According to a local elder, Abdullah, work on the mosque started in 1837 and completed in 1841.
Deputy director information Irshad Afridi told Dawn that when the Dhoda Dak Bangla was being handed over to the archaeology department by the district administration two years ago, the mosque issue was brought into the notice of the department, but no one took interest in it.
Mr Afridi said when the locals started demolishing the mosque, a serving army officer of the area complained to the archaeology department that the people were damaging the mosque’s historic appearance. Afterwards, the work was halted.
Local elders argued that hardly 20 people could offer prayers in the mosque at a time, and after much wait they had decided to raze the structure and construct a new building to accommodate at least 50 people. They said wooden pillars, ablution place and a pond were still intact.
The man overseeing the construction work said the ablution place would also be dug for establishment of basement for the comfort of the worshippers in the hot weather.
A military officer living in the area, who has started a mosque protection campaign, said the local people were not aware of the real worth of the historical places. He appealed to the government to save the ablution place and the remaining boundary wall with a plaque showing construction date of the mosque.
He said that there were other mosques nearby and there was no need to demolish the historical structure for a few families who wanted to offer prayers next door.
To a question, an area elder said it was decided after discussions to construct a new mosque at the place on the grounds that Masjid-i-Nabawi (Holy Prophet Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia) was also demolished and expanded.
Deputy director information Irshad Afridi said the damage had already been done to the mosque and its foundations had been dug so work could not be stopped at this stage.
Director archaeology Dr Abdul Samad, who hails from Kohat, when contacted said the basic requirement to preserve all the historical sites in an area was to establish a museum there. He said it was responsibility of the local MPs to help him get the required funds to buy a place for construction of a museum in the district.
He said the Abbottabad museum was approved later than Kohat but it had been constructed due to the interest of local elders and MPs.