has uplifted the spirits and performance of a few, most are overrun by morbidity that throws you into utter disappointment.

Many believe that failure system is against the principles of psychology and would like it to be wrapped up. Reminding that it is not practised in developed countries, Mohammad Haleem, a teacher, says that failure should be discarded at least up to 10th grade. He says it destroys students’ personalities and shatters their confidence. It is also pumping anti-social elements, street children, and fodder for child labour into society.

tahir_katlang@yahoo.com

Time management

COVER STORY: Making the most of your time
Time is like a block of ice. It has to melt whether you utilise it well or not, writes Tahir Ali

We often complain about not having enough time for our siblings, friends, studies, hobbies and a lot of other things. Do you know that many others also feel the same?

You see people in a hurry all the time � at home, school, on bus stop, roads and in markets. No one ever seems to have enough time to do all the things he/she wants or needs to do. Time can neither be increased nor recreated once it�s lost, and you are constantly reminded of this by your parents and teachers. So one has to take as much advantage of the time on hand as possible for it waits for no one.

So, what should one do? See, time is life and time management is, therefore, life management. You need to manage yourself, your priorities, your choices, your habits, your actions and your associations. To do so, you have to learn to organise yourself within the fixed time that you have. Time management is really about life management and self management. By adapting to time management strategies, one will get more done in less time and feel happier.

Time management improves the quality of your life and your performance. It helps one do the right thing at the right time and in the right way. And by getting the greatest benefit out of the limited time available you have, time management can help you become great achievers.

You can lead life as a leader or backbencher, the choice is yours. A philosopher once said: �There are three kinds of people in the world � those who make things happen, those who wish things would happen, and all the rest wandering in a daze, wondering what happened.�

Najamul Aleem is a classic example of a person who does not proactively manage his time and the access others have to him Most of his time was consumed by tasks handed over to him by his friends and relatives. They are using him for their own advantage and he is allowing it. What he needs to do is to be friendly towards others but never allow himself to be at the will and mercy of others.

Time bandits
There are time bandits for everyone: procrastination, distractions, friends, engagements that are of little use, exhaustion, disorder, TV, internet, phone, useless activities, etc. All are time management’s biggest enemies. Interruptions need to be dealt with assertively and decisively. Proactively regulate access to yourselves. Make sure that you are �off the air� when busy doing something important. Never allow unwarranted incursions in your time.

Do you know where does your time go? Most people do not. You must know what your biggest time consumers and/or time wasters are. Prepare a time log � a record of what you do daily. It will help you identify your priorities and biggest time wasters. It will help you organise your life. You�ll also get to know whether your time usage reflects your priorities. It is the most important element in time management.

For this purpose, study time usage. Read books, articles and biographies of punctual, effective and successful people to learn new time management skills.

Clear goals
To be successful in life you should have clear goals. Goals give direction to your activities and show what things � career, family, relationships, friends, health or anything else � are most important to you. Driving in the right direction is more important than driving fast. You need to be realistic and clear in your goals. Set time limits for long, medium and short range goals and aim to achieve something each day.

Aiman is a girl who wanted to be a doctor. But she always lacked the commitment and devotion needed for pursuing a high-profile career. Her aims were high but efforts weak. She dreamt of a bright future but wasted her time. The result was obvious � she never made it to a medical collage.

Your best shot
Give your best to everything you undertake. Stay focused on your goals. Immerse yourself in the task at hand. Reduce distractions as far as possible. If you find it difficult to remain focussed at doing something for longer chunks of time, divide your work-time in small blocks and then expand it as you get into the rhythm.

We all feel sorry for having wasted time in the past but tend to be unmindful of the present as well. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for it is the stuff life is made of.�

Take advantage of each moment at your disposal. If you travel frequently, use the planes, trains and automobiles to your advantage for studying. Avail your opportunities. You are lucky to have so many vistas opened to you. Avail the maximum benefit out of the guidance, care, time and money at your disposal. Never wait to be in a good mood to do something. Never wait for others to come and push you to work. Even if you don�t feel like doing something, just get started and soon you�ll get into the rhythm. Soon you would feel motivated. It�s a time-tested strategy and works for everyone.

