Ancient tree of Qissa Khwani Bazaar chopped

Peshawar   -   In the heart of one of South Asia’s oldest cities, Peshawar, a 500-year-old tree stood as a silent witness to centuries of history in the historic Qissa Khwani Bazaar. However, this ancient tree, located in the Shah Wali Qataal neighborhood, was felled and removed under the cover of night, sparking concerns among heritage lovers and environmentalists alike.

The Shah Wali Qataal locality is not just known for its ancient tree; it also houses the ancestral home of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, whose relatives still reside there. The tree, towering at 15 feet with a trunk diameter of five feet, was a prominent landmark in the area. Residents revealed that government officials carried out the felling at night to avoid backlash, as the local community had previously opposed its cutting.

This isn’t the first time the ancient tree faced threats. Six months earlier, an attempt to fell the tree was halted after media intervention. The recent action appears to be motivated by monetary gains, with officials allegedly seeking to expand a shop adjacent to the tree, owned by a government department, to generate more revenue. Despite obtaining a non-objection certificate, the preference for financial benefits over heritage and environmental conservation has sparked outrage.

The historic significance of the area is further enriched by the legacy of Shah Rukh Khan’s family. Taj Muhammad, the late father of the Bollywood icon, was born in the Shah Wali Qataal neighborhood. Before migrating to Kolkata before Independence, he lived there with his elder brother, Ghulam Muhammad, known as Gama. Ghulam Muhammad, a political worker associated with the Ghareeb Awam Party, also owned a shop in the locality. Shah Rukh Khan has visited his ancestral home twice, last in the early 1980s before his rise to fame, spending time in the family home.

Cultural and environmental experts have voiced their concern over the loss of the ancient tree, emphasizing the importance of preserving Peshawar’s tangible heritage. The city, with its rich history, boasts several ancient trees, each with its own story and significance. Notable examples include the banyan tree near Rampura Gate, close to the Government Shaheed Usama Zafar Centennial Model Higher Secondary School, the trees in Bajaz Larha near Peepal Mandi, the ones near the Sakhi Murad Shah shrine inside Kohati Gate, and at the City Railways Station in Faiqirabad.

 These ancient trees are more than just natural landmarks; they are integral to the historical and cultural fabric of Peshawar. Protecting them is crucial to preserving the city’s heritage for future generations.

The felling of the ancient tree in Qissa Khwani Bazaar serves as a stark reminder of the delicate balance between development and conservation, and the need for a collective effort to safeguard our environmental and cultural treasures.