Thursday, December 18, 2008

An attempt on Mir Samir, Afghanistan,1995

From the American Alpine Club Journal 1995

Mir Samir and ascent of P500. After years when it was too dangerous to enter the mountains of Afghanistan, New Zealander Bob McKerrow and Englishmen Ian Clarke and Jon Tinker headed for Mir Samir in the Hindu Kush. McKerrow is head of the International Red Cross in Afghanistan and Clarke is a former Royal Marie, now head of the Halo Trust mine clearance organisation in Afghanistan. Tinker has worked in the country a number of times in the last seven years.The three climbers set out from Kabaul on September 23, 1994, acclimatizing near the Salang Pass before setting out for Parian in the upper Panjchir.
Acclimatizing near the Salang Pass. Bob McKerrow on ski. Photo: Bob McKerrow

There four horses were hired to carry food and equipment up the Chamar valley to base camp at 3,400 m.Clarke's skills were put to the test when the saw air-dropped scatterable anti-personnel mines.They established a high camp at 4,300 m on September 29.Because of the deep snow, the two Englishmen made slow progress the next day to bivouac at 4,900 meters on an unclimbed snow route on the southwest face of Mir Samir. On October 1 they made a summit attempt.but unseasonable deep snow turned the back at 5200 meters, soime 600 meters from the summit. While Clarke and Tinker were climbing Mir Samir, McKerrow climbed an unclimbed peak at approximately 5000 metres, a prominent feature when viewed from the Chamar Valley
Eric Newby on their attempt on Mir Samir in 1956. Here is an extract from his obituary in the New York Times, October 24, 2006

Fifty years ago, in the summer of 1956, Mr. Newby set out on the trip that would make him famous: a voyage by station wagon, foot and horseback to climb Mir Samir, a 20,000-foot peak in Nuristan, a wild region in northeastern Afghanistan. The fact that he had never climbed a mountain did not deter him in the slightest.

Mr. Newby chronicled the trip in “A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush,” published in Britain by Secker & Warburg in 1958 and in the United States by Doubleday the next year. As in all his work, the narrative was marked by genial self-effacement and overwhelming understatement.

Reviewing the book in The New York Times Book Review in 1959, William O. Douglas, a noted travel memoirist who by day was a justice of the United States Supreme Court, called the book “a chatty, humorous and perceptive account.”

He added: “Even the unsanitary hotel accommodations, the infected drinking water, the unpalatable food, the inevitable dysentery are lively, amusing, laughable episodes.”

Monday, December 15, 2008

Geology, soils, gemstones and weather of Afghanistan

Afghanistan's mountain ranges developed in the alpine Orogeny, though some traces of previ-ous uplifts had also survived. During the orogenic movements the area was wedged between the rigid blocks of central-Asiatic Hercynides in the north and Precambrian blocks of India in the south. The geological structure of the mountains is very complex; both Palaeozoic rocks (granites, genisses) as well as Jurassic, Cretaceous and Tertiary (limestones, sandstones) de-posits have been have been identified there. Around one-sixth of Afghanistan's contains Eocene and Quaternary deposits. Quaternary sands and gravels occur in the north, whereas loess covers the Neocene conglomerates, sand-stones and siltstones. Intermingling siltstones, sandstones, conglomerates, sands, gravels and loess are also found southwards of the mountain ranges.

Orogenic processes are still active as evidenced by seismic vibrations taking place in Af-ghanistan's mountains, in particular in the eastern part of the Hindu Kush and its foothills. Kabul lies in a most active seismic zone.

Due to a diversified geological structure Afghanistan is quite rich in mineral resources, which include deposits of uranium, crude oil, gas, iron ore, copper, chromium, zinc and lead, beryl, barite as well as gold, precious and semi-precious stones.

The relief of the high Afghan mountains is youthful; narrow valleys and steep, rugged peaks are there characteristic features; in many places the effect of glaciers is evident. To the west the mountains become lower and their slopes gentler, they often turn into plateaus with the surrounding peaks protruding above them. In a dry climate the steep peaks are well preserved, but the slopes are covered by the weathered rock. The valleys are often closed by alluvial cones, while numerous faults are clearly marked in the relief. Dunes of wandering sands have developed in the sand deserts (National Atlas of DR of Afghanistan)


For centuries Afghanistan has been known for its quality gemstones, particularly lapis lazuli. However in recent years, there have been significant finds of fine emeralds, tourmaline, kun-zite and very recently, rubies.

Emeralds come mainly from the Panjshir valley. Considerably quantities of blue, pink and green tourmaline, as well as significant amounts of kunzite and some aquamarine, have been taken from the pegmatites of the Nuristan region. Smaller quantities of fine ruby have been discovered in the Sarobi area. In addition, there have been small finds of garnet, amethyst, spinel and morganite.

An expert on Afghan Gems, Gary Bowersox, from Honolulu, Hawaii, believes the prospects for future production of emeralds and pegmatite gems, are excellent.

Most of the recently produced gems have come from the north-eastern part of Afghanistan, Badakhshan, Kunar, Laghman, Kabul and Nangahar provinces. In recent years the Hindu Kush and Karakoram range in Pakistan have yeilded spectacular finds of gemstones. These gem bearing regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan "are located in one of the most geologically dynamic regions of the world - at the juncture along which the Indo-Pakistan and Asian crustal plates collided to give rise to the Himalayas. The geology of this region is quite com-plex, and it has been investigated in detail only recently.These investigations indicate that the Hindu Kush area represents the western end of a succession on important gem-producing re-gions that stretch all along the Himalayas through Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, and into Burma. " A Status Report on gemstones From Afghanistan. by Gary Bowersox. Gems and Gemology Winter 1985 Due to the insecurity and remote of these sites in Afghanistan most of the gems are smuggled across the border into Pakistan's north-west frontier province.


The soils in the high mountains are desert-steppe or meadow-steppe; in the river valleys the
soils are alluvial or meadow-alluvial: Serozems and brown desert soils cover large portions of the country in the north and south; loess is also found in the north. The deserts are covered by sand and regs.


Afghanistan's vegitation is mostly that typical of semi-deserts and steppes. Ephemerid vegeta-tion grows in the sandy semi-deserts and halophilous vegetation is found in the salt semi-deserts. the most common trees on more humid soils are oaks, ashes, willows, poplars, planes and fruits trees in orcahrds. Forests of the Himalyan type, including evergreen oak woods, grow in the borderland between Afghanistan and pakistan (in Nuristan and Paktia) lying at an altitude up to 2400m above sea level. Pines, spruces and cedars grow at an altitude of 3500m. Alpine meadows extend above that level. The slopes of the Tirbandi Turkistan are covered by pistachio woods.


The fauna of Afghanistan is similar to that of Central Asia and the Mediterranean sub-kingdom of Palaeoarctica. Beast of prey, like the snow leopard, the brown bear, the wolf, the striped hyena, the jackal, the fox live in the mountains. Hoofed mammals are represented by Marco Polo sheep, the goitered gazelle and the ibex. Numerous species of birds, rodents, rep-tiles and amphibians have been recorded. There are also many insects


Afghanistan has mainly a dry, continental climate. The amplitude of temperature between day and night is very large. The great variety of terrain elevation results in different climatic types. Areas, such as north-eastern and central Afghanistan, lying over 2,400 m have long winters (over 6 months). at an altitude of 1300-2400m (eg the zone of Kabul) the climate is temperate or almost temperate, four seasons are clearly marked, and annual precipitation is up to 400mm.
The zone at an altitude between 900 and 1300m is characterized by hot summers and annual precipitation below 200 mm. In areas lying at an altitude below 900 m it is less than 100 mm and the climate is dry and hot. Some small portions in the country's east (Jalalabad, Xost) are influenced by south-eastern monsoons and the climate is subtropical. the highest temperature was recorded in Zaranj (51oC,) the lowest in Sharak (-52.2oC) The higest amount of precipi-tation (1212 mm) was noted on the station Salangi Samali, the lowest was measured in Zaranj (34 mm)

In 1996 when the author was working in Afghanistan, he noticed climate change was having an effect on Afghanistan's weather patterns. Here is a quote from the New York Times:

The arrival of spring each year melts the snow on the vast Hindu Kush mountain range, causing rivers to swell and burst their banks. But this year, the heavy rains have combined to produce the worst flooding for decades.

Afghanistan, torn by 17 years of civil war, has no functioning central Government, with parts of the country controlled by various warring Islamic factions. Deforestation, poor water management and over-grazing are blamed for the ecological problem.

"We are seeing provinces, which were once rich in forests, virtually stripped down to nothing," Mr. McKerrow said. "Grasses and alpine vegetation have been removed because people are either grazing or ploughing right up to the snowline."

"The whole Hindu-Kush is being denuded of forest cover," he added. "The mountains can no longer cope." Global warming, he said, had changed Afghanistan's weather patterns, producing unseasonal rain. In Badakshan, it has rained continuously for three months.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The coming of Islam to Afghanistan 650 to the Mogul Empire

Babur, the first Mogul Emperor who lived in Kabul, and when he died on his Delhi throne, he willed his body to be buried at the feet of the mountain surrounding his beloved Kabul.
I lived in Afghanistan for three years, 1993 to late 1996. With time on my hands in the evenings, I read many books on Afghanistan and wrote the following article based on a limited number of books I had at my disposal. There will be omissions and errors and for those I apologise.