Learn to schedule
Many think they cannot follow a strict schedule. Of course they can and so can you. Sometimes we just don�t know what to do. Plan the day, week or year and stick to the schedule. Spend 15 minutes daily to update your calendars, appointment books and to-do lists. Avoid multitasking (doing too many things at a time). Leave some room for entertainment, personal emergencies and for bigger priorities. Plan a reward, a celebration for yourself for completing tasks and a punishment if you fail to achieve your goals. The �carrot and stick� policy will improve your performance for sure.

Organise
Wajid is an untidy person. He is in the habit of throwing things around, so much of his time is wasted in searching for misplaced things. You should not follow his path. Organise your room and workplace so that you don�t have to look for misplaced and lost items. Have a place for everything and have everything in its place. Store your files in a neat and organised manner and label things.

Prioritise
Prioritise your choices. Know the difference between urgent and important. Do the most important or difficult task in your golden moments � when you are at your best. Some experts urge doing the least favourite and easy tasks first. It all depends on what works best for you.

Never exhaust yourself too much. Sleep for at least eight hours each day, breathe some fresh air, catch some sunshine, exercise and relax. Eat a balanced diet. Get rid of your TV addiction or at least control it. This �idiot-box� is one of our biggest time wasters.

We all face many problems in life, especially in youth. We are often repentant over what we did and grieve over the results. Dejected and angry at ourselves, we indulge in activities that are invariably detrimental to our time, studies and goals. �It�s all over for me,� we often proclaim. It never is.

A little reflection on our habits, priorities and activities and reconsideration of strategies can help. Think what it was in past that distracted you from studies and which were the things that wasted your time. Also try to know about the things and habits that proved useful during any stage of your academic life.

Avoid the distractions and make the most of your plus points, if feasible, in the new situation. You must resolve to make the best use of your available time to make up for previous deficiencies and time wastage. Start working with a new zeal and commitment and you will win.

Paramedics: Neglected, still

Neglected, still

By Tahir Ali

(The News, July11, 2010)

Paramedics play an important role in therapeutic, preventive, and rehabilitative fields in medical care in the country but they have been neglected by successive governments. They are still waiting for a uniform service structure that has been given to doctors and nurses but denied to them.

Sharafatullah Yousafzai, Senior Vice President of All Pakistan Paramedical Staff Federation (APPSF) says, “While there is Pakistan Medical and Dental Council for doctors, Pakistan Nursing Council for Nurses, and Pakistan Tib Council for hakims, etc, there should be one for paramedics. The draft for paramedics’ council was proposed and discussed initially in 1988 but it has not been presented to the parliament as yet.”

Yousafzai points out that “after a long delay, the government now wants to establish allied health professional council, and not paramedics’ council, so that doctors and nursing staff could be accommodated on administrative/decision-making posts, which is a great injustice to us.”

For lack of uniformed pay structure, paramedics work in different pay scales in different parts of the country. “For example, sanitary inspectors are working in BPS-6, BPS-12, and BPS-16 in different hospitals having the same qualification. “Paramedics are being unjustly treated. For example, in the 1960s paramedics and nurses were recruited in BS-5. Nurses are working in BS-16 and can go up to BPS-20. But paramedics still work in BPS-9 with the same or even higher qualification. While a separate directorate, council and board have been established for nurses, we have been denied all these. We are not against their benefits but wish that we are also treated at par with them,” adds Yousafzai.

“Paramedics appointed as dispensers, radiographers, operation theatre technicians, lab-technicians, dental technicians and paramedical tutors used to retire in the same pay scale till the recent past. Their service structures have been approved in the four provinces except in federal institutions, but these have not been implemented fully. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has implemented the service structure but only partially. We demand that the structure is implemented in its entirety so as to provide opportunities of promotion to paramedics upto the scale of 20,” he says.

“The female medical technicians and LHVs and male dispensers/technicians are practically running the government dispensaries in dangerous and far away rural settings,” says Yousafzai. “There are at present around 110,000 class three paramedics in the country. The strength is insufficient and it should be tripled.”

Shahid Jan Khatak, General Secretary APPSF, says the absence of council has led to a mushroom growth of substandard private paramedical institutes, irregularity in duration of courses, and absence of standardisation in curricula and examinations. “Today, when a democratic government is there, it is hoped that the council would be established by the government sooner rather than later,” hopes Khatak.

Paramedics at the federal level, however, still wait for the approval of their service structure. “The national commission for service structure of health professionals at the federal level was constituted in 2005. While its recommendations were implemented in case of doctors and nurses, those about paramedics still await implementation,” complains Khatak.

