The federal government on Thursday formally announced details of its plan for turning Prime Minister House, governor houses and several other heritage buildings in use of government functionaries into museums, parks, educational institutions and hotels.
Addressing a press conference shortly after getting a go-ahead from the prime minister during a briefing on the project, Federal Minister for National History and Literary Division Shafqat Mehmood said that government spent a total of Rs1.15 billion annually on these buildings.
Mr Mehmood, who also holds the portfolio of education and professional training, said Rs470 million was spent on PM House, spread over an area of 137 acres, every year. The government decided to convert it into a state-of-the-art university, he said. Under his chairmanship, he added, a committee having Dr Attaur Rahman and Dr Tariq Banuri as members was taking further steps to establish the university.
PM House to be converted into state-of-the-art university
In his first speech, Prime Minister Imran Khan while sharing his vision of austerity had specifically mentioned the heritage buildings, including PM House, governor houses and state guest houses, and declared that they would be converted for a better and productive use. Soon afterwards, the government notified a committee of experts in the field of architecture, visual arts and designing etc to propose better use of the heritage buildings.
In Murree, the minister said, Governor House and Punjab House would be turned into a boutique hotel and a tourist complex, respectively.
He explained that the government had recently spent Rs600m for renovation of Governor House while its annual expenditure was Rs140m. He said that Rs25m was spent on Punjab House annually. In Nathiagali, he added, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor House would be changed into a resort hotel.
In Rawalpindi, Mr Mehmood said, a total of Rs40m was spent on the 6.25-acre Punjab House and 2.5-acre Governor House every year. The two buildings would be converted into educational institutions, he said, adding that the National Council of Arts could be shifted to one of these buildings. However, a final decision in this regard would be taken by the Punjab government.
In Lahore, the minister said, 87.5-acre Governor House would be converted into a museum and art gallery while its lawns would be used as public parks. He added that the historical Chamba House would be used as Governor Office.
The 16.5-acre building of a state guest house, which was in use of Foreign Office, would be turned into a five-star hotel, he said, adding that the annual expenditure of this building was over Rs500 million. He said that 90-Shahrah-i-Quaid-i-Azam, Lahore, building would be converted into a craft museum and its basement would be used for conferences.
In Peshawar, a history museum would be established in Governor House while its grounds would be converted into public parks, Mr Mehmood announced.
About Governor House in Karachi, the minister said that the federal government would hold consultation with the Sindh government so that it could also be converted into a museum. He suggested that state guest house building could be used for Governor House.
Another historical building in the metropolis, Qasre Naz, would be converted into a five-star hotel, he added.
Talking about the reuse of a heritage building of Balochistan, the minister said that it would be converted into a museum and its grounds would be used as a park for women.
While appreciating the prime minister and governors for their decisions of not living at the official residences in the heritage buildings, Mr Mehmood said the steps were a role model for the people to follow and participate in the austerity drive launched by the government.
By Kashif Abbasi