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