40 kilometers west of Hasnabdal city lies Punja Sahib, well known for the historical place of worship for the Sikh religion. Beyond that it also held significance for the Mughal and latter Sikh kingdoms, being an important point of transit. That sense of significance seems to be lost on the present administration.

The central features of this historical monument are the clear water pools that were used for ablutions before prayer – now the serve as the local washing pits for clothes and utensils.

The current state of Punja Sahib is both a story of neglect and incompetence. Ill-conceived restorations project undertaken by individuals not expert in historical renovations have ruined the many parts of the building – using modern building materials instead of the stone the building was originally built in. Similar shoddy work on the plumbing means the water level in the pools never rises above a few feet. Be it cost-cutting or plain ignorance – the damage to the shire is the sole responsibility of the local authorities.

However, what followed is even more damaging. It the local authorities showed an intention to preserve the shrine then they needed to take that intention to its logical end. After repairing the pools no effort was made to guard them or even establish some basic administrative and security protocols around them. The corrosive substances entering the pool through the daily use of it a cleaning pit is more damaging than bad restorations. The increased traffic in the area also damages the areas surrounding the pool.

The local authorities need to stop this immediately. They need to hire security, set up barriers and allow only worshipers and tourists to enter the shrine. These are simple precautions that should have been taken already, and it speaks volumes about the incompetence of the relevant authorities that they haven’t.