The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday stayed the government's decision to demolish the outer wall of the Punjab Governor House, work on which had started. The demolition would have offered a clear view of the majestic colonial-era building to the public from The Mall.
"Not a brick should be removed from its place," Justice Mamoonur Rashid ordered after hearing initial arguments in a petition against the razing of the wall.
"Everyone will be behind bars if the walls are razed," the judge warned, directing that work on the demolition be stopped immediately until further orders of the court.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had ordered the demolition of the Governor House's boundary wall on Saturday. Instantly responding to his instructions, the Punjab government had started preparations to raze the outer wall on Sunday afternoon.
At the outset of the hearing, the court inquired whether the wall of the gubernatorial office had already been razed. He was informed by the lawyer for the petitioner, Khawaja Mohsin Abbas, that work had been initiated to do the same.
The judge remarked that the wall had been present since his childhood, and asked under whose authority the facility falls.
The petitioner's lawyer informed the court that the Governor House building is a historical cultural heritage which is older than a century. He said permission had not been sought from the cabinet to tear down its boundary.
He said as per previous orders of the Supreme Court, it was mandatory for the government to issue ads in newspapers before undertaking projects such as this.
The petition, which names the federal government, Punjab government and others as respondents, stated that Prime Minister's Khan order to demolish the Governor House wall would waste taxpayers' money.
Razing the wall would be a violation of not just the SC's orders, but also of the Antiquities Act 1975, the petitioner said, asking the high court to issue a stay order against work on the demolition of the wall.
Responding to the arguments, the lawyer representing the government stated that the Governor House building was not being demolished itself, and that only its walls would be razed.
After hearing both sides, Justice Rashid stayed the demolition project and issued notices to the federal and Punjab governments, seeking their replies.
"If anything is done against the court orders, no one will be spared," the judge warned.
Officials had earlier said the wall from the left side of the Governor House’s main entrance on The Mall to the corner of the Alhamra Hall and a few yards on the Kashmir Road would be demolished and replaced with iron grills.
As the work began on the demolition on Sunday, workers were seen removing barbed wires installed on iron grills fixed on the over-10-foot high wall of the historic building. The barbed wire was installed on the boundary walls of all the public and other sensitive buildings in the wake of terrorist attacks in the country in the recent past.
While security officials voiced their concerns regarding the move, reports in the media had said the wall demolition and installation of iron grills would cost the government exchequer to the tune of around Rs60 million.