Allah The All- Knowing!


جو لوگ بن دیکھے اپنے پروردگار سے ڈرتے ہیں، ان کے لئے بےشک مغفرت اور بڑا اجر ہے۔

 اور تم اپنی بات چھپا کر کرو یا زور سے کرو سب اس کے علم میں ہےکیونکہ وہ دلوں کی باتوں کا پورا علم رکھنے والا ہے۔

بھلا جس نے پیدا کیا وہ ہی نہ جانےِ؟ جبکہ وہ بہت باریک بین، مکمل طور پر باخبر ہے

As for those who fear their lord unseen, for them is Forgiveness and a great Reward.

And whether you hide your word or publish it, He certainly has full knowledge of the secrets of all hearts.

Should He know that, He who created? And He is the one well acquainted with them.

Sura Al-Mulk….. Ayats 12-14

The Demise of the Doppatta!

A slightly edited version of this blog was published in The Express Tribune Blogs

 (Before starting to read this blog please keep in mind that this is not a religious sermon! At the moment, keeping aside my firm belief in the teachings of Islam, I am just writing this piece as a social and cultural responsibility).

Hawa mein urtaa jaaye mera laal dopatta malmal ka…one of my cherished childhood memories is about this old song! On some days when we could not think of some other game, I and my twin sisters would sneak Ammi’s doppattas (each of us rushing to grab the red one). We would sing this popular song of those days, dancing clumsily on our spacious terrace, as the doppattas (too long for our small frames) flew behind us in the air!

Dopattas were once considered an integral part of the dress code in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. Long flowing scarves which covered the hair and bosom, were considered an important sign of femininity. Worn with a shalwar qameez, they also differentiated our women from those belonging to the Western andother cultures and were regarded as a cultural/religious symbol.

Sadly, over the decades, the influxes of foreign influence, plus a general misconception of women empowerment, have made our women let this beautiful piece of clothing fly away from their dresses. For good!

It is a common sight to see grown up girls and even women dressed in shirts (qameez) with shalwars/trousers/ cigarette pants whatever, with no sign of a doppatta. I personally feel that their dress looks incomplete, as if they have forgotten an important part of their suit at home! Because in my opinion, a doppatta carried properly adds grace, charm and beauty to a woman’s looks and is in no way a hindrance or hassle for her.

After being hesitant for years, when I finally decided to write on this sensitive issue, I felt that taking the views of young girls would be more appropriate. Because considering my age, anyone can easily accuse me of doling out unnecessary (aunty-like) advice which does not go with the requirements of the progressive times we are living in. Both of the girls who have given their opinion are daughters of my friends and highly educated professionals.

Quratulain Ahmed, an entrepreneur, (also the chief motivator behind this writing), speaks her mind in clear terms. Out spoken and liberal, she does not mince her words while giving her views. “Belonging to a conservative Urdu speaking family, I wasn’t even allowed to wear jeans to college since my mother disliked it. Shalwar Kameez was the only dress which I and my sisters could wear once we outgrew our teens and started developing our bosoms. Wearing a dupatta was a must for us. For four years, I went to a liberal arts college managing a duppatta with the art material etc I had to carry daily. But gone are those days and Dupattas are now considered out of fashion. As someone has put “less is more”, women have stopped wearing them.

Zehra Awan, who has recently completed her ACCA and works with a reputed accountancy firm says, “Before giving my views on the disappearance of doppattas from the female apparel these days, I would like to mention that I was also one of those young girls who had done away with this important part of the feminine dress in our culture. Somehow, I thought wearing it was a hassle and a hindrance to my movement, whether I was at work or in a social gathering. To be honest, one day I suddenly realized how inappropriate it was to go out without a doppatta! It didn’t take me long to realize that I felt much better when I wore a doppata with my dress as I felt safer from unnecessarily prying eyes and somehow  I was also more inclined to pray regularly.

 “Although I admit that wearing a dupatta has not made me more religious or a better person, nor has it clarified all the rights and wrongs in my mind, but one way in which it has changed me is through my womanly conscience and sense of security when I step out of my house.”

Qurat muses, “Western influences in our culture have crept in slowly over the decades and sadly it is now acceptable so see a Muslim doppatta-less woman in a sleeveless dress in public places, social gatherings and on the television. What I would like to put across is where are we headed next? Our media is portraying the Pakistani woman as modern in the dress not in the head! Doing away with an important part of your dress empowers you in no way! If a woman feels that not wearing a dupatta makes her look chic and fit better in the crowd then she is headed in the wrong direction. If this mind set continues, I fear that soon those who wear this graceful part of a dress will be termed as backward or conservative.”

