By Amel Ghani
Heritage Site: The Lahore Conservation Society claimed that Archaeology Director General Saleemul Haq had been relieved of his responsibilities for failing to issue an NoC (no-objection certificate) required in connection with the construction of the Orange Line Metro Train project near heritage sites.
Construction in connection with the train project in the vicinity of heritage sites requires approval of the DG under the 1975 Antiquities Act. Culture Minister Rana Mashhood’s secretary Faisal told that the minister’s office had no knowledge of the former DG’s removal. He said that the minister had met Haq earlier in the day. Faisal said further queries in this regard should be directed to the Archaeology Department secretary who remained unavailable despite repeated calls. An Archaeology Department official speaking on the condition of anonymity said the department had received orders from the chief secretary’s office for the appointment of Chaudhry Ijaz Ahmed in place of Haq. He said Ahmed was yet to take charge.
“The government is doling out posts to people who will simply rubber-stamp projects at the expense of competent officials,” LCS convener Imrana Tiwana told newsmen at a media talk. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) secretary general IA Rehman said this was not the first instance of officials being changed to ensure compliance with government plans. Rehman stressed the need to preserve heritage sites saying they constituted an integral part of the nation’s identity. He said the city belonged to people and not the nation’s rulers who might think they could do whatever they pleased with it.
Sajjad Kausar, the chairman of the Institute of Architects, Pakistan, Lahore Chapter (IAP-LC) said it seemed as if engineers working on the train project had simply etched a line on the city’s map with their eyes closed. He stressed the need to review the train project. Sajjad Kausar said the institute was willing to help the government formulate an alternative route. “We are not here to just critique. The institute wants to make a positive contribution and has been working on formulating an alternative route,” he said.
Rights activist Faryal Gauhar said parties interested in the project had the right to be cognisant of the entire plan of the train project. She said the government had failed to make the plan public despite repeated entreaties. Gauhar said the government had made a habit of employing coercive tactics. “It orders people to be mowed down in acts akin to the June 17 Model Town violence and removes officials for failing to comply (with its plans),” she said.
Gauhar said the government should reinstate Haq. Former National College of Arts (NCA) principal Fauzia Qureshi, NCA Associate Professor Maryam Hussain, The Office for Conservation and Community Outreach (OCCO) head Ateeq Ahmed and celebrated painter Ajaz Anwar were also present at the event.