Saturday August 20, 2022

Tribunal stays demolition of Abbottabad hospital building

June 28, 2022

PESHAWAR: Environmental Tribunal, Peshawar on Monday granted a stay order till Friday against the proposed demolition of District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital, Abbottabad.

In his petition, a citizen of Abbottabad, Mahmood Aslam pleaded with the tribunal to stop the demolition of the hospital where a new hospital building is planned without getting the Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) required under the Environmental Protection Act, which says the hospital over 100 beds capacity must obtain the IEE.

Adjourning the hearing, the tribunal asked Deputy Director of EPA Mumtaz Wazir to submit his written reply by Friday and also directed XEN of mega projects in Peshawar to refrain from any kind of demolition till the next order.

Earlier, Mahmood Aslam, an engineer by profession and environmentalist who has been struggling to protect heritage, had filed a writ petition No 809 A/2021 at Abbottabad Bench of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) seeking a court order for the archaeology department to implement the chief secretary’s orders of 2007 and declare registered buildings of Hazara division as protected heritage through a gazette notification.

The court had granted a stay order after a response from the Archaeology Department, but on May 31, 2022, the court dismissed the writ petition.

On June 11, 2022, Mahmood Aslam through his lawyer Masood Khan filed CPLA No 2043/ 22 at the Supreme Court and the court heard the appeal on June 21. In short order, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah said: “The learned counsel for the petitioner does not want to press this petition and prays that he be allowed to approach the authority concerned under the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Antiquities Act, 2016 regarding his claim that certain properties be registered, protected and declared antiques under the said act. If the petitioner approaches the authority in this regard, the application of the petitioner be decided strictly in accordance with the law. This petition is disposed of accordingly.”

Following the SC order, Mahmood approached the Environmental Tribunal on June 23 where he along with the XEN of C&W Department appeared before the tribunal and it was decided to wait for the written decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

According to Mahmood Aslam, during the hearing director of, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), argued the C&W Department can demolish the building and then apply for IEE. But the XEN informed the court that for the fiscal year 2022-23, no funds had been allocated for the hospital. It was also reported to the tribunal that a hospital in DI Khan was demolished 10 years ago and is yet to be reconstructed.

As per Mahmood Aslam’s claim, the DHQ hospital building is in quite a good condition having 350 beds capacity that cater to the needs of the people of Hazara division. The black chiselled stone-built building is south open and environment-friendly because of having lush green lawns in front of almost all wards, he said.

Talking to The News, he said the hospital spread over 80 kanals area, and has separate wards for different diseases besides nursing school and hostel. The new proposed building, he said, a north-open block, would be built on 20 kanals area, which would not be weather-friendly and wards would be congested.

While on the remaining 60 kanals area, a double road, thoroughfare roads and grounds, etc would be built. A basement is also planned in front of the emergency, which would be prone to flooding as well, he said.

He alleged that the Archaeology Department first wrote a letter No 319 on September 30, 2020, that the black stone built sustainable DHQ Hospital was a registered heritage building, but on November 8, 2021 a research officer of the department wrote to the hospital’s Medical Superintendent (MS) Dr Israr that DHQ Hospital Abbottabad was not a heritage building and can be demolished.

However, the director of Archaeology and Museums Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Dr Abdul Samad, when contacted, told The News that DHQ Hospital, Abbottabad was not a protected heritage building and the particular block of the hospital proposed for demolition had been built in 1952 and does not come under Antiquities Act 2016 as only 100 years and above old buildings come under the said Act.