LAHORE - The Punjab government has rjected the recent press release of Lahore Conservation Society as “factually incorrect and actually misleading”.

In a handout issued Thursday, the provincial government stated “the facts are that the Lahore Conservation Society and other organizations associated with it have been leading a campaign against the execution of Lahore Orange Line Metro Train Project on the basis of flawed understanding and baseless assertions.”

“They have been perpetually feeding wrong information to the World Heritage Centre (Secretariat) which unfortunately became the basis for the Centre to put up Draft Decisions which were unjustified as not being supported by any credible evidence whatsoever, for consideration of the World Heritage Committee (WHC),” it added.

On Wednesday, the civil society representatives asserted that the members of the Punjab government’s delegation misled Pakistani nation on Unesco verdict on OLMT project. “The Punjab government misled Unesco at the 41st World Heritage Committee meeting held in Krakow (Poland) on OLMT Project’s effects on World Heritage Site Shalimar Gardens,” they said during a press conference at Lahore Press Club.

“The (government) delegation, after returning the country, also misled the media about Unesco decisions on Shalimar Gardens and the Orange Line Metro Project. They gave their own interpretation of the decision,” they added.

However, the government handout states that the World Heritage Centre only acts as the secretariat of the WHC and the real authority vests in the World Heritage Committee which takes decisions on matters presented before it.

At the WHC session, the handout reads, “the Pakistan State Party presented its point of view based on true and correct facts stemming from technical data and conclusions and recommendations of various studies conducted to-date for this project.

“The authors of the press release under reference were obviously frustrated as their point of view was not accepted by the World Heritage Committee. All unjustified draft decisions put up by the World Heritage Centre regarding suspension of work on the project, effecting a change in alignment in front of Shalimar Gardens and for placing the Gardens on the list of World Heritage in Danger were considered and categorically rejected by the World Heritage Committee.

“The letters addressed to Mr Kamil Khan Mumtaz dated July 10, 2017 and to Ms Farida Shaheed dated July 12, 2017 by Director Wold Heritage Centre are reflective of great consternation and disappointment of the addressees about rejection of their baseless and nefarious agenda by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st Session.”

According to the government, the World Heritage Centre had indicated in the Draft Decisions that further construction work to the East and West of Shalimar Gardens was having an ascertained impact on the setting and integrity of the Property. “The World Heritage Committee rejected this assertion and decided to delete the Para containing this baseless conclusion.”

The government, in its statement, has reiterated that “the Pakistan State Party presented true facts to the World Heritage Committee which were fully appreciated by the Committee as reflected in its decisions. Misrepresentation of facts was actually done by our critics who were fully exposed and as such the World Heritage Committee did not pay any heed to their assertions.”

In the end, the Punjab Government reiterated its complete commitment to conservation and protection of its heritage sites. “It will be ensured that no negative impact whatsoever is caused to the heritage sites due to execution of Orange Line project and all protective and mitigation measures will be meticulously and diligently taken by the project executors so as to keep the heritage sites along the alignment of the project completely safe in all respects.”