By Javed Iqbal
LAHORE: On the directions of the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan, all the state owned buildings which were considered to be white elephants, now will be used for commercial purposes.
Official sources in the Chief Minister Office told that the PM Khan had desired that historic heritage and other public sector buildings like the Governor House, State Guest House, Punjab House Murree etc should be utilized to generate money. They further told that Premier Imran Khan had also directed to promote tourism in the entire country. “All the state run guest houses or owned by different provincial departments should also be used for commercial purposes”, directed the PM.
There are a number of guest houses currently owned by different departments like the TDCP, Irrigation, Pakistan Railways etc. Shockingly, a good number of these rest houses have been occupied by the police or other agencies in the province. The federal as well as the provincial governments should proceed to evacuate these buildings from the illegal occupants, an officer of the Irrigation Department demanded of the PM Khan. The commercial use of these buildings would add to the revenue, he corroborated.
A number of buildings constructed during the Mughal Empire had already been declared protected that include Shahi Qila, Badshahi Masjid, Jahangir’s Tomb, Choburji, Shalamar Gardens, Polytechnic College, on Lytton Road where famous trial of Ilm Din Shaheed was proceeded and some others. The government may charge money where entry is free.
The Punjab Chief Secretary Yousuf Naseem Khokhar on Friday chaired a meeting on utilization of the State Guest House owned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The chair directed the special premises committee to visit the historical building and furnish suggestions to the government whether it could be reused to generate money. Committee is comprised of government officers like Chairman Planning and Development, Secretary Local Government Department, private known experts like Nayyar Ali Dada and others.
Meanwhile, the government had already announced to utilize the Punjab House Murree for commercial purposes. Former PM Nawaz Sharif had spent millions of rupees on decoration of the building. Costly carpets, curtains and other decoration pieces had been imported from the UAE.
On the directions of the PM Khan it was proposed to use the Governor House for corporate events, photo shoots, wedding functions, musical concerts, said an official. He said that it was proposed Rs1 million a day for functions in lawns, Rs200,000 for photo shoots and Rs10,000 to Rs50,000 for lodging in the historic rooms. Moreover, an Rs50 ticket for visitors, Rs500 for citizens and Rs1,000 for foreigners was also suggested.
A former SMBR on anonymity on adaptive reuse of the heritage buildings said that government wanted health of the environment with the health of economy. He said that plantation of ten billion tree was just an eye opener. He said that these buildings could be used for boutique functions as well.
Former Senior Member further said that PM Kha n should also look into millions of rupees being spent annually on government officers’ residences spread on 2,600 kanals across Punjab. Reportedly, he stated, around 30,000 public and private employees including a large number of police personnel have been deployed to look after them. The need is to use these buildings for commercial purposes at the district and division level, he proposed. Two kanal furnished bungalows should rather be given to the officers, he suggested.
As per details, Commissioner House Sargodha stretched at an area of 104 kanals, SSP Sahiwal’s residence 98 kanals, DC House Mianwali 95 kanal, DC House Faisalabad 92 kanals, 40 DIGs and SSPs reside in 860 kanals bungalows. The other large residences of the police officers are in Mianwali, Rajanpur, Sheikhupura, Bahawalnagar, Attock and Gujranwala.
Likewise, civil officers have also been residing in residences spread over dozens of kanals.
He suggested that all the public sector agencies be directed to conduct their functions in these buildings instead of costly five star hotels as an austerity measure.
It is to be recalled that demolition or alteration of the heritage buildings without prior permission of the special premises committee is gross violation of various sections the Punjab Special Premises (Preservation), Ordinance, 1985 and the Antiquities Act, 1975.
The Punjab government act to demolish the boundary wall of the Punjab Governor’s House after Imran Khan sworn in as PM was also violation of the law.