From ‘Shahi’ to ‘Awami’ — it is Pakistanis vs Lahore Fort

Published June 16, 2014
The Lahore Fort is being fast reduced to just a set of crumbling walls.
The Lahore Fort is being fast reduced to just a set of crumbling walls.

Say, you are in Lahore right now. Say you decide to visit the Shahi Qila (Lahore Fort). Say, that you are at the Fort and passing by the steps made for the King’s elephant to walk over at the Fort. If you look at the walls around you right now — something I happen to have done recently — you wouldn't believe your eyes.

Such is the disheartening state that the Lahore Fort has come to.

Moghuls have been glorified in our history textbooks, but history itself is widely touted to be a pack of lies. It seems the Lahore Fort is suffering the brunt of that paradox. What's still one of the most dignified structures in our country and was a symbol of pride and prosperity once has degenerated into a set of crumbling walls with lewd love notes and phone numbers chalked onto them.

  The walls are painted with
The walls are painted with 'call me maybe' notes and cell numbers.

For a nation as prickly about the 'true version' of history as ours, we sure treat our heritage with surprising recklessness. Are we not the least bit proud to have this remnant of a prosperous past amongst us today?


Also read 'History smuggled out'


Speaking for my myself, I thought the Fort's architecture was something to behold; the brilliant work of marbles and glass over ‘Shish Mahal’, the exemplary calligraphy, the intricate designs and the tomb. While I took in the beauty of all that, I wondered if we had the talent or resources to create such a beautiful monument today.

In a sense, the fall of Lahore led not only to an end to our rule but our identity and self-consciousness. Since the time Englishmen had left India, we were not able to recover what we have lost.

The historic walls, doors and windows of the Shahi Qila are now the site of cheesy one-liners and heart drawings. The corridors stank of urine. The well where criminals were once executed has turned into a big trash can, and a well utilized one by the visitors at that. Peering into the well, I saw nothing but countless water bottles and plastic wrappers. Sightseeing families spending their evening at the Fort, ate and conveniently dumped their waste into the well, probably thinking the King built it for the same use.

The execution well — these days the execution won
The execution well — these days the execution won't be necessary. The smell should be enough.

Also read 'Karachi's Polo Ground: Digging into History'


The Fort, having miraculously resisted the tides of time to be still standing, still has enough of its glory intact to seduce a curious tourist. But that is purely to the credit of its original builders and not the current custodians. Even if we have excuses for civil servants and governments, we could at least have the dignity of not peeing at the wrong place.

I wouldn't expect any other place than Pakistan to do this to their own heritage. Truly, Pakistanis have a gift for destroying themselves. And the worst part is, they find it fun.

 Another view of graffiti and decaying walls.
Another view of graffiti and decaying walls.

Photo credit: Ibtisam Zahid Khanzada

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