RAWALPINDI: Historic buildings constructed during British and Mughal rule will be preserved under a new plan devised by the district administration, which will begin the renovations from Haveli Sujan Singh and a gurdwara in Bagh Sardaran.

The Punjab government has asked the administration to identify old and historic buildings in the city that can be preserved to attract tourists and showcase local culture. The administration has made a list of such buildings, some of which were built in the Mughal era, during the colonial period or by local Sikh leaders.

One such building is the 129-year-old Sujan Singh Haveli, located in the narrow streets of Bhabara Bazaar. The haveli was built by Sikh politician Sardar Sujan Singh and owned by the same family that also owned Prince Palace on the Mall (now the Fatima Jinnah Women University).

The two-storey building was built in 1890 and remains a fine example of brick masonry. Its front veranda faces the street, while the majestic central entrance to the building is in the middle of its two wings.

Preservation efforts to begin with Haveli Sujan Singh, Bagh Sardaran Gurdwara

The building was in the custody of the FJWU, which did nothing with it. The universitywas considering a proposal to open a school for culture, heritage, architecture and design for women there but the plan never materialised.

The maindoor to the haveli is carved with floral and animal motifs and opens into a deorhi (entrance hall) connected to an inner veranda that opens into a courtyard.

The haveli has remarkablewoodwork over its doors and windows, English tiles, Victorian furniture and expensive Chinese silverware. In the evening it takes on a golden glow when the chandeliers and lamps have been lit in its 45 rooms.

The other building to be renovated is the Bagh Sardaran Gurdwara. Built by Sardar Sujan Singh Rai Bahadur, it was the main gurdwara in the area before partition and included a school and library.

The gurdwara was constructed by a Sikh family in a garden, which disappeared after partition as people began building houses in the area. The gurdwara building has been leased to the police’s Special Branch.

Experts from Lahore are visitingRawalpindi to assist the district administration with the preservation of historic buildings, Deputy Commissioner Saifullah Dogar told Dawn.

“We will also preserve old buildings on Murree Road. Building plans will be made by the government and given to private owners so they renovate the buildings themselves,” he said.

He said the district administration will help preserve old private property where they find common features such as an outer wall. The demolition of old buildings will not be allowed because they will be declared historical.

“We will open a café and sitting area in Haveli Sujan Singh where artists, writers and musicians will sit together. The café will be for people in the evening and musical events will be arranged there. Book reading sessions will also be held,” Mr Dogar said.

He said old structures will be preserved and modern lighting added. People will also be able to pay to hold their own events at the café.

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2019