The imperial tombs at the once beautiful Dilkusha Gardens have been reduced to shambles due to neglect and use as shelter for farm animals.
The process of decay was hastened in Gen Zia’s time when Nawaz Sharif, then chief minister of Punjab, ordered all cattle pens out of Lahore city. Government apathy dictated that some of them must be relocated to Shahdara, and what better land to occupy than the tombs’ immediate neighbourhood? Punjab’s 19th-century Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh is censured by Muslim historians for using Jehangir’s tomb and the adjacent Akbari Serai as a stable for his army’s horses; subsequent British rulers of Punjab are also blamed for laying a train track that cut through Dilkusha Gardens before they understood what they did and made amends by somewhat restoring the tombs. But no one expected the return of farm animals and a total decimation of the gardens that once stood there. It seems that the Taliban are not the only ones who have little respect for graves or national heritage.