PESHAWAR: The Shahi Bagh is one of Peshawar’s oldest gardens. It was built during the Mughal era and has been a hub for political meetings, literary gatherings and other social activities in the city. Rich or poor, literate or illiterate, people would go there to enjoy the serene beauty. Students would come in large numbers and study for hours under the trees away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The trees there stood tall and the grass was lush green with many beautiful fountains all around. This garden used to be the most popular picnic resort, play ground and study centre for the people of Peshawar. It was in everyone’s use — the rich and the poor of Peshawar would come together and relax there.
The garden is a national heritage site and public property according to the government. Legally, there can be no other construction in this garden but unfortunately, a large area of it has been occupied by the Government College of Peshawar, Municipal Inter College for girls, Arbab Niaz Stadium, many a local government offices and a wedding hall. All these constructions were declared illegal by the chief justice of the Peshawar High Court in a verdict in October 2012. The chief justice directed the concerned authorities to remove and demolish all the mentioned constructions within a period of six months.
The people of Peshawar welcomed this verdict of the Peshawar High Court with joy and excitement but their hopes are yet to materialise. No action has been taken by the concerned authorities to implement the decision of the Peshawar High Court regarding the restoration of Shahi Bagh to its original state.
I want to appeal to those in power to have some mercy on the people of Peshawar and to play their part in implementing the High Court’s decision regarding the restoration of Shahi Bagh.
Akhoonzada Abu Safwan
Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th, 2014.