LAHORE - In a dramatic move, the Walled City of Lahore Authority yesterday decided to reclaim the land of the heritage sites from the encroachers.

The authority is all set to restore 17th century Maryam Zamani Mosque, which is one of Lahore's earliest big mosques.

Located inside old Masti Gate and opposite Akbari Gate, the mosque is surrounded with encroachments of Rim Market at Fort Road. Around 350 shops of Pashtuns are located around the mosque.

The now occupied area was earlier part of ‘circular Green Park’ around the walled city. With the passage of time, the land grabbers occupied the land around the mosque and distorted the beautiful view for tourists.

It was once clearly seen from Lahore Fort’s back side and considered to be one of the top tourist attractions.

WCLA Conservation Director Najamul Saqib told The Nation yesterday that removal of encroachments and conservation work within mosque are the main objectives of the project. “A summery has been prepared and will be forwarded soon to director general WCLA. Once PC-1 is passed from Planning and Development Department work will commence,” he explained.

He further said that the estimated cost in PC-1 is Rs90 million which will include the conservation of the entire mosque including hujras, floor, gates, walls, fresco, ceilings, roof, domes and its exterior.

The mosque was built by Mughal emperor Jahangir to pay homage to his mother Begum Mariam-uz-Zamani aka 'Maharani Jodha Bai,' wife of Mughal emperor Akbar.

The most difficult period of time this mosque had to face was when it was temporarily turned into a gunpowder factory by then Punjab ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh later famous as Barudkhana Wali Masjid but in 1850 the mosque was returned to Muslims.

WCLA Director General Kamran Lashari said that Mariam Zamani or Begum Shahi Mosque it is the first Mughal mosque of grand stature and is known as the mother of all mosques. “It is in dilapidated condition and that is why WCLA has taken up the conservation of this monument. Once conservation of the mosque is complete it will be opened for the tourists,” he added.