Home > Cultural heritage: Historic Peshawar buildings shake and crack

Cultural heritage: Historic Peshawar buildings shake and crack

Bala Hissar fort, Gor Gathri archae­ologic­al comple­x and Mahaba­t Khan mosque damage­d

A view of the collapsed wall of the Bala Hissar Fort after the earthquake.  PHOTO: AFP

A view of the collapsed wall of the Bala Hissar Fort after the earthquake. PHOTO: AFP


Several historic buildings in Peshawar that are part of Pakistan’s rich cultural heritage could not withstand the earthquake that jolted northern parts of the country on Monday.

The massive 7.5 magnitude temblor, centred in Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush region, was felt throughout much of South Asia, including Pakistan. The US Geological Survey put the epicentre near Jurm in north-east Afghanistan, 250 kilometres from the capital Kabul, and at a depth of 213.5 km.

The epicentre is close to the site of an October 2005 quake that had a 7.6 magnitude and killed more than 75,000 people, displacing some 3.5 million more. That quake, however, was much shallower.

A man carries a boy, who was injured in an earthquake, at the Lady Reading hospital in Peshawar. PHOTO: REUTERS

Although Pakistan’s historic buildings are still standing – as they have always stood against harsh weathers and previous earthquakes – some of them were damaged on Monday.

Portions of the Bala Hissar Fort, the Gor Gathri archaeological complex, the Peshawar Museum and the Mahabat Khan Mosque were among the major historic structures that suffered damages.

The upper walls of the Bala Hissar Fort collapsed on western and southern sides. The auxiliary paramilitary Frontier Corps, which is headquartered in the sprawling structure, is responsible for its restoration and reconstruction. An official said restoration of the fort would commence soon.

The exact history of the fort that stands on GT Road is hitherto unknown. Historians believe almost every ruler who conquered the city had destroyed and reconstructed the structure.

A portion of the fort had also collapsed a few months ago because of heavy rains and was immediately repaired by the security officials in control of the building.

People who rushed out of buildings, stand in a courtyard as a 7.5 magnitude earthquake jolted Peshawar. PHOTO: ONLINE

Meanwhile, a portion of the Mahabat Khan Mosque’s small minaret on the side of the Ander Sher Bazaar has also collapsed, but the minaret itself remains safe. The mosque was built by the then Peshawar governor Mahabat Khan during Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s rule in 1670.

Auqaf Department officials said the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government had set aside funds for the renovation and rehabilitation of the mosque in the provincial budget for fiscal year 2015-16, but the work is yet to be started.

Moreover, both the gates of the Gor Gathri archaeological complex have also been damaged. A wall of this historic complex and the fire brigade building constructed in 1912 were earlier destroyed and were being reconstructed.

Victims who were injured in an earthquake wait for treatment at a hospital in Peshawar. PHOTO: AFP 

Dr Abdul Samad, director of K-P Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, said both the gates were only slightly damaged. Samad said reports were also received of damages at other historic buildings, especially the Peshawar Museum that was constructed in 1901.

He said reports were also received about damages to some of the antiques, showcases and other structures at the museums in Chitral and Swat. “Currently, we cannot asses the entire damage. A survey will later be conducted across the province.”

Building damaged in Pindi

The powerful earthquake also caused cracks in buildings situated in the garrison city Rawalpindi. Several historic buildings in Raja Bazaar, Purana Qila, Mochi Bazaar, Bhabara Bazaar, Naya Mohalla, Kashmiri Bazaar, Jamia Masjid Road, Bazaar Kallan, Dingi Koi, Bagh Akalgarh, Nadeem Colony, Javed Colony, Dhoke Ratta. Bagh Sardaran, Mohalla Shah Chan Charagh and other areas were reportedly damaged.

The building owners were issued notices several times in the past, but they refused to vacate the buildings. District Coordinator Officer Sajid Zafar Dal said that during a recent survey conducted by the administration 252 old buildings were identified as dangerous.

Metro bus service affected

Cracks were also reportedly formed in the newly-built metro bus track. The bus service was suspended for 10 minutes for inspection.

Commissioner Zahid Saeed, however, denied that the earthquake had affected the bus track and claimed that the administration’s inspection identified no cracks. “We conducted an inspection of the entire track and found it to be clear, except the suspension joint that had cracked.”

Published in The Express Tribune, October 27th, 2015.

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