Sirajuddin Burki, Central President APPSF, says the importance of paramedical staff has tremendously increased and it is essential for them now to acquire modern education, “The paramedical staff should be provided opportunities of higher education, leading to PhD, in and outside the country so that they could improve on their performance,” says Burki.

“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is leading in that it has four colleges for all categories, though their standard is also on the decline for some time now. In other provinces, however, there is no such structure. The training colleges, both in public and private sector in federal area and provinces, have no uniform syllabus and have different duration of training, while those in the private sector are mostly without hospital attachment, proper teaching staff, and registration,” Burki adds. According to him, paramedics have been neglected in the projects and training meant for capacity building of health professionals while doctors and nurses benefited.

“A few years ago, around $300m were provided by the Japanese government for providing training to health professionals. At that time too, paramedics were simply ignored. The money lapsed without having been utilised,” says Burki.

Paramedics are exposed to Hepatitis B and C, cancer, tuberculosis, jaundice and other dangerous viral and infectious diseases while working in hazardous conditions in X-ray laboratories, operation theatre, emergency and wards, etc. “Doctors sign the reports prepared by the paramedics. But paramedics have been denied allowances though these are available to the nursing staff,” he adds. Akbar Ali Khoso, General Secretary APPSF Sindh, and Abdus Samad Raisani, President APPSF Balochistan, say they would continue their peaceful struggle for paramedics’ council, risk allowance, and higher education for paramedics.

The spokesman of the health ministry, Qazi Abdus Saboor, says a lot of work has been done on the issue of paramedics’ council and the service structure for federal government’s health institutions. “A summary has been prepared for it and it may be approved any time soon. All the important demands of the paramedics have been incorporated in it,” he claims.

On the issue of demanding higher education for paramedics, he says there are many such institutes working in the country that are providing education to them. But he adds that “the number is insufficient and there should be at least one paramedical institute and nursing school in each district of the country.” Saboor says risk allowance is only given to those working in emergencies and was not meant for all. “With the introduction of danger-free machines and standardised operating procedures, health hazards to health technicians have decreased considerably.”

(tahir_katlang@yahoo.com)

Funding Chashma lift project

Funding the Chashma lift project

By Tahir Ali

(Dawn, 12 July, 2010)

THE Chashma Right Bank Canal lift project will be further delayed for want of required funds which have not been provided in this year’s federal budget.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Irrigation Pervez Khatak says the provincial government is actively pursuing the project, and hopes that it will be approved by the central development working party and the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council soon. But there are fears that funds for the project may not be released easily due to the federal government’s reluctance.

On February 22, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had promised that the Rs62 billion project would be formally inaugurated by mid-March. But it has not happened.

Under the mega project, irrigation water from a feeder canal of the Chashma barrage will be pumped into the main canal by a 64 feet lift.

It seems that the prime minister had approved the project as a goodwill gesture but after the seventh National Finance Commission Award, the cash-starved federal government is trying to delay approval of the project.

The CDWP has agreed to the project in principle but it has formed a committee to consider its financial and technical aspects. Officials say the committee report will be sent for final decision to the ECNEC.

“The project was cleared by a technical committee of the engineers headed by former Wapda chairman Shamus-ul-Mulk in the past. There is no need to do so again. I am afraid the federal government is not ready to finance the project, hence the formation of the committee,” an official said.

Haji Adeel, former finance minister Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, says the centre has to release the project funds as the prime minister has approved the project. “The parliamentarians from K-P will have to collectively pursue the vital project to get the funds as early as possible,” he said.

The project has been a part of the public sector development programme (PSDP) since 2005, but required funds to start the development work were not released. In this year’s PSDP, Rs400 million has been set aside for the project.

According to Adeel, time is of essence. “The delay has already increased the cost of the project from Rs25 billion in 2005 when it was first approved, to Rs62 billion of late. Any further delay would escalate the cost beyond affordability,” he added.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti thinks the project will bring about a green revolution in the province and needs to be expedited.

An official at the K-Pakhtunkhwa’s CM secretariat says the project had been excluded from the PSDP this year initially but a strong intervention by Chief Minister Hoti revived it once again. He hopes the project, which initially was to be completed in three years, will be completed in next five years.

