Category Archives: Conservation

Restoring Masjid Wazir Khan – A monument-al task

This article was originally published on TNS

Work on restoring Masjid Wazir Khan’s eastern façade and forecourt is fast underway, despite the challenges, and the place is likely to be open to public by the end of this month

Wazir Khan

Constructions around the mosque had become an eyesore. — Photos by Rahat Dar

Masjid Wazir Khan is a jewel of Mughal architecture. It has retained its grandeur even after the passage of around four centuries since it was built between 1635 and 1640AD under the orders of Hakim Ilm ud Din, the then prime minister of King Shah Jahan. Over time, the magnificent structure has weathered many storms and seen its surrounding land, the forecourt in front of the eastern façade as well as the lower parts of its boundary walls devoured by encroachments.

Till recently, the situation was so bad that the constructions around the mosque became an eyesore, making it look like a structure totally out of place. The sight of the surrounding residential buildings and shops, motor workshops, and welding facilities right next to its boundary walls, was so overwhelming that the mosque would appear subdued in comparison.

It was in 2013 that an initiative was taken with the help of funds provided by the Royal Embassy of Norway in Pakistan, to restore the historical monument’s northern façade. Technical support was afforded by the Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (AKCSP) — an arm of Aga Khan Trust for Culture — and work began with support from the Walled City Lahore Authority (WCLA). Around 70 shops had been removed from around the place, their owners compensated by the Punjab government.

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WRIT PETITION FILED IN LAHORE HIGH COURT TO RESTORE JAIN MANDIR IN LAHORE AND OTHER MINORITY WORSHIPING PLACES THROUGHOUT PAKISTAN

On   20th May 2014 a Writ Petn   SYYED MOHUMMED JAWAID IQBAL JAFREE OF SLARPORE  versus STATE through CHIEF SECRETARY , GOVT OF PUNJAB AND OTHERS (INCLUDING PUBLIC AT LARGE) was filed at Lahore High Court   .. Writ Petition 13953 of 2014.
It was Preliminarily heard by MR JUSTICE Mansoor Ali Shah.
HE ORDERED THAT NOTICES ISSUE TO RESPONDENTS , AND THE cHIEF secretary (HIMSELF NOT A JOINT SECRETARY OR SECTIONN OFFICER) HEAR JAFREE PERSONALLY ON 26TH MAY Monday AND PASS A SPEAKING ORDER WITHIN ONE MONTH.. THE WRIT WOULD BE HEARD FURTHER ON 26TH June.

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Revisions to the ‘facts’ on Mubarak Haveli of Lahore

M has sent this piece for Lahore Nama shedding light on the well-known Mubarak Haveli located in old Lahore. This piece was written in response to the information found on this blog. I am publishing this ‘correction’ of facts for the readers. No wonder there is not a single history but several narratives of the past. Raza Rumi

•    During the rule of Muhammad Shah, three amirs namely Bahadur Ali, Nadir Ali, and Babur Ali constructed a haveli in Mochi Gate area. Coinciding with its completion Bahadur Ali was blessed with a son and thus the haveli was named Mubarak Haveli. Prince Shah Shuja ul-Mulk was made to stay at this haveli by Ranjeet Singh, who later forced the prince to surrender Koh-i-Noor to him. Continue reading

Chief Justice takes suo motu notice of Canal Road widening; orders no trees be cut

From Dawn, 28 November 2009

LAHORE, Nov 27: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry on Friday took suo motu notice against proposed chopping of trees in the provincial metropolis to widen Canal Road.

Chief Justice Chaudhry directed the authorities concerned to put their plans of cutting the trees on hold and summoned the chief secretary and the environment secretary on Dec 1 at Court House in Islamabad.

The chief justice took notice on applications moved by two NGOs namely the Concerned Citizens of Pakistan (CCP) and the Lahore Bachao Tehreek (LBT), seeking a restraining order against proposed cutting of trees to widen Canal Road.

