LAHORE: The Punjab government has finally initiated spadework to develop Bab-e-Pakistan (Gateway to Pakistan) almost 32 years after the national monument was originally envisioned at the site of one of the biggest Muslim refugee camps established after Partition in 1947.
The government has recently approved the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) Lahore’s proposal to complete the project, which was originally proposed by the late governor Ghulam Jilani Khan and accorded approval in 1985 by former military ruler Ziaul Haq.
The PHA has initiated the process to acquire services of a design consultant for developing the national monument to be constructed in memory of those who sacrificed their present for the future of Pakistan.
The project is aimed at reviving history in a tangible form at Walton Road, where hundreds of thousands of refugees, who migrated to Pakistan after independence in 1947, spent their early days under the open sky.
Official documents indicate the consultant will conduct typographic survey, detailed soil as well as geotechnical investigation of the site. It will prepare a feasibility report based on the preliminary design and cost estimates, environmental impact assessment and requirements of construction machinery to determine the viability of the project. The authority has estimated the preliminary design services will cost Rs46.62 million.
PHA Director-General Mian Shakeel Ahmad told The Express Tribune that Bab-e-Pakistan would be developed to commemorate the mass migration of Muslims of India to the newly created nation-state and their struggle for freedom.
The national monument would be built over an area of 117 acres having a memorial block, library, park, museum, auditorium, art gallery, fountains as well as sitting and play areas for children.
“Though some design and construction works were done in the past, the authority is trying to revamp the whole project to align it with modern-day requirements,” Shakeel said.
He claimed the selected location will provide healthy, lush and eco-friendly environment to the densely populated vicinity as well as providing a source of leisure and recreation in the era when the public is lacking such facilities. The place will serve as a community centre and a gathering place for families and social groups as well as for individuals of all ages and economic status, regardless of their ability to pay for access.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and former military ruler Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf have both laid the foundation stone of Bab-e-Pakistan in the past.
The government first initiated construction on the project in 2006 after a prolonged delay of two decades. Later the project was halted with the change in government. The project was initially estimated to cost Rs2.5 billion, of which around Rs1 billion had been released in the past.
After a national-level architectural competition, the design put forward by Amjad Mukhtar was selected by a high-level committee constituted for determining the structure of the monument. In 2015, after deliberations by a committee constituted by the Punjab chief minister, the design was modified to make it simple, sustainable and economically viable.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2017.