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September 26, 2020

New concrete structures in Islamia College buildings resented

Peshawar

September 26, 2020

PESHAWAR: The heritage-lovers have expressed concern over mushrooming of concrete structures interspersed within historic Islamia College University buildings.

A press release issued the Sarhad Conservation Network said the decision of modern development in a renowned 107 years old landmark is a grave offence against National and Provincial Antiquity Acts. It said the construction of eight new buildings on the historic premises was undertaken without an official No-Objection Certificate from the Directorate of Archeology. The press release said the Directorate of Archeology issued several directives to the relevant authorities, and even approached the courts against the blatant violation of the KP Antiquity Act 2017. It said the conversion of a sprawling Islamia College into a cramped campus defies logic and common sense.

The reason given was “to accommodate an increasing number of aspiring students”. However, Islamia College trust owns several lands in various districts of KP, e.g. Charsadda and Swabi. The communication said new campuses in other districts were a long-term solution; instead, a convenient and short-term measure was used as a justification to bulldoze a precious heritage asset. Islamia College, Peshawar, a renowned heritage landmark, reveled by historians and travelers worldwide; was conceived by Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum as a center of excellence for students of the erstwhile NWFP in 1913. Its iconic image is etched in the psyche of its admirers, on Pakistan’s 100 Rupee note, besides other vintage memorabilia.

The unique combination of Gothic, Indian and Mughal architecture is reminiscent of Osmania College in Hyderabad Deccan and Aligarh Muslim University, having inspired its architects and founders Sir Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum and Sir Roos Keppel. “Many prominent alumni members played a pivotal role in the Pakistan movement. The Quaid bestowed a major part of his will to this beloved institution. What would have been his reaction of turning his dream into a concrete wasteland?” asked the press release. It said recent images of Islamia College are a disturbing and painful reminder of our collective amnesia and neglect of a unique jewel of architectural beauty that has been an attraction for global tourists.

Fareeda Nishtar, is an ardent conservationist for the built heritage of Peshawar, with an illustrious family history. “The initial report was that the construction is far removed and in Dhobighat area. However during a recent visit the construction is hideous and in close proximity as the open grounds are all compromised. “AstroTurf is being laid for hockey. The library site was depressing as the old building is overwhelmed by the concrete construction and completely sandwiched, while it’s indoors was rundown and shabby. This is a typical psyche of our people! Losing the sight of its precious heritage value, the premises has sadly lost its ambience” she lamented. Prof Shakeel Ahmed, a former chairman, English Department, who has fond memories of his alma mater said: “The foundation of lslamia College in Peshawar served as a game-changer for the then North-West Frontier Province and its turbulent inhabitants. Modern education amalgamated with religious teaching was students the ploy for a peaceful penetration in the hitherto known “land without laws”. This philosophy is reflected in the beautiful edifice of the main college building, as well as the array of hostels that housed from far off recesses in the province and abroad”. “The college and school buildings, interspersed with vast green lawns and playgrounds, not only provided a conducive and healthy environment for the education but also became an important landmark of the historic city of Peshawar. The vast greenery all around in the college not only is soothing for the eyes and tired minds but also maintains a marked difference of temperature within the campus in the scorching summers.”