Train project threatens 27 religious and heritage sites
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.”