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Wazir Khan Mosque. - File Photo.

LAHORE: An international technical consultant has observed violations of conservation norms and policies in the rehabilitation work being done at the ancient Wazir Khan mosque.

It requested the Punjab government to take necessary steps to suspend the on-going conservation work of the mosque till the experts had alternative satisfactory arrangements.

The firm, Aga Khan Trust for Culture Services, tasked with assisting and monitoring conservation activities in the walled city of Lahore, by the Punjab government in July, 2007, wrote to Planning and Development Department Chairman Mr Javaid Aslam about its concerns.

“From the week ending on Dec 16 (Friday) the archeology department’s contractors have started breaking up the 400 years old lime roofing on top of the northern hujras of the mosque,” says the letter written on Dec 27.

“As there was no water-leakage in the hujras from this specific part of the roof, the dismantling of roof was carried out by using the heavy steal mallets and other equipment that caused massive shaking of the fragile masonry work of this 400 years old building.”

It says the heavy chunks of the lime concrete roofing and parapet coping have also been leaked out due to the on going work. The parapets carrying external facing of the world’s famous glazed ceramic tiles have also been shaken loose, and the tiles show long horizontal cracks as a result of the shocks the parapets have sustained during the work.

The letter says that critical problems the mosque is facing have also been elaborated in a report prepared by the trust.

Under the conservation norms, the letter says the prerequisite of the roof repairs is the opening up of clogged drains and the routing of rainwater quickly and efficiently. The drainage problems, where these exist, and the remedies for them have also been identified by the firm. These drainage problems are to be found to exist mainly on the southern and northern hujras of the mosque. The repairs of roof were only to be carried out with care and sensitivity. The letter also quoted minutes of a meeting of the professionals held on Sept 19, 2011, that had pointed out the need for the works to be overseen by a high powered administrative framework.

It said that there was a need for a comprehensive restoration of the mosque, including the specific on-going restoration work of hujras.

“The present work does not satisfy the criteria of minimal intervention, documentation, care and sensitivity enshrined in the international conventions and charters on conservation which of the Pakistan is state party too,” the letter said.

The letter said that as the Wazir Khan mosque was a world class monument, the repair to it must be carried out not by the unsupervised contractors but by meticulous craftsmen supervised by trained architectural conservators of international standing. Archeology Department director general Haroon Khan rejected the observations. “Earlier, the work was being dealt by the Auqaf Department with the Walled City Project management and consultants,” he said.

“After some time the project management backed out and sought Archeology Department’s expertise in the work.”

He said the Auqaf Department, project management and consultants finally involved the Archeology Department to carry out the work as per designs/drawings that were already prepared by them.

“We are working in accordance with same drawings/designs as agreed earlier. We are surprised that why the consultants are raising such baseless objections,” he said.