Hsuan Tsang was the last traveller to record Afghanistan before the coming of Islam. Up un-til his visit. "the cycle of invasion, expansion, and decline had been regular, as one empire succeeded another in the virile north, only to dissipate its resources of strength in the vast enervating plains of India," wrote Fraser-Tytler. However while Hsuan Tsang was writing about the peaceful Kabul valley, in the middle if the seventh century, Arabs carrying the new and zealous faith of Islam reached Persia and an-other group coming from Basra reached Sistan and soon took control of large part of Western and south Afghanistan and the ruling Sassanians suffered a major defeat in 642. However from the north came equally commited Turkish Moslems and conflict grew between the two races. The approached Kabul via Kandahar and Ghazni, where they fought zealous defenders, who put up brave resistance. However Kabul was stoutly defending itself from the Moslem invaders under the leadership of a Turkish King, known by many names including Kabul Shahi, Turki Shahi or the Ratbil Shahan. The King had been partly Hinduised and fought gallantly against the Moslem invaders, resisting so strongly that their epics are recorded in Islamic literature.Kabul, mountain fortress capital of the Hindu Kush, was finally captured in 664 after a full year of siege.This clash between Arabs and Turks wasn't settled until the middle of the eighth century under the Turkish General Abu Muslim who brought stability to the regions of the Hindu Kush. However in the next 100 years the combined influence of the Arabs and Turks succeeded in dominating the old faiths, particularly Bhuddism, except for that pocket of resistance in Kafirstan where their animist beliefs remained.A rather peaceful period followed under the Caliph Harun-al-Rashid (785-809) and his son Mamun who encouraged the arts and sciences flourished and Merv and Samarkand. There fol-lowed an unsettled period when the Saminids extended their influence across to India, but as their influence declined, Hinduism challenged the Moslem faith and appeared for the last time in the Kabul Valley. From the Kabul valley the ruler of the Punjab, Jaipal pushed his religious doctrine towards Ghazni, he met a rising Islamic dynasty which was to change the course of history. King or Sultan Mahmud. Although the Arab conquistadors had brought Is-lam to the Sind region of India some three hundred years before, it never spread.King Mahmud (Turk)of Ghazni was a strong leader and in words of Fraser Tytler, whose iconoclastic zeal was to carry fire and sword deep into Hindu India and to pave the way for the domination of his Islamic successors.But like so many rulers, on his death the dynasty faltered, and was taken over by the Turks. Then we see the short domination of the mountain people from south-east of Herat who established the House of Ghor and who dominated the twelfth century and their territory stretched well into India and ruled the much coverted Delhi.. At the beginning of the 13th century a new race came to Afghanistan from eastern shores of the Caspian Sea, they were the Khwarizm, a Turkish race.. They established a Kingdom in Bamian and from there ruled Kabul. This peaceful time didn't last long before the heart of central Asia was ripped out by Genghis Khan and his Mongol hoardes who came from the north of China and by 1218 AD reached Central Asia.
GENGHIS KHAN - An apostle of extremes.Ghengis Khan with 100,000 mounted mehad reached Balkh by 1220 destroying everything and everyone in their wake. Jalal-ad-Din, the son of Sultan Muhammad who ruled the Kha-warizm empire, from Ghazni, managed to unite many tribes from the area and decided to defend against the invading Mongols. He advanced to the confluence of the Panjshir and Ghorband Rivers where a bloody battle ensued against Genghis Khan and his army of 30,000 skilled horsemen. Imagine the scene, 30,000 wild mongol horsemen on one side of the Panjcher River lusting for blood and on the other a more civilised army recently brought together. The beginning of the 13th century saw sweeping changes in Central Asia - not to mention Russia - for this was the time of the great Mongol migration. Unlike the Scythians, Sarma-tians, Huns and Turks who preceded them, these barbarians who erupted from the far-off borders of Manchuria were of an entirely different race. Round-headed, yellow-skinned, with slanting eyes and high cheek-bones, they were related to the peoples of northern China and Korea, although they spoke a Turkic language. They were also indescribably dirty and malodorous, for water was something they regarded as too precious to be waster on personal hygiene. They were not a hirsute people, but so infested were they with lice that their chests ap-peared to be thickly covered in hair.The astonishing conquests of Ghenghis Khan swept aside several empires and innumerable petty kingdoms, and brought all countries from the Black Sea to the Yellow Sea under direct Mongol control by the end of the first quarter of the thirteenth century. The unstoppable Mongol tide continued under his successors. Baghdad fell in 1258, the Sung capital of Hang-chow on 1276. In Europe the Mongol empire-the largest in history-extended as far as Poland and Hungary, taking in most of Russia on the way.The Mongols had been completely unlettered but now, with the help of the astute, Eastern Turks, they set about writing their own language down, using the Uighur script. This fruitful collaboration, accom-panied by intermarriage, was in time to produce a new hybrid master race and a new world leader, Tamerlane, but in the meantime a Mongol emperor sat on the illustrious throne of China and entertained curios visitors from distant Europe. Kublai Khan, grandson of Ghenghis, had become the Great Khan, or Chief of all the Mongol clans, in 1260. Karakoram, in Mongolia, was the headquarters of the huge empire, to which all clan leaders were summoned periodically etc etc. p 12Chingis Khaan Ghengis Khan Kublai Khan (grandson of Gheghis Khan)In 1218 Ghneghis Khan invades transoxiana 1227 he dies in 1996 (Christchurch Press) 2 Jan 1996, said: While other media groups were naming their man of the year, the "Washington Post" was thinking big yesterday and going right for the "Man of the Millennium", And the winner is...Genghis Khan.the newspaper gave the nod to the 13th century Mongol conqueror as "an apostle of extremes..who embodies the half-civilised, half-savage duality of the human race."

MARCO POLO 1256-1324
Today, a number of people say that Marco Polo never travelled to the places he writes about and that he was a fraud. I strongly disagree.
When on his death bed, friends asked Marco to "correct the book by removing everything that was not actual fact. To which he replied that he had not told one-half of what he really had seen."Most of this is from The Travels of Marco Polo, translated by John Frampton. Editor.N.M. Penzer, MA FRGS, 1929, The Argonaut Press, London. Includes recent in-formation provided by Aurel Stein and Sven Hedin and others. Clears up earlier confusion on his route through Afghanistan.In 1299 a remarkable book was published in Italy that stirred much of Europe and aroused in-terest in the mysterious lands of the Orient. With the all encompassing title "The Description of the World", an enticing prologue written by an Italian writer Rustichello of Pisa, announced what the great Venetian traveller, Marco Polo, had done in the past quarter century."It must be known then that from the creation of Adam to the present day, no man, whether pagan, or Saracen, or Christian, or other, of whatever progeny or generation he may have been, ever saw or inquired into so many and such great things as Marco Polo.The book described Polo's travels covering 24 years and 20,000 miles (change to km). Young Marco was barely 15 years of age when he left Venice in 1271 with his father Niccolo and uncle Maffeo.Sailed from Venice to Turkey, and headed overland. Mt Araat, three Magi Tombs in Persia, oil near the Capsian Sea and comes via Tun and Kain in modern-day Khorasan province of Iran to Afghanistan Route through Afghanistan: Crosses from Persia in the Nemeksar ( Salt Namaskar's in Herat province) Herat, or some other place near or in the Paropamisus range Firuz-Kuh (Firozkohi)-Band-i-Turkestan - Maimana - Sapurgan (Shibarghan). From Sapurgan Polo went to Balc (Balkh), the "Baldach" of Frampton; thence to Dograna, the idetification of which is still uncertain...then to Kunduz andTalikan. Three days from Talikan to Kishm, and three more days from Kishm to Badakshan. Polo travels E.N.E. for 12 days to Vokhan (Wakhan), and thence another 3 days north-east to the plain of the great Pa-mir. The French text merely tell us that Polo found a fine river running through a plain, but Rasmusio also mention "a great lake." This could be either Lake Victoria or Lake Chakmak, but it is probably the former (see Stein, Innermost Asia, Vol II pp 858 et seq., also Ancient Khotan, Vol 1 pp. 30 et seq.; and Serindia, Vol 1. p 65. He now describes a twelve days' de-sert ride across the plain, followed by another 40 days of continuous desert tracts without any green thing to relieve the dreariness and monotony. To this country he gave the name of Bolor.In the Frampton Elizabethan translation of the Travels of Marco Polo he writes of great detail about the "Citie of Baldach", known now as Balkh, Sempergayme (aslo refrred to other writ-ers as Sapurgan, but is modern day Shibergan Thaychan, (Talikan), Ballafia, (Badashan, now modern day Badakhshan) Vochaym or Vokhayn(Wakhann) mountaine called Plauor, his first reference to the Pamir (check p 181)Gian Battista Ramusio published two versions of Marco Polos travels in 1550 and 1556, which was translated by Marsden in 1818, gives greater detail on Balashan, (Badakhshan)
Ibn Batuta, born as Mohammed Ibn Abd Allah was the greatest Moslem pilgrim and traveller. Born on 24 February 1304 in a city that was once the extreme outpost of the Roman Empire, the ancient Tingis, now modern day Tangiers, in the Sultanate of Fez. The countries he trav-elled in were as numerous as the wives he accumulated and divorced.As a boy his life was devoted to learning the Koran and as he grew older, became an authority in theology and jurisprudence.His first pilgrimage to holy places began when he was 21, to the beautiful ancient city of Tlemcen, high in the Algerian mountains. North Africa, Middle-East, including Mecca, East Africa and then to Turkey and Persia. Batuta was determined to reach the greatest of Holy Cities, Balkh, the 'Mother of Cities' He then 'turns north-eastwards to Meshad, the capital Khorasan and holy citiy of the Shiites, thence travels to Jam, the birthplace of Jami, the Per-sian Poet, and at Tus finds the tomb of the Calph Haroun-al-Raschid, who died when on a military expedition.' (rewrite all this .p127)On reaching Balkh, he found it to be deserted and virtually destroyed.It was Batuta who first wrote of the name Hindu Kush. "Hindu Kush - the Slayer of the Hin-dus, so called because most of the slaves brought from India die here of the bitter cold thereof." For forty days he waited for the snow to melt off the Hindu Kush. He described the Afghans as a " turbulent, violent race, impatient of the slightest curb."He crossed the Hindu Kush by approaching them from the north by the Anderab valley and over the Khawak Pass. Once over the Khawak Pass he came to the area, probably Kapisa, where the once great city was deserted and ruined, a result of the Mongul onslaught.Travellng with a small group of other people, he was attacked crossing the Kabul pass but fortunately they repulsed the bandits with bows and arrows. Kabul had been destroyed and reduced to the size of a village and little remained of Ghazni. He reports that Kandaahr had escaped the rav-ages of the Mongols and was cordially received by the Turkish governor. From here he trav-elled to Sind and onto Delhi.While passing through the Pathan (Pashtoon) tribal areas on his way to the Indus, via the Su-liaman Range, he was repeatedly attacked by the marauding Afghans and complained bitterly about their behaviour.Although their destruction had been great, in places almost total, the Mongols only controlled the Hindu Kush regions for a little more than a hundred years. By the mid fourteenth century the Mongols still held parts of Central Asia north of the Sir Darya (Jaxartes) but the most of what is modern day Afghanistan was in the hands of Turkish chieftans who ruled with rea-sonable civility.
Timur-i-Lang born 1336 in Kesh, modern day Shakhrisabz, south of Samarkand. Within 30 years he established a new empire in Central Asia. He first made himself master of Turkestan, and then proceeded to conquer Persia, parts of southern Russia (weakening the power of the Golden Horde), and northern India as far as Delhi. Timur's mother was a descendent of Gen-ghis Khan and was described as belonging to the Gurkhan branch of the Barlas Turks.One of his greatest expeditions was his invasion of India in 1398 to punish the Moslem rulers who were showing to mouch tolerance towrds the Hindus.En route to India he crossed the Hindu Kush by the Khawak Pass and made a side expedition with a smaller force to punish the Kafir unbelievers in Nuristan. Rafferty describes this trip(page 136, Notes on Afghanistan) Timur found himself in that terrible tangle of ridge and val-ley which lies to the north of the Kabul River opposite modern Jalalabad. The country was so steep that Timur himself was lowered down the precipitous sides of the valleys on a sledge supported by ropes while his officers lay on their shields and toboganned over the surface of the snow.Towards the end of his life, in 1402, he defeated the Ottoman Turks-who had succeeded the Seljuks in Asia Minor- at Ankara, and even took Sultan Beyazit captinve. Notorious for his savagery, it has been estimated that he caused the deaths off seventeen million people. Some of these were the slave-laboureres used for his extravagent building projects, for paradoxically there was a creative side to his nature. In the course of his conquests he commandeered the best local artists and craftsmen, and sent them back to embellish his capital of Samarkand, which became reknowned thropughout the world. He died in 1405, on th eve of his campaign against China, and the seeds of decay were planted when his empire was divided among his sons and grandsons. Kathleen Hopkirk p 14.The Timurud princes were a strange mixture of warrior, aesthete and the barbarian:they built beautiful mosques and palaces in Herat, Balkh and Meshed, but fought savagely among them-selves and had anyone who displeased them skinned alive. The exception was Ullugh Beg, a scholarly man and Tamerlane's favourite grandson, under who Samarkand continued to flourish as a centre of civilization. He was assassinated by his own son. The sixteenth century brough a new invader the Uzbek Turks from the north, who gave their name to a large terri-tory in western Turkestan which has recently become a new country: Uzbekistan. Turks and Mongols were now thoroughly intermixed.....

