A myriad of changing colours (Leepa Valley)

The joyous chirping of birds, heavily laden fruit orchards, alpine meadows, grazing herds,  shepherds with their lilting music, a vivid mosaic of colors, sights and sounds – right  before you, presenting  picture of unforgettable tapestry, this is what makes Leepa one of the most charming places in Kashmir.



by Syed Zafar Abbas Naqvi


As autumn sets in the vale of Leepa, leaves fall off the trees, snowfall begins, the time is ripe to visit the vale for in winters the vale offers one of the most fascinating scenery in Azad Kashmir. Leepa, a picturesque valley in Azad Kashmir lies at a distance of 95 KM east of the capital Muzaffarabad.

A narrow metalled road along the right bank of River Jhelum leads us to Reshian as we pass along the way, through Garhi Dupatta, Dhanni Baqalan, Hattian Bala, Neili and Saien Bagh. The changing hues of a serpentine and rushing Jhelum, with suspension bridges built over, present an enchanting panorama all along the route. Lofty mountains looking over a swaying gold colored rice crop are worth to make one stop and gaze at the wonderful scene.  

From Reshian, the gateway to enter the valley, there are three different routes which take us to Leepa. The zigzagging Defence Road meets the valley at Hanjna, via Barthwar Gali and Bali Camp. Locals mention 72 u-turns on the way, putting nerves of the toughest one to test. Forest and military vehicles are a common sight in the area.
To visit the valley proper one has to cover a distance of 15 KM over a stony path (more aptly a footpath) via Panjal Gali which is approximately 10,000 ft high.
This route is a shortcut to Leepa’s most important commercial centre the Kappa Gali. The third route passes through Dao Khan, Sher Gali and enters the vale at Muji, where Indian military personnel stand eyeball to eyeball. All three passages are blocked in winter due to heavy snow and inhabitants must store eatables and other items of daily usage in large quantities to consume throughout winter.
The harsh winter even tells upon the daily chores, the chores which span around life and even death. It was news for me, a harsh fact of the life in these beautiful mountains to learn from a village elder who said “We are unable to bury the dead. If anyone in the family dies in winter, we must wait for about four months to bury our dead, because it’s possible only when all the snow has melted”.

Starting from Channian and Lubgran, Leepa consists of 25 villages dotted on steep slopes of lush green hills. Among its important and mentionable villages are Yadoor, Munda Kali, Kali Mandal, Margala, Noor-Kot, Gai-kot, Khairwarha, Kaiser-kot, Hanjna, Leepa, Saidpura, Talwari, Khairati Bagh, Kappa Gali, Kuntarian, Ghat Kari, Chakmuqam, Bajil Dhar and Batlian etc.

Ghaipura with a population of 2000 is the largest. Situated just in the range of Indian military posts of Vanjal and Siri, it’s the most vulnerable and gets worst hit in case the Indians open fire, which they mostly do and that too on civilian population.

“We cultivate our land at night in complete darkness, whenever there is fire from the Indian side as they mostly aim to kill us”, A Kashmiri youth tells. Another, Raja Arshad quips, “Not a single day passes when one does not hear the terrible sound of fire, sometime the Indians fire without any provocation. The unarmed civilian innocents are practically the cannon fodder of Indian guns, in the hands of an unreliable, unscrupulous enemy who does need no provocation to fire upon us”.

But life goes on… continues Raja Arshad. The people in Leepa are used to this way of life. They celebrate the Urs of Saien Mutha Baji, which is the premium social activity in the area. The Urs is held every year from 11th to 16th of November.

The people in Leepa are highly religious and speak Kashmiri as well as Hindkoh. Urdu is nevertheless widely spoken and understood. The valley has a population of 35000 inhabitants. Unemployment and poverty are rampant. Power shortages are a daily routine (there is only one power generation unit at Channian) and malnutrition is common as in rest of the country.

Leepa Valley, Azad Kashmir

Leepa Valley offers an unending variety of scenic spectacular beauty, an everlasting memory of sights and sounds & the unforgettable hospitality of its people.

