Swat History

Unsung Legend ‘Haji Muhammad Karim’

I do not remember the exact year but most probably it was the second half of 1960s. A commonwealth Engineering Exhibition was schedule to be held in London. The British Government requested Government of Pakistan to send three Engineers representing Pakistan as official guests of the United Kingdom. They further directed that out of the three Engineers one must be from Swat State and the remaining two will represent West and East Pakistan. It was a symbol of great honour for Swat to be placed on the same level as the two wings of Pakistan.

So, Muhammad Karim, the head of the State Public Works Department proceeded to Islamabad, where he joined the other two Civil Engineers of Pakistan. From there onward, they flew to London. They were accommodated in a hotel as State Guests. They were provided with transport daily, driving them to the venue of Exhibition in the morning and then back to the hotel in the evening. They attended conferences and seminars also. The tour was for two weeks. After that they flew back to Pakistan.

On 28th of June 1961, I was appointed as Baboo in the State Public Works Department, by His Highness, the Ruler of Swat and was directed to contact Muhammad Karim of the same Department. I did not know where was this office and what is its sphere of work. At that time I was just 18 years old and a student of Jahanzeb College. The office was a two large rooms building opposite Saidu Hospital. I entered and saw some clerk type old man sitting at a long table. In one corner of the rooms, a young man was standing at a drawing board with a roller scale and pencil, drawing some lines. In another corner near the window, sat a short but attractive man, to a separate table. He had beautifully cut hair, almost white, giving him a graceful effect. I knew from his looks that he was the head of this enterprise. So I went to him and delivered him my Appointment Order. He smiled, and welcomed me to his fold, introduced me to the other staff members. They were all called Baboos, including the officer at that time. Inayatullah Jan Baboo, Fazal Rahim Baboo, Bahramand Baboo, Abdul Rashid Baboo and the Incharge Muhammad Karim Baboo. After serving me with a cup of tea, he advised me to come on first of July to assume my duties.

I also learnt that the other room was for Road section of the State P.W.D. So this was my first contact with my boss under whose guidance, I had to learn a lot about civil engineering, in a traditional way or ‘in job training’. He was very kind and a willing teacher for me and his attention and laborious impart of technology, enabled me to serve as Sub-Engineer after merger of State for 34 years in Provincial C & W Department.

Muhammad Karim was from Mingora. He was the son of Haji Gul Zareen, a well off, well known noble man of Mingora. He was a hard working officer and Wali Sahib had great confidence in his ability, efficiency and loyalty. Besides the Director of Health and Director of Education, he was the only other officer to meet Wali Sahib daily in the morning at the Royal Office. He was provided with a car for his short duty and a 4 Wheel Drive Pick Up for long inspections. In those eight years I served with him. We constructed hundreds of schools, many dispensaries, police posts, hospitals, tehsil courts and residential colonies. These were very hectic eight years of my life and I got a lot of knowledge from him in my profession. Every drawing, every blue print had his signature and every building a witness of his hard work.

In 1963-64, a spacious office for State P.W.D was constructed in Afsar Abad, Saidu Sharif on the road side with all facilities. Now we had our own cyclostyle Machine, a Blue Print apparatus and other required instruments. All these developments were due to his personal efforts and special patronage of Wali Sahib, who termed State P.W.D as his own Department.

In 1967, probably, Wali Sahib reorganized the structure of State P.W.D. Muhammad Karim Sahib was designated as Senior S.D.O and five of us were promoted as Over-Seers. In the last two years, we constructed two more colleges in Swat, one at Matta and the other at Buner. All these buildings show the expertise, experience and zeal of Haji Muhammad Karim Sahib.

We have seen worse time and good hours together, have memories of picnics, outings and travelling to every accessible nook and corner of the four thousand square miles of Swat State.

For all of us he was a father figure, a teacher and a hard task master. He had two sons, Zahooruddin is a retired Superintending Engineer and lives in Peshawar. The younger was Iftikhar Khan, but I have not seen him for the last fifty years and know nothing about him.

In the end I pray for the peaceful eternal life of Haji Sahib Muhammad Karim, my mentor, my teacher and my officer.

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