PESHAWAR: The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government will spend Rs87.7 million on the renovation of historic Mahabat Khan Mosque as the Provincial Development Working Party (PWDP) has finally given the nod to the Directorate of Archaeology to carry out this much-delayed project, it was learnt on Tuesday.
This 17th century mosque, named after the Mughal governor of Peshawar Nawab Mahabat Khan, has been neglected by the authorities since long.
The PDWP’s working paper revealed that the historic mosque is in a dilapidated condition and needs immediate restoration. Any delay in the rehabilitation work may cause severe damage to this ancient structure.
The K-P government had earlier allocated Rs50 million in the budget 2014-15 for its rehabilitation.
However, in April 2016, the PDWP put on hold the restoration work as the Auqaf department (body dealing with religious affairs) lacked the required knowledge to preserve archaeological sites.
The Directorate of Archaeology asked the PDWP to restore the site as the mosque is a living monument and a unique specimen of Islamic architecture. Other departments will not be able to maintain its originality as its restoration, without the technical study by the committee comprising archaeologists, conservation architects and civil/electrical engineers, is neither advisable nor purposeful.
The project was assigned to the K-P Directorate of Archaeology and Museums to prepare the PC-1 of the project. The project approved last week on Friday by the PWDP will cost Rs87.7 million, which includes Rs2.7 million for departmental staff during the execution of the project.
K-P Directorate of Archaeology and Museums Director Dr Abdul Samad told The Express Tribune, “Though the subject will still be under the jurisdiction of the Auqaf department, the Directorate of Archaeology will be responsible for carrying out the restoration work.”
He said, in the budget 2014-15, the Auqaf officials had submitted this project to the K-P Planning and Development Department for approval, which can’t restore historical sites.
“The mosque has been destroyed by Auqaf, and Communication and Works Department’s interventions so it is a must that archaeologists carry out the restoration work,” he added.
The historical backdrop
As the only living Mughal mosque in the city, it has been an emblem of Mughal architectural grandeur. Situated in the middle of the city, Masjid Mahabat Khan was constructed by Mahabat Khan, when the Mughal architecture was at its zenith. Khan was a Mughal governor of Peshawar and Kabul (later divided in 1891 by the British rulers) at the time of Mughal emperors Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb. The mosque is the finest example of Mughal architecture in Pakistan along with Wazir Khan and Badshahi mosques in Lahore, and Shah Jahan Mosque of Thatta, but unlike the others, the Mahabat Khan mosque is in a shabby condition.
Executing the plan
Nature alone is not to blame for the damage done to the original structure. The physical work carried out at and around also eroded the originality of this mosque. The shopping plazas behind the mosque have blocked the drainage system, damaging the roof of the mosque, Samad added.
The encroachment and illegal construction around the structure are some of the major hurdles for the archaeologists in starting the work. There are 54 shops built all around the mosque that must be vacated to restore the authenticity of the mosque. Also, there are 14 shops constructed illegally in front of the mosque, he added.
He said it is a three-year project with a cost of Rs87.7 million. An experts’ committee has been constituted. Some experts are available in the province, while other professionals will come from Lahore and Multan. “We have involved conservation experts from all over Pakistan for the purpose,” said Samad.