Khewra Salt Mines is located in Tehsil Pind Dadan Khan, District Jehlum at ballpark distance of 200 kms from Islamabad and 245 kms from Lahore. It has an easy approach via Lahore-Islamabad Motorway through Lilla or Khallar Kahar interchange. The journey takes around 2 hours 20 minutes from Islamabad and 3 hours 20 minutes from Lahore approx.
In the year 326 B.C, during the battle between Alexander the Great and Raja Porus at the bank of River Jhelum, the sick horses licked the out-crop rocks and got well, thereby exposing this enormous treasure of salt deposit at Khewra. It is a huge and one of the richest salt fields in the world. The length of salt range is over 186 miles (300 kilometers) and width is 8 to 30 Kms with an average height of 2, 200 ft. It starts from Baganwala near Jhelum River to Kalabagh near Indus River. Its highest altitude at Sakesar Mountain is about 4990 ft. Another salt range in the country is Kohat saline series which starts from Jatta Ismael Khel and covers almost all the hilly landscape up to Bahdur Khel, District Karak.
Khewra Gorge is known as “Museum of Geology” where rocks from pre-Cambrian age to topical period are exposed. Prior to the annexation of Punjab by the British Empire in the year 1849, the salt mines in the province were owned and operated by the Janjua Rajas., and after its annexation, the British Government took over the supervision of these mines.
Centuries ago, the out-crop of the salt seams was extracted and transported by the locals of the area. Dr. Warth, a renowned Mining Engineer of UK laid out the main tunnel at ground level in 1872 to provide an easy and direct access to salt deposits. The scientific mining system introduced by Dr. Warth is still in vogue. At present there are 17 levels in the
Khewra Mines. Under this specialized mining procedure, only 50% of salt is excavated from the working seam while the remaining 50% of it is left there as pillars for the weight support of the mines.
Khewra Salt Mines is 2nd largest rock salt mines in the world. The reserve of Rock Salt in the mines is 220 million tons. Presently Khewra Salt mines produce about 3, 70, 000 tones salt per annum. Based on Khewra Rock Salt, Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), Soda Ash Plant was established in the year 1938. Rock Salt produced from Khewra Mines, is supplied to ICI Khewra, Itehad Chemical Limited Kala Shah Kaku, Sitara Chemical Industries Ltd Faisalabad, Tanneries and other industries. Selected quality rock salt is supplied to dealers for human and animal consumption. After meeting local requirements, a reasonable quantity is exported to foreign countries including India. It has tremendous potential for expansion in local consumption and export to other countries. Decoration pieces like; lamps, vases, ash-trays etc are also made from Khewra Rock Salts and exported to foreign countries in large quantity.
PMDC Khewra Salt Mine management discharges its social obligations. It provides basic civic amenities to the miners and local population. It runs a model high school, Girls College, a survey institute and health center in Khewra.
Scientifically it has been proved that interior of Salt mines provides environment, which helps curing allergic Asthma. for this phenomenal property of the salt mines, Asthma Resort has been established and are functional at Wieliezk Salt Mines in Poland and health resort at Ukrainian Salt Mines in former Soviet Union. On the same lines PMDC management is also establishing Asthma Resort at a separate portion of Khewra Salt mines where Asthma Patients would be treated. The patients have to spend about 110 hours inside the mines during the course of treatment. The patient will spend daily 8 hours in the mines and rest of the day’s time in the hospital compartment outside the mines. Petroleum companies like; Asia Petroleum, PARCO, OGDCL, SNGPL and PSO have made substantial contributions towards the establishment of Asthma resort. Many Philanthropist Organizations are interested to participate in this noble cause.
The main tunnel at ground level developed by Dr. Warth has been converted into Tourist Resort. Thousands of tourists, comprising school and college students, general public and foreigners visit Khewra every year. They are fascinated by the Nature’s beauty inside the mountain. The Khewra Salt mines is a big attraction for the tourists. Keeping in view the interest of the tourists, the PMDC management launched “Khewra Salt Mines Tourist Resort” project with an initial estimated cost of Rs. 4.0 million. In February, 2002 foundation stone was laid by the Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Mr. Usman Ameenuddin. The development work was carried out in two phases with total cost of about Rs. 12 million. All the required facilities and many attractions points have been added in the resort for the tourists. On completion, the Khewra tourist resort was inaugurated by Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources by Mr. Naurez Shakur on 3rd April, 2003.
