KARACHI: The historic Umerkot Fort is being used by the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) for an event on Saturday evening - holes drilled into its walls to put up party banners and posters.
The 11th century fort, which had turned into a crumbling structure because of years of government neglect, was recently restored under the guidelines of the UN cultural organisation, Unesco.
However, PPP leaders in Umerkot took the liberty of again damaging the fort by drilling holes into its frail walls.
Umerkot Fort to be restored by June 2017
"Nobody was given permission for this [event]. They have drilled holes for their banners and damaged its walls," said Ghulam Hussain Burdi, the curator of the Umerkot Museum.
There are reports that Sindh Culture Minister Sardar Shah, a native of Umerkot, will be the chief guest of the event being organised in connection with Diwali.
The minister could not be contacted despite several attempts, but the fort's conservator, Ali Hyder Ghadhi, denied that holes had been drilled into the walls.
"Panaflex banners have been put up using ropes and tapes. No holes have been drilled," he maintained. "It's just baseless propaganda against the PPP."
Ghadhi added that some people had come up with similar allegations when PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had organised a festival in Mohenjodaro in February 2014.
'Banners being removed'
The spokesperson for the culture department said the minister had taken notice of the banners and ordered their removal.
There are different versions about the historical background of Umerkot Fort, which was once used for residential or military purposes by the rulers of the province.
Some believe that Umerkot is named after ruler Umer Soomro, who gained fame because of romance with Marvi of Tharparkar.
However, other historians and heritage experts say the fort was the property of the Sodha Rajputs, the rulers of the area.
“When [Mughal emperor] Humayun managed to escape India following his military defeat at the hands of Sher Shah Suri, Rana Prasad, the then Rajput ruler of the area provided him with shelter in Amarkot [former name of Umerkot]," explained heritage expert Dr Fatah Daudpota. "This was the place where Humayun’s son Akbar was born.”
According to Dr Daudpota, the history of Umerkot predates the advent of Islam in the region. “It was actually the property of the Rajputs of Rajasthan until they gifted it to the Kalhoras of Sindh to develop better relations and bring peace between Sindh and Rajasthan,” he said, adding that not only the Kalhoras but the Talpurs also started development work to preserve this landmark.
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