Pardon the clichéd expression — excess of everything is bad— which aptly explains the huge number of old buildings in the town most of which are ruins than functional entities due to the utter neglect both on part of the government and citizens.
It will not entirely be wrong if one were to say that the old buildings are the face of the town. Recently there was an effort to restore at least one such building — Sujan Singh Haveli.
In a recent move, Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU) turned over the historic haveli in Bhabra Bazaar to the National College of Arts (NCA) for a three-year period.
The NCA will be using this building to promote cultural activities in the city by establishing a museum and a field school.
After inking an agreement, NCA has started work to preserve the building. “We will survey the building first, and then we will move to establish a museum and a field school,” said NCA Director Dr Nadeem Omar Tarar.
He said that Boston Architectural College (BAC) is also assisting us to preserve this historical building. Dr Tarar further said that the building will be in possession of the college for three years. Later, it will go back to Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU).
“As part of an institutional partnership, the three institutions signed an agreement a few days ago to establish a field school at the haveli to document and preserve the building as well as promote traditional arts by turning a part of it into a museum and learning centre for students from all three institutions,” Dr Tarar said.
The building is named after military contractor Sujan Singh, who built it in 1893. He was one of the richest men of the Potohar region at that time.
The grand building once housed several antiques such as Victorian-era furniture and expensive Chinese silverware in its grand rooms, but now, all the rooms lie vacant and give off a haunted look.
There are 45 such haunted rooms in the four-storey building, which is spread over two kanals.
Art historian Sheeraz Haider said that after partition, a number of refugees from Kashmir also resided there. Later on, due to the negligence of the government, locals vandalised the building and it lost its look.
However, Haider is optimistic that now, NCA would be able to restore the building to its original form.
Most of the majestic woodwork over the doors and windows has been destroyed. The damage from seeping water and occasional fires is clearly evident.
NCA has already started renovation work and its project director is optimistic that the lost glory of this historic building would be returned.
In the 1980s, President Ziaul Haq handed over the building to nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan to establish a science college for girls, but the plan failed. Later, in 2006, with the efforts of then-federal minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, the building was given to the FJWU to set up a campus, but that never materialised either.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2014.