Swat District

Swat District (Urdu: ضلع سوات‎, Pashto: سوات ولسوالۍ‎, pronounced [ˈswaːt̪]) is a district in the Malakand Division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. With a population of 2,309,570 per the 2017 national census, Swat is the 15th-largest district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Swat
سوات
Springtime photograph of the Swat River running through the valley, May 2015
Springtime photograph of the Swat River running through the valley, May 2015
Nickname(s): 
Switzerland of the East[1]
Swat District, highlighted red, shown within the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Swat District, highlighted red, shown within the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Coordinates: 35°12′N 72°29′E / 35.200°N 72.483°E / 35.200; 72.483Coordinates: 35°12′N 72°29′E / 35.200°N 72.483°E / 35.200; 72.483
Country Pakistan
Province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
CapitalSaidu Sharif
Largest cityMingora
Government
 • Chief CommissionerN/A
 • Deputy CommissionerN/A
Area
 • District5,337 km2 (2,061 sq mi)
Population
 • District2,309,570
 • Density430/km2 (1,100/sq mi)
 • Urban
695,900
 • Rural
1,613,670
Time zoneUTC+5 (PKT)
Area code(s)Area code 0946
Languages (1981)[3]

Swat District is centered on the Valley of Swat, usually referred to simply as Swat, which is a natural geographic region surrounding the Swat River. The valley was a major centre of early Buddhism under the ancient kingdom of Gandhara, and was a major centre of Gandharan Buddhism, with pockets of Buddhism persisting in the valley until the 10th century, after which the area became largely Muslim.[4][5] Until 1969, Swat was part of the Yusafzai State of Swat, a self-governing princely state that was inherited by Pakistan following its independence from British rule. The region was seized by the Tehrik-i-Taliban in late-2007 until Pakistani control was re-established in mid-2009.[6][7]

The average elevation of Swat is 980 m (3,220 ft),[5] resulting in a considerably cooler and wetter climate compared to the rest of Pakistan. With lush forests, verdant alpine meadows, and snow-capped mountains, Swat is one of the country's most popular tourist destinations.[8][9]

EtymologyEdit

The name "Swat" is derived from the Swat River. The Swat River referred to as the Suvāstu -in the Rig Veda, with a literal meaning "of fair dwellings,"[10][11][12] which has been opined to refer to the presence of Aryan settlements along the river's course.[13] Some have suggested the Sanskrit name may mean "clear blue water."[14] Another theory derives the word Swat from the Sanskrit word shveta (lit.'white'), also used to describe the clear water of the Swat River.[15] To the ancient Greeks, the river was known as the Soastus.[16][17][18][15] The Chinese pilgrim Faxian referred to Swat as the Su-ho-to.[19]

GeographyEdit

 
Upper Swat is enclosed by tall mountains

Swat's total area is 5,337 square kilometres (2,061 sq mi). In terms of administrative divisions, Swat is surrounded by Chitral, Upper Dir and Lower Dir to the west, Gilgit-Baltistan to the north, and Kohistan, Buner and Shangla to the east and southeast, respectively. The former tehsil of Buner was granted the status of a separate district in 1991.[20]

ValleyEdit

The Valley of Swat is delineated by natural geographic boundaries, and is centered on the Swat River, whose headwaters arise in the 18,000-19,000 foot tall Hindu Kush. The valley is enclosed on all sides by mountains, and is intersected by glens and ravines.[21] Above mountains ridges to the west is the valley of the Panjkora River, to the north the Gilgit Valley, and Indus River gorges to the east. To the south, across a series of low mountains, lies the wide Peshawar valley.[22]

The northernmost area of Swat district are the high valleys and alpine meadows of Swat Kohistan, a region where numerous glaciers feed the Usho, and Gabral rivers (also known as the Utrar River), which form a confluence at Kalam, and thereafter forms the Swat river - which forms the spine of the Swat Valley and district. Swat then is characterized by thick forests along the narrow gorges of the Kalam Valley until the city of Madyan. From there, the river courses gently for 160 km through the wider Yousufzai Plains of the lower Swat Valley until Chakdara.

