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  November 23, 2012


In The Name of ALLAH The Almighty

Is This Restoration or Destruction of The Most Famous Heritage Site of Chitral ?

Dear Sir

The two photo's' attached to this email tell a very sad story about what happened in Chitral last week to its most famous mosque, the Shahi Masjid , built by my grandfather in 1922 (the work had started in 1910) . Every brick was transported from India when no roads were motor able in Chitral. They were delicately placed, by experienced artisans of India, to create this structure which has become the icon of Chitral.

Last month the government of KPK hurriedly allotted a sum of forty million rupees to "' restore"' a portion of the mosque above which stands an intrinsically carved dome. The services of re known architect Yasmin Lari from Karachi was engaged to ensure that the greatest care is taken in the restoration work so that the originality of the structure is retained. The authorities held a meeting with Ms Lari in Peshawar on 3rd Oct 2012 and consequently an email was sent to her on 29th Oct giving her the existing plan and detailed drawings. In Chitral a committee was formed of members of our family and prominent citizens to give local support. The Xen and SDO of the Works Department were ordered to overlook the work and ensure quality. Maybe everyone knew that the KPK Antiquities Act protects all buildings in the province which are more than 75 years old. Infact no work can be undertaken on any such buildings without the specific clearance from the Ministry of Archeology. So far so good.

But what actually happened was this:
On 18 Nov 2012 a pathan labourer, Shah Naseem was hired by contractor Mohammad Khan to drill four holes (each two and a half feet deep) and fill them up with dynamite. He was paid at the rate of Rs 200 per foot. This day was chosen because it was a Sunday when all offices etc are shut. Shah Naseem along with his partner Nisar Ali lit the fuses of the explosives and then ran for their lives in the face of the towering minaret of the mosque under which the dynamites were planted. Zaheer Khan who lives next to the mosque and his friends Anwar Ali Shah and Lalzaman Khan heard four successive explosions around the mosque.When the dust raised by the explosions settled down they, along with other people who had started gathering, saw that a huge hole had been torn into the brick wall supporting the historic and intrinsically carved dome(see attached photo's) The aged dome miraculously looked unshaken.
The people were then surprised to see the same labourers attaching a steel rope to the portion of the building which had withstood the explosions. The steel rope was attached to a chain pulley and secured to a huge chinar tree to pull down the walls which had withstood the blast of the four explosions. The old wall, solidly built a century ago, once again resisted the force against it and the steel pulley broke.

Is this how Yasmin Lari wanted the work done??
When I went to the scene of this incident three days had past. The XEN, the SDO and the contractor were all at the site. Both the XEN and the SDO admitted point blank that no one had consulted them at any time regarding the use of explosives to " restore" the iconic Shahi Masjid of Chitral. I then went to members of the committee selected by the DCO Chitral to oversee this work vide his office order 4170/ DCO dated 15 Oct 2012 " after fulfillment of all codal formalities". Just like the XEN and SDO the Committee members I spoke to out rightly, and with tears in their eyes, said that they had no knowledge of explosives being used to bring down any portion of the old mosque. They did not even know that any restoration work had started.

In jobs like this , where govt funds are involved, the age old PC-1 is made out followed by a work order. No such things were done before this fuse was lighted on a Sunday. The contractor Mohammad Khan had no other answer except that "the DCO was in the knowledge of it".

People from all over this 14,800 sq km district are coming in daily to see this ugly site for themselves. There is visible shock, visible revulsion, and visible annoyance on their faces. Architect Yasmin Lari needs to tell us about any part she, and her team mates Ejaz Khan and Amin Tariq may or may not have played in this sordid drama.

The only regret that the contractors man Shah Naseem has is that " had the contractor paid me my normal fee of Rs350 I can assure you that I had got this dome and minaret and every thing else down like a pile of sand"

Politicians are looking for issues while they tread closer to election time. If this incident is not made to look uglier than it is then we need a response from responsible people in the KPK government, or the High Court of Peshawar, to immediately form a committee to inquire into the circumstances which lead to this tragedy, apportion blame and punish the culprits.

Siraj Ulmulk




mail @ chitraltimes@gmail.com

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