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NOT many in Pakistan appreciate history, and this attitude has resulted in the neglect of our historical heritage. As reported in this paper, the Taxila Museum’s Archaeological Conservation and Research Laboratory is in bad shape. Set up at a cost of Rs30m, the lab was shut down after the ministry of culture was devolved two years ago. Presently, both the museum and the lab are under the Punjab government’s control. Even while the lab was functioning it suffered chronic staff and expertise shortages. In a rather bizarre example of ad hoc measures, for example, apparently cleaning staff were deputed to look after the museum’s relics in the absence of technically trained staff. The central issue behind such a state of affairs is a neglect of and apathy towards history. There is a general lack of interest in — and perhaps even disdain for — the past. Perhaps that is why no one bats an eyelid when flood victims set up camp on historic burial grounds, or when world heritage sites and ancient artefacts are treated carelessly. In Taxila’s case, beyond neglect of the lab and museum, encroachments and industrial activity around the area are also threatening this essential link to Pakistan’s past.

Where the research lab is concerned, though finances are tight the Punjab government needs to make efforts to restore the facility to working condition and hire staff with the necessary expertise to care for the priceless relics. If there is a shortage of trained experts in Pakistan, people from beyond our borders could be sought and students with an interest in history be trained and equipped to look after our heritage. In the big picture, society needs to change its outlook on history so that we can appreciate our past — and, hopefully, learn from it.

Comments (19) Closed

Ashok R.Prabhu Jun 07, 2013 08:44am

Taxila represents the history and the background of the entire sub- continent called earlier as Hindustan and now India and Pakistan.Though we are separated Politically,this does not mean that we should forget our roots or bury the past history.Both Countries are from the same stock and culture.The pains of Partition are to be buried and both countries should co-exist as we did in the Reign of the Mughal Empire particularly of Shah Jahan,Akbar and Jahangir.

