Preservation of archaeological sites helps promote tourism

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An APP Feature By Shumaila Noreen

ISLAMABAD, Dec 4 (APP): As the archaeological sites depict the culture of the past and serve as connecting link between old and modern civilisations, they ought to be taken care of.

Furthuer, the preservation of cultural heritage and archaeological sites, not only relives a nation but also promotes tourism, thus bringing monetary benefits to a country.

“Monuments and archaeological pieces serve as testimonies of man’s greatness and establish a dialogue between civilizations showing the great extent to which human beings are linked” an expert, Vincente Fox says.

But, the picture of existing Rawat Fort with its ramshackled rooms, a three-domed altered mosque, crumbling graves and a deserted mausoleum speaks largely of the state of neglect by the authorities.

Unnamed graves, dilapidated rooms and desolated atmosphere of the second major archaeological site of federal capital ‘Rawat Fort’ reflect unwillingness of the concerned authorities to preserve the vanishing historical relics.

Rawat Fort is originally an ancient Sarai (Inn) situated about 11 miles from Rawalpindi towards Jehlum close to the Grand Trunk road and appears to have been built during the Sultanate period in early 15th century A.D. The description board outside the fort in half omitted words reveals that the fort is associated with the name of Masud, son of famous Mehmood of Ghaznavi in 1039 A.D where he was arrested by his rebellious soldiers and eventually murdered in the fort of Giri near Taxila.

The fort is also associated with the name of Ghakhar tribe chief Sarang Khan who fell with his sixteen sons fighting against Sher Shah Suri and buried within the precinct of this monument, it says.

Out of 45 rooms of the square shaped fort where the travelers used to
stay, 26 rooms have fallen prey to intentional vandalism of the private constructors who have merged the major parts of the rooms into their houses.

The encroachment from three sides of the fort is sheer violation of
the Capital Development Authority (CDA) law which prohibits construction within 200 feet of the historical monuments premises.

The historical mosque and the mausoleum of Sarang Khan in the fort
were altered by the locals of the area from their original architecture, violating the law which prohibits damaging or altering the historical monuments.

The graves of 16 sons of Sarang Khan and others are also in dilapidated condition as usually locals pull the bricks of these graves out when they need it.

The site was protected by DOAM, Islamabad under Antiquities Act 1975
but after devolution under 18th amendment of the constitution, it was acquired by Punjab government, the source revealed.

The DOAM Islamabad has again acquired the site six months ago and
started initial working on a plan for its excavation, maintenance and preservation after removal of encroachments.

The Department of Archaeology and Museums (DOAM) has written to the CDA and Islamabad Capital Territory administration three weeks ago to take action against the encroachments from three sides of the site.

The road linking the historical site with Grand Trunk Road was purchased by the archaeology department but encroached by shopkeepers and roadside hawkers.

Director at DOAM, Abdul Azeem said the department had prepared PC-I
amounting to Rs. 20.290 million for repair, maintenance and development of the fort which would be submitted to the National Literary and Heritage Division soon.

The locals living in the surrounding areas even are unaware about the
existence of such an historical monument in their area and the only thing they know is that their children sometimes play in the small lawns of the fort on the both sides of entrance gate.

They have made many pathways to enter in the fort by demolishing its
walls and also throw their garbage inside the fort area and the stinking smell of garbage is serving as a safe haven for the mosquitoes and other insects, causing diseases.

Ameer Khan, an inhabitant of the area said, “The fort was a dormant
and barren place and the locals of the area rebuild the mosque inside it and started visiting it for offering prayer, giving the place a new life.”

“Sometimes our children used to go there for playing also”, he said.

Renowned archaeologist and Director of Taxila Institute of Asian Civilization (TIAC) Professor Dr. Ashraf Khan said Rewat Fort had a strong historical background and it must be protected and maintained.

While serving as Director at DOAM in past, he said, he himself made
efforts to remove encroachments from the fort.

The concerned authorities must take action against those who damaged the historical site and focus on its preservation.