Northern Pakistan is believed to be one of the most beautiful places on earth, so much so, some even announce its beauty as unparalleled. From the rather subtle terrain of Abbottabad to the mighty Naran Valley, Northern Pakistan affords numerous tourist spots making it nothing less of a paradise for those who visit it.
As a family man, the lack of infrastructure is the only drawback, rather a block of mind, that comes up when one thinks of visiting the heavens up north, but the Pakistan Army, as efficient as it is, puts that and all other doubts at ease: the Pakistan Army owns and maintains many rest houses in Northern Pakistan, which are quite safe, maintained, and beautiful for a good, fun family outing to the paradise beyond.
The Bisouv team has composed a list of some of the most popular army messes and rest houses in Norther Pakistan for our readers:
Situated in the heart of the Shimla hills, Baloch mess is probably one of the best-designed army messes in Abbottabad. You can dine to a spectacular view of the magnificent city of Abbottabad. Not only that you can also rent out another section of the mess to organize different types of events, from formal dinners and seminars to weddings, you can host them there with style.
Piffers (FF) Mess
Piffers or FF Mess is located right in front of the FF recruitment center, is called the “Home of the Piffers”. Located near the main road, it is definitely a place of visit and besides who doesn’t enjoy a nice view of the hills with a cup of coffee?
FWO Staging Post
Frontier Works Organization (FWO) is a well-known department of the army. They have completed multiple projects overall Pakistan, and play an integral part in maintaining the Pakistan Motorways as well as the new Islamabad International Airport. The FWO has a staging post in Abbottabad on the shimla hills at a little distance from the Baloch Mess, and not only the views from it, but the building itself is also staggering.
Located less than a kilometer from the Abbottabad GPO, the AMC mess is one of the most beautiful army messes in all of Abbottabad. It houses a wonderful view of the Pine forest of the Shimla hills.
Murree and Nathiagali
Murree and Nathiagali are one of the most popular tourist locations in all of Pakistan and it’s pretty much obvious that all three forces have messes there to match their own particular styles.
Punjab Huts (now private)
Located near Gharial camp, the army Punjab huts are no less than a well-designed hotel. They provide excellent views of the forest during the summers, and during the winters when surrounded by fog, the views are something else.
PAF Kalabagh Base
When on the way to Nathiagali from Abbottabad, the PAF Kalabagh Base welcomes every tourist. Stationed on a hill slope, the kalabagh base is an absolute beauty. Although a non-flying base of the Air force, it is still extremely popular among the officers and the public.
FWO Staging Post
Like Abbottabad, FWO has a staging post in Murree as well in Gharial Camp. It is a mix of a traditionally mountain buildings with triangular ceilings, and since it is on the hill top, you can imagine the scenery yourself.
Fauji Cement Guest House
Like many army guest houses, this guesthouse is also a little isolated. Surrounded by the forests of Jhika Gali, this guesthouse is definitely worth staying at.
FFC Guest House
Located to the right of the main Abbottabad road, this guest house has been rated 4.1 out of 5 by various trip advising websites such as Tripcarta.com. The views from the guest rooms shows the pine forests of the mountains of Nathiagali.
Close by to the Galliyat Development Authority guest house in Kuza Gali, the armour huts are surrounded by the dense forests of Ayubia. This place is definitely nice for people who like hikin since it is shocking close to the Ayubia chair lift and Pipe line hiking track.
Moving up north we reach the city of Muzzaffarabad, although not many, the city houses an army mess of the 1 AK (Azad Kashmir) unit and like Abbottabad and Murree, another FWO Staging post.
FWO Construction Camp
Like many of the army messes, this staging post is also isolated from the main city center. The staging post faces directly, the river Jhelum and with that comes the benefit of relaxing to the sound of flowing water during water.
Army Officers Mess, 1 AK Unit
Stationed close by to the Pearl Continental, like the FWO construction camp also faces the Jhelum river and can provide excellent relaxation opportunities.
Last but not the least, the mountainous regions of Gilgit Baltistan. These areas house probably the best of all rest houses. The Pakistan Army has a number of messes there. The Pakistan Air Force does not have any registered bases there, neither does the Pakistan Navy have any messes there.
Minimarg Army Mess
Found close to the Burzil pass, this mess houses one of the most beautiful messes around Pakistan. Even in that remote area, the tourists have access to a WiFi network through SCOM, so you won’t have any problem uploading Snapchat stories of the magnificent views of the valley facing the mess.
FWO Officers Mess
Based close to the Shahrah-e-Quaid-e-Azam, it is yet another location for the FWO personnel to stay as they monitor the organizations projects in the northern areas.
