palace for a school
this adventurous idea was turned down by most of us. To travel all the way
from Gwadar to Karachi by road, and that also in the month of June, was not a
sane choice in our view. However, our tour leader was least moved and decided
not to alter the plan. Besides, it was already too late to revise it as
according to him an air-conditioned coaster had reached Gwadar from Karachi a
day earlier. We had to board the same coach as those available in Gwadar. The
reason for unavailability of quality vehicles in Gwadar is that though Makran
Coastal Highway is complete there is not much movement of public to these
places from upcountry.
woke up that day, the first thing we came to know about was that the travel
plan was intact and the tour leader was about a deliver a speech to us. Soon
we found him amongst us, trying to boost our morale. I can still remember the
words that he said with sheer conviction. The words were: "What you're
going to see on your way is something that you have never seen and will never
forget for the rest of your lives." It was soon that we realised that he
was absolutely right.
journey started early in the day as the journey takes between 10 to 12 hours
to reach Karachi. Minutes after plying on the coastal highway, the driver
slowed down the coaster in front of a semi-built structure. All of us were
amused to find that this was the famous sabzi mandi (about which we have
repeatedly heard from Javed Miandad: it will be only such facility in Gwadar).
The next stop was at a filling station where the driver got the tank filled
to the brim. Unlike the filling stations in big cities, this one constituted
just one machine with the pipe immersed in a small container called 'drum'.
The other dissimilarity was that the products on sale were Iranian and the
price tag much lower. For example, supreme quality oil was easily available
at Rs 30 per litre.
payment was made, the journey resumed. Our first proposed destination was
Pasni -- some 208 kilometres from Gwadar -- where we were supposed to have
coastal highway is a two-lane road with all types of landscape along it.
During the first half an hour of the journey, we could not get a glimpse of
the sea but soon the beautiful coast and turquoise blue waters of the Arabian
Sea were right in front of us. The coaster kept running along the coast for
long. At places, the coast came so close that it seemed the water could
splash across the coaster's body, especially during high tide.
at Pasni was brief. We rushed to the local bazaar and found its shops flooded
with Iranian packed food products. Canned green peas, chick pea and tuna were
everywhere besides smuggled goods coming from every part of the world. A
shopkeeper told us that it was more feasible to get supplies from Iran as it
was 70 kilometres away from Gwadar as compared to Karachi that lay at a
distance of around 700 kilometres from Gwadar. The "lenient
attitude" of coast guard and customs department are other factors that
have promoted this trend along the coastal belt, the locals say. Due to this
easy availability of Iranian products in these coastal areas directly under
Pakistan's administrative control, the saying "Andaa Iran ka aur danda
Pakistan ka" has become popular.
Pasni we took a break at Ormara -- a place where Pakistan Army has set up a
naval base. This area showed great promise as a potential tourist spot with
vast beaches to capitalise on.
amazement began once we left Ormara. The landscape that we came across was
amazing especially that lying along the 75 kilometres-long Buzi Pass. We came
across huge cliffs and walls made of clay, rocky terrains, sand dunes, and
amazing rock formations that made us think that the area had probably been
sea bed for ages.Historians say that Alexander the Great had also travelled
through Buzi Pass area.
River, Hingol National Park and the rock outcrop resembling a lady are some
of the major attractions. It is said that this rock outcrop was christened
the 'Princess of Good Hope' by Angelina Jolie who visited these coastal areas
construction work against the rugged rocky terrains was awarded to Frontier
Works Organisation (FWO) due to the complexities and difficulties involved in
the project. FWO was able to meet the challenge -- something that's found
written on many rocks with the help of chalk.
coastal highway ends at a place called Zero Point near Vinder in Balochistan.
