Peshawar: Where donkeys are heroes

In the narrow roads of Peshawar which are inaccessible to cars, donkeys clear the debris after bomb blasts.

Nizamuddin April 15, 2013
An ambulance, a rescue vehicle or any kind of a four wheeled automobile cannot enter the Aqa Hadi street of Peshawar, making it the most inaccessible area during an emergency.

Aqa Hadi is a narrow, close ended and densely populated street in Peshawar.

It consists of more than 80 houses of all shapes and sizes. Majority of the people living in this tapered street use cycles and motorbikes as a means of daily transportation, while a few own personal cars, which they have to park in different parking lots on link roads near the Dabgari Garden. Keeping the tradition alive, donkeys are used to transport materials to and fro between the streets.

Moreover, constructing a building or renovating an existing one is a big hindrance due to the inaccessibility of the area.

Picture this.

Ahmed and Arsalan are two brothers who live in Gul Badshah Jee Street; they live in a joint family and decide to reconstruct their old house. Their street is also a narrow and close ended one, making it impossible for a vehicle to pass through. So, who is going to take debris out of the street and bring in new material?

The two brothers have no choice but to approach the kharkars. The men who work with the help of donkeys are locally known as kharkars in Pashto; khar means donkey and kar means work. And so they approached them and 12 donkeys were hired with six men to help construct the house. It took two years and the house looks brand new now!


There are more than 700 donkeys in Peshawar. These donkeys are ever ready for any kind of labour and construction work. They have fixed stations where they can be seen and found when needed. The areas where one can easily find them include Circular road near Kohati gate, Khan Mast colony, Shad Bagh colony and Baresco.

Rahim Gul - who is a resident of Shad Bagh colony and is involved in kharkari work since a very young age - stands his donkeys on Circular road every day. He says,
“My father was doing the same work and he had one donkey; now I am doing this with two donkeys and my donkeys are  familiar with all the streets inside this old city.”

These donkeys are not only helpful for the residents of these cut-off streets but also for various other purposes; they have contributed to rescue efforts after bomb blasts many times.

Faisal, a young boy from Khan Mast colony who is also doing the same kharkari work since when he was a mere 13- year-old narrates his story when he took part in the rescue work after a building collapsed due to a suicide bombing attack in the narrow streets of Meena bazaar (a shopping area).
“We eight men with 16 donkeys took part in bringing out the debris of those buildings which collapsed after a terrorist attack. This area was not accessible through any kind of modern day vehicles. I grew up with these donkeys and so they understand my language very well.” added Faisal.

“With my single ‘hooo’ ‘ haaa’ and ‘chiik chiik’ sound these donkeys change their direction, they stop and run while after a few rounds there is no need to further guide them,” said Faisal with a smiling face.

In response to a question of how fast these kharkars respond to a tragedy that occurs in these streets, Rahim Gul said that they do not have any experience to rescue people with these donkeys but they can help set aside building materials within hours.

These 700 trained donkeys of Peshawar play an important role in rescue and emergency situations for the dwellers of the city and they need to be considered as an asset by the rescue department of  Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.


Follow Nizam on Twitter  @NizamRashki
Nizamuddin Is a Masters' graduate in Journalism from University of Peshawar. He is trained in solution-oriented radio program content development and has an interest in hiking and travelling. He tweets @NizamRashki
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Ahtasham | 11 years ago | Reply @A pekhawar resident: This is really not funny, but informative post.
sara-J | 11 years ago | Reply wow.. Great story First time I heard about this thing that in Peshawar donkeys took part in rescue work so they are much better than our Government.
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