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February 21, 2018

PHC wants Balahisar Fort open to public


February 21, 2018

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) observed on Tuesday that Balahisar is a historic fort and it would be appropriate to open it for public if authorities concerned are not in a position to vacate the site.

"Convey my suggestion to the high-ups to open the historic Balahisar for public for visits if they are not in a position to vacate it," Justice Ikramullah Khan, told a lawyer representing Inspector General of the Frontier Corps in the case.

The court asked the lawyer to take reply from the authorities to the suggestion and inform the court on the next hearing. During hearing, the judge remarked that Balahisar is a historic place and also there is a shortage of public visit spots.

However, the bench comprising Justice Ikramullah Khan and Justice Ghazanfar Khan again put on notice the Ministry of Interior and Inspector General of the Frontier Corps to explain their position in a writ petition that has sought vacation of the historic Balahisar Fort from the paramilitary force.

The petition was filed by senior Supreme Court lawyer, Muhammad Khursheed Khan. He sought an order for the government to get vacated the Balahisar Fort, which is currently being used as the FC Headquarters.

The petitioner argued that under the KP Antiquities Act 2016, Balahisar Fort has been declared national heritage. He submitted that all famous forts, including Shahi Qila in Lahore, Lal Qila in Delhi and Lal Qila in Agra in India are open to public.

He pointed out that Balahisar Fort was closed to public and the FC was not vacating it despite the fact that an alternative site measuring over 500 kanals of land in Hayatabad town in Peshawar had been earmarked for housing the FC Headquarters and some construction work has already been done there.

The petitioner argued that the presence of the fighting force of FC in Balahisar Fort in such a crowded place was not only dangerous for the populated areas in the city, but also for the adjoining Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's biggest public sector health facility -- Lady Reading Hospital.

The senior lawyer prayed the court to direct the respondents to hand over the possession of the historic fort to the department concerned and declare it national heritage. He advocated that the closed doors of the fort should be opened for the people of the province.

The petitioner informed the court that the busy GT Road was closed by the FC personnel for all kinds of traffic when vehicles entered or left the fort and it frequently caused traffic jam on the road. It is pertinent to mention here that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on February 3 last year told the media during inauguration of the work on the zoo in Peshawar that the provincial government would get the possession of Balahisar Fort from the FC to turn it into a tourist spot.

However, neither the PTI chief nor his party's provincial government have yet to make any efforts to get the fort vacated. The petitioner also explained the historic background of the fort in his writ petition. It is a very big fort covering 15 acres. It has a height of about 90 feet from the ground level.

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