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 Monday March 15, 2004
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The neglected Rawat Fort

ISLAMABAD: The cultural heritage of Pakistan - its monuments, historical buildings, centuries old structures and military fortresses - has never received so much attention as it is doing nowadays. It is as if the nation has suddenly noticed them and realised the value of these treasures.

*Widespread education as well as the interest shown in them by foreigners particularly UNESCO, has much to do with this new awareness of our cultural wealth.

Another major reason is that, despite the shortage of funds to repair and preserve these monuments, which is an extremely costly business, the government has been devoting much greater attention to them than ever before. The press too has played a commendable role in this and is constantly exhorting the people to respect these relics of our past glory.

Sometimes however one comes across a forgotten structure that is not widely known. The other day there was a brief letter in a newspaper about the derelict Rawat Fort, a few miles from Rawalpindi city and not so far from Islamabad.

*People who have lived around these parts for long years frankly admit that the existence of this fort was a pleasant surprise for them. Maybe this is so because it lies a bit off the Grand Trunk Road.


But, as they say, better late than never, so APP would like to tell newspaper readers about it. It is a 15th century fort and quite dilapidated. According to historians it was once the stronghold of the Ghakkars, one of the most militant and, historically speaking, influential warrior clans in the northern part of the sub-continent. History tells us that King Shershah Suri built the magnificent Rohtas Fort (now on the World Heritage List of UNESCO) to keep his kingdom safe from attacks.


Sultan Sarang, revered by the modern-day Ghakkars as the tribal hero and father-figure, and in his time their chief and a minor king in his own right, was close to the Mughals and garrisoned his soldiers in this fort in order to do battle with Sher Shah Suri and his son Salim Shah whose armies used to be stationed at Rohtas. Very little of the old fort still stands, and none of the buildings in its interior, through parts of the big wall around it are still intact. Whatever survives is quite impressive and the fort would make an attractive tourist resort for the people of Rawalpindi and  Islamabad if that aspect of it was properly exploited.

The structure does not bear the standard metal plaque of the Archaeology Department advertising it as a protected monument. Actually there are hundreds of such comparatively minor structures in the country which are not officially protected, and their upkeep and repair are therefore not the state's responsibility. It is a pity that unless they are historically well-known, or bear the department's label, nobody takes care of them and gradual degradation goes on at the hands of an unthinking public.


These words apply very appropriately to Rawat fort. Some old residents of Rawalpindi interested in these matters bemoan the fact that the local people are totally ignorant that the structure is nothing less than a piece of history and keep on devastating it by taking away its stones for their personal use. The wall, which must have been magnificent once upon a time, has lost its grandeur because of such depredation. Moreover the place serves as a parking area for the village buffaloes an is littered with dirt, dung and rubbish and used shopping bags. Inside is a small graveyard where the great Sultan Sarang, members of his family and other forebears of the Ghakkars lie buried. These graves too have been badly damaged due to lack of care on the part o the present holders of the proud title of Ghakkar, many of whom have been army generals and senior officers in the government. A small mausoleum has been converted into a mosque and its original walls plastered in the modern fashion. All in all, the tomb of Sultan Sarang, the grand boundary wall and the vast lawns are a testimony to builders of old, bt a sad comment on those who should look after them today.

A noted literary figure of Pothohar who lamented the present state of this 400-year old fort said what a pity that the Capital Development Authority had never paid any attention to it. Maybe the CDA was not aware that Rawat now falls within the capital territory. One hopes its energetic new Chairman reads this and pays a visit to the place. The huge lawns can be easily converted into a public garden and the remains of the fort renovated with a little effort. The monument is certainly worth the trouble.


 
 

 

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