Mughal fort in need of serious conservation effort

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Sheikhupura Fort, a precious heritage dating back to Mughal era seems to be left to decay in the absence of any serious efforts by the authorities concerned with regard to its preservation. 

According to Punjab archaeology department officials, Sheikhupura Fort is badly in need of swift conservation and consolidation [Credit: Dawn.com]

Located some 35 kilometres north-west of Lahore, the fort built as a hunting base camp by Mughal Emperor Jehangir has been prone to natural calamities like the earthquakes and heavy downpours, as well as vandalism. 

According to Punjab archaeology department officials, the monument is badly in need of swift conservation and consolidation. Otherwise, they apprehend, the monument may succumb to multiple destructive influences. 

“The Mughal and Sikh structures in the fort are in a dilapidated condition, while the later period additions made from time to time to the structure are going fragile and may be ruined,” said an official. 

The officials said that unplanned additions and alterations made to the original character and design, specifications, condition of the soil of the fort had further spoiled the monument. They also blamed poor repairs and encroachments in and around the fort for its deterioration. 

The fort was taken over by the federal department of archaeology in 1967 but it only carried out limited repairs due to funds’ paucity. Under annual repair programmes, meager allocations were made to carryout the repairs in 1971-72, 1986-87, 1987-88, 1988-89 and 2000-01. However, no major conservation or development plan was approved for the fort. 

In 2010, a one-million-dollar project for the fort’s conservation was prepared by the archaeology department in collaboration with the US Embassy under US Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation Large Grant Programme. In this connection, an agreement was signed early this year. Under the agreement, US is to contribute $0.85 million for cultural heritage preservation while Pakistan government is to provide (in the form of infrastructure and manpower/technical staff) Rs16 million. However, the Pakistan government failed to fulfill its commitment. 

The first installment of US grant was released to the federal archaeology department through ministry of culture, the officials said, adding the amount, however, could not be so far transferred to the Punjab archaeology department that was now custodian of all monuments in the province under the 18th amendment. 

The Sheikuhpura Fort was built in 1015 AH (1606 AD) by Emperor Jehangir as a base camp for the royal hunting ground (the area surrounding Hiran Minar). 

The Mughals built main gateway, fortification wall and a mosque, besides water supply and drainage systems of the fort, while the other structures appear to be built by the Sikh rulers of Punjab. 

In 1964 the fort was declared a ‘Protected Monument’ for its proper preservation and maintenance. The total protected area of the fort is 64 kanals and 13 marlas. 

The monument had also been used to house police, (now defunct) Federal Security Force, the refugees from East Pakistan and the flood-affected people as and when needed. Such use further accelerated the pace of decay of the monument. 

Source: Dawn Newspaper [June 02, 2011]

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