Earlier, Dawn reported in its Nov 26 edition that environmentalists, conservationists and civil society activists had sought help of the CJP to save hundreds of trees likely to be felled during Eid holidays to pave the way for widening of Canal Road. Through an application to the CJP, they had said the Punjab government was planning to widen Canal Road from Thokar Niaz Beg to Dharampura underpass at a hefty cost of Rs3.15 billion, without fulfilling its obligations under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997, and the chief minister had announced that work on the project should be started.
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Hopes dashed along with Lahore food street gates

By Zaheer Mahmood Siddiqui, Dawn Metropolitan, 7 August 2009 http://tiny.cc/lart3

Gowalmandi food street gate being pulled down in Lahore. –Photo by Tariq Mahmood

LAHORE: Gowalmandi Food Street that had been contributing to promote the soft image of the country, particularly of Lahore, all over the world during the last one decade or so, finally fell prey to the culture of ‘political intolerance’ on Thursday.

Around 10,000 people, earning their livelihood at the food street, lost their last hope on Thursday when the Data Gunj Bakhsh Town administration pulled down its decorative gates.

Though bosses of the ruling PML-N in Punjab term the demolition operation an effort to remove hindrance to ‘smooth flow’ of traffic, residents of the area believe they have been victimised for their political dissent.

‘In fact, the rulers don’t want continuation of a project which is still being overseen by the people related to their rival party – the PML-Q. The thoroughfare is not a main artery and had become a family spot over the years,’ a PML-Q leader told this reporter on the condition of anonymity.

Another resident who used to earn livelihood by running an eatery on wheels in the food street said: ‘After assuming power, everyone wants to undo the steps taken by their antecedent, without thinking for a moment what will be its repercussions and how many people will be affected?’

‘No resident of Gowalmandi has ever lodged any complaint against the food street,’ he asserted while rejecting the government claims the action was taken on the complaints of the area people.

Reclaiming melody – Sachal Studios of Lahore

Labourers of love: Mushtaq Soofi, Izzat Majeed & Christoph Bracher

Mian Yusaf Salahuddin’s Haveli, where Tarang was launched

Revival of the orchestra by Sachal Studios is a landmark in Pakistan’s music industry

Izzat Majeed: patron of music

Singers and musicians showcasing their skills at Sachal Studios

Raza Rumi (writing for The Friday Times)

It was a mellow, moonlit evening of Lahore’s glorious spring when Sachal Studios released their album ‘Tarang’. It could not have been at a more fitting venue. Amid the decaying environs of Old Lahore stands the Haveli of Mian Yusaf Salahuddin, refurbished into a little planet of conservation as a courageous effort to protect and rejuvenate Lahore’s cultural soul. Mian Yusuf is the one denizen who has done this good deed for posterity, along with Syed Babar Ali who has conserved his ancestral Mubarak Begum Haveli in Bhaati Gate. Of course, the state has been abject in its failure to conserve Lahore’s majestic heritage.Sachal Studios is the brainchild of international businessman Izzat Majeed and man of letters Mushtaq Soofi, an exceptionally motivated duo. Sachal has infused the local music scene with innovation and energy. It is promoting a hybrid orchestra – once an integral part of the subcontinent’s film music tradition. Since 2003, Majeed, an activist and radical intellectual in a previous avatar, has devoted his time and money to this passion – to create Pakistani melodies in sync with the imperatives of contemporary musical sensibilities.

Started as a labour of love, Sachal Studios has released ‘Tarang,’ a collection of music that brings together the best musicians from all over Pakistan, and Humaira Channa’s competent voice. Of late, Channa has been a victim of commercial success and the quality compromises that define Pakistan’s derelict film music. Sachal’s production is a relief; a fresh departure from the usual, and the melodic results are impressive.

At the Old Lahore Haveli, Channa with her family and associates were accorded the respect they deserve. In a similar vein, immensely talented artists, such as the tabla maestro Billoo Khan and Pakistan’s leading sitar player, Ustad Nafees Ahmed Khan also attracted the attention of the star-studded guest list and Lahore’s usual chatterati. It was on a dimly lit terrace of the Haveli that I was introduced to Izzat Majeed, who looked pleased with himself and his Sachal partners as notes from the latest album mixed with the spring air.

Inspired by the Abbey Road Studios in London, Majeed and Soofi have been working for the last six years with Christoph Bracher, a scion of a German musicians’ family, to design and set up Sachal Studios. A state of the art music studio in Lahore is a landmark, for it heralds a new trend of post-production finesse Continue reading

Critical Mass Lahore February 2009

critical-mass-iii2
The last Sunday of the month is approaching. You know this means it’s time for Critical Mass.
Join us at 10am this Sunday 22 February for Lahore’s 3rd Critical Mass cycling event.