ClimateEdit

Climate in Swat is a function of altitude, with mountains in the Kohistan region snow-clad year round. Upper reaches of the district are subject to cold, snowy winters. Drier, warmer temperatures in the lower portions of the district in the Yousafzai Plains where summer temperatures can reach 105 °F (41 °C), although the lower plains experience occasional snow.[21] Both regions are subject to two monsoon seasons - one in winter and the other in summer. Swats lower reaches have vegetation characterized by dry bush and deciduous trees, while upper reaches of the district have thick pine forests.[22]

HistoryEdit

Vedic timesEdit

The earliest recorded history of the region, preserved through the oral tradition, was the settlement and societies of the Indo-Aryan peoples. The name for the Swat River that was recorded in the Rig Veda, Suvāstu, which may mean "fair dwellings," refers to the presence of Indo-Aryan settlements in the region.[13] The Gandhara grave culture that emerged c. 1400 BCE and lasted until 800 BCE,[23] and named for their distinct funerary practices, was found along the Middle Swat River course. Later movements of the Indo-Aryan tribes saw the emergence of ethnic Nuristani and Dardic populations.[24]

GreekEdit

In 327 BCE, Alexander the Great fought his way to Odigram and Barikot and stormed their battlements; in Greek accounts, these towns are identified as Ora and Bazira. After the Alexandrian invasion of Swat, and adjacent regions of Buner, control of the wider Gandhara region was handed to Seleucus I Nicator.

GandharaEdit

 
1896 photo of a Buddha statue seated on a lotus throne in Swat

In 305 BCE, the Mauryan Emperor conquered the wider region from the Greeks, and probably established control of Swat, until their control of the region ceased around 187 BCE.[25] It was during the rule of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka that Buddhism was introduced into Swat,[26] and some of the earliest stupas built in the region.

Following collapse of Mauryan rule, Swat came under control of the Greco-Bactrians, and briefly the Scythians of the Central Asian Steppe.[27]

The region of Gandhara (based in the Peshawar valley and the adjacent hilly regions of Swat, Buner, Dir, and Bajaur), broke away from Greco-Bactrian rule to establish their own independence as the Indo-Greek Kingdom.[28] Following the death of the most famous Indo-Greek king, Menander I around 140 BCE, the region was overrun by the Indo-Scythians, and then the Persian Parthian Empire around 50 CE. The arrival of the Parthians began the long tradition of Greco-Buddhist art, which was a syncretic form of art combining Buddhist imagery with heavy Hellenistic-Greek influences. This art form is credited with having the first representations of the Buddha in human form, rather than symbolically.[citation needed]

The Parthians were ousted from Swat by the Kushans, based in the Peshawar valley. Kushan rule began what is considered by many to be the golden age of Gandhara. Under the greatest Kushan king, Kanishka, Swat became an important region for the production of Buddhist art, and numerous Buddhists shrines were built in the area. As a patron of Mahayana Buddhism, new Buddhists stupas were built and old ones were enlarged. The Chinese pilgrim Fa-Hsien, who visited the valley around 403 CE, mentions 500 monasteries.[29]

HephthaliteEdit

Swat and the wider region of Gandhara were overrun by the Iranian Hephthalites around about 465 CE.[31] Under the rule of Mihirakula, Buddhism was suppressed as he himself became virulently anti-Buddhist after a perceived slight against him by a Buddhist monk.[32] Under his rule, Buddhist monks were reportedly killed, and Buddhist shrines attacked.[32] He himself appears to have been inclined towards the Shaivism sect of Hinduism.[32]

