Restoring the glory of Sindh’s cultural sites
KARACHI: Overlooking vast farmland and a Rangers installation, sits the Muhammad Bin Qasim Fort Tower, formerly a dilapidated ruin but now restored to its original glory. The government of Sindh’s culture, tourism and antiquities department has decided to take the matter of heritage site restoration into their own hands by handing it over to a team that knows what they are doing – the Endowment Fund Trust (EFT).
Work on the fort, which is situated in Pir Patho, Thatta, began in March 2015 and was completed a day before the inauguration ceremony on Friday. Project director Mohanlal Ochani and his team worked to restore the tower at a cost of Rs1.16 million.
Shamsul Haq of the EFT explained to the people at the inauguration that a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the culture department and EFT to restore 11 buildings in Sindh, the first of which being the Bin Qasim Fort Tower. He explained that there are a number of sites in Sindh that require restoration work but there are limited resources allocated for these projects. We put in a lot of effort on this project and worked to the best of our abilities, said Haq, adding that additional technical and monetary resources are required to restore Sindh’s heritage sites.
Ochani referred to the tower’s site as a ‘Karachi Port Trust Tower of sorts’ that was an important landmark back in the Thatta’s heyday.
Measuring at 45 feet in height and 65 feet in circumference, the two-storey structure was in a bad state before the restoration, as two-thirds of it had collapsed and the future of the remaining structure was uncertain, he explained. “The EFT took an interest in the site in 2012,” said Ochani, who went on to explain the technical details of the work.
“The most important and noteworthy feature of the EFT’s 17th century Pir Patho tower restoration project is that we have recorded, in a marble plaque fixed at the site, its history, presumed use, dimensions, material used in the repair work and name and address of the master mason who restored the tower,” he said. Our ancestors did not leave behind any records or instructions for us but we are leaving this for future generations for the tower’s preservation, he explained.
“People in positions of power must know the importance of Sindh’s history,” said the minister for culture, tourism and antiquities, Syed Sardar Ali Shah. Though he had never been to the tower before, he expressed his gratitude to the EFT for speedily completing the project. “I had just seen pictures of the old tower so I assumed that was how our ancestors built it,” he laughed.
He said leaders often do not have the ability or human resources to complete such projects, so it was best to give the projects to those capable of completing them. “You have to involve the society in the preservation of our history,” he said. He lauded the EFT’s work, saying that perfection is not an achievable goal but the work done should be able to be sustained for a number of years. He also said a seminar will be held in February on Moen Jo Daro and the preservation work in Sindh.
Artist and EFT board member Durriya Kazi said architecture must be built for the future. “If we don’t merge the future and history together, then there is no future,” she warned. “Architects and archaeologists need to come together to restore and protect Sindh’s heritage sites.”