Train project threat­ens 27 re­li­gious and her­itage sites

The Church of England - - NEWS -

CHRIS­TIAN Sol­i­dar­ity World­wide (CSW) warns that an ur­ban re­de­vel­op­ment plan for La­hore will de­mol­ish 27 re­li­gious and cul­tural her­itage sites, in­clud­ing the city’s Angli­can cathe­dral.

Con­struc­tion be­gan last year on the Or­ange Line Metro Train project and has al­ready dis­placed thou­sands of peo­ple and de­mol­ished hun­dreds of busi­nesses.

Work on the $1.75 bil­lion project, slated for com­ple­tion in Oc­to­ber 2017, has now pro­gressed to the city cen­tre. The Shal­i­mar Gar­dens, a world her­itage site, the Shia Mom­in­pura Grave­yard and 24 other re­li­gious and cul­tural sites are set to be pulled down.

The neo-Gothic Cathe­dral Church of the Res­ur­rec­tion, con­structed of pink sand­stone to a de­sign by John Oldrid Scott in 1887 on The Mall op­po­site the La­hore High Court, is also slated for de­struc­tion.

Farida Sha­heed, the for­mer UN Spe­cial Rap­por­teur on Cul­tural Rights said: “As the first United Na­tions Spe­cial Rap­por­teur in the field of cul­tural rights I have stressed the im­por­tance of cul­tural her­itage as a hu­man right and essen­tial com­po­nent of the cul­tural life of peo­ple.

“I am there­fore shocked that the 27km Or­ange train project in La­hore threat­ens at least 27 well known cul­tural her­itage sites – one for ev­ery kilo­me­tre.”

He warned: “Peo­ple liv­ing and work­ing in these ar­eas will have their en­tire liveli­hoods and ways of cul­tural life dis­rupted. The de­struc­tion and harm to these sites vi­o­lates the right of res­i­dents and Pak­ista­nis in general of hugely sig­nif­i­cant parts of their cul­tural her­itage, which is an essen­tial part of peo­ple’s cul­tural iden­ti­ties.”

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of CSW, said the re­de­vel­op­ment plans come as a “blow at a time when re­li­gious mi­nori­ties are in a par­tic­u­larly weak po­si­tion in Pak­istan. It is clear that in the plan­ning and con­struc­tion of this train line, the Pun­jab gov­ern­ment is in con­tra­ven­tion of var­i­ous leg­is­la­tion re­gard­ing cul­tural her­itage, as well as in­ter­na­tional covenants pro­tect­ing cul­tural rights and the right to free­dom of re­li­gion or be­lief.

“We urge the Pun­jab Govern- ment to en­ter into di­a­logue with the af­fected com­mu­ni­ties in or­der to en­sure that the civil and cul­tural rights of these cit­i­zens are up­held.”

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