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Last week, senior officials finally received a go-ahead from the government to implement its years-old plan to restore the Maryam Zamani Mosque near Akbari Gate.

The mosque, which is also known as Begum Shahi Mosque, was built during the era of Emperor Jahangir in honour of his mother and the wife of Emperor Akbar, who was known by the title of Maryamuz Zamani.

Although the plan to restore the monument had been devised five years ago, it couldn’t be materialised due to resistance from several shopkeepers dealing in old and new tyre rims for decades.

The area is known as the city’s biggest rim market comprising around 200 shops creating a visual barrier and inflicting severe environmental impacts in an area enriched with heritage.

Under the plan, the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) has been entrusted with the task to restore the mosque and clear the way leading to it from Akbari Gate by demolishing the shops.

“Last week, there was a very important meeting presided over by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. During meeting, the chief minister gave us a go-ahead to implement this project by pursuing the scheme’s PC-1 lying pending with the planning and development department,” WCLA Director (Administration) Shahid Nadeem told Dawn.

A sum of Rs300 million was allocated for compensating the 200 shopkeepers who, according to the government, have been occupying state land for 60 years. Similarly, separate funds were allocated for the restoration of the mosque’s façade and interior. The Aga Khan Trust for Cultural has also offered the government financial assistance in the project.

The shopkeepers would only be paid business disturbance cost and not the cost of land since they were considered encroachers.

“The shopkeepers had resisted the plan in the past but they may not raise the issue now because the government has already finalised a plan to shift the Badami Bagh Bus Stand outside the city. Since the shopkeepers’ business is directly linked with the bus stand, they will likely want their shops to be shifted close to the bus stand,” the official explained.

Besides Maryam Zamani Mosque’s restoration, phase 2 of Wazir Khan Mosque restoration is also likely to be launched. Under this plan, the interior of the mosque will be restored. Its exterior, including the front intersection and rooms (hujras), had already been restored through financial and technical collaboration with US and Norwegian embassies and the Aga Khan cultural trust.

The top administration of Lahore Development Authority (LDA) plans to improve its service delivery system that could provide a relief to people visiting the authority’s one-window office daily.

According to senior officials, the disposal of applications related to property transfer, town planning, maps approval, No-Objection Certificates by the directorates concerned is too slow that is annoying people. The list of pending cases was also increasing.

Another reason identified recently was delaying tactics used by officials in various directorates to force people to approach them and strike ‘deals’ to solve issues. That was why the LDA director general (DG) suspended seven officials from service besides issuing warning notices to two directors following public complaints that were proved genuine.

The DG and other senior officials must monitor performance of various directorates, including town planning, metropolitan planning and others, regularly to help resolve people’s issues expeditiously.

Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2016