The Mogul Empire (AD 1504-1747) Babur Zahiru'd- din Muhammad Babur Padshah Ghazi, popularly known as Babur, was the first of the Moghul rulers In his memoirs, ' Babu-Nama' which he wrote in Turki, he reveals his ex-tensive knowledge of the mountains of Central Asia, particularly Afghanistan.Barbur was born in Farghana in 1483 and was a descendent of Tamerlane's third son.. His bi-ographer describes his race as Turk and later refers to him being Uzbek -Turk . By the fif-teenth century both Turks and Mongols had been interrmixing for some time.He described his birth place thus:Farghana is situated in the fifth climate and at the limit of settled habitation. On the east it has Kashgar; on the west, Samarkand; on the south, the mountains of Badakshan border; on the north, though in former times there must have been towns such as Almaligh. Almatu and Yangi, which they write Taraz, at the present time all is desolate, no settled population what-ever remaining, because of the Mughuls and the Auzbegs. In June 1494 at the age of 12, Babur became the ruler of Farghana. For the next seven years he struggled to take the alluring city of Samarkand, Timur's former capital. .In 1500 at the age of 19 Babur took Samarkand and a year later loses through unreliable friends and ruthless op-ponents thwarted his desire to hold it long termDuring these apprenticeship years, he travelled extensively and these journeys equipped him for the arduous life ahead. In the opening section of his autobiography his reference points are mountains. "Farghana is a small country,... It is girt round by mountains except on the west..and refers to local mountains Bara Koh . He frequently refers to the his southern refer-ence points the mountains of Badakshan and later ... " In the mountains round Farghana are excellent summer-pastures (yilaq) In late August 1500, Babur left the town of Kesh and travels over one of the most difficult passes en route to AuratipaNext we were for going up the valley of the Kam torrent and over the Sara-taq pass (da-ban)...we entered a valley and made our way up it. On its steep and narrow roads and at its sharp and preciptitous saddles many horses and camels were left. Before we reached the Sara-taq pass we had (in 25m.) to make three or four night halts. A pass! and what a pass! Never was such a steep and narrow pass seen; never were traversed such ravines and preci-pices. Those dangerous narrows and sudden falls, those perilous heights and knife edge sad-dles, we got through with much difficulty and suffering, with countless hardships and miser-ies.In the summer of 1504 at the age of 22, Babur left his homeland hoping to join his uncle Husain Beg Baiqara, the ruler Herat the leading Asian city in art, literature, philosophy and religion. On leaving his homeland he describes that poignant moment."Those who. hoping in me, went with me into exile, were, small and great, between 2 and 300; they were almost on foot, had walking staves in their hands, brogues on their feet, and long coats on their shoulders. So destitute were we that we had but two tents (chadar) amongst us; my own used to be pitched for my mother, and they set an alachug at each stage for me to sit in."He crossed the Oxus in June and regained hope in Hisar country when he learns that the cow-ardly and aging ruler Khusrau Shah is losing control of his territory. Nearly all the followers of Khusrau Shah join Babur as he changes plans from visiting Herat and decides to head for Kabul.Babur makes his first crossing of the Hindu Kush in Autumn 1504 via the Qipchak (Cha-hardar) Pass from the Surkhab River and descended into the Ghorband Valley. He soon takes Kabul Typical is his section on Mountain Passes into Kabul:The country of Kabul is a fastness hard for foreign foe to make his way into.The Hindu Kush mountains, which separate Kabul from Balkh, Qunduz and Badakhshan, are crossed by seven roads. Three of these lead out of Panjshir, viz. Khawak, the uppermost Tul, the next lower, and Bazarak. Of the passes on them, the one on the Tul road is the best, but the road itself is rather the longest whence, seemingly, it is called Tul. Bazarak is the most di-rect; like the Tul, it leads over into Sar-i-rab; as it passes through Parandi, local people call its main pass, the Parandi. Another road leads up through Parwan; it has seven minor passes, known as Haft-bacha (Seven-younglings), between the main pass (Baj-gah). It is joinded at its main pass by two roads from Andar-ab, which go on to Parwan by it. This is a road full of dif-ficulties. Out of Ghur-bund, again, three roads lead over. The next one to Parwan, known as the Yang-yul pass (New-road), goes through Walian to Khinjan; next above this is the Qip-chaq road, crossing to where the water of Andar-ab meets meets the Surkh-ab (Qizil-su); this also is an excellent road; and the third leads over the Shibr-tu; those crossing by this in the heats take their way by Bamian and Saighan, but those crossing it in winter, go on by Ab-dara (Water valley). Shibr-tu excepted, all the Hindu-kush roads are closed for three or four months in winter, because no road through a vally-bottom is passable when the water are high. If any-one thinks to cross the Hindu-kush at that time, over the mountains instead of through a valley-bottom, is journey is hard indeed. The time to cross is the three of four au-tumn months when the snow is less and the water are low. Whether on mountains or in the valley-bottoms, Kafir highwaymen are not few.The road from Kabul into Khurasan passes through Qandahar, it is quite level without a pass.Four roads leads into Kabul from the Hindustan side; one by a rather low pass through the Khaibar mountains, another by way of Bangash, another by way of Naghr (var. Naghz), and another through Farmul;; the passes being low also in the three last-named.In his book Babur-Nama he describes with great details his favourite city Kabul, the moun-tains, routes and passes, flora, fauna, the ethic tribes. Of Kabul he says, " It has a very pleasant climate; if the world has another so pleasant, it is not known. Even in the heats, one cannot sleep at nights without a fur-coat. Although the snow in most places lies deep in winter, the cold is not excessive...."Baburs travels in the mountain are legendary. In May 1506 he set out to fight the Uzbeks in the north and goes via the Ghorband valley over the Shibr-tu Pass , then the pass of the Little-Dome (Gumbazak-kutal) through Saighan then over the Dandan-Shikan Pass and camped in the meadows of Kahmard. Bibaur then moves to Khurasan via the Ajar valley and crosses the upper Balkh river at Balkh-Ab. Camps awhile at Saf Hill to Gorziwan, Almar, Qaisar, Chechaktu. Morghab to the Bam Valley.After meeting various rulers in the region he travelled to Herat an enjoys the spectacle and splendid architecture created by his forebears. Although persuded to stay the winter in the Herat region, Babur decides to head back to Kabul because he was worried that some of his enemys might vtake the city in his absence. The winter came and heavy snow feel on the moungtains between Herat and Kabul. On Dec 24 1506, Babur left Herat and was soon con-fronted by a sheet of snow from Khwajagan and as he got near to Chachcharan, the snow was above the horses knees. The story becomes a mountain travellers nightmare. Chest deep snow, progress 2 miles a day, frostbitten hands and feet. Babur writes:" Much misery and hardship were endured in those few days, more than at any time of my life. In that stress I composed the following opening couplet:Is there one cruel turn of Fortune's wheel unseen of me ?Is there a pang, a grief my wounded heart has missed.For nearly w eek Babur and a his tough band of men stamped chest-deep snow down for 6 or 7 metres, before being exhausted. then the lead would change After 10 to 20 men had stamped the snow, the horses would be led. After a few steps the horse would sink up to the stirrups. After four days the got out of that depressing place and reached a large cave below the Zirrin Pass.In 1525, he left Kabul for India and from then on Delhi and Agra became his capitals. He never lost his love for Kabul and requested that on his death, he be buried there. He was bur-ied on the western slopes of the mountain called Sher-i- Darwaza.Later "In India, meanwhile, Babur's grandson - the Emperor Akbar- was bringing Mogul rule to its zenith. By the end of the sixteenth cebtury he had established a sound administrative framework, while peerless cities like Agra and fatepur Sikri claimed the artistic glories of his reign. Far away in London, however, the East India Company was founded in 1600, with profound implications for the future of the sub-comtinent.
Mirat ul Mumalik 1553-1556