The importance of the project cannot be over-emphasised. The project originally comprised three lifts. If all the three lifts are completed, the CRBC will irrigate over one million acres in all. “The revised PC-1 envisages irrigation of around 0.3 million acres. The project will ensure food autarky in the province,” argued the official.

Only 30 per cent of the available land in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is tilled. To meet the growing food needs, it must increase acreage which is impossible without irrigation water. It has not been able to fully utilise the available water. Out of 25 million acres, the irrigated land is only 2.27MA while around 4.4MA still awaits irrigation facility.

“K-Pakhtunkhwa has limited irrigation infrastructure. It utilises only 5.5 out of the allotted 8.78 million acres feet water of its share in the Water Apportionment Accord of 1991, and about 3.28MAF water of its share flows down to other provinces. This necessitates construction of the CRBC,” said another official.

With the federal government ignoring its commitments, the question arises what is the way out. Should the provincial government arrange finances for the project on its own?

With K-Pakhtunkhwa’s net receivables almost doubled due to seventh NFC Award, it may take the first bold step and allocate funds for the vital project and seek foreign funding. The provincial government may chalk out a strategy for the purpose in collaboration with the federal government.

Taliban-US talks

Is US-Taliban dialogue likely?

Tahir Ali

Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants to win over the moderate Taliban insurgents and leaders by offering them money, jobs, protection, and amnesty. But the million dollar question is: will his plan succeed. I think it won’t for various reasons. The strategy was used in Iraq with significant results. However it is either unlikely to happen at all or may not succeed in the war-torn Afghanistan though it probably will generate considerable debate in the media. The coalition obviously aims to divide and weaken the Taliban-led struggle. British foreign secretary David Miliband has also publicly stated that the aim of the Western countries was to divide the Taliban and overcome their resistance.

The coalition only wishes a respite in attacks against the coalition forces there and wants peace but on the basis of its own terms and desires. Will the Taliban or Hikmatyar, rather Afghans, agree to it? They, as we all know, have their preconditions to enter into a meaningful dialogue. Both Taliban and Hikmatyar –the two biggest forces that matter there –have made their support to a negotiated settlement of the Afghan imbroglio conditional with the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. And you know there is no such thing on the agenda. Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujiahid said Taliban could not be bought by money and bounties. The only political solution is that the foreign forces and the Afghan government surrender to them, he said. Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, former Afghan premier and chief of the Hezb-e-Islami, the biggest party after Taliban in Afghanistan, said that talks could be held but after withdrawal of foreign troops or assurances thereof. Karzai and other Afghan leaders have demanded that the Taliban forswear militancy before talks start. For their part, the Taliban have demanded that the Americans and other foreign forces leave the country first. Both are poles apart, how could negotiations succeed in this situation.

The plan is based on the premise that Taliban fighters are given higher salaries than the Afghanistan can afford to pay its forces. This is unproven and what is proven is that most of them live in miserable conditions. If considered in this backdrop, the whole premise of buying off the Taliban is unsound and doomed to fail. The size of the Nato-led force in Afghanistan will rise to 150,000 by year-end. But the surge alone will not ensure victory for them there. A political strategy will be needed but for that the huge gap between the opposing views of Taliban and US will have to be reconciled. It necessitates a mediator or arbiter between the two. But an arbiter usually starts work on the mutual request or consent of the parties concerned. Again, an arbiter should be a neutral and respected person or body of people and has to be given authority. This is called “Waak” in Pushto. Has any Waak been given to a third party or arbitrator? Karzai also hopes Saudi Arabia and Pakistan will play a role and support his peace and reconciliation endeavours. But it may not happen as well for some reasons. Saudi Arabia has been asked for help for its respect in Muslims. But its foreign minister Saud al-Faisal says his country will take part in Afghan peace efforts only if the Taliban denies sanctuary to al Qaeda and cuts ties with it. Will Taliban promise for that? The United States, Britain, Canada, Germany and Japan have voiced support for the plan and a negotiated peace with the Taliban. But the offer of dialogue has been restricted to the Taliban who would be ready to shun militancy. This selective application won’t work. General amnesty won’t be given so it is unlikely that militants will lay down arms and come home.