Garrison Officers Mess:
The Garrison Officers Mess is found extremely close to CMH Gilgit and the famous Khyber Shinwari restaurant in Gilgit.
Force Command Northern Area (FCNA) Mess
The picture below explains it all.
Freemasons – their illustrious history and presence in Pakistan
From designing pyramids to plotting French Revolution, a plethora of strange conspiracy theories had been pinned on to Freemasons since its inception. However, it’s important to discern fact from fiction.
The origins of the Freemasons are obscure and subject to intense speculation, not to mention their bizarre secret rituals. The available documents and scholarships traced back the group roots to the 14th century.
The stonemasons are believed to original founders of the movement, who built the great cathedrals and castles of the middle ages. It’s said they used secret signs to identify fellow craftsmen, like the builder’s square and compass, which is now the totem of Masons. Moreover, the modern Freemasonry came into existence when four London Lodges (organizational unit of Masonry) merged to form Grand Lodge – the first in the world in 1717. The group then spread swiftly to Europe and the American colonies.
The Masonry boasted 6 million members worldwide, including numerous towering figures like Napoleon Bonaparte, Issac Newton, George Washington, Mozart, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, Clark Gable, Oscar Wilde, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, just to name a few.
Despite the group’s secretive outlook and activities, however, Piers Vaughan, a Lodge Master, insisted the “religion and politics” are discouraged to mooted in the meetings. “There are certain subjects which are prevented from discussing within the Lodge. And religion is one. Politics is another,” he further explained.
Although, recently the Masons lamented being “undeservedly stigmatised” and decried discrimination.
Freemasons in Pakistan
Beside relishing cricket, Pakistanis have also a penchant for secret societies, particularly Freemasonry. However, many of them unaware of the fact – the country once housed quite a few Masonic lodges.
The British brought the Freemasonry in India in the 18th century. In 1859, the first Masonic lodge was set up in Lahore called ‘Lodge of Hope and Perseverance.’ The locals called it a ‘jaado ghar.’ Moreover, the celebrated author of “Jungle Book” Rudyard Kipling was made a mason in this Lodge.
While in 1842, Dr James Burnes, provincial grandmaster of the Scottish Freemasons, ordered to build a Freemason Hall in Karachi. It was named “Hope Lodge,” and inaugurated in 1914.
However, in 1972, nudged by right-wingers populist leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto put a blanket ban on the Freemasonry and their activities. As the group was grappling with being outlawed, the death blow was delivered by none other than Ziaul Haq himself in 1983. The General under the Martial Law Regulation 56 interdicted the Masonic illegal activities, however the activities were still continuing in secrecy. Vexed by it, the ban was extended to any and all activities of Masons in 1985.
Currently, the Karachi’s Freemason Hall is in the possession of the Sind Wildlife department. Moreover, the former caretaker of the building Jeewan Sunoira, accused the current occupiers of ruining the building. “I don’t have anything to do with the place now, but we remember what it used to be like. It is sad,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Lahore’s Lodge 90 is presently serving as the Chief Minister’s Secretariat, the Masons claimed it was sequestrated by the Punjab government in 1974. The legal battle on the ownership of the property is going on for 44 years, which has seen four out of six mason masters to the grave. Yet the matter is in limbo, with no signs of property being vacated.
Commentators in Muslim countries, especially in Pakistan, believed Freemasonry to engage in anti-Islamic manoeuvres, their links to Zionism, even to ‘Masih-e-Dajjal’. But, they failed to explain why is before and after partition, the Freemasons always had more than one Muslim member. And how come Urdu’s greatest poet Asadullah Khan Ghalib became the prominent member of the fraternity?
Written by: Hassan Sohail
*This is an opinionated piece of writing and does not represent Entremuse’s views, endorsements, likings, or endorsements.
Pakistan’s toxic relationship with mullahism
Many argue that mullahism is a school of thought. It maybe, but only in a world where schools encourage violence against those who beg to differ, those who follow another religion, and those who wear jeans.
There is no concept of priesthood in Islam. There is no criteria of attire or appearance in Islam. And there is no pass to use the name of God for political, social, or financial gains in Islam. How come, one wonders then, the mullah has crept into the very framework of the constitution of Pakistan, so much so, he has the country by her throat?
“Wear a mask if you have to, but mosques will stay open”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the country’s top clerics, holier-than-thou, have refused to close down mosques amid the spread of COVID-19, which has brought the world to her knees – infecting 620,000 and killing 28,000, but why hasn’t the government, one asks himself, rebuffed their imbecile idea?
