Lifestyle Politics 

REDISCOVERING THE FORMER STATE OF BAHAWALPUR

by Nazir Tabassum

Nothing is immutable in this world. Everything is subject to change. Only the mutability is everlasting. So is the case of emergence and disappearance of states and people over the planet earth. Ancient history is full of such evidences that empires after empires rose to the eminence and then fell into oblivion in such a way that only the eye of a keen researcher can trace them out. There were Romans, the Greeks, the French, and the Ottomans who ruled the world in such a way as if they will continue to do so until eternity. We have been hearing that the sun never sets over the British Empire. It is manifest now that it hardly rises and the hands of clocks have to be moved forward or backward in summers and winters to increase the light hours of the day. The British were replaced before our very eyes by the American Imperialism which is now facing a severe challenge by the Chinese – a nation that once was castigated as opium-eaters.

So were the Abbasids who out-manoeuvred their predecessors, the Umayyads, and forced one of them to run for life away from Baghdad but with the connivance of his maternal Berbers, he succeeded in founding the Muslim Spain.

Abbasids ruled Baghdad for no less than five centuries from 750 – 1258 when the onslaught of a Mongol warrior known by the name of Hulagu Khan destroyed Baghdad in such a way as if the city had never existed on earth. However, the Abbasids period of rule is known as the golden age. Abbasids were the descendants of Hazarat Abbas, the youngest uncle of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh).

The downfall of Abbasid Caliphate resulted in migration of certain members of the Abbasid dynasty. The state of Bahawalpur was thus founded by one of them called Bahadur Khan II in 1690. Nawab Mohammad Bahawal Khan III signed the state’s first treaty with the British on 22 February 1833, guaranteeing the independence of the Nawab. The state acceded to Pakistan on 07 October 1947 and was merged into the province of West Pakistan (a time when all the four provinces of West Pakistan were merged as one unit) on 14 October 1955. Bahawalpur is nearly 75 miles away from the Indian frontier. It comprises of 45,911 sq. Km of area.

This scribbler had an opportunity to visit Bahawalpur on the invitation of a friend. So he landed on Bahawalpur Airport on 9th of March 2018 and was very well received. Not forgetting his humble background, he protested against being given a high profile reception but it was unheeded. He was made to stay in the Executive Lodge of Bahawalpur Garrison – a garrison that can hardly find its equal anywhere in Pakistan so far as its impeccable maintenance is concerned.

He was driven in a vehicular cavalcade to the Flagstaff House in the company of a few officers. Here he had a brief meeting with the Corps Commander for a short while. He was served lunch in the former’s residence and then moved to his lodge for a brief midday snooze. In his lodge, he found a printed schedule of his three days’ engagements in Bahawalpur. Later in the afternoon, he was taken to the Sunset Golf Club, and had an opportunity to move about looking at the wonderful landscaping of the garrison. Here he was presented a golf hat. During the tea time his attention was diverted to the three pelicans that were moving around on the grassy lawns. It is said that pelican is an aquatic bird that, in case of food scarcity, feeds their chicks with their own flesh torn off their body. This bird has been selected as the state’s insignia by its rulers signifying that the ruler will never hesitate to feed their public with the flesh of their body in case of any eventuality.

Later, he was led to Gulzar Mahal, named after the wife of Ameer Bahawal Khan V; he died before its construction was completed. It was dilapidated due to neglect but Pakistan Army refurbished it and revived its original glory.

Later in the evening, he watched Light and Sound Show at Darbar Mahal, also called Mubarak Mahal. It was built for the functions of royal court. When the democratic system was introduced in 1947, Ameer Sadiq Mohammad Khan V used to hold state assemblies in it; it also housed certain offices. The credit for the maintenance of all these historic buildings goes to the Pakistan Army.

Saturday was a very busy day. After breakfast, he left for Dera Nawab Sahib where he was taken to Sadiq Garh Palace. This was constructed by Ameer Sadiq Mohammads Khan IV. This is square- shaped palace having five domes. Unfortunately this palace is in a very bad state as its ownership is controversial. There are a few families living on the other side of the palace who rightly or wrongly claim descendants of the Abbasi dynasty. Had it too been in the care and control of Pakistan Army, it too would have been maintained like the other palaces. The scribbler was told that dignitaries, local and foreign, like Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and his sister Ms Fatima Jinnah, Queen Elizabeth II and Duke of Edinburgh stayed in the Palace as royal guests. As the Nawab had a large fleet of expensive cars, a Cadillac is still parked in the garage for cars.

Nawab Ameer Sadiq Mohammad Khan IV, reputed as Shah Jahan of Bahawalpur because of his love for construction works, built it under his personal supervision. It’s said that his wife slept in it only for one night and left it the next day because there was a cemetery beside it.

Here in Bahawalpur, there is God’s plenty – plenty of palaces, plenty of green spots that make us oblivious of the fact that we are in a desert called Cholistan. Pakistan Army has done a lot for the maintenance of the historical buildings. There have maintained a museum too that gives a glimpse of the past life, culture and civilization of the state.

There stands in the desert a huge castle called Derawar Fort. Away from it lie the Royal Cemetery. There are many other forts, a zoo, Lal Suhana – a park that houses endangered species like Black Bucks, Chinkara and Peafowls.

Uch Sharif is venerated because of the spirituality of the ancient saints and sufis like Sayed Saffi ud Din Ghazruni. There are tombs of Surkhposh Bukhari and Bibi Jeewandi. People flock to these places to get peace of mind.

Jeep rallies are held in the Cholistan desert around the Derawar Fort. Pakistan Army has constructed Desert Huts here to attract the tourists. A lot of plantations have been done here. Within a span of three to five years, the area will give a different look.

There is a standing invitation by the Headquarters 31 Corps of Pakistan Army to Pakistani Diaspora as well as to the foreigners, individuals or groups, men and women to come to Bahawalpur where they will be given rousing welcome.

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