In around 520 CE, the Chinese monk Song Yun visited the area, and recorded that area had been in ruin and ruled by a leader that did not practice the laws of the Buddha.[33] The Tang-era Chinese monk Xuanzang recorded the decline of Buddhism in the region, and ascendance of Hinduism in the region. According to him, of the 1400 monasteries that had supposedly been there, most were in ruins or had been abandoned.[34]

Hindu ShahiEdit

 
Raja Gira was the site of a fortress from which the Hindu Shahis ruled Swat

Following the collapse of Buddhism in Swat following the Hephthalite invasion, Swat was ruled by the Hindu Shahi dynasty beginning in the 8th century,[35] who made their capital at Udigram in lower Swat.[35] The Shahis built an extensive array of temples and other architectural buildings, of which ruins remain today. Under their rule, Hinduism ascended, and Sanskrit is believed to have been the lingua franca of the locals during this time.[36] By the time of the Muslim conquests (c. 1000 CE), the population in the region was predominantly Hindu,[37]: 19  though Buddhism persisting in the valley until the 10th century, after which the area became largely Muslim.[4][5] Hindu Shahi rulers built fortresses to guard and tax the commerce through this area,[38] and ruins dating back to their rule can be seen on the hills at the southern entrance of Swat, at the Malakand Pass.[39]

Muslim ruleEdit

 
The Mahmud Ghaznavi Mosque was built in the former Hindu Shahi capital of Odigram shortly after their defeat, and dates to 1048–49 CE.

Around 1001 CE, the last Hindu Shahi king, Jayapala was decisively defeated at the Battle of Peshawar (1001) by Mahmud of Ghazni, thereby ending 2 centuries of Hindu rule over Gandhara. Sometime later, ethnic Swatis entered the area along with Sultans from Kunar (present-day Afghanistan).

Yousafzai State of SwatEdit

The Yousafzai State of Swat was a kingdom established in 1849 by the Muslim saint Akhund Abdul Gaffur, more commonly known as Saidu Baba,[40][37] that was ruled by chiefs known as Akhunds. It was then recognized as a princely state in alliance with the British Indian Empire between 1926 and 1947, after which the Akhwand acceded to the newly independent state of Pakistan. Swat continued to exist as an autonomous region until it was dissolved in 1969,[41] and incorporated into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (formerly called NWFP).

Taliban destruction of Buddhist relicsEdit

 
The Buddhist rock carvings of Manglawar were damaged by the Taliban, but restored with Italian aid.

The region was seized by the Tehrik-i-Taliban in late-2007,[6] and its highly-popular tourist industry was subsequently decimated until Pakistani control was re-established in mid-2009 after a month-long campaign.[7] During their occupation, the Taliban attacked Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai in 2012, who at the time was a young school-girl who wrote a blog for BBC Urdu detailing life under Taliban rule, and their curb on girls' education.

Kushan-era Buddhist stupas and statues in the Swat Valley were demolished by the Taliban,[42][dead link] and the Jehanabad Buddha's face was blown up using dynamite,[43][44] but was repaired by a group of Italian restorers in a nine-year-long process.[45] The Taliban and looters subsequently destroyed many of Pakistan's Buddhist artifacts,[46] and deliberately targeted Gandhara Buddhist relics for destruction.[47] Gandhara artifacts remaining from the demolitions were thereafter plundered by thieves and smugglers.[48]

EconomyEdit

Approximately 38% of economy of Swat depends on tourism[49] and 31% depends on agriculture.[50]

AgricultureEdit

Gwalerai village located near Mingora is one of those few villages which produces 18 varieties of apples due to its temperate climate in summer. The apple produced here is consumed in Pakistan as well as exported to other countries. It is known as ‘the apple of Swat’.[51] Swat is famous for peach production mostly grown in the valley bottom plains and accounts for about 80% of the peach production of the country. Mostly marketed in the national markets with a brand name of "Swat Peaches". The supply starts in April and continues till September because of a diverse range of varieties grown.

