LAHORE - The Punjab government has decided to expeditiously complete Bab-e-Pakistan project which was conceived 29 years ago, but could not be executed for political and financial reasons.

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has formed a foundation to work out legislative matters, funds required for the project, construction work and others.

The execution of the project was started by Pakistan Army Board of Trustees, but now the Punjab government has decided to take it over. A source relevant to the project on the political side says the government will carry out legislation to complete the project and salient features of the law will be worked out at the next meeting to be presided over by the chief minister within a week or so.

Answering a question, he said the main reason for delay in the completion of the project was that it was not under the supervision of the Punjab government. However, after the legislation which was likely to be carried out in next two months, a board of trustees would be formed to take care of the project, the source said, adding the cost of the project in 2005 was estimated at Rs 2.5 billion, which had soared after eight years and the future board would exactly work out how much it would be.

He revealed Rs 850 million had so far been spent on the project. As to the time frame for completion of the project, he said, no exact time had been fixed, the chief minister, however, wanted its completion maximum by the end of the next year. He told this scribe that about 30 per cent of the project had been completed.

Bab-e-Pakistan, conceived by PML-N leader Ghulam Haider Wyne, planned in 1985 by the then Punjab Governor Lt-Gen Ghulam Jillani Khan and approved by military dictator Gen Ziaul Haq, is a 150-foot at the site in the Walton area where the first refugee camp of the Pakistanis migrating from India was set up on August 14, 1947. Later, it was visited by Quaid-eAzam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

It has been designed and architected by eminent architect Amjad Mukhtar, visualising the sacrifices rendered by the Muslims of the subcontinent during the freedom movement, especially by those who suffered losses of lives and properties while traveling to this newly state from across the border in 1947.

Bab-e-Pakistan, a public and tourist spot, will figure in the 10 leading monuments of the country. The memorial also comprises two schools, a mosque and four halls, including a library, an art gallery, a museum, a garden, restaurants and sport facilities.

The foundation-stone of the project was laid twice in the past, first time by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the 44th Independence Day of Pakistan and second time by Pervez Musharraf on August 14, 2005. The monument was scheduled to be completed by August 2009 and then postponed to March 2012 for various reasons.

The construction work on the project experienced some difficulties because of the unstable political situation following the death of Zia in 1988. A second attempt was made in 1991 with the support of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but again the project was stalled.

The third attempt was made during the administration of President Pervez Musharraf to complete the construction work by 2014, but that target was also not met.

The last PML-N government in Punjab, while taking cognizance of the fact that the project had already been delayed constituted a committee under the chief secretary in 2012 to take over the project for early completion. The committee met several times, but the ensuing election activity outshined further development on this count. Now the Punjab government with a determination has decided to take over the project to complete it as early possible, said an official on the ndition of not being named.