Cyclists in China coined the term Critical Mass to describe the phenomenon that takes place when cyclists can take over streets and traffic dominated by automobiles. Critical Mass now takes place in over 200 cities around the world.
Critical Mass is not an organization. It is an idea. Critical Mass is about having clean cities that provide mobility and accessibility. Critical Mass is about clean transport.
Critical Mass is about showing a man on a cycle is the same as a man in a ten lac car. Critical Mass is about democracy. Critical Mass is about having the right to mobility.
Everyone in Lahore knows how bad the traffic is. Critical Mass Lahore is the first step in taking our streets back.
Critical Mass is an idea. Make it yours.

What do I need to participate in a Critical Mass Event?

Nothing but a road-worthy cycle and an sense of fun.

Where and how else to Critical Mass Events take place?

Critical Mass events are typically held on the last Friday of each month in cities all over the world. Get more information at http://www.critical-mass.info. For information about Critical Mass Lahore, some to Zakir Tikka at 10am on Sunday 22 February 2009.

Lahore’s history goes rack and ruin

Isambard Wilkinson, The National

Lahore – A project to save the architectural and cultural heritage of Lahore’s fabled Old City is foundering due to political instability and corruption, officials say.

The World Bank has offered US$10 million (Dh36.7m) to restore the 2.6-sq-km Old City, home to 145,000 of Lahore’s eight million population, but the so-called Sustainable Development Walled City project has become mired in bureaucracy and inertia.

Jewels of Moghul architecture have been neglected or poorly restored. Havelis, courtyard houses akin to Morocco’s highly prized riads, have been left to rot. Many of the city’s decorously carved wooden balconies, or jerokahs, have collapsed and the streets are squalid.

The city that was bought to life by writers ranging from the Moghul court chroniclers to the bard of the British Raj, Rudyard Kipling, and was once the capital of the Moghul and Sikh empires, is in a state of deep decay. Continue reading

Losing Lahore

Josh Loeb writing for this week’s Friday Times

Delhi Gate – entrance to the
“Royal Route”

The Dhai Anga Mausoleum

The derelict tomb of “Buddu,”
Dhai Anga’s husband

“Cities that survive and prosper are not cities which destroy their heritage. People don’t visit Paris because of business; they visit because it is a beautiful city”

“This country is strewn with heritage,” she continues. “Turn a stone and there’ll be something there. And it should not be the preserve of intellectuals – ordinary people are interested” – Yasmeen Lari

“He who has not seen Lahore has not been born,” the saying goes, yet speak to those interested in old buildings and they will tell you that Lahore is dying.

Earlier this year, English architectural historian Simon Jenkins issued a stark warning. “Lahore’s past is collapsing around it,” he wrote in a British newspaper. “Hovering over its ancient walls is a sense of utter neglect.” He went on to warn that cities that neglect their past endanger their future. If this true, Lahore’s future is bleak.

Take the mausoleum of Dhai Anga, wet nurse to Mughal Shah Jahan. Completed in 1671, the building is situated in what was once a rose garden but is now a mini-wasteland – the haunt of drug-addled young men who pace about with bloodshot eyes beneath the arches of the tomb’s chambers. Of the “beautiful enamelled tile mosaics” proclaimed on the information board outside there is now almost nothing left. Whilst funds are directed towards Lahore’s two world heritage sites – the Lahore Fort and Shalimar Gardens – other historic monuments are turning to dust.

Mohammad Imran makes a living guiding visitors around historic sights like the Dhai Anga Mausoleum.

“I want to see this building in a good condition,” he says. “I want to see a restoration but I want to see it done in the right way. A lot of buildings are restored half-heartedly. It should be restored to its original shape or else there is no point.”

Imran trots out the old refrain that antique buildings should be looked after for the sake of tourism (something with which Jenkins agrees). But Yasmeen Lari, Pakistan’s first female architect and the director of the Pakistan Heritage Foundation, takes a different view.

“I’m not bothered about tourists,” she explains. “Frankly, the way things are in the country right now, tourists are not going to come anyway. Conserving our heritage is something that should be done for our own pride and for social cohesion. It’s something to understand ourselves by.

“This country is strewn with heritage,” she continues. “Turn a stone and there’ll be something there. And it should not be the preserve of intellectuals – ordinary people are interested.”

