LAHORE: The Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) got into hot water on Saturday after the video clips of a racing car drifting in the Lahore Fort, a Unesco World Heritage Site, went viral on social media, drawing criticism from the quarters concerned.
The video clips show a sports car of an energy drink company drifting in the historical fort, a protected site, and moving in and out of one of its gates. The car can be seen doing stunts during a shooting.
The civil society activists, politicians and academics criticised the WCLA for allowing the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) car drifting as it could damage the structure protected of the world heritage site.
The Antiquities Act of 1975 prohibits the misuse of historical places to protect them from damage. It says, “A protected immovable antiquity shall not be used for any purpose inconsistent with its character or for a purpose other than that directly related to its administration and preservation”.
Probe launched into illegal event at the World Heritage Site
Lahore Conservation Society (LCS) Information Secretary Dr Ajaz Anwar condemned the car drifting on the premises of a world heritage site and demanded action against the WCLA officials involved in giving the permission. He said the site where the incident happened was connected with Baradari, Badshahi Mosque’s stairs and Allama Iqbal’s tomb but no one respected the sanctity of the area.
“The Baradari’s stones are very delicate and they can be damaged with this type of activity.”
Dr Anwar said four/five government departments were involved in the protection of the world heritage sites, including archaeology and the WCLA, but none was taking care of these sites properly. He apprehended that the authorities, especially the WCLA, would have taken a heavy amount of money to give permission for the video and photo shooting.
“The WCLA is using the sites for commercial purposes to earn money for its own benefits as earlier, marriage ceremonies were held and the fort was used for commercial purposes to earn money,” he alleged.
Later, in what appeared to be a face-saving exercise, the WCLA constituted an inquiry committee to check the negative impact of drifting on the fort.
Chief Minister Usman Buzdar also took notice of the incident, saying that such an incident at a national heritage site was intolerable.
He also sought a report from WCLA Director General Kamran Lashari, directing him to hold an inquiry against the officials involved in giving permission for drifting at the fort.
Mr Lashari told Dawn the PCB had sought permission for shooting transportation of the PSL-7 trophy with a private company and the authority had given it the permission. He said the authority officials did not know that the heritage site would be used for car drifting.
“No official had knowledge of the car drifting scene and thought a car might have passed through the fort.”
Mr Lashari said the WCLA official present at the site had stopped the activity after watching the car perform high-speed stunts thinking that it could damage the site. “An inquiry has been launched to check whether the car drifting had damaged the site or not.”
He explained that the authority had given permission to the PCB for two days of video shooting but cancelled permission for the second day.
“I know that the act was illegal under the World Heritage sites law and would impose a fine if the site has suffered any damage,” he declared.
Another official, on condition of anonymity, told Dawn that the car drifting shoot was clearly mentioned in the application filed before the WCLA for getting permission. He claimed that the permission was managed by the ‘higher authorities and they had not cared about the importance of the site and its heritage.
“The authorities were now giving different angles to the permission but they were involved in violating World Heritage sites laws.”
PCB spokesman Samiul Hasan said the PCB was a responsible institution and permission was sought from all relevant authorities for video shooting of the trophy and car drifting was also mentioned in the application.
Another PCB official, requesting not to be named, said the application of the photo and video shoot with their advertiser was submitted weeks ago and it was checked by all authorities concerned.
“The PCB letter had clearly mentioned all the activities to be carried out at the site,” he asserted.
The PCB official added that it was the responsibility of the commissioner and the WCLA to give permission.
“The relevant authorities would not have permitted it if the drifting was against the world heritage site law but no one had pointed out anything,” he claimed.
A spokesperson for the Lahore Commissioner said the commissioner office had not issued any directions to the WCLA about the car drifting in the Lahore Fort.
He said that on the application of the PCB, arrangements were made for the concluding ceremony of the PSL-7. The PCB had sought permission for video recording of the PSL trophy at different sites of the city on Feb 25 and 26 and departments concerned were directed to help the PCB record the trophy video. He said arrangements were made at 15 different places of the city for video recording of the PSL-7 trophy and holding of a rally. He said the WCLA was legally empowered to take action against such illegal activities.
“The commissioner office has neither given any permission for car drifting at the Lahore Fort, nor did it direct the authority to give any such permission,” he claimed and added that it was the responsibility of the WCLA to stop any illegal activity, including car drifting, at the Lahore Fort.
Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2022