DESPITE the ill-effects of the devolution of the functions of the Federal Department of Archaeology and Museums to the provinces, in term of the 18th Amendment of the Constitution, as expressed in some news reports on April 25, the government has not taken any steps to avert the demise of such an important department.
The unfortunate part of the episode is that certain functions of the department devolved to the provinces are still the concern of the federal government, as per the federal legislative list of the Constitution.
For instance, in terms of item No. 15 of the federal legislative list, maintenance of libraries, museums and similar institutions, controlled or financed by the federation, is the responsibility of the federal government. But even museums associated with our national heroes like the Quaid-i-Azam House Museum (Flag Staff House), Karachi; Museum at Quaid-i-Azam’s birthplace, Karachi; Museum at the birthplace of Allama Iqbal, Sialkot, and Museum at the Allama Iqbal House, Lahore, have been transferred to provincial governments. The National Museum of Pakistan, Karachi, which serves as a showcase of our national heritage, has also not been spared. It has been transferred to the government of Sindh.
The other most important function of the department was to conduct researches on various aspects of ‘archaeology’. This function very much falls within the purview of the federal government, in term of item No. 16 of the federal legislative list, which deals with the promotion of special studies and researches. The department used to carry out this function with the aid of the Explanation and Excavation Branch, Karachi, and Pakistan Institute of Archaeological Research and Training, Lahore.
Both these organs of the department have been transferred to the government of Sindh and the government of Punjab, respectively. In view of the above, the existence of the Department of Archaeology and Museums at the federal level is fully supported by constitutional provisions. Even otherwise, there is a need to have a central body at the federal level, which could have a constant liaison with international cultural organisations like Unesco, ICOM, ICOMOS, Isesco, etc.
The prime minister is requested to look into the matter and take appropriate steps to restore the department at the federal level, devolving upon it full constitutional responsibilities in terms of items No. 15 and 16 of the federal legislative list in the larger national interest.
SH. KHURSHID HASAN Former director-general of Archaeology, Karachi