Ch Haseeb Pandhair

READ MORE: Going not-so green

QILA DIDAR SINGH - Historic monuments depict the glory of past nations due to their artistic, cultural or architectural importance. They are preserved all over the world because these are the only objects through which we acquaint with the past nations. Inspecting a historic monument, we can learn the engineering and the architectural and geometric techniques upon which a past nation had built the magnificent structure. So they actually depict the glorious history of a nation.

Besides their historical importance, the monuments attract a large number of tourists from across the world. Countries around the world pay special attention to repair to the heritage sites because damage to these sites can destroy their tourism industry which can bring a loss to the national economy.

Alipur Chattha is an ancient and historical town of Wazirabad tehsil, Gujranwala. It was known as Akal Garh during the Mughal and British regimes. Later on, the Sikhs gained power and established their rule in Punjab. Akal Garh had been upgraded to sub headquarter during the Sikh rule because it was located near summer capital Ramnagar (now known as Rasoolnagar) of the Sikh empire.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh who ruled over Punjab for 34 years had built a pavilion and a fort consisted of 100 rooms at Akal Garh. He also built a secret tunnel starting from the fort till Ramnagar. The tunnel was wide enough that two horsemen could travel alongside. The fort was decorated with carved wooden doors and windows embellished with intricate floral designs on the facades. The balconies were emblazoned with woodcarvings.

Ranjit Singh's close relatives resided at Akal Garh and Ramnagar. So he used to spend summer holidays here near the bank of River Chenab. He had also built a haveli at the Bela of River Chenab. Water channels were constructed in veranda of the haveli. River water flowed into these channels and kept inner atmosphere of the haveli cool and pleasant. These monuments were potent symbols of power and wealth of the Sikh empire.

During the British rule, Bhajnat Singh became ruler of Akal Garh. He was worst enemy of the Muslims. His forefathers had got allotted hundreds of acres of local land in their name by flattering the British rulers. Earlier, a local Sadaat family was the owner and caretaker of these lands. Bhajnat Singh emigrated to Ambala district, Haryana because Muslims immigrants from Ambala district had been allotted lands in Gujranwala district.

Today, the historic pavilion and fort established at Akal Garh by Maharaja Ranjit Singh is in deteriorated condition. The monuments have been defaced and damaged over the decades and are in desperate need of preservation. The pavilion and a water pond in it have been turned into a waste dump. The pavilion is still partially intact but the garbage heap has eclipsed its beauty. Water accumulates here in rainy season making the atmosphere stinky.

On the other hand, the influential land mafia with the alleged connivance of the officials is busy constructing illegal houses on the lands adjacent to the pavilion. They are hell-bent on demolishing remnants of the historic sites, representing Sikh rule and culture in the area. In fact, they intend to occupy the lands that would emerge from beneath the historic sites after their destruction. Few months back, the land mafia conspired and attempted to convert the water pond in the pavilion into a fish farm.

Locals demand Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, secretary Auqaf and commissioner Gujranwala division restore the pavilion which has almost been destroyed. They also demand stern action against the land mafia.

It is to be noted that Akal Garh was named Alipur Chattha after Muhammad Ali Chattha who re-inhabited the town. This name was officially acknowledged during the first PPP government headed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. With the passage of time, it became one of the most famous towns of Gujranwala district due to trade of best quality rice and construction of link roads. During the rule of Ayub Khan, a railway line was installed at Alipur Chattha on a temporary basis for the construction of Head Qadirabad Barrage. The railway line was used for the transportation of goods. A road was also construction which linked Alipur Chattha to hundreds of villages. In fact, Head Qadirabad Barrage had played a key role in the development of the area.