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Geography

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  • The Khyber Pass

The Khyber Pass is bounded on the north by the Kabul River and the Sufaid Koh (White Mountain); on the east by the Peshawar Valley; on the south by the Aka Khel Territory and Orakzai District; and on the west by Afghanistan. Its total area is approximately 545 km. The terrain is mostly rigid, barren and arid. If the hills had any forestation in the past, today they are completely denuded by their reckless use and the subsequent soil erosion and adverse climatic changes.

The Pass at its narrowest at Ali Masjid Interspersed among these dry and parched hills are narrow and shallow ravines and valleys inhabited by the local population, some of them living there from time immemorial while most of them would be subject to seasonal migrations to the more temperate plains in the unbearable winter. These valleys are irrigated by scant, intermittent rains and snowfall, and cultivated for food and fodder.

  • Tirah

On the northwest of the Khyber lies the larger and more fertile valley of Tirah, the original home of all the Afridi tribes. It is situated between 33 37′ and 34 N and 70 30′ and 71 15′ E. This vast, and at places extensively cultivated area, bounded by pockets of alpine forests. The indigenous people lead the most primitive life under pathetic poverty, inhuman ignorance and biblical simplicity. They live in strong and well-fortified mud-houses, built at respectable distances from each other, with high towers to defend themselves not only from the vagaries of nature and ferocity of wild life, but also the treachery of the ‘Tarboor’ (cousin). The valley has thick alpine forestation on the higher reaches and fertile plains in the laps of hills irrigated by natural springs or seasonal floods or the Bara River, which is a perennial source of irrigation in its delta. With the passage of time, the pressure of population gradually increases there and together with the economic significance of timber trade, they pose a serious threat to the remaining, meager forestation there. However, due to sheer physical hardships, the valley is still thinly populated, also necessitating seasonal migrations to the warmer and more fertile Peshawar plains. Back at home also they depend for supply of articles of daily necessity mainly on Peshawar. Their economy depends upon agriculture, timber trade, livestock and dry fruit. They grow their own food and vegetables but for tea, sugar and cloth etc, they depend on external supply. The people of the valley have also recently taken to transport and business in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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