The presence of Alqaeda and American occupation of Afghanistan are the principal causes of the problem. With both showing no signs of imminent withdrawal, any hope for peace there tantamount to running after illusions. As long as Alqaeda is there, American occupation won’t leave and until its occupation continues, resistance to it will invariably go on. But the plan doesn’t address this core issue altogether. Any hope for peace and the success of this mechanism may only be just a wishful thinking. America and NATO countries always seek to divert attention from their occupation to the resultant resistance and “terrorism”. According to Richard Holbrook, the overwhelming majority of these people are not ideological supporters of Mullah Omar and al-Qaida. But that majority of fighters are not ideological fighters doesn’t mean that they are supporters of Hamid Karzai and the US occupation forces. History bears proof that Afghans have always detested foreign occupation forces. Though Karzai believes Pakistan can bring the Taliban to the negotiation table but there are indications that Pakistan’s influence and credibility in the Afghan Taliban have been on the decline ever since it joined the US war on terror. They didn’t accept its request to hand over Osama to the US; they rejected its persuasion to avoid the Bamiyan debacle; they didn’t deliver wanted Pakistanis hiding there and the like.

It is for this reason that I am strongly opposed to the claims on part of our successive governments that had Pakistan not come to the rescue of the US-led coalition in the war, it would lost the war. When our leaders boastfully say that Pakistan’s support is vital for them, they, by default, mean that it can still ensure peace in Afghanistan which I fear it’s not.

The US and Taliban would have to show restraint and avoid dangerous actions that can make negotiations impossible or halt the process if it started at all.

The latest action, operation Mushtarak in Hilmand province of Afghanistan, may further alienate the insurgents who are for dialogue with the occupation forces or Afghan government. Are they ready to do that?

(Pakistan Observer)

Jamal Garhi’s Buddha site

Buddha’s footsteps

The sites of Jamal Garhi and Sawal Dher in NWFP are an archaeological treasure that needs more attention

By Tahir Ali

After crossing the Rashakai Bridge on Nowshera-Mardan road, you enter Mardan with a billboard saying ‘Welcome to Mardan: The land of Gandhara.’ Mardan has been the heart of ancient Gandhara and has a huge presence of the remains of Buddhist Civilization at Takht Bai, Jamal Garhi, Shahbaz Garhi, Therelli (Sawal Dher), Mekha Sanda, Chanakai Dheri, Aziz Dheri, Sehri Bahlol and so on. Sculptures excavated from here are displayed in various museums of Pakistan and around the world.

The archaeological site at Jamal Garhi lies to the northeast of Mardan City at a distance of 15 kilometres on the Mardan-Katlang road. This road has been renamed as Rahimullah Yousafzai’s Route after the great son of the soil who has achieved worldwide fame in journalism. Located between the villages of Jamal Garhi and Shikray Baba on top of a hill at an elevation of 122 metres, this site is called ‘The Jamal Garhi Kandarat’ by the locals. The remains at the site are traced back from 1st to 5th century A.D. It is said that Kushans, Little Kushans and Hindu Parthians had inhabited the place. With the end of the Kushan rule in 225 A.D., the Gandhara civilization gradually declined. The invasion of White Huns around 450-500 A.D. put an end to this era. The Huns virtually destroyed monasteries and killed its inhabitants. Little is known about this period. But a Chinese Pilgrim Fa Hsein, who travelled through the Peshawar valley in 400 A.D. said that the Gandhara region was flourishing then. When his successor Sung Yen came to the region in 520 A.D. he reported that the Huns had destroyed the country.

A company ‘Sappers and Miners’ explored this site first in 1873. As told by Yasir Ali, the site attendant, a statue of Buddha — known as the Fasting Buddha — recovered from here in 1907 was taken to the Lahore Museum where it is kept with the information that it was excavated from a village near the site. The Chinese Pilgrims say nothing about this important place. A Kharoshti inscription discovered from the excavation conducted during 1907-08 revealed Samavat 359, which corresponds to 275 A.D. In 1836 Sikh General made it Gandaparas. The site was excavated in 1876 and later on in 1910-11, it was again excavated.

The site comprises a main round stupa, circumscribed by chapels that are closely packed together. According to Sir John Marshal, a famous archaeologist, the round stupa at Jamal Garhi is one of the oldest from the Gandhara period. There are many votive stupas which were built by votaries who had got their wishes fulfilled here at the main round stupa. The Kitchens, courtyards, meditation rooms, secret wall, a meeting hall, general and guests’ dining hall and monks’ quarters are some of the important constructions at this complex. A distinctive feature of the site is the separate quarters, probably meant for the visiting scholars and monks. All the constructions are stone-made and are still intact in some of the cases. Another salient feature of the complex is the path in the middle.

