Chauburji restored as a ‘drug haven’


–Rs43.843 million recently spent on restoration of Chauburji that is now occupied by addicts

–Police ‘helpless’ as illegal drug trade thrives at heritage site like real estate

–Archaeology dept deputy director assures restoring monument as tourist spot within a month

LAHORE: One of the oldest monuments in the city – Chauburji – continues to be in a poor state of management even after its restoration as drug addicts have occupied the site amid the inaction of the Archaeology Department, Pakistan Today has learnt.

According to the details, the Chauburji monument was conserved and restored with an amount of Rs43.843 million by the Archaeology Department of Punjab and was to be opened for general public as a tourist, heritage and recreational spot.

However, sources informed this scribe that despite spending millions of rupees on its conservation, the Archaeology Department had failed to maintain the monument and it had once again turned into a drug den.

“Moreover, a majority of the drug pushers who control the monument are influential enough for the police to not take any action against them,” they said.

The Archaeology Department took up its restoration but never bothered mulling the post-conservation management, sources said and added, “Drug sellers and addicts earlier used to occupy the place after sunset, however, now they benefit from the incompetency of the Archaeology Department’s guards and can be seen there even during the day.”

It is a beautiful heritage site but unfortunately, sources said, it cannot be turned into a tourist spot until the addicts are removed because they have also reportedly attacked a couple of visitors with razor blades. “Same is the case with a number of other monuments restored by the Archaeology Department as they lack post-restoration plans,” they said.

A local of the area, Akhlaq Qamar, said that he always avoided taking his family to the Chauburji garden.

“There are criminals and addicts occupying the rooms of the monument and the open space around it. I cannot afford to go there with my family as I have seen them attacking people. There is an established business of buying and selling drugs of different kinds.”

“I had thought that once the new iron grills were in place, people, especially children, could visit the monument and spend quality time in the garden, but the addicts do not let anyone in,” another local, Sabeen Kauser, told Pakistan Today.

Families cannot risk visiting the spot, she said, adding that women especially stayed away from the monument as most of the times, the addicts are sitting or sleeping naked.

Punjab Archaeology Department Deputy Director Malik Maqsood, on the other hand, said that they would soon initiate a crackdown against the addicts and surround the entire monument with iron grills.

“We had procured grills in line with earlier measurements but the area of the monument was later expanded.”

He assured that all issues would be resolved within a month’s time.