Mullah school of thought
Many argue that mullahism is a school of thought. It maybe, but only in a world where schools encourage violence against those who beg to differ, those who follow another religion, and those who wear jeans. And a mullah, by definition, is a man who closes his eyes to every atrocity, oppression, and sin in the world except when it causes him discomfort. He is usually identified by his absolute lack of remorse, complete denial of logic, and blind following – not of God, but of those he thinks are closer to God because they wear a beard and abuse the government on live television.
The novel coronavirus
The novel coronavirus is highly contagious and spreads from person to person in close proximity. It has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, which has also asked people to self-isolate in order to halt the spread of the coronavirus. In Pakistan, the coronavirus-related cases have jumped from 7 to 1,408 in mere 19 days and health experts have warned that the cases can top at least 20 million if strict measures aren’t put into place. Although the provincial governments have accelerated their efforts to tackle to the spread of the coronavirus, the center refuses to halt its populist stance.
Bogus party, selection of the most naive
It’s an open secret that Imran Khan could only win the premiership with the help of the invisible force, one of whose election tactics were to establish a bogus far-right political party with so many votes that it wouldn’t win any seats, but would be able to break a decisive section of votes, which would ultimately tilt of the polls in Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s favor. The tactic worked and we have a puppet for a prime minister. The bogus party, of course, was Khadim Rizvi’s Tehreek-e-Labaik – a circus of mullahs and men alike, chanting the God’s name to open revolt when asked to.
The ‘intelligent’ Muslim world
The Muslim world, the one where there is intelligent life, has closed their mosques for congregational prayers in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus. In Qatar, the mosques have changed the wordings of the call to prayer, in accordance with Islamic values and history, asking the faithful to pray at home. In Palestine, imams have invited doctors and health experts to give the Friday sermons so that they can help the masses by spreading awareness about the invisible enemy. And in Saudi Arabia, home to two of the holiest sites of Islam, the performance of Omra has been temporarily halted, the holy Ka’abah has been temporarily closed for Tawa’afs, the holy Prophet’s mosque has closed its door for the first time in a while, and it has been reported that the yearly Hajj may not happen.
Too many Khans is too many Khans
When a playboy-turned-politician comes into power through religious votes, there is nothing natural about his selection. Khan simply has too many faces to please and too many favors to repay for him to lead the country of this once-in-a-century pandemic. He cannot disappoint the opportunists from Karachi, he cannot disappoint the right or the left, and he cannot disappoint those in Rawalpindi. Khan, undoubtedly one of the most educated, striking, and honest statesman in the country’s history, has projected one too many fronts to belong to any.
On the other end, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah is making all the headlines Khan should’ve making. Shah, one of Pakistan Peoples Party’s senior-most politicians, has made all the right decisions so far, so much so, he has pretty much saved the country from what could’ve one of its most horrible ends. Shah locked down the country overlooking Khan’s populist sentiments and then he empowered his security forces to enforce them, he made decisive, tough, and striking decisions and was immediately followed in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa – Khan’s strongholds, and most importantly, Shah refused to give one drop of consideration to the mullahs and closed down all mosques and madrasas indefinitely until the end of the pandemic.
All-in-all, if Khan is serious about preventing a blunder, a bloodbath, and a chaos of the highest level, he needs to abandon his alliance with the mullahs and needs to realize that this is not a time to bag votes. The mullahs need to let the reality cascade upon their holier-than-thou-selves and realize that no they are not immune to the novel coronavirus. And the people need to realize that God doesn’t help those who do not help themselves.
To conclude, I would like to narrate Al-Thirmidhi:
“Anas ibn Malik reported: A man sad, “O Messenger of Allah, should I tie my camel and trust in Allah, or should I leave her untied and trust in Allah?” The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Tie her and trust in Allah.””
Khan’s incompetence is going to cost us a country
Khan needs to realize that the time to act is now and no amount of Nathiagali walks is going to contain the novel coronavirus that has brought the country to a standstill.
During his first national address concerning the novel coronavirus, unfortunately-Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan stated that the COVID-19 virus, which has until now, infected 200,000 and killed over 8,000 people worldwide isn’t “serious enough” to lockdown the country.
In his national address, coming weeks late in the first place, Khan absolutely failed to convince the country of the government’s plans and strategies to tackle the novel coronavirus. His unruly, disruptive, and unlike-statesman smirks and expressions, once again, left only his sponsees in awe of him, so much so, the social media erupted in praising the one handsome prime minister this country has ever had. Khan deserves the praise, though, for only his visionary self could apprehend spending Rs42 million of taxpayers’ money for the constitution of a digital media wing at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the only responsibility of which is to defend the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government over the internet and on social media platforms.
