The Promise Land
It all started in 1992 when Taxila decided that it was time to re-invent itself in another place. After discussions and looking at pros and cons the old Kingdom of Dir was selected for this effort. This Kingdom, which was taken over by Pakistan in late sixties is now a district and it is administered by the Kyber Pakhtun Khawa KPK province [Old North West Frontier Province of Pakistan].This district of Dir is managed by the Provincial government unlike other such tribal areas bordering Afghanistan which are managed by the Federal Government of Pakistan.
Many visits were made The Swedish Smyrna Church was very much interested and Dr. Svein and Billy even travelled up there with us to see the place themselves and help in selecting the site. Wenny Lekardal from Smyrna Church was with us at the time. Many medical camps were held in the area to assess the need of the people there and it finally came down to the fact that the area required Mother and Child care as no such facility exists there. Due to the tribal ways of life the women will not be taken to the far away hospitals for deliveries and there is quite a horrendous rate of fatalities of mothers and children. Regular General and Eye care and hopefully with the help of Christoffel Blinden Mission, Germany support for Disabled and advocacy for inclusiveness of the disabled will be provided. It will be a vast opportunity in the land of deprived and forgotten communities.
Initially a 50 bed facility will be established.
This will not be a free facility but will be a low cost high quality hospital but will have to be supported for the for first 4-5 years. Eventually it will be supported by the community itself but external support for capital expenses will probably remain.
In the meantime gentleman Mr.Akhtar Munir from the village Akhagram in Upper Dir came forward and offered that he would like to donate his own land for the hospital. We went and looked at the place which was ok but within a month or
so the elders of Painda Khel sent word that they do not accept that a single person from the tribe takes credit for this noble cause so the tribe as whole will donate the land.
We were very happy.
The land was surveyed measured land deed was written up bequeathing the land for the hospital. The drawings were made up a well was blasted out of the rocks, pipes and an engine to was transported up there for water but then the tribe had a fall out among themselves they backed out of the deal.
That was unfortunate for them but so are the ways of the tribal people.
On a lighter mood they themselves tell a real incidence where the Elders of the same tribe voted that a 20 KM road will not built for next 20 years. We really did not give up and neither did Mr. Akhtar Munir and his friend Mr. Nisar Ahmed Khan who is also a Lawyer and lives in the nest village "Vari" further up from Akhagram.
They and we continued to work with the local and the political people and finally in 2009 it resulted in the KPK government deciding to buy land for the Christian Hospital, Taxila. They selected a spot and purchased 5 Acres of land. Since flat land is rare in the area as it is all mountains and ravines. Out of the 5 acres 2 acres of land is almost flat in three steps that can be used without too much expense, rest of the land is huge boulders sloping down to the river.
A Memorandum of Understanding with the Health department was signed in the presence of Dr. Ernest Lall, Dr. Ashchenaz M Lall, Mr. Joseph Lall and Mr. Akhtar Munir.
We went up there and the land was measured out for us but there were some issues with the owners of lands, which was acquired by the government, and when we went back to mark to land out they objected, so I complained to the officials and the government sorted out the matters with them.
Then the Taliban happened.
Although tribes in that area were not in favor of Taliban still the Taliban operated in the border areas which is only 10 kilometers away. There were no attacks in the Dir areas except for the border areas. So no progress was made till now.
Finally with the security situation calming down we were contacted to come and take possession of the land. I went up there last month on the 9th and the land was re-measured in the presence of the officials of Health department, the Land department the administration, the police and the frontier constabulary contingents. It really did not seem correct that fully armed police and frontier constabulary men be present for such humble project of establishing a hospital but such are the ways of life up there.
The official letter for the land handing over has been given along with the site plan, the Government is very keen that the construction starts as soon as possible.
Just to show our good will We have decided to at least start the front boundary wall so that it becomes apparent that the land has been taken over and the construction has started. For the moment we do not have funds for the purpose but will use hospital funds. The cost of the constructing the boundary wall which will run along the road and about 40 feet on either side will be about Rs. 2,000,000/- $20,000/-. The drawings and estimates are complete and we want to start work as soon as possible.
For those of you familiar with “Google Earth” you can type in
[Dir, Pakistan] and you will be taken there. The following coordinates are exact the land spot that I am talking about.
35 06 51.33 North 71 58 12.88 East elevation from sea level is about 3500 Ft.
From Taxila it is about 5 hours up north west travelling through the district of Mardan climbing up the Malkand Pass, getting down into the very green and fertile valley of Swat then crossing the swat river to the west and then following the river Panjkora and mostly arid land all the way up to Dir city.
Mind you there is the District Dir and then there is the City Dir. The district is now divided into Upper and Lower Dir.
Dir city is at the foot of the 10500 Ft high Lowari Mountains over which the road crosses over into the Chitral valley. A 7 Kilometer long tunnel is being constructed under this mountain to reach Chitral which is only accessible only 6 months in a year as the snow blocks the Lowari Pass.
The hospital which will be called Taxila-Gandigar Hospital. We think that keeping with the tribal traditions we will hire local staff as much as possible and have only top management from Taxila can be there to see that the hospital is run with Christian Values and norms.
This would be the only Christian institution so far up in the tribal areas and we want it to become acceptable to the locals population by blending with their traditions. One way is to use their man power, I am quite certain that most of the staff even doctors and nurses will become available as many have moved to the plains to have employment and if the conditions are right they will come back to their own homes. We can train others in Taxila.
It is not going to be easy but Lord is with us and prayers and support of the many are for us.
We feel very much privileged that Lord has seen it fit to entrust this hospital with this great Challenge in our country, we do not know of another example in recent times.
It is going to be a rare opportunity to share in such a endeavor in these times where outreach of Christians has stopped. We wish this opportunity to be shared among many who continuously pray for the Christians. All funds will be routed through Christian Hospital, Taxila which has had a tradition of proper audit and very strong financial systems in place.
For Christians Living in Pakistan in these times is not the easy but this trust from the Lord shows that there is a light that shines out from us which cannot be dimmed and is surely seen by others and perhaps is denied most of the time but is felt all the same in their hearts.
Every one who wishes to be part of this act of faith will be blessed.
DIR Visit Snaps
Official Documents: Handing over of Land For Taxila-Gandigar Hospital