By Naseem Mughal
SHIKARPUR is my native town. It is also the place where my parents and forefathers were born and received education. The city was once known for its literary figures, high quality education, grandeur of its palatial buildings, lovely gardens, sweet mineral water, freshness of food and amiable citizens.
Historically speaking, Shikarpur used to be a vast hunting ground and grazing field. In 1667AD, during the rule of Mughal Emperor Jehangir, under a Shahi Farman (decree) this land was gifted to the Daudpotas. Bhadur Khan Daudpoto, guided by his spiritual leader, Pir Syed Sultan Ibrahim Lukhvi, started converting the vast land into a township and people from far-flung areas of the subcontinent, including Afghanistan and neighbouring regions, came to settle in this fertile part of the country. Shikarpur remained under the control of different tribes and clans such as the Dauadpotas, the Kalhoros, the Duranispathans, the Mahars up till 1745. Ahmed Shahi Abdali also ruled the area and the Pathans held its reins in the early 1800AD. Grand Mosque Jama Masjid at Lukhidar was built in the 18th century by the Pathans.
Shikarpur is built in a circular form. It has eight gates, made for security reasons, four of which are Lakhidar, Hazaridar, Hathidar and Sividar gates. It is about 500kms north of Karachi passing through the National Highway crossing Hyderabad, Hala, Moro, Ranipur, Khairpur and Sukkur. It is 39kms away from Sukkur. If one takes another route through the Indus Highway, one will touch Shewen Sharif, Dadu, Larkana, Rato-Dero and Ghari Yasin. The distance between Larkana and Shikarpur is 70kms.
Shikarpur connects all the remaining provinces of Pakistan, both by rail and road. At present the city is linked with three airports ? Sukkur, Moenjodaro and Jacobabad. Mughal Emperor Hamayun went back to Afghanistan via Shikarpur after losing a battle at Kanuaj against Sher Shah Suri.
In the past, owing to this unique geo-commercial position, Shikarpur made rapid strides in economic sphere and quickly gained international importance in trade and commerce and became an international market in the subcontinent. The exchange of goods used to be carried out in cash as well as by barter system in huge quantities. For the convenience of traders and foreign visitors, a huge trading ground measuring approximately three to four acres, having 100 rooms around the area was built for their lodging. It was called Qafila Qila, which bore similarity to modern-day dry ports in Punjab, the NWFP and Balochistan.
The reader will be surprised to know that the Shikarpur silk factory was established for manufacturing silk cloth, which used to be exported to England in those days. And there were many such factories. In the ?60s and early ?70s quite a few textile, beverages and cooking oil factories were set-up in the city. The biggest rice processing industry of Asia was established in collaboration with the Japanese government. But sadly, nowadays it is almost closed down, like many other factories.
Shikarpur has produced great personalities in every sphere of life. In politics, Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah served as chief minister and governor of Sindh in the early ?40s. Khan Bhadur Allah Bukhs Soomro was chief minister of Sindh. Agha Ghulam Nabi Pathan was a close associate of the Quaid-i-Azam in the independence movement. Agha Sardardin Durrani was elected speaker of the Sindh Assembly in the ?70s. Aftab Shahban Mirani served as chief minister and defence minister in the ?90s. Present Chairman Senate, Muhammadmian Soomro is the grandson of Haji Maula Bukhs Soomro, who served as federal minister in the ?50s. Illahi Bukhs Soomro served as federal minister and speaker National Assembly in the ?90s. At present, Al-Haj Ghous Bukhsh Mehar is Federal Minister for Narcotics control in Pakistan.
There was a time when Shikarpur was famous for its remarkable teachers, poets, and educationists. The people of Shikarpur, particularly the Hindu community, played a pivotal role in spreading education. All primary, secondary schools, both for boys and girls, were built through personal donations of the citizens of Shikarpur. A grand high school was built in 1873. It has a fascinating building made of red brick in the shape of the letter ?E?. In addition to that, it is a treat to look at C&S; college which was constructed in 1933.
Shikarpur takes pride in its literary figures such as Shaikh Ayaz, Deen Muhammad Wafai, Taj Muhammad Amroti Muhammad Hanif Sidiki, Habibullah Bhutto, Aga Abdul Nabi Aleg, Agha Muhammad Yakoob, Nooruddin Sarki, Mian Ali Nawaz Alvi, Saami Chen Rai, Sufi Jamandas and many others.
A chain of hospitals like the RBUT Civil Hospital, Ganga Bhai Ladies Hospital, Dong Hospital, Henry Holland Eye Hospital and other dispensaries in the city indicate what?s the service to humanity is not a mere lip-service here.
A similar spirit of public service has been shown by the family of Haji Maula Bukhs Soomro by opening a charitable heart hospital.
Shikarpur has not lagged behind in extra-curricular activities like sports, cultural and social events. It has a very well-designed parks such as Shahi Bagh, Ganesh Park and now Liaquat Park. The city also boasts of three cinema houses, musical halls and drama halls.
Nowadays, the city has lost its past glory. The original underground sewerage system, which was laid on the pattern of Bombay and Karachi has almost collapsed. Cleanliness, which was once the number one priority is nowhere to be seen, except a few areas like Shah Hussain Mohalla. Roads are narrow and congested because of encroachments. Security of the peace-loving people is at stake. Federal and provincial governments are trying to grapple with this problem. Because of the law and order situation many citizens have started leaving their homes for other places. However, some of them are still hoping to see light at the end of the tunnel.