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Attock Fort

Located on the eastern bank of the River Indus, Attock is a city of key importance, as it is here that military and trade routes cross the Indus down through the Khyber Pass. It used to be part of the ancient kingdom of Gandhara. Due to its political and commercial importance Attock has been a prominent city of interest for anyone invading India. The old fortifications of Attock date back to the ages before the invasion of the Alexander the Great. The current fort of Attock was built by Emperor Akbar in 1583, and since then it has served as a strong military base. It is dramatically poised over the Indus just south of the point where it is met by the River Kabul.

History of Attock fort

The name Attock derives from the Urdu language and means “Go-slow layover”. Mentions of Attock as a town and a fort at the crossing point at River Indus between Punjab and Afghan-Pashtun frontier date back to the times of Alexander the Great’s invasion, and occupies a prominent position in the chronicles of Megasthenes (326 BC), Ibn-e-Battuta (1350 AD) and Hwen Tsang (631 AD). Attock Fort in its current form was built in 2 years' time between 1581 and 1583 AD under the supervision of Khwaja Shamshuddin Khawafi, a Minister of Emperor Akbar. It stayed as an important strategic fort during the peak of the Mughal Empire. Persian ruler Nader Shah crossed through Attock and defeated the Mughals in 1738, thus ending Mughal power in Northern India.

The Attock Fort was a strategically important military bastion for the Durrani Empire when the Marathas under Peshwa Raghunath Rao attacked it on 28 April 1758. The Marathas delivered a decisive victory and captured the fort, which is seen as a great success and the pinnacle of power for the Maratha Empire. The combined forces of the Durrani Empire and the Rohillas recaptured Attock from the Marathas soon, on the way to the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761 where the Maratha Empire was decisively defeated by the Durrani Empire, which temporarily ended Maratha dominance in Northern India. From that time, Attock fort stayed under the control of the Afghans till 1813. (more in the History section)

The Fort as we see it today

The fort consists of 4 gates and its parameter wall is 1.6 km long. The gates are named the Delhi Gate, the Lahori Gate, the Kabuli Gate and the Mori Gate. It covers an area of 800 by 400 yards. The fort has several compartments and sub-forts inside the premises. The long winding terrain leading up towards the main gate makes this fort a nightmare to overpower. Furthermore, the eight bastions on the corner of this parallelogram are all reinforced with extra brick and mortar, covered overhead against canon fire. It also has several underground escape tunnels and chambers. One unique feature of the Attock Fort is that there is no non-Muslim religious structure inside the fort, which is very uncommon in the forts around the Indus Valley. The only Hindu temple is outside the fort in the Attock Khurd township. The fort has a Phansi Ghat or the Hangman’s platform over the River Indus. On past days, convicts used to be hanged at this platform jutting out over the raging river and bodies were thrown into the river. All the surrounding walls are intact and are a meter and half thick. There are ramps which used to serve for moving elephants and big guns up the ramparts. The British tried to burrow a hole underneath the waters of Indus but could not keep the water out and eventually built a metal bridge in 1883. That was replaced with a concrete bride by Pakistan in 1970. The metal bridge was a replacement for the boat bridge hooked up originally when the fort was first built. The Attock Fort has become popular recently due to political prisoners it used to house from the time of Ayub Khan to the Musharraf rule, including Nawaz Sharif.

Tourist Information

The fort is sandwiched between Peshawar Road on one side and the River Indus on the other. It is located 80 km from the capital city of Islamabad. The fort is mostly closed for the public but the parts which are open for visitors and the breath-taking view of its surroundings make it a must-see for tourists visiting Pakistan.

Text by Sammik C Basuu