Back at the Dhai Anga Mausoleum, two workers from the mysteriously (and perhaps misleadingly) named Archaeological Department are engaged in what appears to be dusting stones. “Small repairs,” explains one, Furqan Ullah, yet there remains an air of hopelessness about the endeavour. Continue reading

Lahore: The axe falls on secretariat trees

Intikhab Hanif’s report for the Daily DAWN is worrisome:

LAHORE, April 19: A number of Punjab Civil Secretariat’s old trees have been felled as part of Chief Secretary Javed Mehmood’s ‘demolition plan’ and the premises has been denuded of its natural beauty, green shadows and most importantly the historical links.

Among the felled ones is a red berry tree, which was standing near the back gate of the secretariat and was famous for its sweet fruit. It was perhaps one of the very few red berry trees in Lahore and was a link between the Lahore of today and the past.

“I really regret the felling of this tree. It should have been preserved,” said a senior secretariat employee, recalling how he used to pluck berries from the tree in spring after offering prayers in the nearby mosque without caring for his age and rank. Continue reading

Lahore: Return the GOR Park

By Ahmad Rafay Alam

Several formalities need to be completed before Shabaz Sharif can once again assume the administration of this province. But this hasn’t deterred the former chief minister from letting all and sundry know that he’s back in town and that he means business. What this also means is that the previous government’s grip over the administration of the Punjab— a vice like noose that wound its way from halls of the secretariat, through every police station in the province and into the vaulted halls of the Lahore High Court— is slowly but surely loosening.

During the past few years few, if any, have uttered a word about the fate of the small triangular park that stood in the heart of Lahore’s leafy GOR-I residential district. Turning into the GOR at the intersection of the Mall and Davis Road, it stood outside the chief minister’s official residence and office. At some point this once round-a-bout was converted into a triangular “green” island. Then, to ward off the children, loiterers and die-hard cricketers a fountain was added to the middle of the island (It didn’t work: the marbled floor around the triangular fountain not only provided an year-round pitch, it gave local cricket enthusiasts three pitches instead of one.)

Regardless of whether or not any of these measures worked from keeping the great unwashed out of the line of vision of the high and mighty, the point is that this little bit of green in the middle of GOR— in front of the provincial chief executive’s nerve centre no less— was a park open to the public as a utility area. And even when over zealous policemen keeping watch at the CM’s office managed to chase away the children, loiterers and die-hard cricketers, the little island was another little example of the beauty tucked away in GOR. Continue reading

Lahore’s ‘quietest’ areas exceed WHO noise limits

* Health expert says noise pollution can trigger both physiological and psychological problems

Abdul Manan writing in Daily Times

LAHORE: Though the affluent areas of Lahore are quieter than rest of the city, the noise level in these areas is still far higher than the standards set by the World Health Organisation (WHO), an Environment Protection Department (EPD) official told Daily Times on Monday.

Noise intensity is measured in decibels (dB) to illustrate different noise levels. The WHO standard for residential areas is 45dB, for commerical areas 55 dB, and for industrial areas 65 dB. People can normally bear noise up to 45 dB, but from 120 dB the ear begins to experience pain, and this level of noise can also impair hearing if experienced over a long period.

The EPD official said the noise level was recorded at an average of 75 dB in Defence Housing Authority (DHA), Gulberg and Model Town. He said the average noise level in the industrial areas was recorded as above 120 dB. “Noise pollution could be dramatically decreased by banning rickshaws,” he said.

He said noise should be considered a nuisance rather than an environmental problem, but that the EPD had not yet established any standards of noise pollution. “The EPD should propose amendments in the Pakistan Environment Protection Act 1997 in this regard,” he said, and added that major sources of noise were generators, vehicles, poor urban planning, factory machinery, construction work, aircraft, and railways.

Noise injures both physically and mentally: Mayo Hospital’s Dr Khalil said unwanted sound was defined as noise pollution. He said noise affects a person’s level of happiness and ability to perform activities. “Noise pollution can cause annoyance, aggression, and hypertension, and can impair hearing. Excessive exposure to loud noises can even cause tinnitus, a disorder in which a person hears sound in the absence of corresponding external sound,” he said. Continue reading

The misuse of Lawrence Gardens must be stopped

Weddings and parties drive away visitors from Bagh-e-Jinnah

 * CC president confirms having accepted advanced-bookings for parties
* Bagh-e-Jinnah DD says lawns leased to the CC on understanding that no parties would be held
By Hina FarooqLawrence Gardens

LAHORE: Frequent wedding parties and social gatherings at Bagh-e-Jinnah are annoying regular visitors and compromising the garden’s beauty, and the garden’s authorities and the Cosmopolitan Club (CC) have locked horns over holding future on the garden premises.

