Taming Rivers

Recollections of a Civil Engineer during the British Raj
Khan Bahadur Abdur Rahman Khan

These are the memoirs of Khan Bahadur Abdur Rahman Khan (1891–1980), a civil engineer in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP; now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), during the British Indian period. A member of the Imperial Service of Royal Engineers, his memoirs provide a riveting account of the turbulent historical period in the NWFP, which saw the decline of the British Raj from its zenith, under Queen Victoria, to the exit of the British, the Partition of India, and the creation of Pakistan. His narrative records the often violent political struggle for independence, the gradual decline of the Raj and its institutions, the consequences of the shifting power structures under the various reforms, and the tussle between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League to win over the loyalties of the Pathans.

His narrative is rich with anecdotes and insights about events and the people who shaped the course of this history such as Sir George Cunningham, Sir Olaf Caroe, Sir Ambrose Dundas, Allama Iqbal, Dr Khan Sahib, Ghaffar Khan, and Khan Abdul Qayum Khan.

As a young engineer he was instrumental in saving the city of Dera Ismail Khan from being swept away by the raging waters of the Indus River in floods and he undertook long and arduous treks in Waziristan and Balochistan escorted by troops lead by British officers to survey and develop dams and irrigation projects.

He made a significant contribution to the irrigation development of the NWFP and Balochistan. After Independence he was appointed a member of the delegation to negotiate the Indus Water Dispute with India.

Besides providing an intimate political and social history of the changing times, hitherto not available in contemporary works, the author is widely recognized as an eminent engineer and his historical perspective on the water resources development of arid regions is a useful reference for those interested in working on these issues in Pakistan.

Author Description

Inducted into the Imperial Service of Royal Engineers in 1917, Khan Bahadur Abdur Rahman Khan (1891–1980) was amongst the first few non-British engineers on the Frontier.

His pioneering work in the survey, design, and construction of dams and other irrigation projects laid the foundations for developing sound irrigation systems in the NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). Abdur Rahman Khan assumed his responsibilities around the time of the Third Afghan War, a period when the NWFP was in a state of civil unrest and the British Indian Government was in conflict with the tribes of the western border. It was in this situation that he spent the next decade, carrying out an extensive survey and investigation of water resources in Waziristan and Balochistan, protected by troops led by British Army officers.

In the 1930s, he was awarded the titles of Khan Sahib and Khan Bahadur. Retiring in 1946, he was appointed Irrigation Advisor to the Government of NWFP and nominated as a Member of the Canal Waters Commission, set up to resolve the Canal Waters Dispute with India. He worked on the design of the Kurram Garhi, Warsak, and Mangla Dams. Khan Bahadur Abdur Rahman Khan has been hailed as the ‘Doyen of Pakistani Engineers’.

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PKR 1,150
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More Information
ISBN 9789697342716
Weight in kg 0.560
Rights World
Year of Publication 2022
Binding Hardback
Pages 312

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