From the book Travels of an Admiral. Mirat ul Mumalik. by Syed Ali Rais. Translated from the Turkish, with notes by A. Vambery.People from the Turkic tribes had ruled Afghanistan, or parts of Afghanistan for centuries but somehow historians give scant recognition to this factor.Sidi (Syed) Ali Reis also known as Mirat ul Memalik (the Mirror of the Countries), travelled through India, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Persia between 1553 and 1556 in his capacity as an Admiral in the Turkish Navy. A man blessed with many talents; mathematician, astrono-mer, geographer, poet, theologian and an expert in nautical science, he left us with a book of his travels. The Admiral was the first of two navy men who, far from their seas, made a greatername as land travellers, than sailors. Less than 300 years later, the English navy Captain John Wood, made one of the greatest feats in Central Asian exploration, when he discovered the sources of the Oxus, high in the remote Wakhan of Afghanistan. In 1553 Sidi Ali Reis was appointed to the position of Admiral of the Egyptian fleet and his first mission was to travel overland to Basrah and bring back the fleet of 15 Galleys anchored there. As he prepared to leave Basrah with the fleet, he was attacked by the Portugese and en-gaged in a number of bloody seabattles. This event, coupled with a foul 10 day storm, saw most of his shipped wrecked and he escaped with the few remaining ships on an epic voyage to Gujarat. Here he realised the impossibility of sailing his ships back to Turkey so he left them in charge of the local ruler and travelled overland by way of Sind, Punjab, Afghanistan, Transoxiana, Khorassan, Azerbijan and home through Persia. Accompanied by a handful of Egyptian soldiers he travelled through India and on reaching Lahore he found that Padishah Humayun of Kabul had just defeated Iskender Khan and had taken Lahore and was now seated on the throne in Delhi. The Governor of Lahore would not let him travel to Afghanistan until he had been to see the Padishah Humayun. Here in Delhi he was detained by the benvolent ruler who treated him royaly and enjoyed his poetry. After some months he gained permission to leave for Kabul. His account of his travels to Kabul are confusing and even the great explorer Vambery who translated his book gets thoroughly con-fused. He sets off for Kabul via Peshawar and the Khyber Pass and reached Djushai. " In the mountains we saw two rhinoceroses, each the size of a small elephant; they have a horn on their nose about two inches long. " They travelled to Kabul by Laghman. In Kabul he was the guest of the two sons of Humayun, Mehemmed Hekim Mirza and Ferrukh Fal Mirza. The admiral was royally treated and was captivated by the scenery. " Kabul itself is a beautiful city, surrounded by mountains covered by snow, and pleasure gardens with running brooks. Pleasure and merriemnt prevailed everywhere, feasting and banqueting were the order of the day. In every corner were gaily dressed Luli's (Gipsy dancing and singing damsels) en-ticing one with music and song to join the merry crowd; the populace in fact seemed to have no thought for any thing, but for pleasure and enjoyment." (p64,65)Having no time for frivolities, the Admiral's thoughts were focussed on getting home as quickly as possible. But with snow covering the roads and mountain passes, the Governor ad-vised him not to leave Kabul. The Admiral countered the argument by saying that men could overcome mountains, if they had a mind to do so. The Governor agreed he could attempt the treacherous crossing of the Hindu Kush and gave him men to guide the group and their horses. They rode out of Kabul via Kara-bag to Charikar and Parwan. Details of which pass he took are a bit sketchy but Vambery believes he crossed east of the more commonly used pass of that era, Dendanshiken Pass. This is supposedly the pass crossed by Babur. Their guide, Mir Nezri, was from the southern side of the Hindu Kush and was well acquainted with the area. The Admiral decribed the crossing of the Hindu Kush as " a very difficult passage." They crossed the pass in one day and spent a night at the bottom of the pass and onto Anderab.The admiral's gift of poetry opened many door for him. On his arrival in Taloqan he met the son of the son of the ruler of Badakhshan and all the upper Oxus and entered into a poetical competition which led to introduction to his father Suleiman Shah who " showed me much at-tention and loaded me with signs of his favour." (p66)With fighting in Balkh, Termez and Kunduz and surrounding areas, he was advised to skirt these conflictual areas and go via Khism, the capital of Badakhshan, Kalai Zafar, Rustak and onto Bender Semiti and Khatlan, an ancient city also known as Khotl.
After a succession of conquerors, explorers, pilgrims who were always fleet of foot and in a hurry to reach their destinations, a new group of intelligent, well educated Catholic men be-gan penetrating remote corners of the globe. These were Jesuits who were here to stay perma-nently. There was never any haste in their travel and they had a tendency to amble and soak in the alien culture, that they would soon be experts in..Biographer C. Wessels, a fellow Jesuit, summed up their work:" -before everything else they were, and remained, missionaries going out to cast abroad the seeds of the Gospel wherever human heart would give it soil; whose one ultimate purpose was to gain souls rather than to discover territories; who never lost sight of their raison d'etre , and therefore carried into their enteprises the same indomitable energy and daring that had called them away from friends and home to brave the perils of the deep without any wish or hope of gain or glory."We are fortunate indeed to know a little of one of the world's most dogged travellers as his diaries were destroyed after his death in China. Much is owed to his companion, the Armeian Isaac, who saved some fragments of his diary and took them to Peking and gave them to the famous Jesuit astronomer father Matthew Ricci, who recorded the story of Isaac and pieced together the scraps. So it is likely some inaccuracies crept into to Ricci's account of Bento De Goes travels.translationBento de Goes was born in 1562, on the island of San Miguel in the Azores. His first profession was a soldier and in 1584, entered a the Society of Jesus in Goa. After two years he quit and went to Ormuz, Regreting his decision he applied to reenter the Society and acceptabed again in 1588 at the age of 26. His superiors soon discovered he was a man of exceptional ability and he was offered the opportunity to study for the priesthood which he declined from a position of humility. After living for six year in Goa, Bento de Goes, was one of three Jesu-its selected to accept the invitation of the great Mogul ruler, Akbar, to visit him at his court in Lahore. The party survived a hazardous journey across the deserts to Lahore where he met Akbar soon after his arrival on 5 May 1595. In the splendour of one of the most lavish courts every known, the young Jesuit brother won the confidence of Akbar and so storng grew the relationship, that De Goes persuaded him from attacking the Deccan plateau and capturing all the Portugese colonies. In 1601, De Goes was appointed an ambassador of Akbar to negotiate for peace with the viceroy of India. Goes superiors soon began to realise his talents and started planning a journey for him to find Cathay and its forgotten Christian communities. Not only was he given the blessings of Akbar and letters of introduction, the great Khan gave 400 gold pieces to his trusted friend. Wearing the clothes of a Persian merchant and with long hair and beard, he travelled under the Moslem name of Abdullah Isai.Goes left Agra on October 29, 1602, and arrived in Lahore on December 8. Here he was lucky to find a very experience companion, Isaac, an Armenian.The following year 1603 , in February with a party of 500 persons, pack animals, includin camels and waggons they joined the annual caravan for Kashgar. At Attock the crossed the Indus, everything from thereon being then part of a greater Afghanistan. Next he tackled the mountains of Afghanistan which he described as perilous and difficult. His lumbering convoy was attacked before reaching Peshawar by bandits who were after the goods the were carry-ing. Next they headed for Jalalabad and as the convoy moved towards Kabul, along narrow tracks scratched on the face of hillsides, natives continued to attack them by dropping rocks on them from above. Frequently they had to travel at "the point of the sword." As he travelled the route towards Kabul Goes met a hermit who said that they were 30 days from Kafirstan, " which noMohammedan was allowed to enter. Those who penetrated into the country were punished with death, while heathen merchants went about unmolested. " (p 15) De Goes sampled some of the wine given to the Hermit by the Kafirs, and noted that it was similar to the wine of his country. What De Goes learnt about was the land formerly known as Kafirstan, now Nuristan where a race of fierce mountain people lived, with a strong dislike for the Muslim neighbours.It took De Goes six months to reach Kabul, a journey that could be done in half the time, but there were no records to break, and much to absorb and learnDue to the hardships of the journey, De Goes lost many of his companions through death or desertion, but his faithful companion Isaac remained. He formed a new caravan and now had the formidable barrier of the Hindu Kush to cross. Resting in Kabul it is easy to imagine the thoughts going through Goes mind, looking at the high snow-capped mountains which ring Kabul. Yet further north, and beyond them, is the greatest barrier of all, the might Hindu Kush.It would appear that Goes proceeded from Kabul to Charikar, thence Parwan where he rested for five days, before tackling the the killer mountains.From the little information available it is fairly certain he crossed the Hindu Kush by the Par-wan Pass ( or Bajgah) and presuming he took the normal route though the villages via Aliabad on the Kunduz River then to Taloquan, following the route of Marco Polo into Badakhshan. Wessels states it took " twenty days across the mountains to Aingaràm, from where another fifteen days' march brought them to the district of Calcià." (p 17-18) There has been a lot of discussion as to where Aingaràm is but for those who have travelled the route by foot or seen it from the air, the most likely route he would have gone is to Anderab, down the Nahrin, through Aliabad to Kuduz and Taloqan. From here he went to Badakhshan, probably following Marco Polo's route through Kishm.
Posted by Bob McKerrow at 3:39 AM