DemographicsEdit

 
Photograph of Mingora, the largest city in Swat – May 2014

The population of Swat District is 2,309,570 as per the 2017 census, making it the third-largest district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after Peshawar District and Mardan District.[52] With the exception of the uppermost regions of the valley, which are inhabited by Dardic Kohistanis, Swat is mostly inhabited by Yusufzai Pashtuns.[5] The language spoken in the valley is Pashto (mainly the Yousafzai dialect), with a minority of Torwali and Kalami speakers in the Swat Kohistan region of Upper Swat.

EducationEdit

According to the Alif Ailaan Pakistan District Education Rankings for 2017, Swat District with a score of 53.1, is ranked 86 out of 155 districts in terms of education. Furthermore, school infrastructure score is 90.26 ranking the district at number 31 out of 155 districts.[53]

TribesEdit

Administrative divisionsEdit

The District of Swat is subdivided into 7 tehsils:[55]

  1. Babuzai
  2. Matta
  3. Khwaza Khela
  4. Barikot
  5. Kabal
  6. Charbagh
  7. Bahrain

Each tehsil comprises certain numbers of union councils. There are 65 union councils in the district: 56 rural and 9 urban.

According to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Act, 2013,[56] a new local governments system was introduced, in which Swat District is included. This system has 67 wards, in which the total amount of village councils are around 170, while neighbourhood councils number around 44.[57]

PoliticsEdit

The region elects three male members of the National Assembly of Pakistan (MNAs), one female MNA, seven male members of the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (MPAs)[58] and two female MPAS. In the 2002 National and Provincial elections, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, an alliance of religious political parties, won all the seats.

Provincial AssemblyEdit

Member of Provincial Assembly Party Affiliation Constituency Year
Sharafat Ali Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf PK-2 Swat-I 2018
Sardar Khan Pakistan Muslim League (N) PK-3 Swat-II 2018
Aziz Ullah Khan Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf PK-4 Swat-III 2018
Fazal Hakeem Khan Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf PK-5 Swat-IV 2018
Amjad Ali Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf PPK-6 Swat-V 2018
Waqar Ahmad Khan Awami National Party PK-7 Swat-VI 2018
Mohib Ullah Khan Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf PK-8 Swat-VII 2018
Mahmood Khan Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf PK-9 Swat-VIII 2018

Notable peopleEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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  4. ^ a b East and West, Volume 33. Istituto italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente. 1983. p. 27. According to the 13th century Tibetan Buddhist Orgyan pa forms of magic and Tantra Buddhism and Hindu cults still survived in the Swāt area even though Islam had begun to uproot them (G. Tucci, 1971, p. 375) ... The Torwali of upper Swāt would have been converted to Islam during the course of the 17th century (Biddulph, p. 70 ).
  5. ^ a b c d Mohiuddin, Yasmeen Niaz (2007). Pakistan: A Global Studies Handbook. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781851098019.
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  11. ^ Vidyalankar, Satyakam (1977). R̥gveda Saṃhitā. Veda Pratishthan. The word suvastu means “ having fair dwellings '
  12. ^ Roy, S. B. (1989). Early Aryans of India, 3100-1400 B.C. Navrang. ISBN 978-81-7013-052-9. , Suvastu ( Swat or with fair dwellings )
  13. ^ a b Laet, Sigfried J. de; Dani, Ahmad Hasan (1 January 1994). History of Humanity: From the third millennium to the seventh century B.C. UNESCO. ISBN 978-92-3-102811-3. The word suvastu signifying 'fair dwellings' seems to indicate that there were Aryan settlements along its banks.
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  43. ^ Malala Yousafzai (8 October 2013). I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. Little, Brown. pp. 123–124. ISBN 978-0-316-32241-6. The Taliban destroyed the Buddhist statues and stupas where we played Kushan kings haram Jehanabad Buddha.
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BibliographyEdit

External linksEdit

Visit Swat Valley

Swat Valley Photos