LAHORE: Punjab governor Balighur Rehman on Saturday promulgated the Walled City of Lahore (Amendment) Ordinance 2023, which extended the jurisdiction of the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) to the whole province, renaming it as the Punjab Walled Cities and Heritage Areas Authority.

The new authority will be responsible for the conservation and restoration of the walled cities, heritage areas and heritage properties in the province.

Earlier this year, the Punjab caretaker government had approved the expansion of the authority’s jurisdiction in a cabinet meeting held on October 17.

The government said it was necessary to amend the Walled City of Lahore Act 2012 to provide a comprehensive and integrated legal framework and specialised institutional arrangement for the protection of the cultural heritage of Punjab.

Expert says amendment to law a must

However, the ordinance has raised many eyebrows, invited criticism from the experts, and the public alike.

Environmental lawyer Ahmad Rafay Alam challenged the legality of the ordinance on ‘X’ (formerly twitter), and said the government cannot extend the WCLA’s scope without amending the act. He also asked how the ordinance would affect the existing archaeology department and its functions?

Another X user Ali Usman Qasmi also expressed his doubts about the effectiveness of the ordinance, saying as the WCLA had not even restored Lahore’s walled city properly, what is the justification of extending it to the entire province.

Punjab Walled Cities and Heritage Areas Authority Director General Kamran Lashari said that the authority would now work on special historical places and culture across the province.

He said the authority had successfully completed several projects in Lahore, such as the restoration of the Lahore Fort, the Badshahi Mosque, the Wazir Khan Mosque, the Delhi Gate and the Royal Trail.

He said the authority would also collaborate with the local communities and the civil society to promote awareness and appreciation of the heritage of Punjab.

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2023

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