LAHORE: The Tibbi city police on Saturday registered a criminal case against a senior admin official of a private company for arranging wedding function at the Royal Kitchens of the Lahore Fort and formed a team to arrest those involved in the misuse of the venue.

An FIR was lodged on the complaint of WCLA Assistant Director Ali Islam Gull while nominating Fatima Fertilizers Company Limited’s executive admin Asjad Nawaz Cheema.

According to the FIR, the authorities had allowed the company to arrange a corporate dinner but the company converted it into a wedding function.

The complainant alleged that during inspection the Authority’s officials took up the case with Asjad who refused to follow the rules and regulations of the WCLA.

A police official said a team had been formed to arrest the official nominated in the FIR.

Meanwhile, prominent architect Yasmeen Lari expressed her utter displeasure and shock over the misuse of the national heritage for a private event.

In a letter addressed to the WCLA chairman, she said that as UNESCO’s National Advisor (2003-2005) who had co-authored the Master Plan approved by Unesco and the Punjab government for the Lahore Fort, she was shocked and dismayed to see media reports related to the use of premises of the Lahore Fort (Shahi Qila) World Heritage Site for a private function where wedding festivities were held and food was served.

“Since the Lahore Fort is of the highest national and global heritage value, we urge you to take action against those who are responsible for allowing the desecration of this national treasure,” she demanded.

The punitive action must be publicised extensively in order that use of Pakistan’s national heritage sites for private functions and entertainment is forever banned, she demanded.

Ms Lari said the event confirmed the worst fears that were expressed by the undersigned at the hearing at Hon’ble Lahore High Court in 2018, when Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah had sought views on the lenient guidelines approved by the WCLA Conservation Board in using the Royal Kitchens for private fine dining.

It was clearly expressed by the chief justice that no private activity on the premises of the World Heritage site must be allowed, and permission should not be given for dining for the select few, she said. “If any food is to be served it should only be packed snacks at the periphery of the heritage site in an area of low heritage value,” she added.

The WCLA who are working in collaboration with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, has the responsibility to ensure that OUV (Outstanding Universal Value) of this unique World Heritage site is not compromised.

“I urge you to disband the WCLA Conservation Board and instead follow the guidelines for visitors’ activities to be formulated by an independent heritage committee under ICOMOS Pakistan, comprising PCATP (Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners), and IAP (Institute of Architects Pakistan)”.

“I will be at the disposal of the independent committee for making relevant recommendations for safeguarding the heritage site for future generations,” she said.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2020