After the devolution of archaeological sites, Punjab has seen a marked improvement with respect to funding and conservation initiatives taken by its archaeology department.
A total of 149 monuments were transferred to Punjab, which included the four World Heritage monuments, Shalimar Garden, Lahore Fort, Rohtas Fort and Taxila, and the four national monuments, Iqbal Manzil, Abdus Salam’s house in Jhang, Javed Manzil in Sialkot and Allma Iqbal’s tomb.
The Punjab archaeology department is fortunate that it has renowned archaeologists and an experienced technical staff that helped in raising the standard of conservation and funding for better upkeep of monuments. The archaeology department, however, faces an acute shortage of wards and watchers. The directorate general of the Punjab archaeology has submitted a request to employ 150 wards watchers to overcome the problem.
As far as the conservation status and general improvement pertaining to maintenance repair and restoration of monuments is concerned, one can see a considerable improvement. For example, when these monuments were under the federal archaeology department, funds for their conservation and restoration never exceeded one million to 1.5 million rupees.
However, post-devolution, the annual budget has increased to 7.5 million for the first time.
Besides regular conservation projects, the Punjab government has also adopted seven ongoing projects which include Taxila monuments, Rohtas fort, Hiran Minar, Jindiala Sher Khan’s monument, Jahangir’s tomb, the shrine of Musa Pak Shaheed in Multan and archaeological excavations at Tiba Sangerwala in Toba Tek Singh. The total amount allocated for these projects is Rs1,333.4 million.The Punjab archaeology department has also initiated seven new projects for conservation, restoration and development of archaeological sites which include the tomb of Ghazi Khan, survey of Cholistan forts, development of public facilities outside Shalimar Garden, restoration of four existing historical gates of Lahore: Bhatti, Sheranwala, Lohari and Kashmiri gates. The work on Delhi Gate has already been completed. Sher Singh Samadh’s tomb at Kot Khawaja Saeed would also be conserved and work is in progress on these projects. The budget allocation for 2011-12 for the 149 monuments of is Rs124 million.
But then, there’s the downside. According to an official source at the Punjab archaeology department, Iqbal Manzil in Sialkot was allocated Rs5 million by the provincial government, out of which Rs4.5 million were used for the conservation of Jahangir’s tomb. It appears that a society of the locals headed by the ex-nazim of Sialkot had promised to provide funding to purchase the buildings surrounding Iqbal Manzil which were to be removed in order to create open space needed to stabilise the original structure of the monument.
This would have also doubled as the parking lot for the visitors since the monument is located in a congested bazaar. The society later backed out, which made it impossible to continue the project. As a result, the funds were diverted to Jahangir’s tomb’s upkeep.
According to the source, the archaeology department has been working on a number of conservational projects and the pace has increased post-devolution. He said that the Punjab government had recently imported red sand stone to re-erect the missing elements of various structures at the Lahore Fort, and at present related work is in progress on the platform of outer court of Diwan-i-aam.