As of Wednesday, Pakistan has recorded at least 245 cases of the highly contagious coronavirus – the highest number of confirmed cases in South Asia, compared with 147 in India, 44 in Sri Lanka, and 22 in Afghanistan. Furthermore, NayaDaur, a Pakistani media outlet, has reported that if the government continues doing the bare minimum, which it is, the cases may rise to over 80,000 by mid April.
In mainland China, the coronavirus has infected over 8,500 people and killed 3,248, in Italy, the coronavirus has infected over 35,00 people and killed 2,978, and in Spain, the coronavirus has infected over 17,000 and killed 767. What Khan needs to understand is that Italy, China, and Spain boast some of the world’s best healthcare systems, furthermore, they are top-tier world economies while Pakistan doesn’t even have enough protective kits to equip their doctors with. Khan also needs to understand that the novel coronavirus is highly contagious and that the new cases will rise exponentially, which means, if simply put, that there will be a need for a lot of ICU beds and ventilators that the country doesn’t have. In figures, Pakistan has 0.6 ICU beds available for 1,000 people while China, Italy, and Spain have 4.2, 3.4, and 3.0 beds per 1,000 people respectively. What Khan needs to understand is that if the government doesn’t take decisive measures now, it will be too late.
Khan refuses to halt his populist stance, so much so, he refuses to visit anywhere without having at least a dozen photographers following him. In a video that Khan posted on his social media profiles, he can be seen observing the state of a quarantine center in DG Khan inquiring about the patients’ health, to which, of course, the patients, or so, answer in all-praises for the management – in this case the PTI’s Punjab government. The patients sing Khan’s name and throw their support behind him to conclude what seemed like a textbook scripted PR stunt. But God works in mysterious ways for the points that the video had scored the Punjab government were quickly balanced out by Sardar Usman Buzdar who, shockingly, is also the ‘Chief Minister’ of the province. According to a Pakistani media outlet Dawn, which also happens to be the country’s oldest and most reliable English newspaper, Buzdar asked such an innocent question that it rocked, rather sunk, the very idea of him leading the fight against the coronavirus. Dawn reported the incident as follows:
“A few days ago Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar received a detailed briefing on coronavirus from relevant experts and officials. The purpose was to provide him all the information he required as the chief executive of the largest province, so he could make the right decisions. At the end of the briefing, the chief minister asked a question innocently: ”Yeh corona kaat-ta kaisay hai?” (how does this corona bite?)”
On the other side of the country, Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah is leading the country’s fight against the vicious virus. Shah, 57, holds two masters degrees from Stanford University and is concluded in the list of Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) most senior politicians and figures. Shah’s plan is simple: halt the spread of the coronavirus as soon as possible, quarantine all those showing severe symptoms, provide for the families of those quarantined, and isolate and test all those returning home from countries with the most coronavirus cases. To implement his plan, Shah ordered the closure of all educational institutions when the very first coronavirus case was confirmed in Sindh. Later, he ordered to shut down all public monuments, parks, offices, restaurants, beaches, and shopping malls. He set up a 10,000-bed hospital in Karachi, a 2000-bed hospital in Sukker, and isolation centers in all districts of Sindh. Furthermore, he has been thorough in reporting cases, spreading awareness, and containing panic by holding press conferences almost every other day. Shah’s plan has worked out so well that even the World Health Organization (WHO) has applauded his efforts calling his work “the best after (that of) China’s.”
Khan’s team lacks greatly what Shah’s team is doing so wonderfully well, but he still refuses to acknowledge it, so much so, not once has he passed any positive comments Shah’s way nor is he committed to consider Shah’s many suggestions any seriously than he would take anyone’s not wearing boots to go with their suits. Khan is stubborn, weak, and controlled by one too many fronts and so, it is our duty, as citizens of this great country, to question his policies, grudges, politics, and decisions for we have voted him into the office he’s not working hard enough to keep. It is our duty as brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters to make sure our loved ones are taken care of in this testing time. And it is our duty as daily workers, housewives, doctors, and students to fight for our right of survival.
Khan needs to realize that he is the prime minister of not only Punjab and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, but also of Sindh, Balochistan, Kashmir, and Gilgil-Baltistan. Khan needs to realize that the country can only survive this pandemic if it projects a common front, defended equally by all parties of all provinces. And Khan needs to realize that the time to act is now and no amount of Nathiagali walks is going to contain the novel coronavirus that has brought the country to a standstill.