GUJAR KHAN, Jan 29: The ramshackle Pharwala Fort, once the capital of the Ghakkar state, stands tall despite the criminal neglect of the country’s archaeological authorities.
Located in close proximity to Kahuta Tehsil, the fort was constructed by the Ghakkars at a strategically inaccessible hilly location surrounded by sharp rocks steeply descending into Sohan River.
The fort is forlorn, secluded and isolated, and conquering Pharwala had always been a tough challenge for the enemies of
Ghakkar chieftains. The fort continues to be an abode of the descendents of Ghakkars and they are so isolated and neglected in this age of development as if they were still living in the past.
There is no electricity, no telephone facility, no water supply and not even a road link. The children have to pass through difficult passages across the Soan River to reach their remotely located schools. Most of them stop going to the school due to the hardships of journey, while girls cannot imagine going to the school.
The natives feel that nobody did anything for them. “We feel we are being treated as a forgotten tribe by the people around. We face great hardships, especially during the rainy season, and if anybody falls ill it becomes impossible for us to shift the patients across the Soan River, as the rocky ascends and descends are very steep. We remember that many a women died while facing complications at the time of child birth,” a number of residents of the fort told this reporter.
They regretted that during the days of elections the candidates take the ‘trouble’ of visiting them and once the elections are over none of the winning or defeated candidates ever bother to visit the fort. “Then it is we who run after the winning candidates to remind them of the promises but of no avail,” the residents said.
The fort symbolizes the past glory of the Ghakkar rulers who during their eras ruled or attacked vast areas of northern Punjab and adjoining areas of eastern Punjab (Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Jammu and Kashmir. When Tamerlane (Timur) invaded India, Gul Muhammad, a Ghakkar warrior, who died in 1403A.D, was ruling part of India.
According to the historical references Emperor Zaheerudin Babar also attacked this fort and conquered it. However, later the Ghakkars reached reconciliation with the Mughals and the latter confirmed to them their territories.
In 1541 Sher Shah Suri built the famous fort of Rohtas where he garrisoned a huge army. Sultan Sarang Khan (a notable chieftain of Ghakkar clan buried in Rawat Fort), remembering the generous way in which he had been treated by the Emperor Babar, espoused the quarrel of Humayun and kept the Rohtas Fort under perpetual attacks.
Sher Shah Suri died in 1545 AD and was succeeded by his son Salim Shah who was determined to punish the Ghakkars and attacked the fort but the Ghakkars fought with bravery. The fort was often won and lost during these years of incessant wars, however, Sultan Salim found it impossible to subdue the Ghakkars.
During the later times Sardar Gujar Singh Bhangi marched from Lahore with a large force and encountered the Ghakkars outside Gujrat. The Ghakkars were forced back and they lost their territory of Jech Doab. But later on Sardar Gujar Singh Bhangi seized everything except for Pharwala.
Till 1818 the Ghakkars held the estate of Pharwala when Anand Sing Thepuria of Rawalpindi seized their whole estate and reduced them to absolute poverty - though the family was restored some propriety rights in Pharwala in 1828.
The Hathi (Elephant) Gate of the fort towards north eastern corner persists with its grandeur, while the Begum Gate opening towards the south western end, though greatly damaged, stands tall at a sheer rock rising from the Soan River.
The north western gate is greatly damaged and its stones are falling rapidly. A smaller gate towards the south eastern end persists with its boundary walls and is used by the inmates as the main entrance. The remotely located boundary wall of the northern side stands tall at the hillock with one or two rooms for the servants.