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Early History of Afghanistan


The ancient mountains of Afghanistan have been inhabited for well over 100,000 years and contain a story which is still unfolding as archaeologists discover more evidence of earlier civilisations. Stone tools made in Lower Palaeolithic era, more than 100,000 years ago were discovered on terraces to the east of a lake named Dasht-i-Nawur, west of Ghazni. In August 1966. an American, Louis Dupree discovered evidence from the Mousterian period (Middle Paleolithic) in a cave high in the mountains of Badakhshan at a place called Darra-i-Kur. Several hundred tools and flints were unearthed and is the earliest evidence of people living in the high mountains of Afghanistan and the eastern most Mousterian site in the world. The same survey team headed by Dupree found further evidence in 1969 in the foothills near Gurziwan, south-east of Maimana. The site known as the Cave of the Dead Sheep (Ghar-i-Gusfand Mordeh) revealed tools older than those found at Darra-i-Kur.The foothills of the Afghanistan's Hindu Kush have also proved to be the first place in the world where man first developed to control his food supply when important evidence was dis-covered to show carbonised grasses and other agricultural relics estimated to be 9000 years old. (Check sources)Modern day Afghanistan was once part of the great Persian Empire stretched from the Darda-nelles (Turkish Greek Border) to the Indus, Upper Egypt to Central Asia"The most interesting people on the fringes of Mesopotamia were the nomads of the plains east of the Capsian Sea and around present Persia. They were the many tribes and they had many names-Scythians, Medes, Parthians, Aryans, and others. Together they formed a link between India and southeastern Europe. About 1700 BC these tribes may have come to Baby-lonia as mercenary soldiers, bringing with them an animal the Babylonians had never seen-the horse. A thousand years later, under the more general name of Persians, they were to overcome the Assyrioans, with the destruction of Nineveh, the capital. This period was one of movement, the restless Persians looking for new lands to conquer. Marching armies and trad-ing caravans crossed the wide open spaces between Persia and Egypt, and as far north as the Black Sea.Hardy and well disciplined, the Persians were welded into a strong nation by their great leaders Cyrus and Darius. By 500 BC, with armies of foot soldiers and mounted cavalry fight-ing with bronze-tipped arrows, the mighty Persian Empire was the largest the world had yet seen. Cyrus, in his time, subjected the people of Babylon, the Phoenicians, and the Greek cit-ies of Asia Minor to his rule; Cambyses added Egypt; and darius, the great lawgiver, found himself in supreme command from the Dardanelles to the Indus, from Upper Egypt to central Asia. But the mastery of Europe was another matter. neither Greeks, Sicilians, nor the people of the Spanish Phoenician came under Persian rule.In his determination to make Persia a great sea power, Darius sent an expedition, under one Scylax, to explore the Indian Ocean from Suez to the Indus. He also led his armies into an in-voluntary voyage of exploration. In 512 BC, during his wars with the Scythians, he crossed the Bosporus and the Danube and then, under the impressions that he was near the Black Sea, he found himself in the steppes of Russia, from which he was forced to return.From: Discovery and Exploration - Frank Debenham . The Reprint Society . London 1961ARAYANS AND ACHAEMENIDS ( c.1500 BC - 330BC)The Vedic and Avestic hymns give us an insight into geographical features especially key mountains and passes, and information about literature, folk-lore, mythologgy, philosophy, language and religion of the early residents of Afghanistan.The Indo-Europeans, or more accurately one of their branches known as Aryans, who lived between the Indus and the Oxus have passed down orally, hymns from generation to genera-tion. From the Rigveda it can be determined that the Vedic Aryans were in Afghanistan around 1500 BC.Kubba is Kabul, Krumu (Korm), Rasa, (Kunar), Cveti, (Swat), Balhika (Balkh), Gandhara (the Kabul Valley), Mauru (the Morghab basin) Nisaya ( the region of Maimana), Haetumant (the Helman River Basin), Ragha (Ragh, Badakshan) Cakhra (Ghanzni area)The Avesta also mentions mountains: Paurana, the mountains of Parwan, Spita-Goura-Gaira the present Spin-Gar (white mountains) that border on Nangahar and Paktia provinces, Mount Mujavat is the strategic Munjan Pass, Staera, in the origional text is named "Staera ataosara, meaning the head that touches the star. James Darmsteter puts this mountian in the Ghorband group, but Sir Aurel Stein plces it with the Tirah, east of Afghanistan)Vafrayant is the Safed Koh, Syamaka, the Siah Koh north of the Hari Rud basin, Haraiti Barez, is the first high mountain named in the Avesta and Gaiger places it in the Pamir group. Zeredhaza is considered by Darmsteter to run parallel to Haraiti Barez."Thus, the geographical data of the Vedas and of the Avesta separately or combined, cover the whole of Afghanistan. This means that the Vedic and Avestic Aryans knew this country in detail. We conclude, therefore, that the country located between the Oxus and Indus Rivers, the Sindhu (Sind) and the Hamun, was the home of the Aryans, called Arayans of the Hindu Kush " wrote Afghan writer Ahmad Ali Kohzad. It is interesting to note that the writer Kohzad, means 'of the mountains'.In the Avesta, the great city of Bakhdi (Balkh) is described " the beautiful, crowned with banners" and of Zoroaster, also known as Zarathustra Spitama, who lived in Balkh sometime between 1000 and 600 BC. He united the tribes to unite in the name of the god Ahuramazda. Zoroaster was a noteworthy leader, highly aversed in politics, religion and agriculture, who encouraged his followers to diversify their food production that centred round grazing animals to cropping if they wanted to be independent and strong race. The plains of Bactria were highly productive and an advanced civilization developed under the shadow of the Alborz mountain range, where nomads still graze their flocks today.Walking in the deserts to the north of Mazar I Sharif and looking across the heat shimmer of the city, rounded snow capped peaks jutt from the Alborz mountains. These peaks are over 3500 metres, and domiate the skyliMany of the nomadic tribes of the Trans-Oxiana region moved over a number of centuries to settle in the Iranian Plateau and evolved from a nomadic people to form an extensive empire which stretched from Greece to the Indus River.Under the leadership of Darius I (522-486 BC), a highway was built through Afghanistan which meant speedier travel for later conquerors, pilgrims and travellers.ALEXANDER OF MACEDON (330-327 B.C.)The first Europeans to set foot in the mountains of central Asia were the troops of Alexander the Great. The ghost of Alexander broods like a Colossus over the mountains of Asia, his in-fluence still a force to be reckoned with after more than 2000 years. CameronInto the Unknown: The Story of Exploration 1987 National Geographic" Or Greeks like Alexander of Macedonia - Alexander the Great - who was an explorer truly worthy of that name. More than a warlord, Alexander was a seeker of the truth. He took with him on campaigns geographers, engineers, architects, botantists, historians, and "steppers" to count their paces as they traveled, and thus judge the distances...(later)Two of his many mo-mentus achievements were crossing the Hindu Kush and navigating the Indus River. The bleakly beautiful mountains of the Hindu Kush, along with the Himalayas and Pamirs, create a formidable barriers between the sub-continent of India and the rest of Asia. Alexander, ea-ger to mount a surprise spring offensive against the Persians in Afghanistan, led his army through the mountains on a 1,700-mile march. Autumn passed, the winter brought bitter winds, ice, and snow. The men struggled on until snow blocked their passage. then camped until the spring of 329 BC, where they made their way through an 11,000 foot pass to cross the Hindu Kush. Reaching the Oxus River, swollen with spring's melting snow, they filled their leather tents with straw and used them as rafts to float across."The Achaemenid Empire was left in tatters after Alexander the Great and his armies con-quered the Persian Empire.The last Achaemendid King, Darius III, had been murdered by Bessus his ally from Bactria.Bessus had also taken the titles of the Achaemenid kings which enraged Alexander who sought to find and kill him. Alexander, the pupil of AristotleThese early inhabitants of Aghanistan must have developed rudimentary mountaineering skills but it wasn't till the year until 330 year BC that Alexander the Great, brought people who could be called trained mountaineers. They were trained in cliff assaults, ladder climbing and rock climbing and as his campaign progressed they accumulated knowledge of snow and ice through trial and error,With 20,000 foot soldiers and 3000 horsemen directly under his command Alexander set out for modern day Afghanistan from Zadragarta near the Caspian Sea. He crossed the border into Badghis province and forcemarched his men towards Aria (Herat) that would have got him to Bactria quicker, as the passes do not reach the height of the Hindu Kush, but he was drawn southwards " to make a southerly sweep so as to reduce to submission all tribes north of the desert and west of the Arachotian ranges." (Dodge) Before he reached Prophthasia ( Farah) Alexander met a tribe which he couldn't catch, as they retired to the tree-covered slopes of a mountain with a steep precipice on the other side. " As he had little time to delay, and as the wind was blowing towards the mountain slope, Alexander contented himself with settting the woods on fire, and thus drove the barbarians over the precipitous cliffs." (Dodge) He then travelled to another city he named after himself, Alexander in Arachosia, modern day Khandahar. It was now early november and the first winter snows had arrived. and while crossing a range north-east of Khandahar, his army suffered from toiling relentlessly through the snow and the shortage of bread. Fortunately tribes in the area gave them foodstuffs inreturn for being left alone. From here the scenery changed as he entered the beautiful Cophen river(Kabul River) in the valley called Nicea,( Kabul Valley). Modern day Kabul is 1700 me-tres above sea level and is very cold in November and it is hemmed in by high snow-clad mountains and to the north by even higher mountains, the Hindu Kush.Parapanisus or Paropanisadae (Toynbee) p 51 was the name Alexander gave to Hindu Kush, and today the Parapanisus still graces the map of Afghanistan, but today starts on the Iranian border and stretches through the western provinces of Herat, Badghis and Ghor.It was now late November and Alexander wisely decided not to cross the Hindu Kush and in-stead wintered over in another city named after himself, Alexander ad Caucasum, modern day Jebal Seraj or is it Begram (Bagram), 35 km north of Kabul.. Alexander had the choice of crossing the Hindu Kush by a number of passes. But being a shrewd tactician he speculated that his enemy Bessus would have expected him to come by the easiest pass, so to confound him, he chose the more difficult Khawak Pass.Alexander waited until the worst of the winter weather had passed but he couldn't wait any longer and set off before the winter snows had melted (Probably late March) His army marched up the Panjcher valley and suffered terribly from cold and severe food shortages. Marching through the sheer-sided Panjcher gorge which marks the entrance of the long val-ley, there would have been layers of frost as the sun touches the ground for a mere few min-utes at this time of year.They climbed up to the Khawak Pass where many soldiers fell by the wayside with snow blindness or exhaustion and were abandoned. The Khawak Pass is 11,640 feet and on a cold windy March day temperatures can drop to - 30oC. Dodge describes it thus: "The ancient historians dismiss this march with a few words; but it has no parallel, except Hannibal's crossing of the Alps, and it is the first undertaking of the kind of which we have any record. Hannibal, from unexpected delays, started too late in the fall; Alexander from overeagerness, started too early in the spring. Both contended with