Panels formed to determine condition of heritage buildings

Published: August 28, 2018
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Preservation of heritage buildings urged. PHOTO: REUTERS

Preservation of heritage buildings urged. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: As the PTI-led government seeks to open key government buildings for public use, a heritage body tasked to do that formed on Monday sub-panels to determine the current state of these buildings.

These sub-committees were told to submit their report within two weeks.

National History and Literary Heritage (NHLH) Federal Minister Shafqat Mehmood chaired on Monday the first meeting of a special committee created to review how heritage buildings such as governor and state rest houses across the country can be opened up for public use.

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The meeting was held at NHLH division in Islamabad and attended by NHLH Secretary Engineer Aamir Hasan, Joint Secretary Syed Junaid Akhlaq and other members from different cities.

It was decided during the meeting that regional committees will be formed comprising committee members from each respective city. They will then visit these buildings and prepare a detailed report about them including the number of employees, the structural condition of the building, the historical significance of these buildings and come up with different suggestions to put these buildings to better use.

Some of the buildings which will be reviewed include the Prime Minister’s House in Islamabad, governor houses in all four provincial capitals along with those in Murree and Nathia Gali, the Chief Minister’s Office in Lahore, state guest houses in Lahore and Karachi, Shahi Mahman Khana in Peshawar, Punjab houses in Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Murree, Qasr-e-Naz Karachi and Chamba House in Lahore.

Mehmood said that the newly elected government has to meet the expectations of the public within a short span of 100 days.

“We have to show the nation that we will not spend money on a luxurious lifestyle. Converting these buildings into public-friendly institutions will help achieve our objective of austerity as well as benefit the public for whom these institutions were established,” he said.

To better coordinate and communicate, Mehmood directed members to form a social media group linking all the members to share the daily progress of their given task.

Besides this, he said, an inventory of old, historical and under-utilised buildings across the country will also be undertaken in the future to restore and use those in a better way.

“Heritage buildings in our country are our asset and it is vital to not only protect these buildings but also turn these buildings into public places which are accessible to the people,” he said, adding that they will take all the provinces along in utilising these state-owned heritage buildings.

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Mehmood also said that cultural institutions such as the Lok Virsa and Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) will be brought under the heritage division due to their relevance to the department.

Mehmood, who also holds the portfolio of the federal education minister, said that there were massive challenges which the government has to address on the education front including the enrollment of 25 million out-of-school children, implementing a national syllabus to end discrimination, raising the standard of education and promoting skill-based education. In this regard, he promised to introduce reforms.

The members of the formed committees included architect (Lahore) Nayyar Ali Dada, artist (Lahore) Rashid Rana, businessman (Karachi) Shamoon Sultan, architect/ educationist (Lahore) Omar Hassan, scientist (Peshawar) Dr Faisal Khan, designer (Peshawar) Naeem Safi, visual artist (Quetta) Akram Dost Baloch, architect (Karachi) Samar Ali Khan, architect/Heritage Consultant, Marvi Mazhar and others. These members will work as a team in their respective cities, visit the buildings and prepare a report which will be submitted to Mehmood in the next meeting. During the meeting, the members urged the minister to give legal cover to all these decisions so that no one can overturn them in the future.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2018.

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