Visitors can find two pleasantly situated and comfortable rest houses, one at Dao Khan and the other at Channian and a reasonable well maintained Awami Chinar Hotel. Accommodation, however, is insufficient to cater the needs of a growing number of tourists,

Water in the valley is crystal clear and swiftly flowing streams like Nullah Qazi Nag are a major source.  The scene around the Nullah is stunningly beautiful. The Nullah emerges from Indian occupied Kashmir and runs trough the whole of Leepa Valey. On other side of the LoC, lies Kupwara district of Occupied Kashmir. Singing waterfalls, lush green pastures, thick woods, the snow clad majestic Shamsa Bari, the highest mountain of the valley are an inexhaustible source of delight for any visitor who comes to this paradise like valley.

Rice and maize fields at the time of harvest add further color and beauty to the vale of Leepa. Multistoried typical Kashmiri timber houses with thick roofs made of shining metal sheets, in a surrounding of apple, walnut, fig, pears ands plum trees are jewels in the crown of this splendid vale. And Leepa is famous for its delicious white honey as well. Rain in Leepa brings an immense wealth of vegetation, thick forests — so thick that hardly a beam of light can pass through it.

Bottom line: Leepa Valley offers an unending variety of scenic spectacular beauty and one gains an everlasting memory of sights and sounds as well as the unforgettable hospitality of its people.

Syed Zafar Abbas Naqvi is a freelance writer. He frequently writes on travel & tourism in the Pakistani media.
Title image, image on botton by Behzad



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President Asif Ali Zardari, A 10% Scammer or a 100% Pakistani?

The Pakistani President Mr. Asif Ali Zardari

The Pakistani President Mr. Asif Ali Zardari





by Nayyar Hashmey


As I write these lines, words echo in my mind, words she uttered in her last speech. So said Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, “My dear brothers and my dear sisters, this is the time when our country is in turmoil. My country, your country” said B. Bhutto “is in serious travails and turpitudes; I have come to you to help me save this land. Help me my brothers, my sisters, to save our motherland”. Shortly after she had uttered these words, she was shot at by an unknown assailant. She could not even leave the public park she had chosen to address. (more…)

Loey Loey Bhar Lae Kurhriyay…


By  Nayyar Hashmey

The magic, the charm of Punjab’s folk songs lies in their heart rendering composition, the poetry which involves a completely synchronized rhythm, emotional import and the melody; the reason this music is untranslatable; can’t be imprisoned in print.

The real spirit of Punjab’s music emanates from this simple and a down to earth poetry blended into text and the tune, a blend which turns into a highly popular genre, a genre of songs that throb the hearts of simple unsophisticated village folk in Punjab.

A folk song is essentially a subjective expression of emotions walling up from the depths. It borrows its metamorphous and imagery from very simple things in life. Punjabi folk is varied and colorful. Laughter, happiness, pain, sorrow, all form ingredients of our folk. It’s simple, charming, and full of the sincerity of emotion, and a purity of the feeling. The entire Punjab culture, so to speak, is reflected in them.

The folk / mystic music of Punjab is part of its people’s body and mind. There is hardly an event or occasion in the countryside which does not find resonance in the soul of Punjabi people. Just as the villagers grow their own food and produce their own raiment’s, they frame folk songs to articulate the wordless passions seething in their hearts. These songs are chastened and polished from generation to generation, and like everything of slow growth, they develop an individuality, which does not lend itself to imitation.

Mazar of Hz Mian Muhammad Bakhsh

Mazar of Hz Mian Muhammad Bakhsh

Historically in Punjab, it is the saints and Sufi poets who not only mastered in religious faculty but had a deep and perfect understanding of the poetry, a poetry which springs from the soil of Punjab. This poetry is as much a literary classic as it is an embodiment of peoples’ feelings, their culture and their whole concept of life. No wonder the music in Punjab is not only a solace to the soul but also a part of the devotion, of love and of a duty to the mystic and divine realm of one’s Guru or Master.

Seen in this context, there is a long list of mystics, the Sufis, the Gurus and the saints who themselves were a practical embodiment of the teachings of Islam and who did not preach like an orthodox Mullah. We find here the saintly stalwarts like Baba Farid Ganj Shakar, Bulley Shah, Shah Hussain, Syed Waris Shah. In this long list of “Men of God” there are many others including Hindu and Sikh mystics as well, most of whom believed in unity of God and preached something which was a blend of Islam, and local beliefs. One of these pious men was also Mian Muhammad Bakhsh of Khari Sharif.

Mian Mohammad was the last Sufi poet of the Arabic-Persian tradition in Punjab. Born in 1824 at Khari Sharif in Mirpur district of Azad Kashmir, he got his education at the famous religious institution of Samar Sharif. After completing his education he travelled all over the province to quench his thirst for knowledge. Later he returned to his native land and became a disciple of Sain Ghulam Mohammad.