heavy snows, and suffered from their attendant trials."The snow was still deep, the cold was intense, food was scarce and fuel non-existent. The men, struggling through drifts up to their armpits, suffered terribly from exhaustion, snow-blindness and frostbite. Literally in their thousands they were frozen solid to the rocks as they leaned against them. The horses and pack-asses suffered an even higher ration of casualties, but at least their bodies, eaten raw because there was no fuel to cook them, provided the troops with food. Alexander lost more men and more animals crossing the Hindu Kush than all his subsequent campaigns in central Asia. p33 Cameron. Once over the pass they discovered the region had been devastated, the houses burned and the flocks moved. According to accounts the snowline was ten to twelve miles below the pass but Alexander's troops had to march 40 miles through treachorous snow banks. Fifteen days after crossing the Khawak Pass they reached the first Bactrian village of Anderab. All the horses had perished but there is no account of how many men Alexander lost. At Anderab Alexander let his men recover and soon marched to the fruit-laden plains of Bactria.Alexander wintered at Nautaca in BC 328-327. By this time he had conquered and sudued Bactria and Sogdinia, but there remained a few rocky fortresses held by rebel chiefs. One such chief, Oxyartes had fortified himself on the Rock of Arimazes or Sogidan Rock.By the time Alexander reached the famous Sogidan Rock (over the border from modern day Afghanistan in the border regions of Uzbekistan/Tajikistan) his men had shown their skills of climbing walls and rocks by using various scaling ladders Impatient as ever, Alexander set of for this impregnable fortress, built on a rock jutting out from the side of a mountain, with ver-tical cliffs. The long trek in late winter was full of difficulties and they encountered terrible storms. During one storm he lost 1000 men but Alexander was a man of great energy and courage as he cheered and cajouled them on. When he arrived at the Rock of Arimazes it looked impossible, there seemed to be no approach. Snow was plastered to the rocks which made it nigh on impossible to scale. Alexander with his usual bravado called the inhabitants on the rock to surrender with the promise of free exit and safety. The reply he got was that they only feared winged soldiers. This angered and also spurred Alexander on. Quickly he sent a herald through the camp offering prizes of 12 talents to the first man who succeeded to climb the rock and to the rest, a descending scale of rich prizes to the others who got ot the top. There were a number of expert mountaineers who over the long duration of the campaign had learned to scale icy slopes, cross snowbound passes and had received training on how to climb walls and cliffs.. Three hundred men volunteered. Equipped with ropes and tent pegs, they commenced a night assault at midnight. To gain purchase on the ice covered rock the men drove pegs into cracks in the rock or into the ice or frozen ground. Gingerly they gained height. During this incredibly dangerous night operation 30 climbers fell to their death. Later, due to the steepness and the ledges where the bodies lay, they could not be recovered. But by dawn a number of climbers had scaled the heights and waved their white scarves to signal their success. Alexander had again done the impossible. No doubt full of pride and relishing his victory, he called out to Oxyartes to look at his winged soldiers and sent a herald to the gates asking him to surrender." The position gained may not have had any particular value in compelling this; but, aston-ished beyond measure at being this outdone, and imagining the men on the rocks above to be much more numerous than they actually were, and fully armed, the whole thing savouring, moreover, of the supernatural, with which Alexander's name was uniformly connected, the demand was complied with."Not only did Alexander gain a victory he also captured the daughter of Oxyartyes, Roxana, claimed by the Macedonians to be the most beautiful women in the east. Alexander fell in love with her and treated her with great dignity, and later married her. This shows the tender side of the ruthless Alexander for he also forgave Oxyartes and elevated him to a senior posi-tion..Not content with this victory, Alexander marched on towards the Rock of Choreines in the land of Paraetacians, a mountainous region of the upper Oxus. The Rock was inhabited by Chorienes an old friend of the recently captured Oxyartes. It was early spring and Alexan-der's chroniclers describe the march over the snow-clad mountains in horrific terms; frequent storms lashed the mountains, food shortages dogged them throughout a an unspecified num-ber of his men froze to death. Alexander who was always tough in spirit and body 'shared the labours of his men' but he could not prevent then giving up. These mountain treks of Alexan-der are remarkable that he choose late winter or early spring when the opposition were least expecting him. It is related that after one days march Alexander was warming himself by a fire when a frozen Macedonian in armour was brought in almost dead. Alexander gave him his seat at the fire and the man soon recovered. On regaining consciousness the soldier was surprised and frightened to find himself in the great king's place. Alexander looked at him and said, "Look you, comrade, among the Persians, to sit on the King's seat entails death. To you.a Macedonian, it has brought life."The Rock of Choreines is about seven miles circumference at the base. The only route up the mountain was a by a narrow track that would take only one man abreast and could easily be defended.. The only way the mountain could be ascended was by a sheer face, cut off by a deep gorge through which rushed a wild mountain torrent. Here Alexander was in his element surveying another virtually insurmountable objective. He had to bridge the wild water to get to the base of the face and this he acheived by cutting down nearby pine trees and making ladders by which his troops descended to the river bed. From this base Alexander instructed his men to build a a trestle work of covered galleries to protect the men from attacks above. The whole army worked day and night and before long height was made. In these early stages the inhabitants of the Rock laughed at the feeble efforts of the Macedonians, then soon the re-alised they had been out-witted. as the structure began to rise towards them, The structure was covered with screens and roofs which prevented attacks from above, while from below Alex-ander's men were able to fire upwards with their sling machines, bows and slings, killing and wounding many of his enemy. Alexander's gamble paid off and Chorienes surrendered and his men discovered enough food to feed his entire army for two months.Alexander returned across the present day Afghan border to Bactra well, satisfied with his conquests.Winter passed and in the spring of 327BC, Alexander's thoughts turned to the fabled riches of of India. The route he chose was over the Hindu Kush by an easier pass this time, the Kushan Pass (Is this Ali's Kaoshan Pass, 14,340 feet? )to Alexander ad Caucasum. It took him ten days to complete the trip on an improved track with adeqaute food supplies. From here he marched into Nicea (Kabul) in the Cophen (Kabul valley) valley. He had with him 135,000 men welded together from remnants of his original Hellenic army to a force that comprised largely of Central Asians.After six year Alexander had gained a lot of experience in the mountains of Afghanistan and modern-day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and rashly thought he would quickly get to the Indus River by way of passes through the the various mountain ranges. First he dispatched Hephaes-tion and Perdiccas along the true right of the Kabul River, through Gandara( the valley run-ning from Peshawar to Taxila) Meanwhile Alexander took the more difficult route to the northern side of the Kabul River where he proposed he would "reduce all the strongholds in the mountain passes." so he could control the Kabul Valley. The main party stayed in the main river valley while he sent fast moving detachment up the side valleys.Quote: P513 (Dodge) To the north bank, mountains come down in huge scallops from Kafirstan. The Choes or Choaspes (Kunar) the Euaspla and the Guraeus..........What is obvi-ous is that Alexander had conact with the tribes of Kafirstan (Nuristan) Laghman, Kafirstan where he drank wine) He left the people of Kafirstan free but invited young Kafir soldiers to join him the Kafirs did not want to return with Alexander, they preferred their mountain home in Nuristan. (p237 Nancy afg)Kunar River. Here he travelled through modern day Nuristan, Laghman and Kunar to the Nawa Pass into the Bajaur river to TimargarhaHe then crossed the Chakdara Bridge across the Swat River and from here Alexander attacked and pludered the towns of Bazira (Birkot Hill) and Ora (Udegram) Since leaving Aleandria ad Caucasum the last months of his campaign had been through high alpine areas of modern Laghman, Nuristan and Kunar with many hards battles with local tribesWith Taxila in his sights, one thought he would be content to proceed directly down the Indus but no, he had one final battle, the people who had fled from Bazira Ora and elsewhere had gathered at a remote site, the Roc of Aornus.p 256 Stein At Birkot Hill and Udegram Stein identified the sites of the ancient towns of Bazira and Ora, which Alexander sacked after reaching the Swat from Bactria and Sog-diniana in 327BC Stein puzzled that refugees from Baziar and Ora wiould have sought a remote place such as the Rock of Aornos. His reckoning from his explorations and talking to locals led him to an Alpine plateau of Pir Sar above Indus near Besham , and a peak be-yond that bore the name Una.After his exploits in the Swat valley. Alexander travels down the Indus and crosses the Indus near Attock and on to Taxila where the King passively submits to him in the Spring of 326 BC. Next he marches towards Hydaspes where Porus the ruler of the Punjab, puts up a great fight against Alexander. Finally he is defeated and Alexander an admirer of brave men, re-stores him to power. Here his men refuse to go further. They retreated by sailing down the In-dus and then proceeds towards Persia across the dry and deadly deserts of Gedrosia (Baluchis-tan). The march across the desrt last 60 days during which he loose a large number of soldiers perish.Alexander reached Babylonia in 324 BC where Ambassadors from neighbouring countries came to pay homage. With thoughts of plans and conquests in his mind, his next destination was Arabia. However in June 323 BC Al;exander falls ill with a raging fever, and dies on June 28 323, at the age of 33.The Chinese Travellers and PilgrimsWhile Jerusalem was falling into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar in the east, an event occured that produced one of the world's great religions and centuries later, devout Buddhist pilgrims from China travelled through Asia searching for the original purity of their faith.For thousands of years China was geographically isolated from the rest of the world and whilst it shunned foreign interference, it showed great interest in foreign religionThis seeming paradox was due to the fact that Confucianism, the official Faith, was essentially a body of moral precepts, as Taoism, (albeit Taoism had stronger pretension to metaphysic), and both people and rulers were eager to receive any moral doctrine which might strengthen that love of peace and orderly conduct which would seem to be inborn in the Chinese breast.Under the shadow of the great Himalayas 600 years before the birth of Christ, the son of a petty cheftain, Gautma, was born in Lumbini. In his search for the truth he abandoned all his material possessions including his wife and family and began living in nearby jungles, con-templating. During this time a wave of love of humanity and profound grief at human suffer-ing enveloped him. Moved by this spiritual experience he started travelling and in the valley of the Ganges he began preaching a a pure religion of duty and affection. Like the soul of Plato's poet, his soul "was no longer within him."The teachings of Gautma were influenced by the doctrine of Kharma which he had learnt from the Brahmins "the heart