OWING in large part to the state’s apathy, Pakistan’s historical treasures are slowly crumbling. And if a change in attitude does not come about immediately, we may soon be globally recognised as a country that neglects its heritage. A report in this paper on Monday says the Sindh government may get some respite before the World Heritage Committee adds the Makli necropolis in Thatta to the list of world heritage sites in danger. The authorities’ optimism is based on recommendations made in a report based on the findings of a Unesco team that visited Makli in May. Among the report’s recommendations, it has been suggested that the necropolis’s boundaries as well as a buffer zone be identified, while the experts have also called for a conservation and management plan to save Makli not only from the vagaries of nature, but also neglect by man. Meanwhile, according to earlier reports, a recently deceased Sindhi poet was buried in the Chawkandi graveyard, despite there being a ban on fresh burials on the site.
It has been noticed that ever since devolution, Sindh’s heritage sites have fared worse than when they were under the centre’s watch. The Unesco report appears to reinforce this view. While it says that following devolution the provincial government’s administrative and technical capacity needs to be enhanced, it also adds that hardly anything has been done to address the degradation of Makli. What should serve as a wake-up call is the observation that damage and loss at the vast necropolis due to pilferage has reached “colossal proportions”. While many may rightly ask if we deserve more time before Makli is listed as endangered — thanks to our own negligence — the state should take this as a final warning. The recommendations of foreign experts are there; it’s just a matter of following procedure and more importantly, having the will and common sense to preserve heritage.