While cities are dynamic centres of creativity, commerce and culture, these benefits are often undercut by environmental problems, lack of civic amenities, inefficient governance and administration. The gateway to Cholistan desert, entering point to the richness and singularity of the history, architecture and archaeology, the city of Nawabs Bahawalpure used to be a modest town. Now one can see all the `hazards' of urbanization' there. The major sources of heritage sites, natural and man made attractions in and around city are largely neglected. The problems are exacerbated when the civic bodies and other city development agencies do not have the resources to conserve the old heritage.
There has been a settlement here from ancient times, but the present city traces its name and origins back to 1748 when it was founded by Nawab Muhammad Bahawal Khan Abbasi, the son of Amir Sadiq Muhammad Abbasi made it a capital of the state of Bahawalpure. The state was ruled by the Abbasi Nawabs with little outside interference until late nineteenth century. Even under the British the state remained virtually independent in internal affairs till it acceded to Pakistan after independence.
The lush green fields stretching from its northern outskirts provide Bahawalpure with textiles and agricultural produce. To the south however the country is poorly irrigated and soon gives way to the desert of Cholistan. Bahawalpure is one of the last cities from where Bicycle Rickshaw have vanished only couple of decades ago, thanks to General Zia ul Haq.
The palaces of the former rulers - massive solidity and ornate designs wrought by artisans and artists centuries ago - are fine specimens of Islamic architecture. Built in 1875 in Italian style, Nur Mahal is the grandest of the Abbasis residences and now houses some of their antiquities. Gulzar Mahal and Darbar Mahal also remind of by gone era. Jamia Sadiq, the third largest mosque in Pakistan after Faisal Mosque Islamabad and Badshahi Mosque Lahore, prestigious Sadiq public school, Islamia University, Quaid-e-Azam medical College and Zoological Garden spread over 25 acres of land and a museum are important land marks of the city.
The small museum has a Pakistan Movement Gallery of photos, an Islamic Arts Gallery of, textiles, graphic arts and metalwork (and arms), an archaeological gallery, a coins and medals Gallery with items minted by the former state of Bahawalpure, an Ethnological Gallery with handicraft from Cholistan and Bahawalpure, a fabric Gallery with costumes from the region and a Manuscripts and Calligraphy Gallery.
Next door to the museum is another fine building that house one of the best libraries in Pakistan. Its foundation stone was laid by the then Viceroy, Sir Rufus Daniel Isaac, in 1924. The garden adjutant to the facility is very restful.
British Queen Victoria presented a majestic fountain to Amir Sadiq Abbasi in 1916. The fountain is 10 feet high. The peripheral pond is decorated with heads of animals from where water gushes out making a rainbow. It was specially transported from London to Karachi by ship and then to Bahawalpure by road. This fountain was first affixed in Sadiq Garh Palace - the residence of Amir but in 1918 the Amir got it installed ceremonially in the centre of the city. The place where the fountain was set up later became famous landmark of the city known as Fawara Chowk. The Amir himself supervised the placing of fountain and inaugurated it after completion. It has been a source of aesthetic pleasure for the tourists as well as the residents. Such are the things that make the cities more livable. The Amir used to visit the place to see fountain till he died in 1963. Presently, sadly, the fountain is neglected and gives a dull look. The chain and other fitments of iron and bronze have vanished. In 1990, the fountain was repaired and three more fountains were installed in the city at Chowk Saraiki, University Chowk and Farid Gate. Sadly, hardly any has been seen working.
Over the decades, the famous square, located in the amidst of wide and sprawling convergence point of different major roads and bazaars of the city, have witnessed agitation stemming from religious, political, students, and international issues in the country. Bazaars converging at the Chowk are thriving with commercial activities where Cholistani people are found roaming buying utility items. Also shops offer every thin from famous needle work on Duppata (women’s head scarf) to golden “Ar” work at Khussa (sandal) to garlands for decorating animals.
Personally, I always adore Sraiki speaking, passionate and full of love people there. The area where Bahawalpure is situated has been home to one of world's ancient civilizations. The city, however, lacks an integrated approach towards promotion of tourism for which it has large potential. It could serve as base for tourists visiting 8000 years old City of innumerable legends Uch Sharif, famous artificial plantation at Lal Sohanra or for biologists, hunters (hunting Houbara Bustard with eagles) Zoologists and lovers of nature and wild life in Cholistan.
Bahawalpure municipal committee was upgraded to the level of corporation in 1987. The City is linked through air, railways and road network with other parts of the country. The airport can only take smaller aircrafts and there are no night landing facilities. About 500 busses and wagons come and go daily to the bus stand, but the stand is devoid of any facility.
A city of many splendorous has bliss-full combination of desert, forest and water (Lal Sohanra) all in close proximity. Bahawalpure City telescopes all these effects. People of the city, Auqaf, Tourism, civil Aviation, Punjab and Federal Archaeology Departments all have to play their roles to preserve this city that seems holding thousands of secrets of the past.