The Mughal rulers of the subcontinent must be literally turning in their graves upon seeing the way the majestic and stately
buildings bequeathed by them and now falling in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan present such a pitiable picture of official
neglect and decay. One such building is the majestic Sheesh Mahal in the Lahore Fort, which is on the verge of collapse, thanks to
the neglect and abuse it has been subjected to by our officials. For years, this remarkable pavilion, which many experts hail as
the finest specimen of glass-mosaic decoration in whole of the subcontinent, far more stately than its counterparts in the Agra and
Delhi forts, has been used by subsequent governments as the venue for entertaining foreign dignitaries, and also holding official
functions. Needless to say this merciless abuse is one of the main reasons for the sorry state that this historic building has now
been reduced to.
In fact so precarious and delicate is the condition of the roof of Sheesh Mahal that local experts are now extremely wary of
touching it any further, fearing that even a slight miscalculation could lead to its caving in. A special iron structure has been
installed over the roof. But this is just a temporary arrangement and is only meant to protect the roof from moisture and air once
the restoration work commences. The Department of Archaeology has sent an SOS to the UNESCO, to send a team of experts to assist
in the highly delicate task of rescuing the Sheesh Mahal from being lost forever. UNESCO has responded by offering to send Italian
experts. But the archaeology department people have asked for experts from India, Iran and Turkey--probably due to their
familiarity with similar buildings in their countries. Meanwhile, the sanctioning of a grant worth 10 million dollars for the
restoration of Lahore Fort by the UNESCO head office is eagerly awaited.
But while the importance of funds in such an endeavour cannot be overlooked, for they pay for restoration materials and
expenses of expert conservators, a bigger incentive that needed is the commitment of concerned quarters to lay off the historic
site(s) and work diligently towards long-term, sustainable conservation of this and other endangered buildings.
This also brings into focus the importance of sensitising the public to the importance of preserving historic sites and also
creating awareness among them of what not to do when visiting such places. After official misuse, it is also the general,
insensitive people who cause the most damage to these buildings. Ending this widespread public defacing and desecration of our
historic buildings should also be an important aspect of projects to preserve and save cultural heritage.
DISCLAIMER: The public material presented here is taken from various sources as it becomes available. It is presented without any
bias to, or interpretation of, the contents whatsoever. We would be grateful for any help anyone can provide in obtaining other such
public material of national importance to Pakistan in order to aid intellectual discourse and debate.
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