The Jamal Garhi’s archaeological site is situated in the middle of Takht Bhai and Shahbaz Garhi — the two other important Buddhist centres — at an equal distance of 12 kilometres from each side. The site is some eight kilometres away from another historical place of Therrelli (Sawal Dher) which is situated to its east and which also has many archaeological remains though they are in a very dilapidated condition and seem to have been forgotten. The Theralli Establishment was excavated by Japanese and Pakistani experts in three sessions — in 1964, 1966 and 1967. This is a large complex comprising main stupa, many surrounding votive stupas, residential rooms and other sections. This site also dates back to 1st to 5th century AD. and many of the remains have been destroyed by illegal excavators.

This monastery is easily accessible from each side. From Shahbaz Garhi you may approach it via Charguli to Sawal Dher to Katlang road. If you are at Takht Bhai, it is better you take up the Takht Bhai to Jamal Garhi route to reach here; and if you want to come straight to Jamal Garhi from Mardan, take up the Katlang-Mardan road. Here you will enjoy an easy drive right up to the site as Department of Archaeology and Museum, Government of Pakistan, has constructed a beautiful zigzagging passage with the help of Japanese engineers.

The Jamal Garhi and the Sawal Dher sites are not as yet on the world’s heritage list of UNESCO, which must be ensured. Visitors in the site told The News on Sunday that a tuck-shop, a police-post, a park, lavatories and seating arrangements with sun-cover are the immediate requirements of the place. They also urged an awareness campaign on the media about the site. Sajjad Haider, a visitor, called upon the department of Archaeology and Museums to expedite the repair work and save many of the remains from further damage. “It is our heritage. We must join hands with the government to preserve and develop the historical sites,” said a man Qayyum Khan. Bakht Raziq from Katlang suggested that power and water must necessarily be provided at the site without any further delay.

The Jamal Garhi’s site is ideally located for a picnic. It has a stream of fresh water flowing below on its northern side while the famous Lower Swat Canal and one of its subsidiaries flows close to it in the east. Despite the hot weather, cool breeze makes the weather pleasant throughout the summer.

The site affords an impressive view of the picturesque district of Mardan. Stand anywhere in the site and you will get a handsome panoramic view of Mardan and its surrounding areas. An excursion here especially at the time of sunrise and sunset is an excellent idea.

The hill on which the structures stand is part of a vast mountainous range and many tiers of mountains can be seen. Far in the west and east, the hills that house the Takht Bhai and Shahbaz Garhi’s archaeological remains are visible if the sky is blue and clear. Looking down below at the plain in the south is refreshing. But no less amusing and wonderful is the sight of the vast mountainous range in the north, east and west.

(The News, 18-05-08)

Takht Bhai’s magnificent Buddhist remains

Magnificent Buddhist remains

Text and Photos By Tahir Ali

The North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) (now renamed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) has been lavishly bestowed with various precious resources. It has plenty of water and a big power generation capacity, snow covered mountains, thick forests, gas reservoirs, vast gemstone deposits and other minerals. The presence of archaeological sites in Mardan, Swat and other areas adds further charm to its pristine beauty.

Mardan, the Frontier’s second largest city, is called the land of Gandhara as it was the heart of the ancient civilisation. Several remains of the civilisation can be seen at Takht-i-Bahi, Sehri Bahlol, Shahbaz Garhi, Jamal Garhi, Sawal Dher, Mekha Sanda, Chanakai Dheri, and Aziz Dheri.

The Takht-i-Bahi archaeological site is one of the most magnificent of Buddhist remains in Pakistan. It is situated on the Mardan-Swat road some 13km north of the city. The complex is accessible from Islamabad by a two-hour drive while from Peshawar it is some 80km away and is accessible in about an hour, thanks to the Islamabad-Peshawar motorway.

Located 2km east of Takht-i-Bahi bazaar, this Buddhist complex stands 500 feet above the ground and is built on a hilltop, as is common with all Buddhist structures.

As you go up the mountain you get a spectacular panoramic view of the plains in the east, south and west. Even more refreshing is the sight northwards of the beautiful Malakand pass and the Hindu Kush mountainous range.

