The report said that the handful that allegedly committed the vandalised act were supported by auqaf department officials.
“This old building is called the Palace of Baba Guru Nanak and we have named it Mahalan. A number of Sikhs from across the world, including India, used to visit this building,” a local named Muhammad Aslam told Dawn.
He went on to talk about a six-member Canadian delegation that had come to visit the site a few years ago, and were overjoyed at coming to the site, as if “they had found a treasure.”
“The auqaf department was informed about the demolition of the building by some influential persons, but no officer or official took any action or even reached here,” said another native Muhammad Ashraf.
“Three storeys of the building have already been demolished and new houses constructed. The influentials have demolished the building with the connivance of the auqaf department and sold its costly windows, doors, ventilators and wood,” he added.
The ownership of the building is not known. Dawn reported that a family, which lived inside the building, has asserted ownership. Furthermore, Muhammad Anwar, a member of the family, has claimed responsibility for the demolition.
“I do not know whose property this building is as we have been living here for generations. We demolished it because it was in a dangerous, dilapidated condition,” he said. His family settled there after partition.
The centuries-old structure is situated in village Bathanwala, which is 20 kilometres from Narowal. The structure had 16 large rooms, each of which had at least three beautiful doors and four ventilators.
The three-foot-wide wall surrounding the structure was intricately painted with pictures of the founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak Dev, along with murals of Hindu rulers and princes.
The main structure was built with old bricks, sand, clay and limestone.
The rooms were constructed with large broad walls which had cupboards in them. The cupboards were ornately carved with flowers. The walls, meanwhile, had small lamp enclosures. The beams were made of Diyar wood, which easily costs thousands of rupees per foot.
“There is no mention of this building in the revenue record. As it seemed to be historical, we are checking the municipal committee’s record,” said Narowal Deputy Commissioner Waheed Asghar, who stopped the demolition. He is in charge of the record of all properties in the region.
Meanwhile, Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Sialkot zone Rent Collector Rana Waheed said, “Our team is investigating the Guru Nanak Mahal Bathanwala. If this palace was the property of Evacuee Trust Property Board, legal action will be taken against those responsible.”
Locals have demanded Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to take immediate cognisance of the incident and initiate action against the perpetrators.