LAHORE: Owing to the alleged collusion of politicians and other influential people, the number of illegal constructions inside the Walled City of Lahore has crossed 500 in the past five years, Pakistan Today has learnt.
While as per a court’s orders, construction or renovation works were not to be carried out on any deteriorated buildings to preserve the heritage and any untoward incidents, officials of Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) allegedly receiving heavy bribes have blown away the decision by allowing the expansion of decades-old constructions.
Sources informed that the blue-eyed individuals of political players were seeking their help in getting illegal approvals and while constructing plazas in the Walled City over dilapidated buildings had also taken in public routes in a bid to expand their illegal properties. Most of these structures are concentrated around K Centre, Ali Park, Omar Arcade, Choona Mandi, Mochi, Shah Alam, Masti, Bhatti and Akbari Gate areas.
One such 80 years old building is located in the electronics market of the Shah Alam Gate, over which as many as six stories were constructed illegally with the alleged involvement of a provincial minister.
It is pertinent to note that this is the same building that caught fire some time ago and at least eight people were killed as a result. While it hasn’t even been a year since the incident, another couple of floors have been added to the building during the renovation works. WCLA, meanwhile, appears to be least bothered.
Stating the reason behind WCLA’s “helplessness”, sources said that staff members and senior officials of WCLA had joined hands with the plaza mafia and were earning profits worth millions by allowing such expansions. “The authorities fear nothing because the plaza mafia has the support of a political party for which they run campaigns in the Walled City and maintain it as the party’s stronghold,” they added.
A trader of the Shah Alam Market while speaking to Pakistan Today said that the negligence of the authorities had put thousands of shoppers as well traders’ lives at risk. “These constructions on top of weak buildings can fall at any time and it may result in not only hefty property losses but also that of precious lives,” he said.
An official of WCLA, on the condition of anonymity, told this scribe that it was their responsibility to protect the heritage and beauty of the Walled City and restore any buildings that may pose any kind of threat owing to their deteriorated condition. “But it is unfortunate that some greedy people of the department have turned away from their responsibilities and are dancing to the tunes of the influential,” he added.
WCLA spokesman, when contacted, said that a strategy to tackle Walled City’s plaza mafia was being devised and it would require some time to take an action.