A chaotic labyrinth, caught between heritage and superstition

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A chaotic labyrinth, caught between heritage and superstition

It became a gem, today Rawalpindi does not know what it wants because it has forgotten what it was before.

In the modern world, the urban landscape has changed dramatically. The acceleration of urbanization and the growth of employment opportunities have caused many cities in developing countries to be overwhelmed by the increase in the number of people coming from villages and towns. In order to accommodate this increase in population, the physical structure of the modern city has to be improved.

Countries like India and Pakistan have to struggle with the dual ambition of wanting to build their cities but also wanting to hold on to their rich heritage. The complex history of a multi-ethnic country like Pakistan has been torn down in order to build soulless towers in place of the colonial monuments that served as reminders of our past.

The heritage building was condemned by the local traders on Jamia masjid road.

Rawalpindi an example of the city’s wrestling with these two seemingly intertwined goals. At the back of the Rehmanabad Metro station lie some old buildings with large verandas and a building that is almost reminiscent of houses inside. City of the Abbey. Built in the early 1960’s, they decorated the city with their amazing architecture and the city was called Satellite Town. At the time Islamabad was built as the new capital of the government, Satellite Town served as an international center, with many embassies located there. The Victorian-style houses were built to accommodate the foreign dignitaries residing in the city.

A night view of Jamia Masjid Rawalpindi which was established in 1905.

Over the years, however, when Islamabad became an international center, Satellite Town lost its importance, and the neighborhood was destroyed by a city that expanded to an unprecedented level. The old houses of the village now stand as ghosts of the past.

Chan bazaar, Rawalpindi.

A street view of Raja Bazaar.

In a house on the Sadiqabad road lives an old engineer who closed the doors of his house, along with his heart, to the outside world. The resident is Afzaal Ahmad, a man from a prominent military family. Looking at his old photos, Ahmad explains:

“Of the Rawalpindi I grew up in an amazing place, a picture straight out of the British calendar. Clean streets, small markets, coffee shops and a nice bookstore (London Books Company), low traffic and a well-organized crowd.

The main entrance of Afzaal Ahmad’s house.

Vintage advertising poster from the collection of Afzaal Ahmad.

Rawalpindi’s Kashmir Road in the 1960’s. From the records of Afzaal Ahmad.

Markets at that time were quite small and there was only one main road in Saddar at that time, Mall Road, which catered to the needs of everyone. Ahmad remembered that the popular street had a hairdresser, a laundromat and a few small shops as well. He added:

“I remember most of my class at the British or Anglo-Indian Station School. Anglo-Indians were considered the most educated after the British. I still remember this Anglo-Indian traffic sergeant who used to roam alone on Murree road. The people were so afraid of his punishment, that they would not cross the road until he left.”

Backyard of the house.

An old house occupied by the middle class of pilgrims in Saddar.

For Ahmad’s generation, and those who followed, things changed after Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto came to power. Fearing the consequences of becoming a country and increasing religion, many foreigners fled the country. Anglo-Indians also fell victim to this and many migrated to America and Australia. As a result of the vacuum a new class of people with a different mindset has emerged. They were hungry to tear down the old to make the new.

An old temple in a dilapidated condition in Moti Bazaar.

A name plate outside a house in Dhakki mohallah, Angat Pura.

Rawalpindi as a city usually has a history. Punjab was ruled by Graeco-Bactrian Kings and later by the Sakas, Iranian nomads, and in 1765 Sardar Gujjar Singh ruled the area that is now known as Rawalpindi. The city remained under Sikh rule until 1849 when it was taken over by the British. Therefore, this field has a lot of information, and one can find connections at a specific time through the buildings and districts of the city.

A view of Moti bazaar, Rawalpindi.

Despite the abolition of the Sikh Raj, the Sikh community remained an integral part of the cultural fabric of Rawalpindi until 1947. Their remains are still visible in Kartarpura, Angatpura, Arjun Nagar, Mukha Singh state, Old Banni and nearby areas. The city that was most influenced by Rai Bahadur Sujan Singh was his strong (building) is still standing in the old Bhabra Bazaar.

Rawalpindi was once a gem, a unique combination of old and new architecture. Over the years, the people who shared these vacant lots have damaged them due to neglect, and these buildings are just a shadow of their former glory.

An old semi-detached house on the outskirts of Saidpuri is trying to save its colors from the wrath of today.

A colonial style pavilion on College Road, where the famous Indian actor Balraj Sahini grew up.

Rawalpindi today is a chaotic labyrinth. Building codes and local codes are almost non-existent. Politicians and wealthy landowners have given government authorities permission to demolish buildings and heritage sites. Heritage is more underrated. The liars have destroyed history. Rawalpindi still has the potential to become an example of regional heritage, but only when conservation works begin.

Today, the view from the metro bus offers a spectacular view of the skyline over a city that doesn’t know what it wants. who has forgotten what was before.

(All photos by author)


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