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Beauty of scenic Shahi, Benshahi pulls tourists


July 8, 2019

TIMERGARA: The beauty of scenic Shahi and Benshahi in Samarbagh tehsil of Lower Dir district along the Pakistan border with Afghanistan pull tourists and nature lovers from different parts of the country both in winter and summer seasons.

The two picturesque places are favourite tourist destinations because of the lush green landscape, tall Cedar trees, waterfalls and pleasant weather. The naturally beautiful areas share a border with Kunar province of Afghanistan. The two scenic spots receive heavy snowfall in winters and attract tourists in large numbers. In the past, the mountain peaks used to be under thick ice shield in summers also, but now snow can hardly be spotted there due to the global climate change. The climate change has not only affected the weather pattern across the globe but scientists say it is also damaging the natural habitat of various birds and animals and can ultimately cause disasters in different parts of the world. As the glaciers are fast melting, flash floods and warming of weather happens in the areas where the weather used to be pleasant during summers. Though several glaciers in Shahi and Benshahi mountains have melted down, snow can still be found in areas covered with trees. Resultantly, the weather there remains cold and pleasant.

Shahi is situated on the top of the mountain. The small market is constructed on a three-kilometre stretch of plain land on top of the mountain. In the past, people from Afghanistan frequently visited this market to buy daily use items.

Afghanistan is situated just three kilometres away from the market and the border can be seen easily as the neighbouring country is on the other side of the mountain. Precious Cedar timber and non-custom paid vehicles used to be smuggled to the Shahi market from Afghanistan in the past.

People living on both sides of the border have family relations and used to move across the frontier without any restrictions. Now they cannot cross the border without having legal documents after deployment of security forces and placing of proper border management measures. As a result, the people who have relatives across the border are facing hardships to participate in social functions such as weddings, funerals and other occasions, said Nasir Jan, a local resident.

The neighbouring countries have deployed troops on the border after cross border attacks inside Pakistan by the Afghanistan-based militants a few years ago in which several Pakistani security personnel were martyred.

The road to Shahi from Samarbagh is not in good condition and needs to be reconstructed. However, the road from Barawal leading to Shahi has been constructed by the former senior minister for local government Inayatullah Khan, who is currently member provincial assembly (MPA) from this constituency of Upper Dir and belongs to Jammat-e-Islami (JI). MPA Inayatullah is a resident of Shahi Kot village, He has won the provincial assembly seat three times in the past four general elections. He did not contest the election in 2008 as the Jamaat-e-Islami had boycotted the election held by the military ruler General Pervez Musharraf. A monument in the memory of martyred General Officer Commanding Malakand Division, Major General Sanaullah Niazi, has also been built in Shahi Kot.

He along with Lt Col Tauseef was martyred in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack near the Pak-Afghan border in Gat Koto area in Upper Dir. He was on a visit to a forward post near the Pak-Afghan border and was targeted by an IED planted by terrorists by the roadside on September 15, 2013. Nasir Jan said that peace had been restored to the area and it is safe for tourists to visit and enjoy the natural beauty and pleasant weather.Water can be seen flowing down from mountains in beautiful waterfalls in Shahi and Benshahi. People from Upper Dir and Lower Dir visit these waterfalls during sight-seeing and picnic trips. This scribe witnessed several visitors, particularly young people, at one such amazing waterfall on the roadside in Shahi. They were taking pictures to record the beauty of the place. Shahi and Benshahi offer stunning views and the journey is breathtaking. A seasonal stream flowing amongst the tall mountains through a terrain dotted by trees and plants finally merges into river Panjkora.

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