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Cholistan's ancient forts in a shambles.

Byline: Nadeem Zafar

The ancient forts in the Cholistan Desert attract tourists from across the country who take a keen interest in the history and stories of the region's civilisations.

The remains of these 50 ancient forts were found in Bahawalpur division, however, these forts are not all the same.

Each fort is different from the other in its nature. Most of these forts have collapsed today and the remains are slowly being destroyed due to the negligence of the archaeology department, which has not even tried to preserve these historical heritages.

One of these forts is the historic fort Jamgarh, located 114 kilometres east of Bahawalpur, 36km from Fort Abbas city and 9 km from Fort Mirgarh within the Cholistan. The history of this fort is found in various history books.

This fort is made of beautiful bricks and most of them are still their original shape. It was built by Jam Khan Marofani in 1788. The fort is square in shape and spans 114 feet on all sides. Its walls are 28 feet high and there is a round bridge crossing the four corners.

To the east of the fort is a 9-foot dome-shaped gate. The outer part of the fort is wide.

The fort had an entrance door and four minarets. It had minarets on all four corners and a living room in its inner courtyard.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, the fort's condition was strong and there was no woodwork in this fort except for the gate. There was standing water in this area due to which this area and the fort became dilapidated.

It was only after the death of Jam Khan Marofani that the walls and roofs of this fort could not bear the load and eventually collapsed.

Then, due to a lack of repairs, the fort slowly collapsed. Reportedly, there was an era when the event of 'Rang-o-Noor Mehfil' was held every night and a celebration followed suit every day.

To Baku and beyond: A melting pot of ancient history and modern architecture

The historical significance of this passage has left its imprint in the pages of history. With the fort being located in the Cholistan, the Cholistan Development Authority (CDA), an organisation working in the Cholistan, had also made efforts at government level to renovate the fort. CDA Focal Person Bahawal Imtiyaz Ahmed Lashari stated that funds had been released for Qila Derawar, palaces of Bahawalpur, historical places and Jamgarh Fort, on which work was also being done initially in Qila Derawar. 'Similarly, work on Jamgarh Fort will be done gradually and our organisation will make every effort to protect this precious heritage.'

Allah Dad Panhawar, a local tourist and social activist, said that the real beauty of the Cholistan Desert is its forts. 'Fort Jamgarh was a great masterpiece but unfortunately due to lack of interest from the archaeology department and the government, it is slowly turning into ruins.'

Muhammad Asif Javed, another tourist from Haroonabad, said that the incumbent government is promoting tourism in major cities. 'They should also promote the Cholistan and its historic forts which are six in Fort Abbas tehsil. This will not only preserve these historical heritages but also generate a lot of revenue in terms of tourism. Therefore, the government should pay attention to these historical forts.'

Abdullah Zafar Chaudhry and Mohammad Abdullah Zulfiqar, both young tourists in the Cholistan, remarked that they were very happy to come here. 'We are, however, also disappointed after we saw the condition of the forts. It is the responsibility of the government to protect our heritage.'
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Author:Nadeem Zafar
Publication:The Express Tribune (Karachi, Pakistan)
Date:Sep 12, 2020
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