          Says Zehra “I do not want to pass stereo type comments like how shameless is a girl moving in public without a doppatta, or how her parents have failed to instill our cultural values in her mind, or (worse of all) no decent man will ever marry her! A person’s character, family background or values are not for me (or anyone) to comment on so blatantly. I am not sharing my views to mock or ridicule any woman out there who does not wear a dupatta. You can be covered in a burqa and be a worse person than the girl next to you who is wearing tight fitting jeans and a sleeveless top. Your personality and character is yours (something between you and your Creator) and not something to be judged by your clothing.

Zehra continues to share her views “I want to confess that I find myself actually looking better, more graceful and lady-like when I wear a dupatta which I now feel is the true essential piece which completes a female outfit. Sometimes I wonder why I completely stopped wearing it in the first place. I find that there is no fashion that I fail to meet while wearing a dupatta, nor do I find myself less modern or open-minded while doing the same. On the contrary, I feel more secure when I move in public. How can I complain of a man staring at me in bazaars or on the roads if I have left my dress incomplete? A woman’s beauty is never in what she shows openly and to everyone; it is in what she keeps hidden from the world.”

I wonder how do I round up this piece of writing? I just want to convince women that discarding your doppatta is not a status symbol, nor does it prove that you are highly qualified, progressive and liberal. It is only a matter of confused conception of what is modern and chic. I would like to request to all those out there who have done away with their doppattas, whether it is due to peer pressure or a misguided desire of being called up-to-date or progressive, please promote your own culture instead of a foreign one.

Doppattas may not be ‘IN’ for some girls/women these days, but they are definitely not ‘OUT’ for others. This is the main reason all designers are still promoting three piece suits and have not yet compromised with the length or breadth of a doppatta. I firmly believe that dopattas are an inevitable part of our cultural dress code and will not be blown away with the wind, come what may!  

آئینہ کا سوال…a ghazal from Ankahi Baatein


آ ئینہ دیکھتی ہوں میں تو ٹھٹک جاتی ہوں

ایک انجان سی صورت نظر آتی ہے مجھے

حیراں ہو کر میں کرتی ہوں یہ خود سے سوال

دکھی کر دیتا ہے مجھ کو میرا اپنا ہی سوال

یہ جو چہرہ ہے یہ مرا چہرہ تو نہیں

یہ جو آنکھیں ہیں یہ مری آنکھیں تو نہیں

اس نئے چہرے کا تو لگتا ہے ہر اک نقش اداس

دھواں دیتے نظر آتے ہیں نگاہوں کے چراغ

میری آنکھوں میں تو رہتا تھا تبسم رقصاں

لب پہ رہتی تھی ہنسی کھلتے گلابوں کی طرح

خامشی میں مری ہوتی تھیں ہزاروں باتیں

چہچہاتی پھرتی تھی میں کسی بلبل کی طرح

ہر طرف میں تو جلاتی تھی محبت کے چراغ

میں سمجھتی تھی زندگی خوشیوں کا ہے نام

ہر طرف پھول ہیں مجھ کو کانٹوں سے کیا کام

دکھ کتنے ہیں مقدر میں مجھے معلوم نہ تھا

زندگی کا یہ روپ بھی ہے، سوچا ہی نہ تھا

کھائے جب زخم تو زیست ہے کیا، یہ میں نے جانا

پھر بھی تھے عزم جواں، ہر مشکل کو آسان جانا

ہنس کے سہتی رہی جو زخم زندگی دیتی گئی

اپنے اشکوں کو ھنسی میں میں چھپاتی گئی

شکوہ کرنا نہ کبھی دل کو یہ سمجھاتی رہی

کبھی راہ میں ترے بھی جلینگے محبت کے چراغ

وقت بہت بیت گیا تو میں نے یہ حقیقت جانی

اس جہاں میں وفا کی کوئی قیمت ہی نہیں

تلخیاں گھلتی گئیں کچھ اس طرح دل کے اندر

اک اک کر کے بجھے سب وہ محبت کے چراغ

اب ہے آئینہ اور اک اجنبی چہرہ ہے

جس کے ہر نقش سے ابھرتا ہے اذیت کا سراغ

اور یہ چہرہ مجھ سے کرتا ہے ہردم یہ سوال

ہے کوئی جو کہ دے اس کے سوالوں کا جواب

وقت کے صحرا میں کہاں کھو گیا تیرا وہ وجود

ہر طرف جو کہ جلاتا تھا محبت کے چراغ


Originally posted on Yasmin Elahi:

3-10-2015…….I posted this blog two years back, hence readres may note a difference in the days mentioned. I still feel the lessons of Eid ul Azha should be re learnt, not only by children but also by grown ups like me!

