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A Museum for British Lahore

M. Naeem Qureshi on a remnant of empire which has moved beyond being a mere repository of the Raj.

When the British first arrived in Lahore after their treaty with the Sikhs in 1846 the city, which once rivalled Delhi in splendour and magnificence, was then lying in a ruinous state owning mainly to the pillage and devastation of the preceding century. They established their ‘Station’ just outside the walled city in an area spread over several square miles known as Anarkali. At first they utilised the existing old tombs and mosques of the Mughal period as offices and residences. The Board of Administration was settled in the building where the Punjab Civil Secretariat now stands, while the tomb of Anarkali was used as a residence-cum-office before being turned into a parish church.

In 1853, when John Lawrence became the Chief Commissioner of the Province, he set himself up in an estate near Chauburji on the Multan Road and the Deputy Commissioner moved into the tomb of Muhammad Kasim which was later turned into the Government House. The mosque adjoining the tomb of Shah Cheragh, which previously housed the principal assistant to the Deputy Commissioner, was handed over to the Accountant General for his office. The Company’s troops were quartered in the old Sikh barracks while the Nila Gumbaz mosque was used as a mess house. Most of these buildings were refashioned to suit the requirements of the new occupants. Very soon, however, the expanding administrative, revenue and judicial structure of the province and the social needs of the European community, necessitated the construction of new buildings. The Punjab Public Works Department (PWD) played an energetic role in this venture.

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