Historic Indus ship in dilapidated condition

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KOT MITHAN: The over a century old historic ship Indus Queen, docked on the bank of Indus river in Kot Mithan tehsil of Rajanpur district, is decaying rapidly due to negligence by the authorities concerned.

Plans to restore the Indus Queen to its original state were announced many times but the process could not be completed. Fixtures and fittings of the ship have also reportedly been stolen.

The ship was built during British rule in 1867, and was owned by the Nawab of Bahawalpur. It was used to facilitate travel of the guests of the Nawab. The three-storied ship had kitchens for preparing food for 400 guests. There were separate sections for male and female passengers.

Local residents say that in the past the ship also facilitated people of the area to travel from Kot Mithan to Chacharan Sharif. They say hundreds of people from both sides of the river travelled on the ship daily.

Nawab of Bahawalpur Subh Sadiq gifted the ship to the followers of Kot Mithan and Rohi’s Sufi poet Khwaja Ghulam Fareed in 1917, after which it was dedicated to the transportation of devotees.

After the establishment of Pakistan, the Nawab’s family took care of the Indus Queen for a few years, after which it was handed over to the highways department. However, the department did not take care of the ship properly and over time its condition deteriorated.

Former municipal committee chairperson Hamza Farid Malik said that no department is taking responsibility of the Indus Queen. “The historic ship’s parts and equipment are being stolen and now it does not have its engine.”

Plans for restoration of the Indus Queen were announced in 2012 and 2017, but the work has not begun yet, he added. “We have suggested several times that the rehabilitation could be done at the district level but no action was taken.”

He said the commissioner of Dera Ghazi Khan should visit the ship and form a committee for its renovation. “He can also convert it into a recreational facility for the people of Rajanpur district.” Former Tourism Development Corporation chairperson Dr Mina Jaffer Laghari told The Express Tribune that urgent steps are needed to preserve this heritage. “A proposal for the purpose was submitted by Member of National Assembly Jaffer Laghari, but funds were not provided.” Dr Laghari said the tourism or archaeological department can take the ship under their control and turn it into a hotel along with a park. “With the construction of new roads, access to the place has become easier.”

The restoration of this historic ship will not only promote tourism in the area but will also provide recreational facilities for the millions of devotees of Khwaja Fareed visiting the area.

When contacted, Punjab Tourism Department official Mohammad Asher said a feasibility report for renovation of the historic ship was prepared in 2017. According to the report, the ship had to be shifted to Karachi Shipyard for restoration work. Its cost was so high that two new ships could be bought at that price. Reportedly, the project was stopped by top officials due to the heavy cost and other problems.

He said the ship is now under the control of the Highways Department. When the Highways Department was approached, its officials declined to comment.

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