LAHORE: The committee constituted to decide the fate of heritage buildings, including the prime minister house, chief minister and governor houses, has proposed to convert the Punjab Governor’s House into a museum or an art gallery, The Express Tribune learnt on Saturday.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had formed a 12-member committee under the chairmanship of National History and Literary Heritage Division Minister Shafqat Mahmood. After considering several options, the committee has recommended converting the historic Governor’s House into a museum or an art gallery.
Reacting over the committee’s proposal, archaeology experts argued that though the government’s intention to curb extravagant lifestyle of the ruling elite was good, however, the committee’s proposal were flawed. It would be very unfortunate if the government makes such an important decision without proper homework and in haste.
A senior official of the provincial archaeology department highlighted that the provincial capital already has a number of public and private art galleries and museums including Alhamrah Art Gallery, Alhamrah Art Council, Gaddafi Stadium Cultural Complex, Nairang Art Gallery, Shakira Ali Museum and Art Gallery, Ejaz Art Gallery, Hamail Art Gallery, Unicorn Gallery, Taseer Art Gallery, Collectors Galleria, Zulfi’s Art Gallery, Punjab University’s Anna Molka Art Gallery, Lahore Heritage Museum, Lahore Museum and Lahore Fort Museum.
He pointed out that Alhamrah Art Gallery, Lahore Museum and Heritage Museum, old Tollington Market, were three big venues dedicated for art and cultural events located on the Mall Road, just a few furlongs away from the Punjab Governor’s House. A big public sector library, Quaid-i-Azam Library, was located opposite to the Governor’s House, he added.
“Situation of public sector art galleries,” he indicated, “is not hidden from anyone. Most of these entities cannot generate enough revenue to meet their operational cost,” he said.
“While in private sector, besides promotion of art and culture art galleries generate revenue from other activities.”
From the past few decades, he said, the security of local and foreign dignitaries and tourists have become a big issue in Pakistan. Though the Pakistan Army has reined in terrorism in the country but the security situation was not yet satisfactory in the country. In these circumstances, the Punjab Governor’s House is one of the few safest places in the city where the government can host or lodge foreign dignitaries.
A senior government official indicated that as per security protocol law enforcement agencies have to ensure fool-proof security in a radius of 1,200 yards for VVIPs, and foreign dignitaries. He also highlighted that the Punjab Governor’s House was the only venue where presidential level security could be ensured.
Once the government has converted Punjab Governor’s House into an art gallery or museum it would be impossible to revert it to its previous status. He pointed out that right now everyone has to seek permission for the Governor’s House for erecting any tall structure in surrounding of the Governor’s House. Once its status was compromised tall structures would be built on Davis Road, Kashmir Road, Egerton Road and other areas around, which would permanently compromise the security of the building.
The committee that made the recommendations included architect Nayyar Ali Dada (Lahore), artist Rashid Rana (Lahore), businessman Shamoon Sultan (Karachi), architect, educator Omer Hassan (Lahore), scientist Dr Faisal Khan (Peshawar), retired civil servant Omer Khan Afridi (Peshawar) and designer Naeem Safi (Peshawar), visual artist Akram Dost Baloch (Quetta), educationist Muneeza Hashmi (Lahore), visual artist Adeela Suleman (Karachi), architect Samar Ali Khan (Karachi), heritage consultant Marvi Mazhar, Art Divvy Foundation Director Asma Rashid Khan and National History and Literary Heritage Division Secretary Engineer Amir Hassan.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2018.