My house is strangely quiet for the last two or three days! In fact, the street I live on has also lost its extra ordinary hustle and bustle. The happy kids, enjoying the glorious days before Eid ul Azha, are no more to be seen as they are back to their school and home work regimes.

The city was bustling with activity till last Tuesday! Cows and goats were the most sought out living beings treading the earth in our part of the world. Discussions revolved around them, prices and sizes being the most important issues! Mothers had thrown caution to the wind as children came and went out…

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for blog

بھلا وہ کون ہے کہ جب کوئی بے قرار اسے پکارتا ہے تو وہ اس کی دعا قبول کرتا ہے اور تکلیف دور کردیتاہے؟…..

Who listens to the distressed soul when it calls on Him and Who relieves it’s sufferings

Sural Al Namal..part of ayat no. 6

THE TRUE SPIRIT! (My article in Young World on 25th September)

Eidul Azha is just round the corner. As I step into my terrace with my evening cup of tea, I hear happy shouts of children. I peep out of my front door and see a few children of the neighbourhood having the time of their lives, as they race their goats in the lane. A group of those who haven`t yet attained this honour are participating in the celebration by running along, clapping, shouting and urging the goats to run faster.

Some have even managed to sneak twigs from their gardens and are offering it to the goats in the hope that the proud owner will allow him to race the goat for a while.

The most frequently asked questions among the children these days are, `Have you been to the mandi yet?` `When will your dad get the sacrificial animals` and the most troublesome of all `Howmuch did you (or your father) pay for this goat (or cow)? Eidul Azha is steadily becoming a competition, a rat race to acquire the largest or most expensive animal in the neighbourhood, whether it is a goat, a sheep or a cow. Those of us who have paid a hefty sum for their animals display them around proudly, grabbing every opportunity to mention the price. The people who are regular in performing the yearly sacrifice but cannot afford very expensive animals, feel a bit let down. Although they are sure to join the daily ritual of walking and racing of their goats, the feeling of embarrassment is written loud and clear on their innocent faces.

Is this display and competition the real spirit of this festival? Let us remind ourselves about the true spirit of Eidul Azha. This great Muslim Festival, which is second only to Eidul Fitr, teaches us great lessons every year. It is not about boasting how much we can spend or showing off how rich we are. On the contrary, it teaches the lessons of obedience, sacrifice, compassions and how we should share our blessings with those who are not as privileged as we are!

Apart from the religious aspects of the lessons we learn and relearn every year (total submission to the Will of the Almighty), Eidul Azha revives in us social and moral values. The lesson we learn from this festival of sacrifice is universal and applicable to all mankind. It reminds us of our blessings and kindles feelings of compassion in our heart for the poor around us.

Last year, just to check if the meat seller in my locality was charging me the correct rates of beef and mutton, I asked my maid at what rate she was buying these commodities. She looked at me with a rueful smile, “How do I know baji? It is difficult to manage daal roti (lentil and bread) for my big family, I can’t afford to buy meat. We have beef and mutton only at Baqr eid when people like you give us some, or sometimes when a baji like you gives away her leftovers.”

My maid’s reply taught me a disturbing lesson. We have more than one dish at our table each day and one of them is sure to be of meat, whether it is mutton, chicken or beef. But if I look around with a compassionate heart, I feel that I have more of everything than what I really need. And I always took this blessing for granted.

Dear friends, this year when your parents are distributing the meat from the sacrificed animals, urge them to give away bigger packets to the needy. Instead of stuffing our fridges and freezers with the meat, let us think about those who have not been able to afford sacrificing an animal and will so happily and thankfully like to receive some meat from others. These people cannot afford to buy meat otherwise the rest of the year too. Let them have a hearty feast with their families and enjoy the meat for a few days. If possible, make some extra place in your freezers so that you can store small packets for your household helpers, which they can take away after a few days.

