–WCLA officials say haveli will be restored once it’s declared as heritage site
LAHORE: The haveli of Blakki Shah inside the Walled City of Lahore is in poor and derelict condition and no restoration work on the haveli has been started so far by the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA), Pakistan Today learnt reliably.
According to sources a high rise plaza has been built next to the haveli which could be a threat to the structure of haveli and its foundations. Sources further added that the haveli is presently in a dilapidated and shaky condition whereas its first floor is crumbling due to neglect and aging and under such conditions, any construction nearby would affect its structure.
Sources further expressed their distress that so far no haveli of high architecture merit could be restored by WCLA whereas they have spent huge amounts on the restoration of Delhi Gate area. Sources said that a lot of high architecture merit structures were being converted into plazas or crumbling due to aging and neglect and WCLA should take immediate action to preserve them. Sources mentioned that WCLA should take notice of heritage buildings inside Lohari, Bhati, Taxali and Yakki gates along with bazaars.
Sources added that the beautiful façade of the haveli was degenerating and the carvings were in ruins whereas the interior was in the worst condition and was decaying with the passage of time whereas the residents did not have enough money to spend on the maintenance of the huge building. Sources added that saving such havelis and buildings should have been the top priority of WCLA.
A local guide Saeed Aziz told Pakistan Today that the haveli originally belonged to an affluent Hindu trader and moneylender who had his business in the nearby Gumti Bazaar. “The haveli is inside the Gumti Bazaar on the main road and can also be accessed through the Pani Wala Talaab. It was built by Blakki Shah, a Hindu businessman, as the area was Hindu populated in those times and all the rich businessmen lived in that vicinity. The haveli was constructed somewhere in April 1929 as the date of its construction is carved on the building façade,” he said.
Aziz further added that presently there is one family living inside the haveli whereas almost five years ago the other families had left the place as the structure of the haveli was getting derelict. He added that the ground floor had a doctor’s clinic and the family resided on the first floor. He said that tourist do come to visit the haveli as it is much loved by the photographers and is discussed on social media as well.
The female residents of the haveli informed Pakistan Today that the structure of the haveli was shaky and crumbling whereas the new construction next to it was another threat to their residence. They said that the male members of the family, who were out for business in the daytime, were planning to sell and move out, as they did not have enough budget for the rehabilitation or maintenance of the haveli.
WCLA Deputy Director of Media and Marketing Tania Qureshi said that the haveli was one of its kind inside the walled city, having a unique exterior and façade. “The haveli is a masterpiece and is also known as Kimla Building, as the name is also engraved on the building’s front façade. The style of carving and decoration on the building is a unique feature and it is painted in white for ages. The structure of the haveli endorses that it belonged to an affluent man as it is heavily embellished with carvings and Hindu symbolism can be easily seen in the decorative carvings on the main façade. The interior is also very beautiful and surely WCLA would soon take up the restoration of this heritage piece,” she said.
WCLA Director Conservation and Planning Najam Saquib told Pakistan Today that they would soon be declaring the haveli as a heritage property as per the Heritage Rules of WCLA. “We have identified several heritage properties inside the city which need to be declared as heritage sites. The list will soon be shared with the Heritage Conservation Board of WCLA and after that, the selected buildings would be declared heritage properties,” he said.
Najam said that the havelis to be declared as heritage properties have been selected on the set criteria mentioned in the heritage rules of WCLA. “Haveli Blakki Shah is included in the list as it is among the magnificent structures of the city and after WCLA declares it as a heritage property, it will be restored. It is important to declare such havelis and high architecture merit buildings as heritage because this will not allow the residents to make any changes in the building, otherwise, when we restore a place there are chances that the residents sell it away,” Najam concluded.