Saturday, October 3, 2009

Kohat - The Farthest City I Travelled as a Young Man

Kohat is the farthest place I traveled all by myself some three decades ago at just at the end of my teen age – though it wasn't for the love of travel but to seek for a new career and future for myself.  I was called by the Inter Services Selection Board (commonly known as the ISSB) for a series of intricate and mind boggling tests beside physical endurance tests. So it was that I boarded the then “Subak Raftar” (rail car plying between Lahore and Rawalpindi) and reached Rawalpindi. Stayed overnight at an aunt’s place on Saidpur Road and next day boarded a wagon for Kohat. 

In fact it was my first journey beyond Rawalpindi. I was both fascinated and a bit fearful as most of the travelers in the wagons were conversing loudly in Pushto, of which I could not understand a word – so all I could do was to look out of the window for not showing my uneasiness and enjoy the landscape and its awesome beauty.

Old Attock Rail Road Bridge (Photo: Commoner28th/ Flickr)

The old bridge over the River Indus was a treat to see (then it was the only bridge over Indus) – the one way traffic and signaling and stopping of the traffic by the police guard was amazing. The journey continued and the most exciting part was the winding road just before Kohat (which have now been short circuited by the Friendship Tunnel built with the assistance of Japan). The hair raising turns and the accelerating speed of the wagon made many sick like me who were traveling on this route for the first time.

At the wagon stand in Kohat, we were greeted by the staff of the ISSB and taken to the ISSB premises in the cantonment. The four days spent at ISSB were one of the most memorable days of my life as I interacted with lot of candidates from every nook and corner of the country. It was here that I met one Mr. Farooq, who later became a pal when I joined my new career. 

An Arms Shop - Darra Adam Khel

One day when we found time, we sneaked out and boarded a bus to visit Darra Adam Khel (commonly known as Darra) – a calm and peaceful place then where there shops of indigenously made weapons and “Naswar”. Though we didn't buy anything, we enjoyed strolling down the one lane marked astride the road and saw how craft-fully pistols and shotguns were being made or how the bullets were being filled in.

After our four days stay at Kohat, myself, Farooq and another friend of his came to Rawalpindi, stayed in one Madina Hotel (Haathi Chowk area) for overnight stay and watched Omar Sharif / Jean Paul Belmondo’s “The Burglars” at Sangeet Cinema (9-12 show). In the morning we dispersed for our hometowns. The success at ISSB took me to Abbottabad a few months later to find and explore new vistas of my life for the next some 33 years. 

Durrani prince tomb - Kohat (Photo: Wikimedia)

Now a few words about Kohat. Kohat is a famous city of NWFP, located  37 miles south of Peshawar by the Kohat Pass. The city centers around a British-era fort, various bazaars, and a military cantonment. There are a number of shrines of revered religious scholars that include sufi saint Haji Bahadar Ali Abdullah Shah and Mian Fateh Shah and ruins of a Durrani prince tomb. To the north of the city lies Kohat Pass, through which a military road was opened in 1901. 

No one really knows how old is Kohat. It is said that in the Buddhist times, two Rajas named Adh and Kohat settled along with the northern border of the district. Raja Kohat gave his name to the town of Kohat , and Raja Adh to the ruins of an old fort on the hill side north of the Muhammadzai , a village four miles to the west of Kohat. 

Khushal Garh Bridge

For sight seeing, the surrounding areas of Kohat include Kotal and Kohat Pass, Masjid Haji Bahadur, the Bridge of Khushal Garh, Kohat Fort, Kohat Tunnel, Kohat Cantonment, Kotal Town (KDA), and Tanda Dam. Kohat also has number of high grade educational institutions like Kohat University of Science and Technology, Preston University Kohat. Cadet College Kohat, Garrison Cadet College Kohat, Frontier Education Foundation Academy, Postgraduate College for Boys, Postgraduate College for Women, Army Public School /College, Fazaia College and Peace Associates.

For more on history of Kohat, please see my section on Kohat in my website “Pakistanpaedia” and also The Extracts from the Gazetteer of Kohat District.

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Asghar Javed said...

From Kohat (travelling at the same time), I brought memories of Kohati Kala Teetar and Kohati Chapal.

But what I hear now is that the peaceful old little town is turning turbulent. Peole in Kohat can already hear the shots and blasts.

Jalal HB said...

Lucky you to have brought a Black Partridge - I wish someday I also get one. Thanks for leaving imprints

Asghar Javed said...

Have a look at this report by Owais. It was not there when you passed through the area, may be.

Jalal HB said...

Yes it wasnt - thats what i described in my psot

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