Festivals are happy occasions meant to bring people together. They revive in us the spirit of sharing and on Eidul Azha we are taught to do this by sharing the meat from the sacrificial animals so that there is a feast in every home, regardless of status. And you can share your extra clothes, books, toys and other items of daily use which are more than your requirements. Spread happiness among the less fortunate by sharing your blessings with them because, in the end, the spirit of sacrifice, compassion and love for humanity counts, not the size, health or price of the goat, sheep or cow we sacrifice on Eidul Azha!

Two of the main lessons we learn from this occasion are obedience and sacrifice.

Obedience: Most of my young friends know that the sacrifice of animals Muslims make from the 10th to 12th of ZilHaj every year is to commemorate the great sacrifice of the Prophet Ibrahim A.S. He dreamt that he was sacrificing his only son Ismail as Allah had ordained him to do so.

Both father and son had no second thoughts in complying with this Divine Order, but Allah in His infinite Mercy, replaced the little boy with a ram. The lesson we learn from this great sacrifice is universal and applicable to all mankind. We should obey the Almighty without arguing or complaining. Our parents and our teachers are our greatest well-wishers in this world. Often young minds cannot contemplate what they ask or expect from us, but obeying without complaining always brings good results for us.

Sacrifice: Children are the most valuable assets of every parent, who leave no stone unturned to keep them away from all harm. Prophet Ibrahim’s A.S readiness to sacrifice his son on Allah’s command teaches us an important lesson. When we observe Eidul Azha and sacrifice animals, we part with a good amount of our money, but we make this sacrifice to help the people who are not as privileged as we are.


I hvA close friend’s mother, who was bedridden for the last two or three years due to a stroke, (and was suffering from multiple health problems) was rushed to the hospital after she had a silent heart attack. When I and a mutual friend went to the hospital to enquire about her welfare, a peep into the ICU was suggestive enough for her fate. Tubes seemed to protrude from different parts of Auntie’s frail body and an oxygen mask nearly covered her pale face. A very active woman in her prime years, she was a fighter by nature, but it was too clear that she was losing her battle for life. To my surprise, I found my friend confident and calm, “Ammi’s doctor says that she will be shifted to a private room in a day or two and go home once she starts taking and retaining oral meals”. Either she didn’t want to share her fears with us or was in a state of denial as the writing was clearly on the wall!

          When I called a couple of days later, for the first time I sensed a note of panic in my friend’s voice, “I am feeling scared!” she said in a worried tone. “The doctor just says let’s wait and see in answer to my queries. Ammi has not been shifted from the ICU yet and seems to be slipping into a coma”. As she kept on sharing her fears and concern for her mother with me, unconsciously my mind slipped into the past and I remembered with pain similar times when the tide of my father’s life was ebbing! I was nearly tempted to say, “I know what you must be feeling! I have been through this situation”, but somehow I bit my tongue before the words slipped out and instead tried my best to console my friend.

          After hanging up I sat in deep thought trying to admonish myself, “This is the moment my friend needs me to share her concern and fears with, and not mine to go back down memories’ lane and tell her about my painful experience. Her grief is the present, what I have experienced is the past. Such remarks had pained and irritated me in my moments of grief and I shouldn’t make this blunder today when a dear friend is going through a similar situation”.

          Auntie passed away peacefully the next day and when my friend’s son called to inform, though I felt sad for her, a sense of relief also engulfed my heart. Thanks goodness that I had held back my words just in time. By lending a sympathetic ear, I had done the best a friend can do in a hopeless situation!

          Often when someone close to us wants to share his woes with us, expecting sympathy or a word of advice, we make the blunder of cutting him short and declaring, “I can understand what you are going through because I have been through this!” or worse still “Someone I know or a friend knows has had a similar experience”. We forget that the person in distress is in dire need of a listening ear, and badly wants to pour out his problems with someone he thinks will be helpful and kind. Or better still, in a totally no-win situation, offer a shoulder to cry on. Hardly can we imagine the feelings of the distressed person, who is cut short with a confident, “I know what you must be feeling. I have been through this!”

More than a decade has passed but the painful memories of the last days of my father’s life is still fresh in my mind. A patient of acute Ulcerative Colitis, he was not keeping good health for the past many years. And finally, he was rushed to the hospital after extensive rectal bleeding. Although Daddy’s doctor tried blood transfusions and the required medications, nothing seemed to work for him and within a week, he slipped into a near comatose state. The doctor was sympathetic but practical, “Take your father home and make him as comfortable as possible, because medically nothing more can be done for him.”