Inside the mine, a beautiful mosque made of different shades of rock salt bricks has been constructed. Hollow walls of Salt bricks when illuminated give a mesmerizing look. A large chamber called “Assembly Hall” measuring more than 240 feet height fascinates tourists. There are certain chambers filled in with saturated brine solution. These ponds when illuminated with fancy lights give splendid look. There is an area of transparent salt of light pink color known as “Sheesh Mahal”. Different chambers are connected with salt bridges over water ponds. Reflection of light in water ponds shows spectacular colors of Rock Salt. Predispose to which remained inundated for quiet sometimes have crystalline depositions of salt. It gives marvelous look as depicting diamond shining on walls and ceiling of mines. This area known as “Crystal Palace” proves interesting for the tourists.
The notable tourist facilities available in the mines are Reception/Briefing Hall, Restaurant, Walkway, Souvenir Shop, Pony Track, Cleaning the Mine, Illumination, Electric Tramp and Mine Guide.
There have been a handful of mountaineers in the annals of history who have been able to face all odds to climb the toughest of mountains on the face of earth. Fewer among them managed not only to summit these peaks but also conquer the hearts of the natives.
Greg Mortenson is one of those legendary mountaineer-turned-philanthropists who risked his life for the welfare of the people drenched in sordid poverty in the remote Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, and continues to do so to this date.
Greg hails from a family of teachers and social workers which goes as far back as his great grandfather. Born in 1957, Greg found an early interest in the sport of mountaineering and rock climbing while his family was based at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. His father Dempsey, founded the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre while his mother Jerene, founded the International School Moshi. Greg struck a chord with the beauty of the Tanzanian savannahs and forests and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro at the age of 11.
Living most part of his life as a climbing bum, Greg decided to conquer the world’s second highest peak K2 in 1993 to pay homage to his crippled younger sister Christa who had died the previous year. Christa was a patient of epilepsy by birth and being deeply attached to her sister, Greg vowed to climb the toughest mountain on earth also known as “The Savage Mountain”. Greg fell short of just few hundred meters and had to abandon his attempt for the peak to carry out a rescue mission for his missing fellow climber.
Greg was brought back to the Korphey village in the remote and rugged terrain of Karakorum by one of the high altitude porters and was nursed and brought back to health by the locals. Greg stayed in the village for few weeks and while wandering through the houses during his stay, noticed a girl trying to write something on dirt with a maple twig. He was so moved by the sight that he decided to built a girls school in the village, something which was unprecedented in the history of the region.
Greg, during his stay in probably the darkest corners of the world, came to witness the extreme life routine the locals followed. Under-fed and illiterate, these people did not have access to the basic health facilities. A broken limb often resulted in lifelong disability due to negligence and lack of medical care. Infant mortality figures were the worse and one out of every third child died by the age of one. Literacy rate among women was the lowest which often resulted in miscarriages during pregnancies and other complications.
Greg, having made up his mind, returned to the United States to collect donations for his dream school.
“Everything about their life was a struggle,” Greg recalls, “They reminded me of the way Christa … had a way of just persevering, no matter what life threw at her.”
He sold most of his belongings including his car and his climbing gear and wrote more than 500 hand written letters to different celebrities asking for donations. None of which yielded any results. Greg received his first major donation from his mother’s school in Rivers fall Wisconsin when the school children collected 65,000 pennies in less than a week.
In 1995 Greg returned to Pakistan and went ahead with his school-building project in the Korphe, starting with a 282-feet suspension Bridge. Today after 16 years of fighting the odds with his iron clad determination, Greg has been able to build 145 schools in the region providing education to around 58,000 children including 44,000 girls. In all this time he went through several life threatening ordeals when he was kidnapped by Taliban in 1996 for ransom and later released. He stood firm against many religious banishments (Fatwa) thrashed upon him by local mullahs.
As Greg fondly recalls the day when he was asked to come inside one of the sacred mosques and was handed over a black box by eight high ranking Muslim clerics. Greg remembers the day as he thought it was probably his last day on earth. Instead to his utter surprise, there was a letter in ornate Persian which held Greg’s work as the highest among the principles of Islam. The letter also maintained the view that there is nothing in Quran which goes against education for either sex.
