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March 3, 2017

Chowk Wazir Khan ready to receive visitors


March 3, 2017


Once heavily encroached, Chowk Wazir Khan is now ready to amaze the visitors with a new expanded, cleaned and encroachment-free look.

For the past three decades, Chowk Masjid Wazir Khan was facing heavy encroachments especially shops, which were rented out on nominal rates by Auqaf department. After getting control of Masjid Wazir Khan, Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) initiated the project of rehabilitation, restoration and renovation of this historic mosque, including the Chowk and Shahi Guzargah.

Officials said the historic forecourt adjoining the Wazir Khan Mosque has been undergoing a thorough rehabilitation and conservation effort since 1st of October, 2015, funded by the US embassy, and is in its final stage of preparation for its opening on 16th of March.

Ages old Dina Nath well has also been restored in this project as it is located in the Chowk. Since ages this site was also occupied with vendors and encroachments and now the square was cleaned up and conserved.

They said Masjid Wazir Khan was commissioned by the Governor of Punjab, Ilmuddin Ansari (aka Wazir Khan), under the reign of Shah Jehan and was completed during the years 1934-35, adding another precious stone to the trail of the Shahi Guzargah, which also houses Shahi Hammam. Book-ended by these two historic monuments, the Guzargah has the opportunity to be the centre point of Lahore’s cultural heritage.

Local residents said restoration of Wazir Khan Chowk will bring back city’s night life and will provide a free-of-cost gathering place to the citizens to share ups and downs of life with each other.

Tanya Qureshi, WCLA’s senior official, said due to the encroachments of makeshift commercial outlets, girded by corrugated steel, the Shahi Guzargah had in its recent history lost the use of the Chowk, which had been run through with these retail shacks and thronged by local citizens who seized the open space, employing it as a market.

She said as a result of lack of this space which was created specifically for the purpose of introducing a sense of openness to the surroundings, the Shahi Guzargah had lost its only area of respite amidst the narrow trail full of commuters in quick transit. “Because of this it did not lend itself particularly to the slower-paced attitude of the casual visitor who might want to visit these jewels from the Mughal era in a more leisurely way,” she added.

The clearing out of the chowk and its restoration to something more closely resembling its original form will present locals and visitors both with an open vista where they can stop and fully take in the splendor of the surrounding monuments.

The Chowk will also now be able to resume its historic function as a space for social interaction, where people can meet before prayer, hold Mahafil-e-Na'at, or peruse handmade religious merchandise sold in the eastern facade’s embedded chambers (hujras), Tanya maintained.

As such, it is a momentous occasion, as it signifies a milestone in the resurgence of the Shahi Guzargah and the wider context of the Walled City, as a focal point in the itinerary of tourists and locals keen to get a more intimate feeling for this historic city, she concluded.

Director General WCLA Kamran Lashari said it would be one of its kind of conservation projects and would give a whole new sight for the tourists.

“The opening of this square will once again provide the public to have an open space to enjoy the ambiance of the jewel of Lahore, the Wazir Khan Mosque,” he maintained.

“We will make sure that this place is restored to its original glory and brought back to life. I am proud of the partnership with Aga Khan Trust for Culture. Their assistance in all the projects has taken the walled city to a new dimension of conservation and restoration,” he concluded.