 I can never forget the sense of deep agony and total helplessness of those days. With hearts heavy as lead, I and my siblings watched the tide of life ebbing from our father, day by day, hour by hour!

Relatives, friends and acquaintances came pouring in to enquire about Daddy’s welfare. But it became very frustrating and annoying because most of them had a story to tell. “So and so had similar symptoms in his/her last days!” “I can feel your pain as I have experienced this traumatic situation. My father/mother/spouse/ child/friend died in such and such manner.”

With a heart nearly bursting with pain, I often felt like blurting out rudely, “No! You can NOT understand what I am going through! This dying man is my beloved Daddy, the iron-man of my life who loved me dearly but ruled over me like a tyrant, who made endless efforts, either by bullying or coaxing, to bring out the best in me. How can you understand my agony? This grief is mine and totally different from what you (or someone you know) have experienced in the past! And at the moment, my pain is too deep for me to care about how so and so died! ”

But every time I felt like saying something as blunt, an inner voice told me to keep quiet. These are all well-wishers, only their mode of sympathy may not suit my state of mind! I tried to convince myself again and again.

The pains of those insensitive remarks linger to the day. The painful experience of Daddy’s last days has taught me an important lesson. There is a time to listen and a time to speak. Only by lending a compassionate ear and a shoulder to cry on, we can help a dear one to cope with his pain. I cannot and do not undermine the importance of kind and consoling words, but only when they are uttered at the correct moment! Often while sharing their woes, our friends just need a hand to hold, a sympathetic ear to listen and a caring heart to understand.

A TIME FOR REFLECTION (My Article on Ramadan in Young World, Dawn 20th June)



      Friends we have been blessed again with a very important month of the Islamic year. Ramadan is the month when Allah gives us a new chance to become not only better Muslims, but also better human beings. This is a month which inculcates in us the good qualities of obedience, compassion, discipline and piety.

        We all are aware about the physical requirements of fasting. In the wee hour of the night, although sleepy, we get up for the Sehr meal.  But as soon as we hear the Muazzin call for the Fajr prayers, we immediately stop eating and drinking, even if at times we have to leave our meal unfinished. In the evening, we wait patiently for the Maghrib Azaan (although the Iftaar table is full of our favourite dishes) and start eating only when it is time to break the fast.

          We do all this is to comply with the requirements of a fast, because we all know that we have to abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk. In this way, fasting teaches us the importance of discipline and punctuality in life.

          But friends, have you ever pondered on the spiritual requirements of Ramadan and what is the true message of a fast? If we ponder upon the good qualities we can learn in this month and try to adopt them, we will avail of the full advantage of fasting. This will not only help us to lead and a better and content life, but also make the people around us happier.

Be Compassionate:

         Compassion is one of the most important lessons of Ramzan. Only when we go without food and drink for long hours, we can imagine the sufferings of the poor who often have to sleep on an empty stomach. Our abstinence is a choice, but they have no other option as their meager income is not enough for three square meals every day. When you sit in the coolness of your fans, try to imagine the hardships of laborers, fruit/ vegetable vendors and other daily wage earners. In spite of the scorching heat, even though they are fasting, they have to work hard just to make the ends meet.

Share your blessings:

       We are seldom aware of our blessings unless we witness a lack of them. During Ramadan, when we ponder on the lives of the people less blessed than us, we will learn to share our blessings. Your extra things can be very valuable for a poor child. Rummage your wardrobes for the clothes you seldom wear, the books and magazines you have already read, the extra toys you can do without! Donate all these plus a part of your pocket money in charity. The sense of serenity you will get from this act is too great for words.

Let go of all negative feelings and traits:

         Holding grudges or nurturing hard feelings only draws us towards negativity. This Ramadan, lets resolve to purge our souls of all ill feelings. If you have had a quarrel with a friend or sibling, try to sort out differences by giving a second thought to their point of view. Maybe you both perceive an issue from different angles. Discuss with them with an open heart whatever is troubling you. You can agree to disagree but still remain on good terms.

          Often children are envious or straight away jealous of their peers who are more intelligent in their class or more popular among their teachers and elders. Instead of harboring these negative feelings, try to find out the reasons behind their success. May be they are better in studies because they are more responsible students and do not waste their time in unnecessary activities. Some of them may be more popular because of their cheerful or helpful nature. Let go of negative thoughts and ponder on your own shortcomings.