The monastery and the near by village, some say, have been named after the two wells located on top of the hill that the complex is situated on. Others think Takht means ‘throne’ and Bahi or Bhai stands for ‘water’ or ‘spring’ in Persian. There is still a spring of fresh water present on the left side of this Buddhist site.

General Court, the French officer of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, first mentioned the site in 1836. Later it was explored in 1852, 1864, and 1869-70. General Maclagan’s deputed men found several sculptures here afterwards. Sergeant Wilcher of the company Sappers and Miners excavated it in 1871 and found innumerable sculptures,  some of these depicted stories from the life of Buddha, while others were related to worship.

In 1907-8, the curator of Peshawar Museum, Dr DB Spooner systematically excavated the site. Later, in 1910-11, Mr Hargreaves, another curator, discovered the famous and beautiful thin Siddhartha in three parts. A large number of stone and stucco sculptures have been excavated since then which are now on display in Peshawar and Mardan museums. Many, however, were wasted due to recklessness of excavators or were stolen.

According to some historians, the Takht-i-Bahi monastery was destroyed by the Huns of Central Asia along with many other Gandhara sites in the region. Their king Mihiragula, according to an account, destroyed 1600 stupas, monasteries and killed two thirds of Gandhara’s inhabitants and this complex also suffered heavily as a result.


According to some historians, the Takht-i-Bahi monastery was destroyed by the Huns of Central Asia along with many other Gandhara sites in the region.


Until 2001, only about 15% area of the whole site was exposed. In 2004-5, the department of archaeology discovered a huge-block on the western and southwestern sides of the site, which added new charm to it. Some famous statues of Buddha and Gandhara art pieces were excavated. The newly discovered part is many times bigger than the one previously exposed.

The site presents architectural diversity and beauty combined. It dates back to 2nd century BC and has a covered area of 650 canals. It comprises the main stupa and votive stupa courts, the kitchens and dinning hall, meditation cells, monastic quadrangle, covered underground passages, the monastery, conference hall, the low-level chambers, open courtyard, the court of three stupas, remains of hundreds of rooms and prison cells.

There is a small museum where a few statues and relics are displayed. The court of stupas, experts say, contained statues of Buddha in sitting and standing postures but were removed later. A statue of the Buddha is on display in the centre of the complex. The sight of the sculpture reminded me of my earlier visit here in 1995 when almost each stupa had statues in it. An official informed me that some of them are now either kept in Peshawar or in a safe location within the complex.

Walking around, you cannot help but wonder about the acumen of the architects of this complex. You can see that the monastery had cells for the monks on four sides, a veranda in front, and assembly hall and storerooms which gives an idea about the lifestyle of the monks.

There is plenty to explore here. Going down into the meditation rooms, you enter the various cells. The underground passage between the eastern and western and the central and western sections of the monastery atop the hill to the south are no less interesting.

Due to its historical significance and amazing architectural features, UNESCO has placed the site on its World heritage list. The Sahri-Bahlol remains that date back to the same period and are located a couple of kilometres away to its south, have also been awarded the status.

Zulfiqar Ali, a teacher who had come here with his students, told this writer that despite the fact that huge funds have been spent to attract visitors, still tourist facilities like cafeteria, tuck shop, and tourist information are not available. Another visitor felt annoyed that Takht-i-Bahi municipal committee was dropping garbage collected from the city near the site. Naveed, 30, a visitor from Mardan underlined the need for stopping illegal excavation and hill cutting near the site, arguing that it posed potential threat to the remains.

A few site attendants guide and facilitate the tourists as well as look after the site. One of them, Amjad Ali, told this writer that he was proud to be looking after this magnificent structure. He informed that tourists were on the decline since 9/11.

Major repair work at the site started in 2001 though it had been initiated by the British before partition. At present, the second five-year phase of repair work is underway. But several parts are on the verge of collapse and are being supported with iron bars to hold them up. However, more attention on the part of the federal and NWFP governments and UNESCO is needed for the conservation and restoration of this precious and rare remain site as well as others in the area. It remains to be seen if they will come to its rescue before it is too late.

tahir_katlang@yahoo.com
(DAWN, Jan 24,2008))


Above: Some brooken statues on display at the site
Left: A view of the Takht-i-Bahi complex
Below: Another view of the complex with one section supported to guard against collapse
Bottom left: The central part of the complex