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Defacing of Shahi Masjid: Yasmeen Lari seeks action against the responsible

KARACHI, Nov 27: Ms Yasmeen Lari, prominent architect and the chairperson of Heritage Foundation of Pakistan, has said she will be happy to provide the requisite information and assistance to conserve the Shahi Masjid of Chitral.

When this correspondent contacted Ms Lari after publication of the news “Restoration or destruction of the heritage site of Chitral”  in on Nov 23,  she said she would be trying to find out what actually happened at the site. About the use of dynamite to destroy part of the historic Shahi Mosque, she said: “I would like to clarify that, in spite of its highly degraded condition; I have recommended measures to save the historic structure. Therefore, there is no question of myself supporting an activity which would destroy any part of a heritage asset.”

Ms Lari added: “In view of the opinion of some to demolish the historic mosque, in early October, I was asked by the office of the Chief Secretary, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, to evaluate the condition of the mosque and whether it could be saved. Accordingly, in the first week of October 2012, while I was on a visit to Peshawar, undertaken at my own expense, Secretary C&W arranged for a presentation of images of the existing condition of the historic structure. In view of the historicity of the Shahi Mosque, I emphatically stated that all possible efforts must be made to save it from further degradation and I agreed to provide guidance and advice on an honorary basis for this purpose.

I also stipulated that drawings of the building must be prepared expeditiously in order that a strategy for its preservation could be worked out.” After receiving preliminary drawings of the mosque, at Heritage Foundation we developed a strategy of providing first aid and temporary supports for the time being, until comprehensive studies and information could be developed for a full-scale conservation effort. Accordingly, on 22nd November 2012,

Heritage Foundation issued a report outlining the steps that must be taken immediately. It has therefore come as a rude shock to learn of the willful destruction of a portion of the historic mosque. This is a wholly contemptible and shameful act, especially as this unique and significant historic structure can and must be restored. “I strongly urge the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to take appropriate action against those who are responsible for the destruction of Chitral’s Shahi Mosque.”

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