By Raiq Qureshi
ISLAMABAD, Nov 03 (APP):Rohtas Fort, known for its unique architectural design, extended over four kilometers of circumference, situated near Jhelum, was once considered the biggest military base of South Asia.
The construction of the Fort took around seven years to complete starting from 1541-1548. The thick and dense walls of Rohtas which are known for its unique foundational design resemble the art and culture of Turks, highlights of Mughal and Afghan.
The Fort which built by Sher Shah Suri (Farid Khan) later became a residence to Mughal Emperors. It covers a massive area of seventy hectares with sixty eight bastions and twelve monumental gates that even today narrate the history of its past. There are six huge weapon storage cells.
The tomb of Mehar un Nisa adds more glory to its site. The United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (NESCO) inscribed Rohtas in 1997 as a world’s heritage site due to its historical importance. Shahi mosque near Kabul gate is one of its kinds without any pillar and minaret.
Sheesh Mehal speaks for the architectural beauty of ancient art and traditions. According to the history, it is one of the longest used military bases from 16th century till the times of Durranis and Sikhs of 19th century.
However, the illegal encroachments have not only disturbed the site but have also affected the image of the overall Fort. There is an immediate need of maintenance and protection of Rohtas as it is a World heritage Site which adds a monumental reflection to the history of the country. Like other countries, Pakistan should also develop some applicable policies for preserving the monumental history which can play an instrumental role in image building of the country.
In Sanskrit once called as the white shining egg, is now facing floods and negligence of the authorities concerned. The eroded red bricks and green grass on the roofs of the Fort have seen the grandeur of the past. The Rohtas Fort should be protected as per the Antiquity Act of 1957 passed by the Parliament of Pakistan.
Talking to APP, the local guide Muhammad Ayub said that in 2005 a project was launched by the government in collaboration with the US-Aid but it was not completed due to change in the government policies and 18th Amendment. He said that no improvement was witnessesd after the transfer of power from federal to provincial government. He, however, said that during 2013-18, the Punjab government had approved about 140 million preservation funds for Rohtas.
Habib, a local resident said that the adjacent populated area had been with the Fort since its construction. People from surrounding contributed in the constructional service of Rohtas.
The UNESCO had signed a landmark $2.8million on February 19, 2018 with the government of Punjab with the financial support of the World Bank, under the Punjab Tourism for Economic Growth Project (PTEGP) for the “Protection and Promotion of Cultural Heritage of Punjab for Sustainable Tourism and Economic Growth”.
In line with UNESCO’s mandate, the project aimed to promote the effective management of tourism to cultural/heritage of religious interests. The overall goal is to foster tolerance and peace by raising cultural awareness and respect for diversity, while implementing effective cultural heritage and tourism management policies and plans through institutional reform.
Minister for Planning and Development Punjab Malik Nadeem Kamran said,”In addition to creating site management plans, the project takes a community-centered approach within the frame work of the project through capacity-building of communities surrounding the sites.” He said the project would help promote respect for cultural diversity through education. The current custodians of the sites were supported through training for maintaining the sanctity and religious value of the sites through consultation with key stakeholders in the religious communities, he added.