LAHORE - Unesco’s World Heritage Committee (WHC) has put Shalimar Gardens on the List of World Heritage in Danger and asked Pakistan to take measures to protect the heritage site, The Nation learnt on Thursday.

Announcing its draft decision of the 41st session, which took place last year in Poland, the World Heritage Committee has expressed concerns about the safety and protection of Shalimar Gardens due to impact of the Orange Line Metro Train on heritage sites in the provincial capital.

The World Heritage Committee said in its draft decision, “It requests the state party (Pakistan) to develop, in consultation with the World Heritage Committee Centre and the Advisory Bodies, a proposal for the desired state of conservation for removal of the property (Shalimar Gardens) from the list of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) and take a set of corrective measures, to be submitted by Feb 2019 at the latest, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 43rd session in 2019.”

The 42nd session of Unesco’s World Heritage Committee’s convention on protection of world cultural and natural heritage will be held on June 24 in Manama, Bahrain. However, according to the sources, no heritage law expert is there to represent Pakistan at the World Heritage Committee and explain the safety measures being taken by Pakistan.

“WHC acknowledged the efforts made by Pakistan for conservation of property in question. However, it is regretted that alternative routes for Orange Line Metro, which could have avoided adverse impact on Shalimar Gardens, were not pursued,” says the committee’s decision.

The international body said “despite the Committee’s previous decisions, the Orange Line Metro in Lahore has been completed without satisfactory, comprehensive heritage impact assessment for the project”.

It regretted that “assessment conducted by the state party (Pakistan) in 2016, which was not realized in accordance with 2011 ICOMOS guidance on heritage impact assessment for cultural world heritage properties, significantly downplays the very serious environmental impacts of the new Orange Line Metro project and does not in any way reflect the reality on site”.

The world committee, however, acknowledged that full mitigation of the adverse impact is not possible but urged Pakistan to implement the mitigation measures proposed by the 2018 mission on the impact of Orange Line Metro on Shalimar Gardens. Shalimar Gardens and other cultural sites could permanently be put on the List of World Heritage in Danger if Pakistan’s position was not made clear before the world body.

Reliable sources told The Nation that no heritage law expert was included this year in the official delegate to attend the World Heritage Committee session in Bahrain.  They said a summary to former Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif was sent with four names – Sibtain Fazal Haleem, Archaeology DG Ijaz Ahmad (who has been transferred now), Deputy Director of (Archaeology) Maqsood Ahmad and Nespak GM Salman Hafiz but that summary was not approved by the then chief minister and the same is still pending with the CM office.

The sources said former AGP Ashtar Ausaf suggested the names of deputy attorney general Nassar Mirza and Advocate Khurram Shahzad Chughtai as strategic counsel in the legal team to attend the proceedings of the WHC. Deputy Attorney General Nasr Mirza and strategic counsel Khurram Chughtai represented Pakistan in World Heritage Committee’ 40th session which was held in Istanbul, Turkey. Former Advocate General of Punjab Shakil-ur-Rehman Khan, Khurram Chughtai and former provincial education minister Rana Mashood represented Pakistan in 41th session that was held last year in Poland but the question is that who will represent Pakistan this year?