His period was a period of turmoil for the sub-continent for the British colonialists had coloured the land red with the native blood,

Mian Mohammad’s thoughts were a blend of Semetic and Arayan tradition with a significant texture of Islam. He believed in the unity of being. The rich tradition of Punjabi poetry mixed with the under currents of Maulana Roomi and Ibn-e-Arabi made his poetry eternal. His famous epic poem Safar-e-Ishaq popularly known as Saif-ul-Muluk is written in the same atmosphere. The poem Saif-ul-Muluk holds a unique place. In this poem Mian Mohammad explains the spiritual secrets of the Real love through a worldly love story. Mian Mohammad had an ample grasp over music which makes his diction highly mellifluous. Mian Muhammad died in 1907.


Far away from the city of oneness , logic is wandering aimlessly,

Whosoever knows the secret, He cares for nothing

Devoid of logic and reason, he dances fanaticically,

Inquiring “who am I ?” “from where am I?”

As with other masters he chose poetry as a medium to convey his teachings on the spiritual path and the higher realities in his native tongue thereby allowing access to the illiterate who could hear the verses and memorize them directly. This has been the way of the Sufis throughout history and especially in the non-Arab areas.

Literature for them is just a means of conveying the message and it has to reach out to the greatest number possible in a way that appeals to them. It is in this context that the Saif ul-Malook should be placed. To remove any doubt about the intention one has only to look at the title page of the original book: It is described there as “an epistle on tasawwuf and sulook called Safar ul-Ishq (The Journey of Love) i.e. the tale of Saif ul-Malook and Badi’ ul-Jamal”. Today most people only remember it by the name of its main character: Saif ul-Malook.

The Saif ul-Malook is outwardly a tale of the love of a prince named Saif ul-Malook for the fairy Badi’ ul-Jamal. All the trials and tribulations that had to be undergone before the two lovers would achieve union are described in detail. In reality though, it is an in depth description of the spiritual path, its way stations and its pitfalls and obstacles. Along the way Mian sahib offers jewels of gnosis for those that can recognize them as such. It is a truly amazing tale!

Mer mer ik banawan shisha maar wata ik bhanday

Dunya utay thoray rehnday qadar shanas sukhan day

Awwal tay kujh shauq na kassay kaun sukhan ajj sunn da

Jay sun si tan qissa utla koi na ramzam pun da

Na gayay oh yar piyaray sukhan shanas o’saaray

Sukhan saraf Muhammag Bakhsha lalan day wanjaray

(On top of this title, there is a video of Mian Muhammad’s poetry beautifully rendered by Ata-ullah Eesakhailwi. As always all videos require a high speed internet, otherwise try a replay & you will enjoy this old melody clip without breaks).

Nepal and Pakistan: Lessons for the USA

 Nepal and Pakistan provide good lessons in foreign policy to both Barack Obama and John McCain. The democratically-elected new Prime Minister of Nepal, Prachanda (photo above) who led a 10-year guerrilla war, now professes that his country’s era of “capitalist democracy” has begun.



by Swaraaj Chauhan


The other day I came across a very fine, sober and critical evaluation of the happenings in Nepal and Pakistan. Swaraaj Chauhan on the editorial board of a website titled “The Moderate Voice”, has posted this piece. I reproduce it for the readers of WOP.

Comments by Swaraajare very apt in the Nepal and Pakistan context.Yet to throw some more light on the whole scenario, I have added my own comments and feelings in parenthesis.

[Nayyar] (more…)

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s Crime?

Aafia Siddiqui, we are told, assaulted a team of US troops and FBI officials with a highly sophisticated weapon when they went to quiz her in Afghanistan. And where did she get the weapon? Somebody had of course placed it near her rather conveniently.
She is said to have fired several rounds with the high-tech weapon. Interestingly, while all those alleged rounds of firing with the alleged weapon failed to wound or injure America’s brave soldiers, Siddiqui herself has ended up with a bullet wound in her chest.



Aijaz Zaka Syed


Just when you think Uncle Sam’s war has no more surprises to spring on an unsuspecting world, he comes up with yet another gem.

Take the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who grew up in the US and went to top universities including the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The woman who had been a topper throughout her remarkable career had to leave the US when the authorities began harassing her and her husband for their charity activities after 9/11. (more…)

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