Among other long list of awards, Greg was also bestowed with Sitara-e-Pakistan (Star of Pakistan), the highest civil award of Pakistan. Greg is the co-founder of the Central Asian Institute (CAI), which is running several social uplift projects in Afghanistan and Pakistan and also heads a no-profit organization“Pennies for peace”.
He spends most time of the year in Pakistan and tours the United States promoting his New York Bestseller “Three cups of Tea” which he wrote over his experiences in Pakistan. Greg’s wife Dr. Tara Bishop and two daughters Amira and Khyber live in Bozeman, Montana and frequently visit Pakistan.
"I’ve learned that terror doesn’t happen because some group of people somewhere like Pakistan or Afghanistan simply decides to hate us. It happens because children aren’t being offered a bright enough future that they have a reason to choose life over death."
Greg Mortenson remains as one of the very few enlightened ones who are fighting the war on Terror on the right front. He may not stand shoulder to shoulder among the many celebrated war veterans, but the people of Korphe will remember him for generations to come.
Describing the importance of the game of polo, the WW-II acclaimed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said that "A polo handicap is your passport to the world".
His words could not ring with more shattering truth than in Northern Pakistan where Polo is truly the national sport, favoured even over cricket and one in which people of all classes participate. The government support the high cost of polo tournaments, making it one of the few activities in Pakistan which is truly open to all.
The approach by jeep from Chitral takes a good nine hours. From Gilgit, east of the Pass, the journey may take probably thirteen hours. With few exceptions, the journey leads through the paradise-like green and cultivated highlands. But one is constantly aware, on the dusty and rocky drive, that the wheels of the jeep can be two inches away from an abyss - from 'hell'.
This nerve-wracking journey along narrow, stony paths from which even the vertigo-free mountain goats retreat, will worsen when suddenly another jeep appears from the opposite direction. Both drivers risk dangerous maneuvers in an attempt to pass each other.
In fact in Pakistan, polo and Shandur are synonymous to each other. While one witnesses polo teams, specially from Pakistan Army, playing in Race Course Ground of Rawalpindi, a far tougher match is played at Shandur (3,700 meters above sea level), between teams of Gilgit and Chitral.
The first time a polo tournament took place at the Shandur Pass, was in 1936. Major Cobb, the British Political Agent of then Northern Areas used to play polo at night when it was a full moon, since he thought that moon looked so near the earth that a match in a moonlit night would change the very meaning of the game. Because of this the Shandur polo ground came to be referred to as the "Moony Polo Ground".
Besides polo, trout fishing at the nearby streams and lakes and a festival of folk dances and music of the Northern Pakistan has added extra attractions for tourists from all over the world.
The site is described dramatically as being on the ridge between Heaven and the descent to Hell, since once the Shandur Pass was regarded as being 'half-way to Heaven', although long gone are the days in which this could refer to Heaven, as in the sense of gods caring for polo, or Hell as in the conquered soldiers who had to march through it.
The polo ground in the Shandur Pass is smaller in width and breadth than the conventional field, being 60 yards wide and 220 yards long. Also alien to a modern western player would be the 2 feet high stone wall which surrounds the ground.
In ice hockey, such a wall could prove advantageous - in polo, it could lead to serious injuries in the event of a fall. The rules recall ancient legends - for instance, how, after a successful goal the scorer can dictate the continuity of a game.
He picks up the ball and carries it back at full gallop in his lap to the centre line, from where he will throw it into the air and try to hit it and score a goal at the opposite end of the field. As in contemporary polo, ends change side after a goal is scored.
The game is fast - tremendously fast. The Pakistani-bred Punjabi and Afghan Badakshani ponies, both the result of breeding from Himalayan mountain ponies and English thoroughbreds, are ridden in a wild style, with a lot of skill and at full speed through the mêlée.
A total of twelve players are not afraid to use their sticks to hit not only the ball but also, and vehemently, the arms and shoulders of their opponents.
Nights are usually spent playing cards and dancing on local tunes. Music competitions are also held between groups from Chitral and Gilgit. During day the tourists go to nearby Phandar Valley for freshwater fishing.
Besides horse ridden polo, there is donkey polo which offers fun of its own kind. Unlike the fast moving horses, donkeys move slowly but surely towards the goal posts. Tug of war, tribal march past, folk dances and paragliding by locals and foreigners add further zest to the occasion.