NAROWAL: A group of locals partially demolished a four-storey centuries-old building allegedly with the connivance of auqaf department officials and even sold its precious windows, doors and ventilators.
The building seems to have been constructed over four centuries ago in village Bathanwala, 20 kilometres from here, on New Lahore Road.
Its construction comprised old bricks, sand, clay and limestone. There were 16 large rooms in the building all of which had at least three beautiful doors and at least four ventilators.
The rooms were constructed with large broad walls with cupboards in them that had wooden doors with flowers carved on them.
All the rooms were airy and their walls had small lamp enclosures in them. Diyar wood beams of various sizes were used in the roofs; the wood costs thousands of rupees per foot.
DC, ETPB, building ‘owner’ clueless about its ownership
The three-foot-wide and sturdy walls surrounding the building were made of small old bricks in beautiful designs and intricately painted with pictures of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism; as well as of various Hindu rulers and princes. There were stairs on three of the four sides of the building going up to the roof.
A local resident, Muhammad Aslam, said: “This old building is called the Palace of Baba Guru Nanak and we have named it Mahalan. A number of Sikhs from across the world, including India, used to visit this building.”
He further claimed that once a six-member delegation, including a woman carrying a large book with information about the historical building, had come here from Canada. The delegation was elated at visiting the site as if they had found a treasure.
Another local, Muhammad Ashraf, said: “The auqaf department was informed about the demolition of the building by some influential persons, but no officer or official took any action or even reached here.”
He also claimed: “Three storeys of the building have already been demolished and new houses constructed. The influentials have demolished the building with the connivance of the auqaf department and sold its costly windows, doors, ventilators and wood.”
In an effort to determine the legal status of the building, locate its owners or find out which government department maintained its record, this correspondent reached out to various officials, but apparently everyone seemed clueless — from the deputy commissioner, Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) to the family that lived in the building.
Muhammad Anwar claimed to be the owner of the building who, along with some other family members, was also behind its demolition. He claimed that after Partition his forefathers started living in this building where his family continued to reside. “I do not know whose property this building is as we have been living here for generations. We demolished it because it was in a dangerous, dilapidated condition,” he added.
Narowal Deputy Commissioner Waheed Asghar, who is in charge of the record of all properties in the region, said: “There is no mention of this building in the revenue record. As it seemed to be historical, we are checking the municipal committee’s record.”
He said he had stopped the demolition of the building.
ETPB Sialkot zone Rent Collector Rana Waheed said: “Our team is investigating the Guru Nanak Mahal Bathanwala. If this palace was the property of Evacuee Trust Property Board, legal action will be taken against those responsible.”
He further said that any property of the ETPB, which was rented out, could not be demolished or anything constructed on it without permission.
Locals demanded Prime Minister Imran Khan take immediate notice of the destruction of this ‘heritage site’ and take action against those who demolished it.
Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2019