achieves blessedness in proportion to its purification; a good life acquires merit, by means of which relative freedom is obtained from the mournful, malevolent turnings of the wheels of things."The Chinese rulers saw that Buddhism was basically an ethical system and was compatible with Taoism and becoming a faithful Bhuddist did not prohibit one from remaining a good Confucian. Therefore the Chinese government approved of Buddhism as it was a peaceful faith of ethics that kept its subjects submissive. But it had to compete with other faiths of the era as many of the traders brought with them new Faiths such as the Zorastrian from Persia and Islam through the visit of the maternal uncle of the Prophet Mohammed. Moslems were to be found in China during Hiuen-Tsiang's life as was Christianity introduced by Nestorian missionaries.The quartet of Chinese travellers who came to know the Hindu Kush and ancient Afghanistan span a period of 800 years. The were Chang-Kian 129 BC, Fah-Hian, 400 AD, Sung Yun 518 AD and Hiuen Tsiang 632 AD. Of the four Fa Sen and Hiuen Tsiang kept detailed records of their journeys and we are able to learn a lot of that period.CHANG-KIANThe first of the four in approx 129 BC was Chang-Kian a Chinese ambassador, with a group of Yuchi people travelled across the Oxus and the Hindu Kush to Cophene (the Kabul river).His 13 year trip was poorly recorded but what is written reveals an extremely arduous jour-ney for he returned with only two of the original hundred he set out with. (Beal)Fraser-Tytler refers to these people as Yuehchih (Yuchi) and says they moved southwards, crossing the Oxus in about 128BC, " and after destroying or driving out Greek rulers occupied the country as far south as the mountains. It is unclear as to who and where the Yuchi's were.Fraser-Tytler believes "They were certainly not Mongols, and were possibly the same stock as the Iranians and kin to the then inhabitants of the Tarim Basin whom Hsuan Tsang, the Chi-nese pilgrim, encountered on his journey westward in the seventh century A.D.FAH-HIAN 400 ADBefore the arrival of the next great Chinese pilgrim the Kushans under the leadership of Kad-phises in around 40 AD, occupied the Kabul River valley and Gandhara. This empire lasted until about 220 AD. The next two hundred years was a period of anarchy, although Ardsher-Babagan founded the Sassanian dynasty of Persia which lasted some hundreds of years. al-though the Sassanian influence did not extend over the whole of Afghanistan. In addition the Hephthalites (White Huns) invaded Afghanistan around 400 AD and ruled for 200 years. Not much is known about this period except of the destruction of Buddhist shrines.When Fah-Hian visited Afghanistan and India in the period 405 AD - 411 AD it was out of great pain and frustration he had endured in his native China. There he had witnessed the de-cline in the rules of discipline of the monks in his native city of Tchang'an and the faulty translations of the sacred Buddhist teachings.This young pilgrim was so motivated to redress the problems of his faith, that he travelled to India in search of original copies of scriptures (works) unknown in his country. He left his city in 400 AD and travelled across China and approached India and Afghanistan via the upper water-shed of the Gilgit River. Soon after he mentions 'Skardo' follows and follows the upper Indus to the Switi (Swat River) to Gandhara ( Peshawar). It seems he did a side trip into modern-day Afghanistan to the Hazarjat and visited the great Buddhist Centre of Bamiyan. He describes in detail a great assembly of over one thousand monks He returned after 14 years by way of Ceylon.SUNG YUN AND HWUI SENG 518 ADSung-Yun, a resident of Tun-wang in Little Tibet, was sent on royal command by the Queen of Wei country to search for authentic Buddhist books. They proceded in a westerly direction for 40 days and then headed towards the Hindu Kush, taking about 10 months to get this far. andsome more months to reach Gandhara's capital, Peshawar.One of Sun Yun most famous quotes on meeting a barbarian King said: "Mountains are high and low - rivers are great and small-amongst men also there are distinctions, some being no-ble and some ignoble. He returned after 3 years with 175 volumes.check p 70 of grousset ^ ephthaliteHSUAN TSANGFour Pilgrims - William Boulting 1992. Asian Educational Services, New Delhi & Ma-dras.Hiuen Tsiang. Chapters 1 to 12. Perilous Journey to the Sacred Land of BuddhaIn contrast to the the conquering Alexander , Hsuan Tsang was a quiet, pious and adventurous pilgrim.He was born in 602 AD and by the age of 13 had astounded scholars by his mental ability and spiritual mind. Dissatified by the problems in China and knowing of the earlier Buddhist pilgrims, he set out at the age of 24 "to make for the cradle and sanctuary of Bud-dhism and to seek there for the books his countrymen lacked." (p10) After an arduous trip westwards through the Takla Makan desert, he had to cross the difficult Tien Shan mountain range by the Bedel Pass. He spent several month with the Mongols of the steppe and then headed for India along the known route from Samankand, across the Oxus to Balkh. He de-scribes the crossing of deserts and and remote mountain passes but it was the mountains of central Asia that left a very frightening impression on him." Since the creation of the world the snow has gathered there and become frozenblocks, which spring and summer cannot melt. Shining sheets of solid ice spread before one, and there is, as it were, no end to them; they blend with the clouds. Frozen splinters have become detached and fallen; some of these are an hundred feet high; others measure some dozens of feet athwart, and they bar the way. You attempt to climb over the former kind at your peril; you get across the latter with pain. And at all the time the tempest assails you with gusts of wind and whirling drifts of snow; so that double soles to your foot-gear and fur garments to your body fail to keep out the cold. Of dry shelter there is none, either to feed or sleep in. You have to sling up your cooking pot and lay your sleeping mat on the frozen ground "Hsuan Tsang used mountain staves that had an axe head with which steps could be cut.At Balkh, the 'Mother of Cities' with its many splendours he found a hundred Buddhist mon-asteries and approximately 3000 monks and sacred memorials and treasures beyond count and description.His crossing of the Hindu Kush en route to Bamiyan is described in detail:"Every moment one is at battle there with frozen cloud or snow-whirlwind. Sometimes one is faced with worse than this, even, namely, morasses of mud, dozens of feet wide. Ice, pile on pile, rises into mountain masses, snow-blasts dash on for a hundred leagues." "The raging spirits and demons of the mountains send every kind of calamity; and there are muderous rob-bers to be met with."In Bamiyan a major Buddist centre in the heart of Afghanistan he was warmly received by the ruler and here he rested for five days. After visiting the massive Buddhist images carved out of solid rock, he took to the trail to Kapisa. Two days out from Bamiyan he was hit by a ferrocious blizzard and he lost his way. He was discovered by hunters and put on the right track and crossed a mountain pass (Ghorband) down the Ghorband valley to Kapisa, north of Kabul. His arrival coincided with the start of the rainy season so he spent some months in Kapisa before departing for Peshawar with a royal escort from the King in the footseps of an earlier traveller, Alexander the Great. He visited jalalabad (p27)After 13 years of travelling and living in India where he became a polished Sanskrit scholar he returned to a royal welcome in Kapisa, Afghanistan. Here a hundred top men were chosen to accompany him across the notorious Khawak Pass, 3,500 m. It would have been common knowledge that. Alexander had lost thousands of men earlier on this crossing in early March 329 BC. The party travelled for seven days up the scenic Panjcher valley before turning up the Khawak River from the Panjcher River towards the pass. Hsuan Tsang held the mountains in great awe and he wrote at length about the difficulties and dangers of thsee abode of demons." Now the traveller is in a high profound valley; now aloft on high peak, with its burthen of ice in full summertide. One gets along by cutting steps in the ice, and, in three days, one reaches the summit of the pass. There a furious icy blast, cold beyond measure, sweeps on; the valleys are laden with accumulated snow. The traveller pushes on; for he dares not pause. Soaring birds must needs alight; it is impossible for them to fly; and they have to cross afoot."What makes this trip almost unbelievable is that they had an elephant with them who made it over the pass. Did the inspiration come from Hannibal who had crossed the European alps 200 BC. The travellers used their mountain axes to cut steps to get over the pass. At the end of the second week after leaving Kapisa they reached a village of of a hundred family on the northern side of the Hindu Kush which is likely to be modern day Anderab. Hsuan Tsang comments that the villages lived by raising a very large variety of sheep. From here his es-corts returned and he took a rest and engaged a local guide and mounted on a camel and headed to the bottom of the pass. He took him a further six days to cross further ranges which reach a height of 4500m before he got into easier ground and then headed north-west to the upper Oxus possibly via modern day Kunduz. He probably went east through Badakhshan and then descended in " to the great plateau of the Pamirs" and then onto Kashgar and Yarkand.The 'Prince of Pilgrims' was a title he richly earned when he returned to his native China 'laden with many gold and silver statues, 150 relics of the tru Buddha, and 657 learned books.'During the travels of these Chinese travellers -129 BC to 650 AD- the ebb and flow of civili-zations in the lands of the Hindu Kush rose , flourished and died, each leaving strands of cul-ture which make up the richness of today's Afghanistan. In studying the early history of Af-ghanistan, there is sufficient information to get a coherent picture of the regular cycles of civi-lisation which emerge. The Hindu Kush clearly is divide which governed these cycles. To the north, the grassy plains of Bactria, the steepes of Central Asia and the fertile Oxus valley and to the south, the rich valleys of the Kabul River, Jalalabad and through to the valley of the Indus stretching through to the fertile plains of India. To the north of the Hindu Kush, peri-odically a race from the north would cross the Oxus and establish themselves north of the Hindu Kush. There they would stay some time, discover a breach in the Hindu Kush, stay a while, then move towards India. Flecker's lines " We are pilgrims master and we will go across the last blue mountains barred with snow... seem to be written for the Hindu Kush.By 50 AD, another great civilisation was emerging in the land surrounding the Hindu Kush. The Kushans, led by Kadphises I, had found a way through the Hindu Kush and exerted con-trol of the Kabul River valley and of the area known as Gandhara. The Kushan empire quickly expanded to include modern day India. The next Kushan leader; known as the 'King of Kings,' was Kanishka (ca 128-151 AD) who made Peshawar the cultural capital of a huge empire stretching from the Aral Sea to the Ganges River, and across the Pamirs to the Chi-nese border.The Kushans with their control of of such a large area brought peace to the mountainous re-gions of the Hindu Kush, Pamirs, Karakorams and Himalayas, their foothills and plains.King Kanisha opened his arms to Buddhism, the monastries of Gandhara resounded to the chants and prayers of priests, pilgrims and students. Out of this creative and peaceful envi-ronment grew a strong culture where art blossomed. Nancy Dupree's description of this phase cannot be bettered. " Versed in disparate traditions introduced by political changes and nur-tured by cultural interchange since the days of the Achaemenids, these artists deftly fused the collective artistry of east and west. They created a school of Gandhara art- an art so dynamic it endured for five centuries and materially influenced the arts of Central Asia, China and South Asia.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mumbai atrocities highlight need for solution in Kashmir.


