LAHORE - The Lahore High Court on Wednesday directed the Lahore Walled City Authority to submit a detailed report on the conservation project.

The court issued these orders on a petition challenging alleged establishment of a restaurant at the Lahore Fort, the world heritage site.

Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh passed the order observing that if the conversation work was being carried out at the world heritage site then the court should be apprised that whether the approval for this conservation was taken or not and which experts were consulted.  Advocate Khurram Chughtai, who represented the Lahore Walled City Authority, said that no construction or alteration work was being carried out at the site; it was conservation which was being done in light of the authority’s own laws. The counsel said that Antiquities Act (Amendment) 2012, which was mentioned by the petitioner in his argument, did not apply to the site as it fell under the Lahore Walled City Authority that works under its own law.

However, the judge asked the counsel to apprise the court whether approval for conservation was taken from any relevant expert. The counsel said that authority itself was responsible for carrying out conservation work and under the law it was not bound to take approval from any other authority. The counsel said that no construction was being carried out; it was a conservation programme which was being carried out by the authority where nothing would be built or razed. He said that LWCA had an exclusive statutory mandate to conserve heritage within its jurisdiction, including Lahore Fort. He said it executed significant Heritage Conservation Projects, including conservation and re-development of Shahi Guzargah and Masjid Wazir Khan and its surroundings.

The counsel said that all activities with respect to “Lahore Fort Conservation Project”, including ‘Conservation & Adaptive Re-use of Royal Kitchen’, were being carried out in accordance with the applicable law i.e. WCL Act 2012, the UNESCO-Operational Guidelines and International Charter for Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites. It is important to note that there will be no demolition or destruction of the existing structures in any manner rather same are being conserved to the original levels and looks in collaboration with Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the all conservation activities are being done without affecting the Heritage Value of the Lahore Fort. He prayed to the court to dismiss the petition for being non-maintainable.

Syed Abdal Zaidi had filed the petition alleging that the authority had allowed construction/alteration at the Lahore Fort for establishment of a restaurant. He said it would damage the fort, which was also a world heritage site. The petitioner said the authority by doing so had violated the Antiquities Act (Amendment) 2012. He prayed to the court to take action against the responsible and bar it from establishing any restaurant there. The court would resume hearing on Sept 28.