16th century Rawat Fort falls to Rawalpindi land-grabbers

February 04, 2014 - 6:52:33 am
ISLAMABAD: After withstanding the onslaught of mighty armies for centuries, the 16th century Rawat Fort has fallen to the modern day invaders - the land grabbers.

Built in 1546, the once imposing fort just 18 kilometres away from the garrison city of Rawalpindi today presents a picture of urban vandalism, not the unique heritage site it is listed in archaeology manuals.

Encroachers have invaded from all four sides, mocking at the notice board of the Archaeology Department, warning that, “This site is protected under the Antiquities Act 1975.

New construction within 200 feet of the Fort is prohibited and is punishable by imprisonment and fine.”

But encroachers have built houses cheek-to-cheek with the wall of the fort.

Chaudhry Fazal’s two-storey house has completely blocked one of the three entrances of the fort. Another local has driven steel girders into the fort’s several-foot thick wall on the backside to support the roof of his house.

These are only the recent, and perhaps, the worst acts of vandalism and destruction threatening the old and fragile architecture of the beautiful fort.

“It is sad that he ignored all warnings issued to him over the last six months and went ahead blocking the entrance of the fort. Now the Taxila Museum, which manages the fort, has filed a case in court against Chaudhry Fazal,” said Mohammad Jawed who has been managing the site for almost 30 years.

Chaudhry Fazal however claims his family has owned the land for generations.

“This is our land. I have not seen any signboard that warns that the land around the fort is protected land,” he said.

According to caretaker Jawed, the fort structure is growing feeble. Seepage has made the main gate of the fort so week that it could collapse anytime. Masonry holding the gate is falling away.

“A month ago, the floor of the Baradari, the pavilion inside the fort where the King used to sit, was cemented instead of using material that would maintain its originality,” he said, commenting on the quality of the preservation work.

“It has been more than a decade that any kind of conservation was undertaken here. The locals use the open spaces inside the fort to offer funeral prayers, and rip bricks and marble off the ancient mosque for their own convenience,” he said.

Jamshed Khan of the local Patwarkhana (land record office) said that the deputy commissioner of the area has ordered an inquiry after the Punjab Department of Archaeology approached his office to look into the matter.