A neglected emblem of knowledge
Swat is wonderfully diverse in its culture as well as landscape as it has been a significant part of ancient civilisations such as the Gandhara and Darada civilisations.
However, its beauty and resources have been subject to the ambition and greed of rulers in history, like Alexander the Great and Mahmud of Ghazni. Most recently, it has been victim to the wrath of the Taliban. Nevertheless, Swat has seen prosperous eras which its people still hold onto with nostalgic fervour.
Once Swat became a state, the reign of Miangul Abdul Haq Jahanzeb is seen as the ‘golden period’. Jahanzeb was the last wali of Swat who ruled from 1949 to 1969. Several citizens in Swat say Jahanzeb was to Swat what Prince Karim Aga Khan was to the northern areas of Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan. Both were seen as modern and far-sighted individuals as they received their education from the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Prince Karim Aga Khan was a spiritual leader who tried to increase the living standards and quality of education for people in the mountainous regions of Pakistan, especially education of the people living a harsh life in the mountains of Hindukush, Pamir and Karakorum. Jahanzeb, on the other hand, believed it to be his political and royal responsibility to change the lives of people living in Swat. The similarity between the two lies in the fact that both Prince Karim Aga Khan and Miangul Jahanzeb gave priority to education in their respective regimes.
During Jahanzeb’s rule, the first high school was established in Saidu Sharif with the name Wadudia High School. After that, he established schools in almost every village of Swat. One of his most major achievements was the establishment of the Jahanzeb College in Saidu Sharif in 1952. This was the first college built by the state in Swat and also the first of its kind in all of Malakand division.
Jahanzeb College has produced intelligent individuals with outstanding reputations. Every child in Swat aspired to attend this college one day because of its high standards of education. The first time I saw the school was as a child in 1986 when I was onboard the GTS (Government Transport Service). It was a beautiful building with three floors and spiral stairs leading to each floor. The sight of the beautiful building with the spiral stairs and crimson towering pillars caught my childhood romance and I wished I could be a part of it. It was then that I had made up my mind about attending this college. After working hard in my school years, I was able to gain admission to this institution. Although my years at the college were complicated by ethnic differences, I still cherish those days when I would stroll the lawns opposite the college building.
Unfortunately, since the state of Swat was merged in 1969, the quality of education at Jahanzeb College decreased dramatically, as did the standards of other aspects of life in Swat. At one point in time, students from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chose Jahanzeb College for their studies, but after the standards of education fell, even the most brilliant students from Swat started opting for other institutions in Peshawar or elsewhere.
The building also gradually lost its charm owing to the constant negligence of the relevant authorities who failed to maintain and repair the building over the years. Due to this apathy on the part of the government and the ‘literati’ of Swat, the majestic building of Jahanzeb College began to disintegrate with the last blow being the earthquakes of 2005 and 2015. The 2005 earthquake particularly affected the building structure to a large extent, leaving it in a deplorable condition, like a ‘ghost building’. Jahanzeb College has now become a monument in Swat as its architecture and history fully qualify it to be one.
The government must restore and rejuvenate Jahanzeb College to its original glory as it is an important part of Swat’s education, culture and history. In this regard, the alumni of this college, known as ‘Jahanzebians’, must also take action and save their alma mater.
The writer heads IBT, an independentorganisation dealing with education and
development in Swat. Email: [email protected]