Monday September 27, 2021

The Lake District of Rawalpindi: too deep to look over

Rawalpindi Division is full of mysteries. If Murree is an obvious aspect of its beauty, Chakwal is the secret.

Since the construction of Mandra-Chakwal Road, people living around Rawat prefer this route to enter Motorway from Balkasar Interchange while moving to Lahore or Multan.

They pass through the historic cities of Jatli, Dhudiyal and Syed Kasran. Forts, mausoleums, archeological sites, and incredible topography are not the only attractions to these cities. If you listen to the people, you will unlock a treasure of oral history as almost every family has a past to narrate. Rajas, Maliks, Khans and Syeds of the area ... all have a past plated with struggle for uplift of the area.

Good to know that Chakwal has got a deputy commissioner who is eager not to let any of this fall into the lake of oblivion and neglect.

“In developed countries, you will find that they have preserved the places with lakes as Lake Districts. Chakwal is the only Lake District in Rawalpindi Division. And we have identified and preserved it. Now you will see a boarding reading Lake District under Chakwal on the Motorway,” Capt (r) Abdusstar Isani told me at his residence adjacent to the Chakora Road.

It is a traditional mansion, where a giant gate manned by a smart guard confronts you. The courtyard is wide and roofs of big white rooms are high enough for the evenings to hang even after the sunrise.

Time was when this road was next to impassable due to thick encroachments before Isani got it recovered in the face of stiff resistance, even from local journalists. Overall he recovered land worth Rs1.4 billion which is a record in Punjab and people of the area may remember it as his legacy.

The district has 21 natural dams on which the irrigation of this arid region relies. In addition to irrigation, these dams have great tourism potential which remains untapped.

The lakes of Chakwal are among the most beautiful ones. “We are now building a resort at Dharbi Lake and you can it from Motorway. We are making our dams more attractive to visitors and I am developing a pictorial archive of these places,” Isani said.

He said that he loves the natural beauty of the region and the pictorial archive will be in the shape of a magazine. Similarly, he is also compiling Chakwal Gazette that will carry details of the district. “No. It will not be like the ones compiled in British Raj. We will take into consideration our cultural and local sensitivities compiling this,” he said.

Though Chakwal was made a district in 1998, until recently, Gazette of Jehlum was being used here.

Few people may know that Choa Saiden Shah has an incredible waterfall and the best of roses. The rosewater extracted here is considered among the finest in the world, he said.

Katas Raj and its history is no secret for international tourists. Every year considerable number of Hindu pilgrims come to this temple while local tourists continue frequenting this place in all seasons.

Syed Wajih Kazmi, a local journalist formerly associated with Al Jazeera TV and Qatr Foundation, has preserved in his Nikkon camera famous places of the district. There is a charm in working here, he said.

“Since my appointment, I have loved its sites and sports like tent-pegging, horse riding and bull race. Last year, I arranged here first Jeep Rally in which 44 vehicles were run on a 20-km track. We could not have it this year due to coronavirus. The district will be fully open and friendly to tourists once this pandemic is fully over. This is a fusion of civilizations and we are here to present it to the world. Welcome to Chakwal,” a smiling and meticulously dressed Isani says.