Salimar, Wazir Bagh gardens look deserted amid coronavirus pandemic

PESHAWAR:The historical Shalimar and Wazir Bagh gardens built during Mughal era, were almost looked deserted here Monday after the domestic tourists and local residents preferred to stay at homes to avoid the possible contraction of coronavirus.

These historic gardens, which were flooded of domestic tourists and local residents in the past, witnessed a sharp decline of tourists, nature lovers and Peshawarities these days owing to fear of the third wave of COVID-19 that was declared most fatal than an earlier two waves in Peshawar.

The movement of small children whom were seen chasing butterflies and play hide and seek among its trees used to be a big fun and laughter for them, were restricted by their parents.

These gardens were used to be rendezvous place for senior citizens while sitting under cold shade of its trees in soothing environment coupled with chirping of birds and exchanged views of their life experiences and day to day happenings with their children plays around in its lush green lawns.

Peshawarites used these gardens for morning exercises due to its awesome walking tracks, lush green lawns and became a unique sources of recreation and picnic spots.

‘In the past, I often visited these historical parks to spend few hours in relatively calm and pleasant environment but this time I avoided due to fear of coronavirus,” said Qaisar Khan, a retired employee of Wapda while talking to reporter.

“When I was young, I used to visit Wazir Bagh garden for exercise on its beautiful tracks snaking through its thickly grown tall pipal trees with people sitting around in sprawled lawns and pleasant environment besides hide and seeks by children coupled with chanting birds,” he said.

Wazir Bagh garden was constructed in 19th century when Prince Shah Mahmood Durrani sent his forces under the command of Sardar Fateh Muhammad Khan Barkzai alias Wazir against his causion Shah Shuja, who was the ruler of Peshawar.

Sardar Fateh Muhammed had toppled Shah Shuja rule in 1811 and laid the foundation of Wazir Bagh garden. It has a Royal Durrani graveyard in its South and Tomb of Beejo Bibi, a Mistress of Shah Taimur son of Emperor Ahmad Shah Abdali in nearby, attracting tourists throughout the year.

He said these gardens were identity of Peshawar that should be preserved and expanded for future generation. He urged KP government to take cogent measures for its complete rehabilitation, planting of pipal trees at Wazir Bagh and impose complete ban on free movement of people inside these historic gardens.

An Official of Local Government and Rural Development Department told reporter on Monday that under Revival of Peshawar project, expansion, rehabilitation and improvement in both these gardens were underway to enhance its outlook and restore its past glory.

KP Government has allocated Rs100 million for complete overhauling of Wazir Bagh under Peshawar revival plan’s theme ‘New Peshawar Old Charm’ project to make it again centre of attraction for foreign and domestic tourists.

The development plan was prepared by Local Government Department under which complete refurbishment of Wazir Bagh garden was being made besides value addition to the city’s outlook under seven ‘R’ strategy to repair, realign, renovate, restore, rehabilitate and relax its environment besides remove all kinds of encroachment.

Walking tracks were being refurbished and its lawns was being made lush green besides establishment of special corner for women and a cafeteria to facilitate tourists.

All four main enclosures of Wazir Bagh including pavilion, lawns, crisscrossing pavement and fountains’ pool were being refurbished.

KP Government has also expedited work on renovation and expansion of Shalimar Garden.

The approved area of Shalimar Garden is being enhanced from 145 kanal to 183 kanal and with inclusion of adjacent Parda Bagh, Marriage Hall and Fun Land, its total area would be further increased to 266 kanal that would make it the largest park of KP.

A separate lady park on 83 kanal would be constructed besides walking tracks, playground for children and a mosque at Shalimar Garden.

These mega projects after completion would help provide quality recreational facilities to thousands of tourists and local residents besides making Peshawar as the City of parks and gardens for which it was once famous far.