LAHORE: It is the first time in my life that I have joined a protest. Our madrassa (religious seminary) is coming in way of the metro train project and we are worried that it may also be demolished.

A madrassa student who identified himself as Ahmed told The Nation yesterday while he along with some other students participated in the protest organized by civil society on the call of Lahore Bachao Tehrik and Lahore Conservation Society outside GPO, which along with St Andrew’s Church and the land in front of Supreme Court building was said to be damaged by the Lahore Metro Orange Line Train Project. The students were later told to leave the protest amid protests from them that they too would be affected by the. The question that many protesters were asking each other was that were these students also part of the civil society or not. 

When this scribe asked Convener of the Tehrik Imrana Tiwana about not allowing them to protest she was of the view that since they did not know them and they perhaps had been sent to sabotage or had their own motives. “They should organize a separate protest if they want to,” she said. 

The protesters belonging to LBT and LCS demanded that the government should issue notification that the heritage sites will not be demolished or damaged instead of just giving verbal assurance.

Dozens of civil society activists carrying placards and banners were chanting slogans ‘Save Lahore, change route of the train’. Protesters demanded immediate halt to the project in order to review it.

Imrana said the government has changed the plan of route many times. “The government should tell the people final route plan of the train. We are thankful to Prime Minister and Punjab Chief Minister for taking notice of the issue. We want practical implementation of their assurance”, she added.

She said government should execute the metro train project according to the reports of JICA and World Bank, who had rejected the present route plan of the train. 

Dr. Ejaz Anwar said the government was in direct violation of laws made to guarantee safeguarding of archaeological and heritage sites, ancient monuments and the environment. “This is in direct violation of the Antiquities Act 1975-Section 22 under which no development plan or scheme or new construction on, or within a distance of 200 feet of a protected immovable antiquity shall be undertaken or executed.  

“And in violation of the Punjab Special Premises Preservation Ordinance 1985 as well under which no development plan or scheme or new construction, on or within a distance of 200 feet of, a Special Premises shall be undertaken or executed, he added.

Rev Hanook Haq of St Andrews Church on Naba Road did not participate in the protest. “We did have some sleepless nights when they put marks on the church wall for its demolition. The church has an active congregation and all the members were disturbed. But the government officials have assured that there will be no damage to the church. The train will go underground in front of the church.

“There will be lot of inconvenience while the construction work will start. But thanks God there is no danger to the church,” the much relieved pastor said.