Once upon a time Legends and ruins of Rawalpindi

rawlpindiAncient buildings have been made commercial plazas and those left are in dilapidated condition as no serious attempt was ever made to preserve this cultural heritage.

Haveli of the Raja of Poonch in Namakmandi was pulled down a few years ago for construction of new shops. Nirankari sect of the Sikhs originated in Rawalpindi, but unfortunately upper storey of the Nirankari Darbar, their headquarters, has been without a roof for years.

Once upon a time, Bagh Sardaran housed Hardit Sigh Library and a “Janj Ghar” to accommodate marriages of Sikh community. Today, office of a special branch of the Intelligence Bureau, Punjab, and many other shabby structures have occupied historical grounds of this Bagh.

In the narrow streets of Bhabra Bazaar stands once majestic haveli of Rai Bahadur Sujan Singh. Built in 1893, walls of this haveli have started developing cracks. It was residence and a museum of art objects belonging to Sujan Singh family. All that is left of the building are empty rooms, in which various government offices have been set. It has been a camp for Kashmiri refugees.

There was a plan to transform it into Dr AQ Khan Science College for Girls, but it was changed for various reasons. Physical condition of the haveli is bad while its all electric fittings and decorative items were pulled out and sold by the Kashmiri refugees.

Areas like Purana Qila, Bhabra Bazaar, Lalkurti, Banni and parts of inner Saddar were centre of old buildings but t of them have now been made into multi-storey plazas or shopping malls.

Some dilapidated old houses that stood in these areas are example of artistic works of masons of the past. Their beautiful construction and woodwork survived the test of time.

“Not only the government, but non-government organisations also pay no heed to these buildings, which are deteriorating rapidly may disappear,” said Iqbal Bali, a human rights activist.

He said pressure groups should intervene to preserve cultural heritage as they did in Lahore to preserve The Mall and Karachi to protect well-known streets.

Rawal Town Tehsil Municipal Administration gave notices for vacation of some old houses because of their oldness instead of renovating and protecting them.

City District Nazim Raja Javed Ikhas said he was aware of the situation but maintain of these buildings was a costly project, for which the city government lacked funds.

Iftikhar Nazir, a senior journalist, said the process of “demolish-and-rebuild” was part of the construction industry to gain monitory gains. “There is no doubt that owners of old houses have the right to decide life of the buildings they possess. No law can rob them of this right,” he said.

He said huge funds were set aside in the West to preserve ancient buildings and promote tourism.

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