The delay in contract between Auqaf department and Walled City Lahore Authority (WCLA) is leading the recently preserved monument—Northern Wall –to dilapidation, Pakistan Today has observed.
The WCLA with the help of foreign aid has taken the responsibility to preserve the Northern Wall which is known as hujras of Wazir Khan Mosque. The WCLA has recently renovated the mosque to attract international tourism in the city.
Following the successful conservation of Shahi Hamam in the Walled City area, Norwegian Embassy in Pakistan allocated Rs 100 million to the WCLA to preserve the 12 Hujras attached with the Wazir Khan Mosque while Agha Khan Foundation provided its experts for technical support.
Before the commencement of the conservation work, the WCLA received permission from Auqaf Department, the custodian of the Wazir Khan mosque, to look after the mosque and the property attached with it. Sources said that WCLA had to pay an amount of Rs 20 million as compensation to the shopkeepers running their businesses in hujras because they were not ready to leave their place. “Auqaf department as a custodian of the said property had rented out such monuments against a very small amount of money”, they said, adding that over which WCLA decided to take over the responsibility to preserve the monuments to attract tourism by providing space to artisans to promote crafts and handiworks in the area.
During renovation, interestingly, marketing director of WCLA on 8th August 2016 floated the auction notices for the hujras through newspapers asking the interested artisans to apply for bidding.
Sources said that after WCLA advertised the auction notice, Auqaf department intervened and challenged the custodianship of the monuments.
The preservation work of hujras was completed in March this year. Soon after its completion, the Auqaf department officials sealed all the newly preserved monuments claiming that the Auqaf department is the only custodian of the property. It has been observed that the monuments which were preserved only after Norwegian Embassy’s generous donation, are now once again dilapidating due to lack of care.
When contacted, the Auqaf department’s employee and manager of Wazir Khan Mosque, Mohsin Hussain, said that the WCLA sought permission for the preservation of the hujras only. He said that the marketing director of WCLA Asif Zaheer advertised the auction notice in newspapers, which was an open violation of the Auqaf department’s policy. “Asif Zaheer misled in the advertisement that the newly preserved hujras are the property of WCLA”, he said adding that WCLA has also started allotting these hujras to different artisans.
Answering a question he said that if these hujras are facing any dilapidation it is because of WCLA alone.
When contacted, Asif Zaheer confirmed that WCLA still has to sign agreement with Auqaf department regarding the custardy of hujras and that it would be done very soon. He said that if there is any delay in taking over the hujras, it was because of the delay caused by the government.
Asif refused any responsibility over the dilapidation of the building.
An official of Auqaf, seeking anonymity, told Pakistan Today that due to the negligence of the government, Pakistan might face embarrassment on international level if any harm was caused to these persevered monuments.