In January 2006, the garden authorities, the CC and the Lahore Ladies Club had signed an agreement not to organise parties on the park’s premises.

The garden’s authorities had also issued notices to the CC members who were in “violation of the agreement”.

Punjab Advocate General and CC President Aftab Iqbal said he had made all bookings for parties in advance, but from now onwards would not take bookings. Continue reading

Lahore Fort


sMG_9332

Originally uploaded by yasir nisar

by Yasir Nisar

The Lahore Fort, also known as Shahi Qila, is located in the northwestern corner of Lahore’s Walled City. The majestic edifice is the result of many centuries’ work. According to the Pakistani historian Wali Ullah Khan, the earliest reference to the Fort comes in the history of Lahur (Lahore) compiled by Al-Biruni, which refers to a fort constructed in the early 11th century. Munshi Sujan Rae Bhandar, author of the Khulasa-tut-Tawarikh records that Malik Ayaz, a lieutenant of Sultan Mahmud, built a masonry fort at Lahore and inhabited the city. It is generally believed that present Lahore Fort is the same fort, which was damaged by the Mongols in 1241 and again in 1398 by a detachment of Timur’s army, then rebuilt in 1421 by Sayyid, son of Khizr Khan.

The Fort was extensively refurbished, extended and upgraded during the Mughal era. This is why it is rightly attributed as one of the gems of the Mughal civilization. Emperor Jalal ud Did Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan, and Aurangzeb all added to it. During the period of Sikh occupation, Ranjit Singh added several pavilions on the upper ramparts. Some modifications to the Fort were made during the British period beginning in 1846 for housing facilities for colonial functions. Those modifications have been reverted and efforts made to bring the Fort back in its pre 1846 appearance.

Lahore: Conservation and Religion

Conservation and religion
By Ahmad Rafay Alam
(The News)

Just a few months ago, in the shadow of the archaeology department’s devolution to the provincial government, a minaret in the Lahore Fort collapsed, revealing to all just how effective official conservation measures are. A decade ago, citizens of Lahore stood flabbergasted as construction workers felled hundred-year-old trees to bring the shoulder of the G T Road within inches of the entrance of Shalimar Gardens. In the intervening years, the only notable bit of urban conservation was the restoration of the Tolington Market, where, as an illustration of the quality of restoration work, only a few weeks ago, anxious NCA students exhibiting their thesis feared exposure and dripping rain would ruin their work. The PHA’s “new” billboard policy – ostensibly for the beauty of the city – can only find 12 sites of historical importance worth protecting from the ugliness of its advertising hoardings. This in a historically and culturally rich city over a millennium old.

It isn’t just Mughal Lahore that needs to be, and isn’t, properly conserved. Colonial Lahore is also fast fading from view. Behind the mosque next to Fortress Stadium in the Cantonment lies a memorial in honour of the commissioned and non-commissioned officers of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment who lost their lives in Lahore just before World War I. The monument is now surrounded by dust and is passed by an un-metalled road. The 19th century buildings that once lined the nearby road, all splendid examples of the architecture of the period, have been brought down to make way for a “General’s Colony” housing scheme. Only one barracks remains, dating back to 1864. The Civil and Military Gazette, where a galaxy of writers and intellectuals interned after Partition, and where Rudyard Kipling – one of Lahore’s two Nobel laureates – cut his teeth, was razed to the ground in the 1960s and turned into a shopping mall, Panorama Centre – Lahore’s first, incidentally. Continue reading

After 18 years Jahangir’s tomb receives some attention

Why are we so keen to squander our glorious heritage. This is a sad news though one can see some light –

18-year interval: FAD to conserve Jahangir’s tomb

LAHORE, Daily Times: After an 18-year interval, the Federal Archeology Department (FAD) has finally decided to conserve Maqbara-e-Jahangir (Jahangir’s tomb).

The tomb is the most dilapidated historic site that falls in the FAD’s jurisdiction. The tomb was last conserved in 1990.

An FAD official said Rs 50 million had already been spent on the tomb. He said the department had made a proposal for conservation of Asif Ali’s tomb, Noor Jehan’s tomb and Akbari Saraye at a cost of Rs 100.9 million. Continue reading