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Wednesday July 17, 2024

‘Renovating a historical site is not as challenging as bringing it into reuse’

By Bilal Ahmed
June 28, 2024
Director General Walled City of Lahore Authority, Kamran Lashari gestures while speaking an event on June 15, 2024. — Facebook/Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC)
Director General Walled City of Lahore Authority, Kamran Lashari gestures while speaking an event on June 15, 2024. — Facebook/Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) 

The National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) hosted on Thursday evening a performance by a troupe of the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA). It is the first performance of the WCLA’s culture troupe outside Lahore and will continue at Napa for three more days till Sunday.

The WCLA is an autonomous body being headed by Kamran Lashari, who is a retired bureaucrat from Lahore, served in Sindh for many years and was also posted as the chief secretary of the province.

Speaking on his connection with culture and arts and explaining how he had been associated with the WCLA 12 years after his retirement as the civil servant, Lashari said his posting years in Sindh, particularly in Umerkot, Tharparkar and Karachi, ignited his passion of arts and culture.

He explained that although his name had Lashari, he was born and bred in Lahore where his ancestors had arrived 500 years ago. However, he added that his experiences in Sindh had left such an indelible mark on his soul that he considered Sindh breathing in him.

He said the WCLA was initially founded to restore and look after the walled city of Lahore that had 12 gates and he never imagined that one day it would transcend those 12 gates and land into Napa.

Lashari remarked that restoring a historical place was not as difficult as bringing it into reuse. If funds were available, a historical city could be renovated but what was challenging was to connect that place with the people in a sustainable manner, he said.

The former chief secretary said that after the restoration of the Lahore fort, the WCLA had been holding cultural spaces like Sufi nights there for which he initially also drew criticism. He said people did not mind when a historical site was abandoned and filled with overgrowth, but they would come out criticising when the same place was renovated and opened for public.

He said the WCLA had gained immense respect for its work countrywide and abroad. It was the only institution in Pakistan with which the Aga Khan Trust had entered into a partnership. After the success of the restoration of the walled city, the WCLA was asked to work on other historical sites in Lahore and other areas of Punjab, Lashari said, adding that they had also initiated collaboration with the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB). He remarked that some of the best assets of Pakistan were under the ETPB such as Ranjeet Singh’s mansion in Gujranwala.

Earlier, a presentation was screened showing how worn-out various parts of the walled city of Lahore looked before restoration and how lively and beautiful they had become after the restoration work that ensured that the historical look of those parts remained intact.

For the purpose of the restoration, all utility lines were laid underground and sewerage system strengthened so that there were no wires hampering the view and no sewage overflow damaging the infrastructure.

Some of the sites that were included in the presentation were the Shahi Hammam, a public bath made in the Mughal era, and an arsenal built by the British inside the Lahore Fort. Lashari was introduced by former senator Javed Jabbar, who said the WCLA head was a unique bureaucrat as his post-retirement work was perhaps more extraordinary than his services as the civil servant.

Jabbar also spoke out other talented members of Lashari’s family, saying that his wife Lubna Lashari had been involved with SOS Children’s Villages Pakistan working for the welfare of orphaned and abandoned children, and his son Bilal Lashari had become one of the most prominent filmmakers of Pakistan having directed ‘The Legend of Maula Jutt’. The second half of the evening featured songs and dances performed by the WCLA’s troupe.