by Imran H.Khan

Soon after the October 2005 earthquake, I had scanned some very old photographs taken in mid and late 1800s in areas that now constitute Pakistan as a means for raising awareness for that part of the world. The photographic techniques used at the time by Photographers John Burke and William Baker were cutting edge. I have presented them using three different types of technologies. Each one presents different kinds of information and experience to the viewer.

World famous author Mrs. Thallasa Ali was kind enough to write a prolog for this presentation.

The northern part of Pakistan is beautiful. The flat, dusty plain of the Punjab rises first to bare hills, then to high mountains, where valleys lie flat between steep, wooded slopes, and the sun gleams on distant, snow-clad peaks. Alexander the Great came here. King Ashoka made Mansehra one of his seats of government. A thousand years later, Taimur Lang left soldiers at Mansehra, to guard the road between Kabul and Kashmir. A hundred years after him, the Mughal emperor Akbar took the same road to Kashmir.

After the British annexed the Punjab (including the Northern Areas) in 1848, they began the great task of documenting it. They wrote gazetteers, describing every detail of the people, vegetation and geography of the area. When photography arrived, they took photographs. I first saw Omar Khan’s “From Kashmir to Kabul” two years ago, while researching my new novel, “Companions of Paradise.” The book was just what I needed to see—a catalogue of black and white images taken only a few years after ‘Companions’ ends. They perfectly capture a place and time, making it easy for me to picture the British army on the move in 1842, and the people of Kabul who fought them.

Photographers John Burke and William Baker lead us from the Punjab to Kabul, showing us people and cities and scenery as they were nearly 150 years ago.

It is in the northern areas that the South Asian Earthquake of 2005 took place, destroying whole mountain villages, wiping out schools and hospitals, and killing tens of thousands of people.

We must rebuild these villages and towns, and restore the livelihood of the proud people who have lived in this region for so many thousands of years.

Thalassa Ali

Boston, Massachusetts

Thalassa Ali is the author of “A Singular Hostage,” “A Beggar at the Gate,” and the forthcoming “Companions of Paradise.” These books are set in 19th Century Lahore and Kabul.

In order to experience the photographs at full screen and read more information you can click on the album here.

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