FAISALABAD: Standing tall at the heart of the city with eight arteries, Faisalabad’s Clock Tower narrates the saga of a century-old civilization of the Rachna Doaba (the land falling within two rivers).
The city of magnificent eight bazaars formerly known as Lyallpur named after Sir James Lyall, the then lieutenant governor of Punjab, is the third largest city of Pakistan after Karachi and Lahore.
The plateau of the Rachna Doaba was a barren land having on average low rainfall and owing to its geographical dynamics, it remained uninhibited since 1800. Later on, it provided an abode for freedom fighters waging struggle against the British colonial regime. A tough resistance to the colonial regime made the British rulers conceive an idea in late 1800s to colonise this region with multiple political, economic and administrative objectives. The task was assigned to James Lyall.
Naming it Lyallpur was a tribute to James Lyall for his services rendered in the colonization of Rachna Doaba and the lower Chenab valley. Later on, during the Second World War, a network of canals was laid to realise natural and agricultural potential of this region to feed the huge British army. The idea behind the move was to ensure consistent supply of wheat and other commodities to the army as well as countering the freedom fighters taking refuge in the area.
Lyallpur, a beautiful and well-planned city was primarily designed for a population of around 40,000 people. Ample space was left for greenery and banyan trees were specifically nurtured around the Clock Tower. The bazaar directing towards the railway station was named Rail Bazaar and the one heading towards the district courts was named as Katchery Bazaar.
The Karkhana Bazaar was leading towards industrial area while the Bhawana Bazaar, Jhang Bazaar, Aminpur Bazaar, Chiniot Bazaar and Montgomery Bazaar were also named after the cities to which they were leading. The eight bazaars cover a total area of 110 acres connected with each other through a circular road called the Gol Bazaar.
“The creation of the city had a purpose as the British regime desired to harness its natural resources, rich agricultural land besides countering the freedom fighters”, said Dr Rizwanullah Kokab, professor of history at GC University Faisalabad.
Time took its course and like other cities, Lyallpur continued expanding with the rural population shifting to the city in search of jobs and better amenities. In September 1977, the multicoloured jewel of the lower Chenab was renamed Faisalabad by the government in honour of King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. The city of Lyallpur was an agricultural district with majority of Sikhs and Hindus till the Muslims from Ambala, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur and other districts in the Indian Punjab migrated to this region.
“At the time of its creation, it was a thinly populated greenish abode for the people. But time turned into the third most populated city of the country and in the transformation phase it lost its greenery”, said Dr Kokab.
“As per the 2017 census, its population had swelled to 7,882,444 with thousands of acres [of] agriculture land turning into residential settlements”, he said.
Even after its renaming, its bazaars continued to serve the trade and business purposes as per their nomenclature.
The bazaars cater to the needs of the citizens with items like garments, medicines, shoes, sports goods, mobile phones, home appliances, jewellery, cloth, yarn, food items, fruits, vegetables, stationary, printing material, electronics and cooking appliances.
Business continued flourishing gradually. But a major boom was witnessed when power looms replaced handlooms in 1958. It spurred industrialisation and the use of modern techniques still goes on. “We started the journey as a small market town during the colonial era with sluggish growth till 1947.
But the post-independence era, especially the 1960s, had been marvellous for the laying down of proper industrial infrastructure”, said Hafiz Ihtasham Javed, chairman All Pakistan Textile Processing Mills Association (APTPMA).
The fabrics, value-added apparel, towel, knitwear and hosiery products manufactured in Faisalabad grab 25 to 33 per cent share in the overall economy and 60 to 65pc share in the textile exports.
President Anjuman-e-Tajiran Haji Shahid Razzaq Sikka said that at the time of independence half of the eight bazaars were lying vacant and Katchery Bazaar was the elite bazaar accommodating ‘zaildars’ from various parts of the district.
“But time has changed and today Faisalabad is an industrial hub and its populace is swelling”, he said.
“So, it is direly needed to prepare a proper plan for restoring the original beauty of this city”.
Punjab Assembly Member (MPA) Firdous Rai termed Faisalabad a historic city enjoying the distinction of hosting eight bazaars. “The government intends to preserve its original beauty and develop it as a business and tourist destination. I have also submitted a plan to declare eight bazaars vehicle free”, she informed.
“The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI’s) federal and provincial governments are heavily investing in the infrastructure development to attract foreign investment and facilitate the common man”, she said.
She also informed that a number of projects in the health, education, roads and infrastructure development sectors have been completed under the Rs13 billion package announced by Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar.
Be it the olden times or the present era, the Clock Tower still stands there with all its grace adding to the beauty of the city besides providing a sense of pride for the residents of Faisalabad.—APP