Wedding event at Lahore Fort: WCLA removes official over negligence

Updated January 16, 2020

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The function was allegedly converted into a wedding ceremony in violation of the rules and regulations and standing instructions as mentioned in the permission letter. — Photo courtesy Arif Mahmood
The function was allegedly converted into a wedding ceremony in violation of the rules and regulations and standing instructions as mentioned in the permission letter. — Photo courtesy Arif Mahmood

LAHORE: The Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) on Wednesday removed its marketing, tourism and culture director from the job for failing to monitor a function that allegedly was a wedding ceremony not permissible at the Unesco protected heritage site under the rules and regulations.

The authority also surrendered services of Mr Asif Zaheer, (an officer on deputation) to the Services and General Administration Department (S&GAD) for his repatriation to his actual department — Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA).

“In the light of a preliminary inquiry into an alleged wedding function (Mehndi) reportedly organised by a private party at the Royal Kitchen Courtyard (Lahore Fort), we have removed our senior official Asif Zaheer from the job of director (marketing, tourism an culture) and surrendered his services to the S&GAD department. The department will further repatriate his services to the PHA,” WCLA Director General Kamran Lashari told Dawn.

“We think that it was negligence on the part of the aforementioned official, as he didn’t monitor the event, which was actually allowed for [holding] a private corporate dinner, converted into a reported wedding (Mehndi) ceremony.”

The authority had on Jan 10 attracted ire of the heritage lovers and the government after it allowed a private function at the Royal Kitchens (Shahi Bawarchi Khana) of the Lahore Fort — a Unesco world heritage protected site, organised by a known industrial group.

The function was allegedly converted into a wedding ceremony in violation of the rules and regulations and standing instructions as mentioned in the permission letter.

The authority termed the event organisers deceivers and got registered an FIR against them.

Following the media reports highlighting the violation, the authority had also suspended the fort in charge Bilal Tahir for not monitoring the event properly.

Mr Lashari admitted that negligence on the part of officials not only drew ire of the government and heritage lovers, but also brought a bad name to the authority.

“Preparations before organising such function take time. And the officials should have monitored and observed mode of the event. But they didn’t do so,” Mr Lashari deplored.

He also criticised the electronic media for creating panic through ‘wrong reporting’ of the incident. “First they [the media] showed the event was organised within Sheesh Mehal. It was incorrect, since it was held at the courtyard of the Royal Kitchen that is not even part of the Lahore Fort. Later, they accused the WCLA of according permission for [holding] a wedding ceremony [on fort premises] that was actually not the case,” he claimed.

The DG, responding to a question, said if the authority imposed a ban on corporate dinners etc, no one would visit the Lahore Fort. “If we do so, this place would go deserted, only having wild grass and dogs barking there,” he said, adding the WCLA restored the Royal Kitchen after a period of 50 years. “Before inception of the WCLA, it was really a deserted place,”

Mr Lashari said no one took any action against those responsible for keeping this place deserted for 50 years. “But the action was quickly taken against those who restored this place, opened it for the public and madeing the site attractive for local and foreign tourists,” he wondered.

He said the problem with this country was that those who worked were caught and incompetent and lazy people received appreciation.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2020