ISLAMABAD, Aug 17: Fearing for the future of architectural remains, the Department of Archaeology and Museums (DOAM) has pointed out that the capital city could gradually lose more than 150 sites of historical significance within the capital territory to new housing societies and roads.
“These sites are vulnerable to destruction. And there have been incidents of illegal digging,” said Ali Awan a senior official of the department referring to Pun Fakiran near the Buddhist Caves in G-13.
The recent victim of development were the area around the Buddhist Caves in sector G-13 where the civic authority had developed a park and put a boundary around it.
All the sites in Islamabad were unprotected. The only two sites protected under the Antiquities Act 1975 were the 15th century AD Pharwala Fort, situated 30 kilometres from Islamabad and the 16th century AD Rawat Fort.
Both the forts, according to officials in DOAM, were also as vulnerable to destruction and illegal excavations as the other unprotected sites.
The forts were missing conservation and enforcements teams.
However, critical of the urban sprawl, DOAM pointed out that all construction projects big or small by civic authorities and private builders were undertaken in violation of the Antiquities Act.
The Section 22 of the Act said that no development plan or scheme or new construction on, or within a distance of 200 feet of a protected immovable antiquity should be undertaken or executed unless the Director General of Department of Archaeology and Museums grants approval.
“Whenever a development scheme is undertaken at the historical site, the DOAM is not contacted. Worst yet, the department had also not set its foot down to prevent damage to the sites with the exception of one or two incidents,” said the official.
The department asserted that the need for an NOC from DOAM for development projects in Islamabad – with a history that went back five million years – was as important as any other approval.
The Mesolithic rock shelter in sector G-13 on the Kashmir Highway was another example where possibility of discovering stone articles used by cave people two million years ago was lost. The rock shelter was almost destroyed when Pakistan Housing Society levelled the ground all around it to make way for new houses. DOAM interfered and declared some 200 feet area around it as protected.