By Usman Jillani
The birds have flown away – the pigeons have flown away and now the city wears a deserted look, but the flowers still bloom in the ‘city of flowers’ and this is what keeps the city still alive.
Peshawar, found some 2500 years ago, the city has witnessed so many events. Starting from Darius and then Alexander crossing Khyber Pass to enter India, from Gandhara Civilization to Chengis Khan and Tamurlane making attempts to invade the city, Coming of Ghaznis and Aibeks to the Mogul King Babur, Marathas and Sikhs and then the British and then again the centre of Afghan Politics – the city has something to tell you about everyone-everything.
Akbar the Great called this city, “the city of flowers” for its greenery and lush green gardens and this city was green until 1980s, but with Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and Afghanis migrating to Peshawar, this city turned into a living mess. Kalashinkovs, Weapons, Bombs, Drugs and Naswar became an integral part of this city. Zia ul Haq said: “Peshawar is the city that has opened its arms for the entire Afghanistan….Come on Afghanis, Peshawaris are waiting for you”. Peshawaris welcomed them and thought they would be leaving soon but till today these men have not left the city and now the city bleeds.
The city is in turbulent time. An average of three bomb blasts strike the city every month. Fourteen bomb blasts in 2012. Yet, the city lives. Around five thousand people have died, yet the city lives. No place is safe, there has been a suicide blast outside every Police station, outside every important place such as PC Hotel, ISI Headquarters, American Consulate, High Court, Session Courts, Sadder Bazaar (the main shopping Hub), Mosques, funerals, Hospitals, Residential Areas, shopping malls and even schools yet the city lives. You are greeted in Peshawar by policemen and army soldiers patrolling with rocket launchers, machine guns and automatic weapons with shoot on-sight orders and yet the city lives. Even after a bomb blast the city never stops… life goes on as normal.
But one thing which I have noticed is that the pigeons have really flown away. Doves or Pigeons symbolize “peace” and these birds have flown away. Places like Railway station, Shahi Mehman Khana, Ghanta Ghar, Mahabat Khan Mosque, Ghor Ghatree and old city where pigeons used to fly for the entire day have just become quiet. 4 to 5 years back one could see pigeons flying in kits-now it isn’t the case. Now there is no more cooing and no flapping of wings. Some people believe that when birds leave the city then there is definitely bloodshed in that city and the case is like that in Peshawar, but I am not worried because the Flowers still bloom in this city of Flowers and this is what keeps this city alive.