Dawn News

Tampering with heritage

TOO much has been lost in Pakistan because of incompetence, mismanagement or plain confusion. While these problems as related to governance are highlighted frequently, less is said about the manner in which other areas, such as the environment or heritage, suffer. Often, the problem lies not in the lack of laws. Instead, damage is done because of decisions to quietly ignore the law, and the lack of oversight that ought to prevent this. A case in point is the set of laws meant to conserve the country’s heritage. Despite these, it is routine to come across reports of protected sites being tampered with, occasionally with the collusion of elements in official quarters. The most recent example of this is the construction work under way at the Sindh Assembly building in Karachi. As reported by this paper on Saturday, it is protected under the Sindh Cultural Heritage Protection Act which forbids any construction or repair unless the prescribed process is followed. This involves having a technical subcommittee give recommendations to the advisory committee on cultural affairs. Yet it seems that work is under way in a part of the building where law department rooms are located, with the entire flooring of two rooms having been dug up and plans to carve out additional rooms.

Such violations being carried out in a building that epitomises the majesty of the law sends out the worst sort of signal. Even more shocking is the fact that nobody seems to know who is responsible for having given the construction work the go-ahead. Forums and officials who would be expected to answer this question, such as the culture department, a member of the advisory committee and a member of the technical committee, have all denied that an NoC has been issued. The construction must be halted forthwith and the matter looked into before further damage is done.

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