        Resolve that you will never back-bite, lie or cheat. You will find yourself a much improved person by the end of the month.

Be kind to the young and polite to the elders:

         Humility, kindness and politeness are the important teachings of Islam. Remind yourself in this month how far we all have moved away from these valuable teachings. You must realize that your younger siblings and other children in your circle need your care and attention. Treating them with love will go a far way in inculcating positive traits in their personalities. It will also strengthen your bond with them.

            Resolve that you will always talk politely with elders. Being considerate and helpful towards them will not only make them happy, it will also give you a sense of satisfaction. Those of you who live in extended families should try to pay extra attention towards your aged grandparents and help them when they need your assistance. Running an errand for them, helping them use their cell phone or reading out a book or newspaper to them may take a few minutes of your time, but it will definitely make them happy.

Learn to control your temper

        A fast should be considered an exercise in self-restraint and patience! We all tend to fly into a rage more easily when we are fasting, as the hunger and thirst make us irritable. A very important lesson of a fast is to learn to be in charge of your feelings. Even if you are angry at something or someone, remind yourself that you are fasting. This may seem difficult in the beginning, but as the month will draw to its close, you will have improved your temperament to a great extent.

Do random deeds of kindness:

      Vow to be helpful during Ramadan to lighten the work load of people around you. It may be helping out the maid in her daily chores, making your bed and clearing up the clutter in your room, laying and clearing the Iftaar and Sehr table to make Mummy’s work easier or babysitting your infant sibling so that your fasting mother can have a short nap in the afternoon, offering a helping hand will make you a better and more compassionate person.

        Offering a plate of Iftaar goodies, dates or even cold water to the guard in your lane, people gathering in the mosque for food or even a stranger passing by your home are deeds of kindness which will give you immense satisfaction.

Be moderate in spending:

     The most enjoyable part of Ramadan for most children is shopping for Eid ul Fitr, the Muslim festival at the end of the fating month. You definitely deserve new clothes, shoes and toys after you have fasted for the whole month. But please do not get carried away in your expenditures. Spending in moderation will help you develop a lifelong habit which will also facilitate you when you start your practical life.  

Be regular in Namaaz and Ponder on the Quran during Ramadan:

        This is a month when we all feel naturally inclined towards prayers, good deeds and meditation. Offer your Namaaz on time and invite your siblings to do so. Often people get into a regular habit of praying five times daily during Ramadan. Set out time each day for reciting the Quran with translation and ponder on the verses you have read. You can also discuss what you have read with your parents/grandparents so that they can explain the meanings in a better way. In this way you will have an improved knowledge of the message of the Quran.

     We often witness Cleanliness Drives in schools, offices, hospitals and on a larger scale in cities. This month why not resolve to purge our souls of all impurities? We must realize that cleaning our souls is as important as physical cleanliness. We just have to ponder on our lives, our attitudes and our concepts and resolve to improve ourselves in all walks of life! This Ramzan lets resolve to make our World a better place to live in!

UNESCO Heritage Sites in Pakistan

FRIENDS, I am sure most of you know that Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) is an important agency of the United Nations. The main objectives of Unesco are to work for peace and security in the world, by promoting international cooperation in the fields of education, science and culture. It also strives to promote the rule of law, respect for justice and basic human rights.

Unesco also has the important mission of maintaining a list of sites which are of outstanding cultural, geographical or historical importance. The organisation chooses such sites worldwide and declares them Cultural Heritage Sites. It then ensures that these sites are well-preserved for the future generations.

Today we shall discuss the Unesco Cultural Heritage Sites in Pakistan. There are six such sites in Pakistan and at present, 18 more sites are under consideration by the Unesco.

The year the site was declared a Unesco Heritage Site has been written in brackets.

Mohenjo-Daro (1980)

MOHENJO-DARO, which dates as far back as the 26th to the 19th century BC, is located on the right bank of the Indus River in Larkana, Sindh. The ruins of this largest and earliest urbanised city of South Asia were first discovered in 1922 by Sir John Marshall. Major excavations were carried on in 1930, revealing a well-planned and maintained city with broad streets, an intricate drainage system, well-built brick houses, a community bath and a huge granary.

