Rina Saeed Khan

Rina Saeed Khan

The author is an environmental journalist based in Islamabad. She most recently authored the book, "From Mountains to Mangroves: Protecting Pakistan's Natural Heritage" on her travels throughout Pakistan. She tweets @rinasaeed (twitter.com/rinasaeed)

Declared ‘intangible’, the heritage of Kalash is over 3,000 years old – but will it survive the 21st century?

‘Ishpata Inn and Restaurant’, says the sign to a roadside hotel in Bumburet Valley in the Chitral district. Ishpata means welcome in the Kalasha language spoken exclusively by the endangered Kalash people, an ethnic group that has lived in three secluded valleys of these towering mountains for centuries: Bumburet, Rumbur and Birir. There are only around 4,000 Kalash villagers left in Chitral. They are one of the last peoples of western Asia to retain their aboriginal culture and have survived many waves of invaders, refusing to convert to Islam. Their neighbours across the mountains in the north-western region of ...

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Why reverting to the karez system might save Balochistan’s water and drought crisis

In an arid country like Pakistan, water in the form of rivers, glaciers and groundwater is life – it is what gives us sustenance. When there is too little, we have droughts, and when there is too much, we have floods. This is how it has been for centuries in this part of the world, and it remains how it is in Balochistan, home to the 7,000-year-old Mehrgarh civilisation. Pakistan’s largest province is currently in the midst of a drought, and yet some districts have been flooded as well. I was part of a group of journalists from Islamabad who ...

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The stone crushers of Taxila: Are we ready to lose pieces of our history and heritage?

Taxila valley, which lies just beyond the Margalla Hills bordering Islamabad, is a picturesque, rural place with sleepy villages nestled below its green hills. Located less than an hour’s drive from Islamabad, the area is famous for Khanpur Dam and a series of archaeological remains which were declared as world heritage sites by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) back in 1980. Ideally, Taxila should be preserved as a tourist destination steeped in history, but over the years, stone crushers (a machine used to break down large rocks into smaller rocks, gravel or rock dust) have been ...

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Siksa Valley: Turning Gilgit-Baltistan’s barren lands into green miracles

I had never been past Khaplu in the Ganche District of Baltistan, a lovely green valley encircled by towering mountains. I had stayed a few times at the picturesque Khaplu Fort Palace Hotel, which has painstakingly been restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. The Khaplu Fort Palace Hotel Hence, I was excited to actually drive past Khaplu and head further north towards our border area with India’s Ladakh region. This is a restricted area controlled by the Army and most tourists are turned back. Luckily, we had clearances as we were heading to a village ...

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From a “political nobody who would never amount to much” to the prime minister of Pakistan

Twenty-two years ago, did I think this day would ever arrive? That in little more than 10 minutes, a visibly uncomfortable Imran Khan would fumble over difficult Urdu words and take the oath to become Pakistan’s 22nd prime minister? I wish I could say a resounding yes, but I, like so many of his supporters, have seen Imran rise and fall over the years (only to rise again) with exasperation. ‘Surely he will deliver once he reaches his goal’ is how we have comforted ourselves through the many stumbles, U-turns and compromises. Along the way, we have been called cult followers, ...

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“Either the cement plants go, or we do”: The dry lands of Punjab’s future breadbasket

When the blue-green waters of the Katas Raj Hindu temple complex began to dry out last year, there was a furore in the media. Concern over the historical site brought the country’s attention (and the Supreme Court’s focus) to the plight of the local community’s dwindling groundwater resources. One of the most photographed sites in Pakistan, the Katas Raj Hindu temple’s pond is said to have been created from the teardrops of Shiva as he wandered the earth, inconsolable after the death of his wife Sati. For hundreds of years, Hindu pilgrims have bathed in this pond, whose plentiful ...

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Gwadar: From ghost town to gold rush town

From the sky, Gwadar looks like a dust bowl as the ATR aircraft, which regularly flies along the Makran coast from Karachi, circles in for landing. The new airport, currently being designed, will be the largest in Pakistan once it is completed, but for now one has to settle for the old airport. Its VIP section is used often as ministers, senators and even the prime minister and the army chief regularly visit this once sleepy fishing port. They have all proclaimed Gwadar to be the jewel of the upcoming China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The drive from the airport along the newly ...

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