K G Surendran Jun 07, 2013 05:36pm
Dawn is dialing a wrong number, a majority of Pakistanis don't believe this as part of their history, for them it began in August 1947 and the journey so far has many of them hanging their head in shame, so the apathy is not at all surprising. It is because of this attitude that the country is totally confused about its identity.
Yasin Jun 07, 2013 10:46am
You are wrong. Pakistan never had a Muslim invasion. The land that was invaded is India, there was no Pakistan at that time. So, the so called invasion is a part of Indian history. We created a new history from 14th Aug' 1947.
Riaz Ahmad Jun 07, 2013 11:25am
A nation that does not value its past and its history has no pride and a low regard of itself. Taxila is extremely rich in history of our forefathers, especially that of Punjab. I as a Punjabi feel very sad and ashamed about this criminal neglect. Current affairs programmes must make it a target of constant criticism till the Punjab government is shamed in to action.
Yasin Jun 07, 2013 10:41am
The author is getting unduly imotional here. Taxila is part of Pakistan history by default. It is more correct to say Taxila an Indian or more appropriately buddhist/hindoo history. Pakistan's history starts from 14th Aug' 1947. Ours is a free country, a new country made for the Muslims, by the Muslims. In trying to be and remaining Muslim is the best tribute to the millions who sacrificed their life, property and honour for the creation of our country.
S. Tanwir Hasan Jun 07, 2013 07:07pm
Very well said and fitting comment.
S. Tanwir Hasan Jun 07, 2013 07:10pm
Yasin, What a history you have created after 14h August 1947. It is a history of shame in all areas of humanity. What is in the history to be proud of?
Muhammad Farooq Jun 07, 2013 08:46pm
I got my PhD from QAU On biodeterioration of archaeological monument of taxila. I have ten years experience of conservation of monument on scientific basis I offer my services to look after that lab and also to train staff Dr.Muhammad Farooq 03055660977
Silajit Jun 07, 2013 09:46pm
The place where you live was invaded by Nadir Shah, Ghauri, Mahmud of Ghazni, Babur, Huns, Aryans, Alexander (and that is only a few of those that came from the North and the West). It was also invaded by Sikhs, Marathas, Rajputs, Gujaratis among others. You can call it India, You can call it Pakistan. Call it your home address. Unless you have paper documentation about your lineage leading all the way back to one of these invasions, chances are that you have mixed blood. One of those strains will also include the people who built Taxila. You may be ashamed of it and deny it. I'm definitely unhappy that this lineage resulted in someone like you. Regardless, I am getting used to it. You can too. :-)
Zia Jun 07, 2013 03:34am
The brilliance of John Marshall created and excellent site in Pakistan - which is well planned with carefully crafted sites and above all a remarkable museum. The museum has been receiving financial boosts periodically from various organisations and particularly Japanese Govt and the people of Japan have graciously adorned Taxila Museum. But we will give no credence to any of their ground officers appointed through successive Govts in Pakistan as they have failed to maintain the grandeur of Taxila's archaeological heritage. No this news of the condition of archaeological laboratory is very disappointing. Look at the beauty of this Museum constructed from a solid pieces of rock in line with ancient tradition of remarkable stone work in the whole region. From 1976 till 1994 I had been successfully conducting my group tours, guiding them through the history of this place. We should keep in view the importance to this place which was visited by Alexander the Great after his Swat campaigns and before the start of his famous battle of Elephants across Hydaspes(present Jhelum). This was the place where Menander, the Bactrian Greek King had a long discourse on Buddhism with the local sages and some sources say he was converted to Buddhist faith here. If we start unfolding the history then we can go in lengths. I have outlined the importance of Taxila and this should not be neglected - we must find a solution to stop destruction of important scientific laboratories which play important role in the exhibits of a museum. May the new set up adheres to declining standards of protecting our heritage. Pakistan is highly under rated country in regard to tourism world - Pakistan Govt has failed to tap this important source of foreign exchange earner.
Rocky Jun 07, 2013 02:28am
Unfortunately the only history Pakistan is interested in is after the Muslim invasions of this land.
Ashok Jun 08, 2013 04:09am
Wrong place!!! This museum predates your religion!!! So, may we have this "Uncivilized" and "UnIslamic" museum back? I am sure Pakistan, "The Land of the Pure" agrees with me!!!
Md Imran Jun 07, 2013 04:04pm
Taxila has a lot of history, and it had a important place in Pakistan's history. But Taxila does not contribute to our identity. Despite having over 1500 years of Islamic history, we dont have a single museaum to celebrate and secure our core identity. Such a shame !
Devil Jun 08, 2013 12:59pm
:-) You are so intelligent Yasin !
vishal Jun 07, 2013 03:04pm
Please transfer the museum to India or a third party like UK.THis is not pakistani inheritance. This is Hindu History. You can go and find your history in the sands or Arabia.
Krish Chennai Jun 07, 2013 03:20pm
There are many ways to look at this, and obviously action needs to be taken soon, before it becomes too late for any retrieval. And to simply say " the Punjab government needs to make efforts..." may lead nowhere. One way is, a public-private partnership. The resources of organisational monoliths, that are in the profit sphere, should be encouraged to contribute with active participation. Only today, India's oil major ONGC has been roped in to take care of, and ensure cleanliness, of various monuments, including the Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Golconda Fort and various others, in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India ( ASI ). The ASI itself, had done some excellent work with the Angkor Vat in Siem Reap in Kampuchea, over a decade ago, and that's the numero uno money spinner for that country today. The Almighty has bestowed a priceless heritage to the Pakistanis, and it is for them not to lose it !
Dr. D. Prithipaul Jun 07, 2013 04:48pm
Like the Bamiyan Buddhas which did not have a justification to exist in a Muslim country, so does Taxila which was destroyed. It is ironical and immensely hypocritical now to claim Taxila as the heritage of the Islamic Republic. The remnants of Taxila do not have a reason to be in Pakistan. Perhaps if there be an iota of respect for the art of Taxila, the Punjab Government could ask the Indians to take the wreckage of Taxila and preserve it as their authentic heritage. After all Buddhism belongs to the Harbi Indian culture, not to Pakistan, nor to the Dar-ul- Islam. To claim Taxila as Pakistani heritage is to refute the ideology of Jinnah. It is a direct denial of all that he stood for. To argue otherwise would be just an inane casuistry. The Punjab Government could ask Mullah Omar for his advice in this matter.
Ram Jun 07, 2013 04:48pm
It's because most major centres of Muslim history in the subcontinent are outside what is now Pakistan. Pretty obvious!
Vik Jun 07, 2013 04:18pm
is it because it is "Taxila" museum. I am sure govt is spending money on Islamic centers.