Further excavations were stopped in 1965 due to fears of disintegration and work for the conservation of this historical site is going on since then. Artefacts made from gold, ivory and lapis, etc., suggest that the dwellers of this city were rich people who benefited from the highly fertile plains of the River Indus and trade with the nearby Mesopotamia. The Dancing Girl and the King Priest are among the famous statues found in Mohenjo-Daro.

Taxila (1980)

SITUATED in Rawalpindi district, 30km northwest of Islamabad, Taxila, which means ‘City of Cut Stone’, is an important archaeological site. It dates back to Fifth Century BC and has nearly 50 sites spread over an area of 30 kilometres.

Taxila was an important Hindu and Buddhist centre and is considered to be of religious importance by followers of both religions. Here we come across the relics of Buddha, Alexander the Great and famous emperors Asoka and Kanishka.

Taxila reached its peak of development under Asoka and saw the most creative period under the Gandhara rule. For nearly two centuries it was a seat of great learning, with a university having more than 10,500 students. Science, medicine, astronomy, philosophy and mathematics were some of the important subjects taught there.

The ruins of Taxila are well-preserved and we can find the remains of the university, streets, houses, stupas and palaces, etc. During the excavations, gems, gold and silver coins, Gandhara scriptures and images of Buddha were discovered which can be seen in the Taxila Museum. The blend of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islamic cultures makes Taxila a rare and unique archaeological site.

Takht-i-Bahi (1980)

AN important historical site 16km from Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Takht-i-Bahi (Throne of Origins), is situated on a 152m high hill. It is the remains of a complete Buddhist monastery with four distinct parts. The history of Takht-i-Bahi and the neighbouring small fortified city of Sahr-i-Bahlol ranges from the First to the Seventh Century AD.

Takht-i-Bahi was originally a Zoroastrian complex but with the advent of Buddhism, was converted into a Buddhist monastic complex. Due to its high location, Takht-i-Bahi remained safe from different invasions and is exceptionally well-preserved to this day. It is regarded by archaeologists as the most imposing relic of the Buddhism in the Gandhara region of Pakistan. Many fine sculptures have been dug up from this historical site.

The Fort and Shalimar Gardens, Lahore, 1981

THE Fort and Shalimar Gardens in Lahore are outstanding architectural monuments of the Mughal era which are famous for their royal grandeur. In the mid 16th century, Lahore became a centre of culture and art. Emperor Akbar built the grand fort in the walled city and the Deewan-e-Aam, built in red stones belongs to this era.

His successors kept on making additions to the Fort and Shah Jahan’s Naulakha and Sheesh Mehal and Jahangir’s pictured wall are great tourist attractions to this day. Though the fort was destroyed and rebuilt several times by various rulers, we can still see beautiful marble palaces and mosques decorated with mosaics and gilt.

The Shalimar Gardens, built by Shah Jahan in 1642, are spread over 16 hectares. These sprawling gardens are influenced by Persian and Islamic traditions and are divided in three descending terraces. They have multiple fountains in water channels. The mosaic, marble nets, waterfalls, large ornamental ponds, flowering plants and trees are a beauty to the beholder’s eyes.

Makli (1981)

MAKLI, the necropolis in Thatta, Sindh, is among the largest Muslim cemetery in the world. Its history dates back from the 14th to the 18th centuries. The tombs belong to four dynasties of Sindhi rulers, as well as Sufi saints and scholars.

The monuments and mausoleums in Makli are built from high quality honey-coloured lime-stone, intricately carved bricks and glazed tiles.

Some tombs of famous saints and the one of Jam Nizamudin II, are well-preserved. Makli represents the civilisation of Sindh in that era and can also be called a blend of Hindu, Mughal and Islamic cultures.

Rohtas Fort (1997)

ROHTAS Fort is a garrison fort built by Sher Shah Suri after he defeated Mughal emperor Humayun in 1541. Situated on a strategic location on a small hill near River Kahan, it is a classic blend of early Muslim military architecture and artistic traditions of Turkey and the Indian Subcontinent.

Located about 16km from Jhelum city in Punjab, Rohtas Fort has massive walls and bastions which run for over four kilometres. The fort has 10 gates which enclose the citadel and army quarters. Haveli Maan Singh added later on by Emperor Akbar has Hindu architectural influence.

Friends, the above-mentioned places are not only Unesco Heritage Sites, but also precious national assets of Pakistan! While visiting them, we should take great care to preserve them so that they retain their original structure.