From zero point one can either turn towards Quetta or towards Karachi. We
obviously took the road leading to Karachi via Hub.
were back on congested and overcrowded roads. But most of us still thinking
about the coastal highway. There was no doubt that the construction of this
road was a landmark achievement. One can hope it will go a longway in
uplifting the economy of the coastal areas as well as the country. Strange it
may be, but it appears the government that has neglected these coastal areas
for decades means business this time. May be it's the foreign element in the
projects related to Gwadar port's development that has made the difference.
historical site not frequented by the average tourist, or those out on a
sight-seeing trip, is the fort of Lord, Baba Khem Singh Bedi, a prominent
Sikh spiritual leader of Kallar Syedan, who was knighted for "loyalty
and invaluable services" by Queen Victoria. He hailed from Una Sharif in
Hushiarpur, East Punjab and came to this region somewhere between 1860 and
Palace is exceptional because of its construction and workmanship and has the
typical look of palaces built in that era. Khem Singh, being a perfectionist,
hired the best masons from Attock, well-known for their expertise in Mughal
building, the biggest and tallest in the region, is made up of four stories
with 45 rooms and two underground basements. Materials used in its
construction include stone, marble, seasoned wood and baked bricks, while the
plastering has been done with a fine paste of red clay and lime. It could be
seen on walking through the rooms that they have been designed in such a
manner that every part of the building is well-lit and ventilated. The walls
are at least three feet wide, while the rooftop gives a fantastic, all round
view of the whole area, both built up and lush green countryside. Of course
many of these constructions have come up after partition, so the original
view must have been greener and grander!
palace was previously surrounded by a large square, fortified by a boundary
wall that also enclosed long rows of servant quarters and stables for the
many horses that the Bedi family kept, since they were fond of riding and
hunting, which were considered the sports of royalty. The large square is
now, in part, a playing ground and part built upon area, where a government
school has been constructed without taking into consideration the historical
value of the site -- but at least further destruction of the building has
approach to the palace is appallingly filthy as you have to walk quite a long
distance through narrow pedestrian alleys, with overflowing drains and
garbage lying all around -- a result of young 'educated' household members
now being ashamed to clean outside their homes, something which was done with
pride in days gone by. This approach is a far cry from the levelled road that
was built in 24 hours all the way from Rwat when the Viceroy of India visited
the palace during the Second World War! He came to seek the assistance of the
Bedi family in a difficult period and the family took great pride in
welcoming him to the family retreat -- they had a very special relationship
after this which came in handy later on.
road, which would have given easy access to the palace, is now unusable for
various reasons, one being that encroachments have taken over. It was
interesting but heart-breaking to go around this small palace and inspect its
architecture. It's in a bad condition these days due to neglect and a
'couldn't care less' attitude by the authorities who should be taking care of
it. Used for many years by the government as a school for the children of the
locality, its precious wall paintings depicting Sikh culture and mythology
have been ruined by the students, who have scratched their names across faces
and figures. White ants are running rampant in many parts of the woodwork,
including the roofs and the beautifully carved windows and doors.
front door, which is a marvel of craftsmanship, is cracking and in need of
measures to save it from disintegration. Walls and floors are slowly but
surely being eroded for lack of upkeep and repair. It is frustrating and a
feeling of helplessness overcomes when you see the destruction taking place
when it could so easily be stopped. If this building had been anywhere else
in the world it would have been preserved as a treasure and made a tourist
in Pakistan nothing is done to preserve and maintain historical monuments
that are not only wonderful to look at but have a fascinating history as
well. What are the people in charge of heritage doing? This palace needs to
be renovated and refurbished to its original beauty and preserved as a
from India, especially Sikhs, are interested in the palace because of its
historical value to their community. Since the palace was built in a
predominantly Muslim area, Khem Singh had the foresight to carefully plan a
strong defence and fortify it against attack. Many of their forefathers were
saved from massacre by Muslims during partition, when they fortified
themselves inside its four walls.
good weapons at hand and plenty of food to sustain them, everyone inside was
kept safe until a contingent of Gurkhas sent by the Viceroy rescued them and
provided a safe passage to India. They took along jewellery and personal
belongings but everything else was looted or gifted to influential
politicians and dignitaries. A chandelier studded with precious and
semi-precious stones was auctioned for just over Rs 500!
people living in the area have many stories to tell about the family and the
palace and a young boy who hung around as we toured the palace told how these
stories have been passed down and become legends. This palace has the
potential to become a big attraction for all tourists especially those
interested in architectural sites of historical significance. A fee for entry
into the premises can provide money for its upkeep, but only after it is
school teachers are keeping an eye on the place as the school has been
shifted to the new building mentioned above, while one of them is occupying a
room in the building. Though they appear to be trying their best, they have
neither the expertise nor the funds required for its upkeep