Once the seat of ruling dynasties of Sindh, the Pacco Qilo in Hyderabad now presents a sorry picture of neglect.
The crumbling fort right in the heart of Hyderabad city, Pacco Qilo or Pacca Qila tells countless tales of glory and of destruction. Once the seat of ruling dynasties of Sindh, the Fort now presents a sorry picture of neglect. What remains of the monument gives some indication of its former grandeur.
Pacco Qilo was once the residence of the rulers of Sindh. This is where Sindh’s defence forces and its treasury had their headquarters. The legend goes that heavy flooding in Khudabad near Dadu in 1757 pushed Mian Ghulam Shah Kalhoro to shift the capital away from the city. A new city, named Hyderabad, was then founded and a fort was constructed at the hillock. The fort remained the capital of the ruling dynasties of Sindh for nearly three-quarters of a century. It was completed in 1768 and served as the seat of government for Ghulam Shah. His untimely death in 1772 was the beginning of the fall of the Kalhoro rule that further declined after the assassinations of Baloch chiefs. These led to anarchy and distrust in the country that culminated with the Battle of Halani, fought between Kalhoros and Talpurs (a Baloch tribe), in 1783. The Talpurs, led by Mir Fateh Ali Khan, brought an end to the Kalhoro rule in Sindh.
It was during Mir Fateh Ali’s rule that the Pacco Qillo witnessed the zenith of its glory. New buildings were added. Mir Harem is one such building that still stands. His successors, too, added various buildings and structures to the fort.
In 1843, once the Talpur rule ended, the fort fell into neglect and decline. It sustained tremendous damage during the control of the East India Company. Many of the office buildings as well as defensive architecture were left to rot. Some of the buildings inside the fort were spared and became the offices for British officers. Many of the towers were demolished to prevent their use in a potential uprising.
It was during Fateh Ali’s rule that the Pacco Qilo witnessed its glorious best. New buildings were added. Mir Haram is one such building that still stands.
There is a large building in the compound that was once used by Talpurs and later converted into a museum. On top of the Fort’s wall are faded frescoes. A building right opposite the Mir Harem was used as an office building and is still being used by the provincial government. Next to Mir Harem, on the left, is a giant wooden gate, similar to gates in many forts in the sub-continent. It is the only surviving door of the fort. A high tower built under the Talpur Mirs that could have served as a gun turret as well as a watch tower was modified and converted into a water reservoir when the fort was demilitarised. This has survived to this day. The fort is quite congested now as shops have been added to the outer wall, making it difficult for visitors to explore its architecture. There is a Union Council-size administrative unit inside with a population of more than 20,000 people.
Hyderabad is a city of many heritage attractions. Pacco Qilo is one of those. In folk singer Zarina Baloch’s songs, one can hear cadences of Sindhu especially when she sings the poetry of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai: “Peren Pawan Di Saan” (I will get on my feet, implore you and beseech you)
Regardless of the contextual meaning of this couplet, it beautifully tells the tale of anyone who delves into the heritage and history of Sindh.
The writer tweets at @Ammad_Alee