Surviving 100 Years of Imprisonment

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Chained wooden panels of the gate of Shabqadar's fort
Plaque on a room, stating it was used by Winston Churchill during his visit to the area

Wooden gate of Shabqadar Fort is still condemned for not resisting the break-in despite serving an eventful century

Chronicler

Charsadda, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Barrier to the entrance of 180-year-old Shab Qadar Fort is a giant gate like any other monumental structure, but surviving a very Marquez-esque styled ‘100 years of imprisonment’ is what perhaps makes this wooden piece of entrance one of its own kind in Pakistan.

The wooden gate of Shabqadar Fort was awarded punishment of 100 years of imprisonment when a ‘board of inquiry’ held it accountable as a cause of break in into the fort by local freedom fighters during British colonial regime. The found-guilty-gate still stands chained with a tower inside the fort. People aptly refer it the ‘court-martialled gate’ of Shabqadar.

However, despite the fact that the period of its imprisonment is over, it continues to be chained but this time the purpose behind its imprisonment is entirely different. Now its still being chained because curators believe that it would perish if it’s kept in a godown or a storeroom.

These wooden gate is routinely painted black along with the chains around it. Both the prisoner and the chains around it look quite fresh, due to proper maintenance and more than 100 years of age has not affected them at all.

Shabqadar is a town in the Charsadda District of KP which is located 25 kilometres north of Peshawar.

Currently the fort of Shabqadar serves as headquarter of Frontier Constabulary (FC), a force of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The FC had the job of policing the border between the settled district of KP and tribal areas.  It supports and assist provincial/local police, military and other law enforcement agencies in maintaining law and order and strengthening the writ of the government in restive and turbulent areas throughout the country.

The huge wooden gate was imprisoned with a tower which was an observation post during British era. The observation post had also a large lantern which was lit during night. The lantern besides fulfilling other purposes used to guide the locals about the directions also.

Once the local invaders successfully conducted commando action and broke in into the fort. Later on the British authorities which were using fort as a base for its military force got its control again. They were desperate to know reasons of break in and thus formed a board to probe it.  The board or inquiry commission after conducted detailed investigation held these wooden two panels of the gate responsible for break in and awarded them 100 years imprisonment. Since then the door panels are chained and reflecting what a military order may have an impact even on a lifeless object.

Besides hosting a lot of historical things in it, the fort also got a room named as “Churchill Hut.”

Winston Churchill as a young subaltern had stayed here for a while on a probing mission about Mullah Najmud Din.

Subaltern was rank in British army which was below the rank of captain and equivalent to second lieutenant. Mullah Najmud Din was a freedom fighter and he was popularly known as Hadda Mullah and he was leading uprising in 1897.

This room is being properly maintained at the fort and bed is in place in it which was used by Churchill who later became Prime Minister of England. There was no concept of electricity during that era so presence of ceiling fan was out of question over here. However, it got a large manual fan which was operated by some servant to rotate its two blades for cooling the room in hot summer days. All these things are properly preserved over here.

The fort is also hosting another unique spot which highlights frustration of an officer of British regime. This officer, name unknown, was on the mission to some area in 1914-15. He had been asking locals how far Darzanda was after reaching somewhere and he was repeatedly informed it was six kilometres away from it. However, these six kilometres distance always proved wrong. Finally he reached Shabqadar and inquired the distance of Darzanda again and he was informed that it was six kilometres away yet. Finally the officer lost his temperament and shot a wooden plaque with is pistol and started his journey back to his base camp.

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