The Haro River that cuts across the village of Nagri Totial is often dotted with frolicking young men in the summers. Small, serene and picturesque, it is ideal for tourists who wish to flee the sweltering summer heat of the plains and arrive in the green belt.
The colourful tin roofs and lofty pine trees that emerge on the horizon as one crosses the river to enter the valley could make it pass off as just another village in the Galiyat. But this quaint village, which lies at an elevation of 4,081 feet, has a unique story to tell. It has seen Hindus and Sikhs co-habit with the Muslims till the partition when they fled in large numbers to India. The remains of the chamber where Hindus used to burn their dead still exist. “We lived together in peace and harmony. But soon after the creation of Pakistan, Hindus and Sikhs left the valley. The villagers provided them a safe escape,” says Mohammad Nasim Qamar, a retired school teacher and a notable of the area.
The British have enjoyed it as a summer retreat during their prime as many prominent officials of the empire visited the village numerous times. It was here that the first Muslim provincial minister of the British Raj Khan Bahadur Abdul Rehman was born, who went on to mobilise the Hazaras to vote in favour of uniting with Pakistan during the NWFP referendum in 1947. He later became a member of the executive council of the Pakistan Muslim League and grew close to Mohammad Ali Jinnah. His was a lineage that produced eminent politicians like Sardar Khan, his younger brother, and Sardar Inayatur Rehman Abbasi, his nephew.
Mostly hailing from the ‘Totialian’ branch of the Dhund Abbassid tribe (named after Toota Khan, an Abbasi chief) in the Hazara division, the villagers of Nagri Totial have settled on a stretch lying south-east of Abbottabad up till Ghora Gali near Murree in the east. Considerable numbers of Qureshis, Awans and Bhattis etc also live here.
One would think that this small town with a big history and breathtaking landscape enjoys privileges of better infrastructure and resources. Regrettably, Nagri Totial has slipped under the radar of the authorities and now suffers from multiple problems.
Lora is the closest town to Nagri Totial, and accessible only by hired jeeps, buses, taxis and personal cars. The nearest police station, the boys’ college, hospital and dozens of union council offices are situated here. The bus station at Lora also services routes to other neighbouring villages. Yet the two roads that connect Nagri Totial with Abbottabad beyond Lora remain unpaved and bumpy. “Millions of rupees have been spent on this project but the road paints a gloomy picture, which says not a single penny was spent and public money was only wasted,” says Kosar Naqvi, a well-known local journalist. Plans envisioned in 1986 to connect these roads to the Grand Trunk Road remain elusive.
Medical facilities in the area are nonexistent. There is only one Basic Health Unit, located some three kilometers away from the valley in the midst of a jungle, and that too is in deplorable condition. There is one high school for boys and one middle school for girls. “Most of the teachers are absent. They are paid for sitting at homes,” says another local journalist Javed Iqbal, adding that their complaints to authorities fall on deaf ears. The primary school that was damaged during the 2005 earthquake still awaits restoration by the dithering contractor, he says. The girls are thus forced to take classes in the boys’ primary school, which already lacks adequate teaching strength.
The rise of powerful commercial interests in the region is playing havoc with nature. Forests in the area are felled recklessly by the influential timber mafia without so much as a hindrance from the Khyber-Pakhtunkwa forestry department. “Two wood-cutting machines have been installed inside the Nagri Totial bazaar where the timber mafia regularly sells timber illegally,” says resident Javed Iqbal Abbasi.
On the other hand, the stone-crushing mafia has arrived and installed their plant at the banks of Haro, polluting the entire valley. “They first spoilt Ghora Gali-Lora Road and now they have reached here to disturb the natural beauty of the area,” complains Sardar Jawadullah Khan, a student of International Islamic University in Islamabad and a social worker.
The picturesque valley of Nagri Totial is in need of rescue. Not only does it need an exhaustive forest management project to sustain the indigenous natural resources, it also needs an efficient social development programme aimed at uplifting the lives of the people. If Nagri Totial keeps falling into disrepair, Pakistan would indeed lose a valuable treasure forever. In the pursuit of material gain, we forget that the cost of neglect and exploitation leads to irreparable damage.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, July 1st, 2012.
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