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Pharwala Fort: the last symbol of Gakhar rule in the Potohar region



People who are accustomed to living in mountainous regions often struggle to adapt to urbanized cities, especially ones plagued by political instability, protests, and chaos. Currently, political turmoil and frequent internet shutdowns in Islamabad have rendered it nearly uninhabitable. Thus, today, we sought solace in nature, away from the maddening crowd. Contrary to the general perception of inhospitality and shrewdness attached to the people of the Potohar region, I have found them to be quite the opposite.

Despite warnings to stay away, I have managed to form some truly remarkable friendships here. Having lived in Islamabad for over a decade, I consider myself a wandering soul, forever engaged in the process of discovery. Even so, there are places I visit that take my breath away, reminding me of the vastness yet to be explored. One such location is Pharwala Fort, located in Kahuta Tehsil, about 40 kilometers from Rawalpindi city. Nestled behind Gulberg Green, this was my second visit to the fort. This time, we had the company of locals who served as excellent guides, making the trip more insightful than the previous one.

Pharwala Fort is believed to have been constructed in the 11th century by the Gakhar clan, now known as Raja or Kiyani. Despite disputes about its age, with some claiming it is only four centuries old, the fort's historical significance remains unquestioned. The Gakhars were a warrior tribe that ruled the region for centuries. The fort, with its strategic location protected by high ridges on one side and deep ravines on the other, appears invincible. It has six main entrances that are a testament to the remarkable engineering and architecture of the time, though now they lie in ruins.

The fort has seen around seven centuries of glory and has been visited by historical figures such as Babur, Humayun, Abdali, and many others. Despite its seemingly impregnable nature, it was conquered by Zaheer uddin Babar's formidable army in 1519 AD and then by the Sikhs in 1825 AD. After falling under the British administration, it was returned to Pakistani authorities post-1947.

The current state of the fort, unfortunately, mirrors that of other archaeological sites in Pakistan. Descendants of the Gakhar clan live in villages surrounding the fort, leading a simple, primitive life. However, the fort's condition has deteriorated to such an extent that it might not survive another decade.

During our visit, we also explored Dhoke Banyal, a nearby site whose beauty mesmerized us. Natural springs gushed from the mountains, gracefully merging with the Swaan River, enhancing the site's allure. But that story deserves to be told on another occasion.


Courtesy: Shahjahan Baloch

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