PESHAWAR    -  Gone are the days when joy of small kids was boundless while seeing colourful butterflies hovering over flowers and dense pipal trees in the Mughal era Wazir Bagh Garden where greenery has started dying due to improper up keeping and increased urbanization. 

Chasing butterflies and hide and seek of small children among the thickly grown pipal trees used to be a big fun and laughter but all these charms wore off as the time passed by and today this historic garden was giving barely a deserted look. Pipal trees were so thick that one would get the impression of night even during broad daylight in the hot summer season. 

Located at Yakatooth area in South of Peshawar City on vast land, this oldest garden used to be rendezvous place for senior citizens while sitting under the cold shade of pipal trees in soothing environment coupled with chirping of birds and exchanged views of their life experiences and day to day happenings with their children plays around in its lush green lawns. It was used for morning exercises by Peshawarites due to its awesome walking tracks and lush green lawns and became a unique source of recreation and picnic spot.

Today, it is disappointing to see missing chirping birds, colourful butterflies and ladybirds due to vanishing of the canopy pipal trees at Wazir Bagh Garden due to lackluster approach of the local communities, deforestation and improper up keeping. “When I was young, I used to visit this historic park for exercise on its beautiful tracks snaking through its thickly grown tall pipal trees with people sitting around in sprawled lawns,” Misal Khan, Information Officer (Retd), said.   

Recalling his past memories, he said, tourists were highly impressed by its sprawled lawns, fountains, pods, apricots, peaches, pomegranates and colourful flowers. Shinwaris, Afridis, Mohmands, Bajauris and Khattaks besides domestic and foreign tourists used to come here in droves to spend some time in a relaxed environment under its shady trees, he said. 

It was also a great source of study for students of nearby Government Superior Science College due to its conducive environment and for sports athletes. “I came to this historic garden after 30 years and it was disappointing to see the pathetic condition of its two vast lawns, fountains’ pool, dying greeny and withered pipal trees,” he said.

He said, “Wazir Bagh Garden was the identity of Peshawar that should be preserved along with Shahi Bagh Garden for future generations.”

Misal Khan urged the KP government to take cogent measures for its complete rehabilitation, planting of pipal trees and impose complete ban on free movement of people inside the historic garden. 

He said fixation of entry fee would help check free movement of the people besides closing of its football ground would help protect its greenery from further degradation. 

Wazir Bagh Garden was constructed in 19th century when Prince Shah Mahmood Durrani sent his forces under the command of Sardar Fateh Muhammad Khan Barkzai alias Wazir against his cousin Shah Shuja who was the ruler of Peshawar. In 1810, Sardar Fateh Muhammed had toppled Shah Shuja rule and laid the foundation of Wazir Bagh Garden. It has a Royal Durrani graveyard in its South and Tomb of Beejo Bibi, a Mistress of Shah Taimur son of Emperor Ahmad Shah Abdali, which are attracting tourists. Peshawar is one of the oldest city of South Asia having about 2,500 years old civilization where international merchants of the Subcontinent, Afghanistan and Central Asia had stayed in its ancient Qissa Khwani Bazaar at nights and swapped tales of love, culture, art & architecture, music and each others’ traditions. 

They also visited nearby Wazir Bagh and Shahi Bagh gardens before their departure to Afghanistan and onward Central Asian Republics through historic Khyber Pass.

British diplomat Sir Alexander Burnes had special love for Wazir Bagh by visiting it in 1832 and rested here. He was highly impressed by its breathtaking natural beauty and lush green meadows. Finally, the fortune smiled on Wazir Bagh Garden with getting KP government’s attention by allocating Rs.100 million for its complete overhauling under Peshawar revival plan’s theme ‘New Peshawar Old Charm’ project to make it again centre of attraction for foreign and domestic tourists.

Prepared by the local government department, the Peshawar revival plan envisages complete refurbishment of Wazir Bagh Garden besides value addition to the city’s outlook under seven ‘R’ strategy to repair, realign, renovate, restore, rehabilitate and relax its environment besides remove all kinds of encroachment. “Refurbishing work on Wazir Bagh Garden has been recently started under Peshawar revival plan with an approved allocation of Rs.100 million by the PTI government to regain its past glory,” said Kamran Bangash, Special Assistant to KP Chief Minister for Information and Higher Education.

Under the plan, he said its walking tracks would be refurbished and its lawns would be made lush green, adding a special corner for women and a cafeteria would be established to facilitate tourists. 

Expressing his government resolve to make Peshawar again a city of flowers, parks and gardens, the CM said all four main enclosures of Wazir Bagh including pavilion, lawns, crisscrossing pavement and fountains’ pool would be refurbished without compromising on its originality.

Kamran Bangash said the project would be completed in 18 months. Fun land and Parda Bagh on about 176 kanal land at historic Shahi Bagh Garden has been removed to restore its original grendure, he said and added that PTI government would spend Rs.150 million on refurbishment of historical Shahi Bagh. Slip roads would be built to ensure smooth flow of traffic on roads leading to Wazir Bagh and Shahi Bagh gardens for facilitation of tourists besides revival of centuries-old traditions of Qehwa Khanas (tea rooms) at ancient Qissa Khwani bazaar and installation of heritage plaques and photos in main squares. 

The plan would be implemented in phase-wise for which different major arteries have been proposed include university road, ring road, Khyber Road, GT Road, Circular Road, Dalazak Road, Nasir Bagh Road, Charsadda Road, Kohat Road and Wazir Bagh Road to enhance Peshawar’s outlook. Similarly, problems of illegally installed billboards, debris buildings’ materials, encroachment, redundant poles, iron structures, rusted vehicles, dysfunctional streetlights, missing lane cat eyes, jumbled up wires of various utilities and poor civic conditions in the vicinity of Wazir Bagh and Shahi Bagh gardens would be addressed on priority basis. 

LG department has notified a 12-member advisory committee for implementation of the revival plan. Experts from different walks of life including politicians, women, youth, historians, architects, media personnel and government officials would be included in a 12-member committee to draft proposals within three months to give a new look to Peshawar besides restoring its old charm. Under the plan, power transmission lines near Wazir Bagh, Shahi Bagh and other areas would be shifted underground. Work orders had been issued for uplift and beautification of various roads including from Bacha Khan Chowk to Charsadda Bus Terminal Road, Dalazak Road from Bacha Khan Chowk to Ring Road , Circular Road from Nishterabad to Ramdas Chowk, Bhani Mari Road from Changi Chowk to Ramdas besides roads connecting Wazir Bagh and Shahi Bagh gardens with rest of the city. Similarly, Rs.110 million had been released for Zone-F for implementation of traffic management plan whereas tender was in process for traffic management plan at Zone-D in Peshawar. Work on Peshawar revival project has been temporarily stopped due to COVID-19, however, with reduction of coronavirus cases, construction and renovation work on Wazir Bagh have been restarted with a target to complete it by June 2022. Rs.2 billion have been approved by Provincial Development Working Party (PDWP) for construction of new parks at Town 1 near Shahi Bagh and Town II on Pajagai Road in order to reduce people’s load on Wazir Bagh Garden.