ABBOTTABAD: Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Directorate of Archeology and Museums (DOAM) has asked the Abbottabad deputy commissioner to take immediate action for saving the historical building of Abbottabad Cantonment Board Office.
It has also asked the civil administration to preserve the Station Headquarter building which was constructed in 1933 and was a national heritage.
The Abbottabad Cantonment Board (ACB) wants to demolish the British era structure and build a shopping mall in its place. The ACB intention rang alarm bells in Regional Office of DOAM Hazara Division, which sent a letter to Abbottabad Deputy Commissioner Amir Afaq stating that it has come to their notice that the Station Headquarter building was going to be demolished and on the same place a new plaza would be constructed and the work order has already been issued to contractor.
The letter stated that this historical monument came under the purview of Antiquities Act, 2016 and harming it was clear violation of its Section 18 and 24.
When asked about the situation, Abbottabad Deputy Commissioner Amir Afaq told The Express Tribune that the issue was between the federal and provincial government.
A detailed meeting was held with Abbottabad Cantonment Executive Officer to solve the issue.
The cantonment authorities had their own version, DC Afaq said adding, and weight will be given to the letter of K-P government and points raised by the cantonment authorities.
The letter of DOAM stated that Abottabbad city has numerous British period monuments. Abbottabad was founded and named after Major James Abbott in January 1853 as the headquarters of Hazara District during the British Raj after the East India Company defeated the Sikhs in 1849 at the Battle of Gujarat and annexed Punjab. Abbott remained the first Deputy Commissioner of the Hazara district from 1849 until April 1853.
The letter stated that the 1933 Station Headquarters building housing the cantonment board office was a historical monument. It reminded that as per Section 18 and 24 of the Antiquities Act 2016 causing destruction or damage to any protected heritage building would face a fine of Rs2 million or up to five years imprisonment or both.
Prominent Social Activist Mehmood Aslam said Station Headquarter building would be razed to build a proposed shopping complex of the cantonment board, which will be a great loss to the city of Abbottabad.
The city is a tourist attraction, people come to enjoy its weather and the serene and antiquated ambiance. The legacy of Major James Abbott was heritage of the town. People don’t come to Abbottabad for shopping malls which are abounding in metropolitan cities around the world. The classical buildings are assets of the city which must be preserved, Aslam said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2019.