Not a single building of historical significance in the garrison city is on the protected list of heritage and archaeological sites maintained by the Punjab Ministry of School Education, Higher Education and Youth Affairs, Sports, Archaeology and Tourism.
A number of Rawalpindi resident concerned with the deplorable condition of historical sites in the city have been demanding listing of the sites.
Moreover, the provincial ministry has no field office in the city. Though, there is a field office in Taxila it has never bothered to list any site in Rawalpindi.
“The city district government should first set up an authority or at least create a wing that could carry out a holistic survey of the city and find out how many buildings, temples, schools, markets and mosques fall under the Protected Buildings Act,” said Sarmad Saeedy, a producer and documentary filmmaker who has covered heritage sites in the city.
A number of heritage sites in the city are unfortunately under the illegal occupation of locals. Given the condition of majority of these sites, lives of the people who are living in these buildings are also at risk.
Saeedy recommended that the survey should also name the sites that could not be renovated. He said that occupants should be evacuated from such buildings and the structures demolished to save any possible loss of life.
Moreover, there are no signboards to guide, publicise and provide information to tourists about the various heritage sites in the city.
The district government seems unaware of use of such methods to promote tourism in the city.
The authorities concerned have one simple excuse, ‘The heritage sites are the property of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) who should maintain them and generate revenue.’
An ETPB official at their local office, when contacted, said the wing that dealt with the temples in the city is in Lahore.
One of the heritage sites includes an around 125-year-old building, Haveli Sujan Singh.
The National College of Arts (NCA) Rawalpindi and the Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU) entered an agreement last year under which the college took over the charge of preserving the building from the university.
The site is probably the best success story so far and has been renovated to a degree. It is being used as a field school for students of the college to learn preservation techniques with the cooperation of Boston Architectural College.
There are a number of other sites of historical importance that include temples and bazaars as well as schools such as the Government Mission High School, Shimla Islamia High School and Kalyan Ghat School.
A majority of the heritage sites, especially temples, have been grabbed by the land mafia.
“Is there any heritage site remaining? All of them have been either occupied by land grabbers or are in a poor condition,” Ramzan Bukhari, a resident and retired history teacher, said.
NCA Director Nadeem Umer Tarar who is spearheading a drive for preservation of heritage sites and promotion of tourism, told The Express Tribune that accessibility to the city would become easier after the launch of the metro buses.
He said the district government should utilise the metro project by advertising its heritage sites by placing information and signboards on various stops.
“There should be specially designed signboards, with brief description of sites,” said the NCA director.
Sohail Abid, a traveller and writer, said the district government should also adopt or set up a body on the pattern of the Walled City of Lahore Authority and preserve heritage sites.
He was of the view that current condition of these sites makes them unfit to be used for tourism purposes.
DCO Sajid Zafar Dall could not be reached for comments but City Assistant Commissioner Qiratul Ain when contacted said the issue had been discussed in various meetings and there were plans to use the sites for promotion of tourism.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2015.