RE - The restoration of the original faade of the Civil Secretariat Punjab, especially the Chief Secretary's Block, has been marred by controversy, as a few officers believe that aesthetically it is correct, while others deem that it is an extravagance since the offices had become part of the structure over decades.
Indiscriminate demolition sans any knowledge about the original map, uprooting of decade-old trees, and deflooring of flowerbeds have not impressed many, as they consider that the 'well-planned' offices, may be at a given time, had become important for the working in a close-knit manner.
There are officers, who believe that the revamping of the Secretariat will add to the beauty of the highest office of the Punjab. "Earlier, it used to be an unmanaged premises imparting an impression of a dilapidated building, but with the revamping, it will look beautiful," maintained officers, who believe that all appendages to the original structure should be removed.
Besides other offices, the Chief Secretary's Block has a historical value, as the building is well over 160 years old. "Jean Baptiste Ventura General in the service of the Maharaja Ranjit Singh, erected this building in its original form and lived in it for many years. It became the British Residency in 1847, and was occupied by Henry Lawrence and John Lawrence as residents at the Court of Lahore, and, after the annexation of the Punjab, as members of the Board of Administration," says an inscription exhibited outside the CS's office, which makes it more important a historical monument to be restored for the coming generations. Interestingly, this building should have been included in the list of protected edifices, but it has not been done so far, while the rest in other parts of the city have been included in the list.
However, when officers were quizzed about the exact idea behind the restoring the original structure, they articulated their ignorance, while asserting that they were just doing what they had been ordered. "Clear these verandas, corridors, and demolish these offices as these are encroachments These are the instructions, and we obediently follow them," said officers maintaining that they only knew that they were getting, and further delivering instructions for restoring the original structure of the Civil Secretariat, while there existed no map, except perhaps what could be in Chief Secretary Punjab Javed Mehmood's mind. "There is no evidence of the original building. We do not know what will be the final shape of the structure, but one thing is certain that it will not be an old building, rather a new building with a taste of the old one," said another officer.
During the current week, offices of the transport wing were demolished, and they had been shifted to the Civil Defence building. On the other hand, other offices have been displaced as well. "If at all the original structure is to restored, then there must be a replacement for the demolished offices, but it is not there," said an officer mentioning that no doubt there was a wastage of money as these offices were earlier constructed by the previous dispensations, while the present administration was having its ways of getting things done.
Moreover, only verbal orders are being passed for razing the structures, while no rules had been adopted. On the other hand, Javed Mehmood had himself constituted a 4-member committee, headed by Secretary Information, Culture and Youth Affairs Department Orya Maqbool Jan Abbasi, but the veranda of the Chief Secretary's Block was cleared prior to the report was submitted.
"The Chief Secretary's Block was re-vamped in 1930 after it was destroyed in the earthquake. So it was part of the construction done by the British, which technically becomes part of the heritage, and it must be restored," said another officer.
Despite repeated attempts, Javed Mehmood was not available for comments.