The Observer, Sunday November 30 2008
Article history
Three weeks ago, in the Kashmiri capital of Srinagar, I met a young surgeon named Dr Iqbal Saleem. Iqbal described to me how on 11 August this year, Indian security forces entered the hospital where he was fighting to save the lives of unarmed civilian protesters who had been shot earlier that day by the Indian army. The operating theatre had been tear-gassed and the wards riddled with bullets, creating panic and injuring several of the nurses. Iqbal had trained at the Apollo hospital in Delhi and said he harboured no hatred against Hindus or Indians. But the incident had profoundly disgusted him and the unrepentant actions of the security forces, combined with the indifference of the Indian media, had convinced him that Kashmir needed its independence.
I thought back to this conversation last week, when news came in that the murderous attackers of Mumbai had brutally assaulted the city's hospitals in addition to the more obvious Islamist targets of five-star hotels, Jewish centres and cafes frequented by Americans and Brits. Since then, the links between the Mumbai attacks and the separatist struggle in Kashmir have become ever more explicit. There now seems to be a growing consensus that the operation is linked to the Pakistan-based jihadi outfit, Lashkar-e-Taiba, whose leader, Hafiz Muhammad Sayeed, operates openly from his base at Muridhke outside Lahore.
This probable Pakistani origin of the Mumbai attacks, and the links to Kashmir-focused jihadi groups, means that the horrific events have to be seen in the context of the wider disaster of Western policy in the region since 9/11. The abject failure of the Bush administration to woo the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan away from the Islamists and, instead, managing to convince many of them of the hostility of the West towards all Muslim aspirations, has now led to a gathering catastrophe in Afghanistan where the once-hated Taliban are now again at the gates of Kabul.
Meanwhile, the blowback from that Afghan conflict in Pakistan has meant that Asif Ali Zardari's government has now lost control of much of the North West Frontier Province, in addition to the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas, while religious and political extremism flourishes as never before.
Pakistan's most intractable problem remains the relationship of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) over the last 25 years with myriad jihadi groups. Once, the ISI believed that they could use jihadis for their own ends, but the Islamists have increasingly followed their own agendas, to the extent that they now feel capable of launching well-equipped and well-trained armies into Indian territory, as happened so dramatically in Mumbai.
Visiting Pakistan last week, it was clear that much of the north of the country was slipping out of government control. While it is unlikely that Zardari's government had any direct link to the Mumbai attacks, there is every reason to believe that its failure effectively to crack down on the country's jihadi network, and its equivocation with figures such as Hafiz Muhammad Syed, means that atrocities of the kind we saw last week are likely to continue.
India meanwhile continues to make matters worse by its ill-treatment of the people of Kashmir, which has handed to the jihadis an entire generation of educated, angry middle-class Muslims. One of the clean-shaven boys who attacked CST railway station - now named by the Indian media as Mohammad Ajmal Mohammad Amin Kasab, from Faridkot in the Pakistani Punjab - was wearing a Versace T-shirt. The other boys in the operation wore jeans and Nikes and were described by eyewitnesses as chikna or well-off. These were not poor, madrasah-educated Pakistanis from the villages, brainwashed by mullahs, but angry and well-educated, middle-class kids furious at the gross injustice they perceive being done to Muslims by Israel, the US, the UK and India in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kashmir respectively.
If Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is the most emotive issue for Muslims in the Middle East, then India's treatment of the people of Kashmir plays a similar role among South-Asian Muslims. At the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, the state should logically have gone to Pakistan. However, the pro-Indian sympathies of the state's Hindu Maharajah, as well as the Kashmiri origins of the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, led to the state passing instead to India - on the condition that the Kashmiris retained a degree of autonomy.
Successive Indian governments, however, refused to honour their constitutional commitments to the state. The referendum, promised by Nehru at the UN, on whether the state would remain part of India, was never held. Following the shameless rigging of the 1987 local elections, Kashmiri leaders went underground. Soon after, bombings and assassination began, assisted by Pakistan's ISI which ramped up the conflict by sending over the border thousands of heavily armed jihadis.
India, meanwhile, responded with great brutality to the insurgency. Half-a-million Indian soldiers and paramilitaries were dispatched to garrison the valley. There were mass arrests and much violence against ordinary civilians, little of which was ever investigated, either by the government or the Indian media. Two torture centres were set up - Papa 1 and Papa 2 - into which large numbers of local people would 'disappear'. In all, some 70,000 people have now lost their lives in the conflict. India and Pakistan have fought three inconclusive wars over Kashmir, while a fourth mini-war came alarmingly close to igniting a nuclear exchange between the two countries in 1999. Now, after the Mumbai attacks, Kashmir looks likely to derail yet again the burgeoning peace process between India and Pakistan.
Kashmir continues to divide the establishment of Pakistan more than any other issue. Zardari might publicly announce that he doesn't want to let Kashmir get in the way of improved relations between India and Pakistan, but Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is officially banned, continues to function under the name of Jama'at al-Dawa, and Hafiz Muhammad Sayeed continues openly to incite strikes against Indian and Western targets. At one recent meeting, he proclaimed that 'Christians, Jews and Hindus are enemies of Islam' and added that it was the aim of the Lashkar to 'unfurl the green flag of Islam in Washington, Tel Aviv and New Delhi'.
Sayeed also proclaims that the former princely state of what he calls 'Hyderabad Deccan' is also a part of Pakistan, which may explain the claim of responsibility for the attacks by a previously unknown group named the Deccan Mujahideen. It is clear Sayeed appears to operate with a measure of patronage from the Pakistani establishment and the Zardari government recently cleared the purchase of a bulletproof Land Cruiser for him. When Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, was yesterday asked on Indian TV whether Pakistan would now arrest Sayeed, he dodged the question answering: 'We have to recognise that there are elements in every society that can act on their own.'
In the months ahead, we are likely to see a security crackdown in India and huge pressure applied to Pakistan to match its pro-Indian and pro-Western rhetoric with real action against the country's jihadi groups. But there is unlikely to be peace in South Asia until the demands of the Kashmiris are in some measure addressed and the swamp of grievance in Srinagar somehow drained. Until then, the Mumbai massacres may be a harbinger of more violence to come.