ETPB fails to retrieve ancient building on Murree Road

Employees break seals of 162-year-old structure that houses two schools, government offices

Qaiser Sherazi January 31, 2023
A sealed lock is seen at the gate of Save the Children charity's office in Islamabad, Pakistan, June 12, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS


The Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) has sealed two schools and the directorates of education, college and literacy housed in a 162-year-old structure spread over a vast area in the heart of the city’s most expensive neighbourhood.

Sources said ETPB Administrator Muhammad Asif, accompanied by a heavy contingent of personnel from different police stations and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), during an extensive operation in the wee hours on Monday sealed a higher secondary school for girls along with a primary school and the division and district directorate offices situated near Committee Chowk on Murree Road.

According to sources, the officials also pasted notices on the three directorates that the building was owned by the ETPB. However, soon after the sealing of offices, the employees, teachers and clerks of the directorates broke the seals put in place by the ETPB officials and threw them into a nearby drain.

On this occasion, a large number of teachers and employees converged and started shouting slogans forcing the FIA personnel and the police force to leave the area followed by the officers of the ETPB.

Joint action committee formed

Meanwhile, the All Pakistan Clerks Association (APCA) and all teachers’ organisations have formed a joint action committee and announced the protection of the three directorates.

They warned that if the ETPB staff returned to the directorate of education, they will get a stern response from the clerks and the teachers. “No one will be allowed to abuse the education department,” they said.

The ETPB administrator claimed that the office of the education department is owned by the ETPB and it will be retrieved at all costs.

Whereas the education department officials claimed that the building is owned by the department.

They said the building which houses the offices of the education department is 162-year-old and it is an ancient sprawling building of beautiful architecture spread over an area of one acre.

This building called ‘Hasrat Singh Haveli’ is a masterpiece of Mughal, Sikh and British architecture.

In 1860, Hasrat Singh, a wealthy Sikh Sardar of Rawalpindi, built this building in memory of his uncle for welfare initiatives. The splendour and glory of its architecture still stand.

The Rawalpindi Jail was also established in this building for a short time. In the beginning, Ramdas Religious Teaching Centre and Arya Hospital were also established here and patients were treated free of charge.

The hospital remained functional for 25 years and after that, an orphanage and Darul Aman were also built here in which orphan Hindu and Sikh children and widows were given free accommodation and food.

Before the creation of Pakistan, guests from the Government of India also stayed here. There was also a government rest house in the building.

At present, the building houses two girls’ schools in which a total of 1,800 girls are studying.

After the creation of Pakistan, district administrator offices were also set up here for some time and later a veterinary hospital was built here which lasted for a decade.

The present Holy Family Hospital was also established here in the 60s, which shifted to its present location after five years of existence.

The building consists of 35 large and airy rooms. Its walls are 13 inches thick and are made of mortar, lime and cement. In 1970, the education offices were established here which exist to date.

The APCA and Teachers Action Committee leaders Shahzad Kayani, Chaudhary Mubashir, Raja Aftab, Qazi Imran, Shahid Mubarak, Basharat Iqbal Raja, Shafiq Bhalwalia, and Chaudhary Zafar claimed that in 1970, the education department bought this place for Rs180,000. “The receipts and challans are also available,” they said, accusing the ETPB of trying to take possession of the building by force.

“We will not allow it to happen,” they vowed.

According to sources, a large group of highly influential political figures and businessmen want to take over this valuable commercial land worth trillions of rupees alongside Murree Road and build a commercial plaza.


Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2023.


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