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Bilawal's 'cultural coup' threatens ancient ruins

Updated Jan 30, 2014 07:20pm


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Preparations underway at Mohenjodaro for the formal launch of Sindh Festival 2014, which will be held from Feb 1 to Feb 15, to bring global recognition to the 130 heritage sites in Pakistan, especially a few of those that are in Sindh. — Photo by APP
Preparations underway at Mohenjodaro for the formal launch of Sindh Festival 2014, which will be held from Feb 1 to Feb 15, to bring global recognition to the 130 heritage sites in Pakistan, especially a few of those that are in Sindh. — Photo by APP
— File photo
— File photo

KARACHI: A festival to commemorate Pakistan's cultural heritage, spearheaded by the scion of the Bhutto family, could put the ruins of one of the world's ancient civilisations at risk, experts warned Thursday.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the heir to slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, has launched a campaign to conserve the heritage of his home province of Sindh with a two-week festival due to begin on Feb 1.

Bilawal's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) suffered a heavy defeat in the 2013 general election and observers say the event, which has seen weeks of national television spots, is partly aimed at raising the 25-year-old's political profile.

But experts told AFP the festival's inaugural ceremony which is to be held on the ruins of the Mohenjodaro settlement could endanger the Unesco World Heritage site built around 2600 BCE.

Large wooden and steel scaffolding is being erected over and around the ruins, while heavy spotlights and lasers have been installed for a light show.

Farzand Masih, head of the Department of Archaeology at Punjab University, said such activity was banned under the Antiquity Act.

“You cannot even hammer a nail at an archaeological site,” he said.

“The laser and spotlights, secondly, will cause rapid decay at the site which is already exposed to many negative factors,” Masih added.

“I was invited for the ceremony by Mr Bilawal Bhutto Zardari but I don't approve of such kind of activity.”

The ruins, discovered in 1922 by British archaeologist Sir John Marshall, are 425 kilometres (265 miles) north of the port city of Karachi and are one of the largest settlements of the Indus Valley Civilisation.

“This is really a matter of great concern that we treat our precious heritage so recklessly,” said Nauman Ahmed, a professor of architecture and urban planning.

“And when we need technical or financial assistance for conservation we have to face embarrassment from the donors for such acts,” he added.

Qasim Ali Qasim, head of the Sindh Archaeology Department that is responsible for the ruins, denied any damage was being done.

“I don't think that the structure or lights would harm the site,” he said.

“I am personally overseeing the work and it is all in accordance with the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures).”

Responding to the criticism, Bilawal tweeted:

Sindh's High Court later agreed to hear a case filed by lawyer Qazi Ali Azhar that seeks to bar the government from building on the site.

Unless “extreme care” is taken in making arrangements for the show, the site may be damaged and this would a “great national tragedy”, said the short order from the court's Chief Justice Syed Maqbool Baqir.

The Moenjodaro ruins are one of Pakistan's six Unesco World Heritage sites that are deemed places of special cultural significance.

But many of the country's historical sites are endangered by vandalism and urban encroachment, as well as a booming trade in illegally excavated treasures.


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Comments (40) Closed

Agha Ata Jan 30, 2014 07:43pm

He would do anything, say anything to establish himself as a politician.

Akram Jan 30, 2014 07:48pm

I went to Moenjadaro 9 years ago, it was wonderful. I hope they don't damage the site and its treasures.

NASAH (USA) Jan 30, 2014 08:57pm

Those are not only Pakistan's and India's heritage they are world heritage -- leave them alone if you can't preserve them. They are NOT for party propaganda.

It is a crazy idea -- with thousand of people milling around them damage and destruction is inevitable. Unesco should intervene.

Shahpur Jan 30, 2014 09:09pm

Is there any authority in Pakistan going to do something? Nothing, no body cares.

Shah Jan 30, 2014 09:47pm

In any other country these sites would have been protected with security personnel. What a shame. What a waste. Pakistan is on a roller coaster to a very vey bad place. Everything is falling apart.

Sane man Jan 30, 2014 09:50pm

Bilawal replied to that by tweeting, "I don't think that the structure or lights would harm the site".

what is he, an architect? what kind of answer is that.

Amjad Wyne Jan 30, 2014 10:14pm

Horrible in every which way one can think of. Government is quiet, authorities are quiet and people are quiet.

ZAK Jan 30, 2014 10:19pm

I wish the money being spent on the cultural show were to have been diverted to the setting up of schools in the Sindh province where literacy is the lowest in the country.

Anonymous Jan 30, 2014 10:52pm

My first thought after reading this article: you got to be kidding me. I

Sajjad Ali Jan 30, 2014 10:55pm

Peoples are dying, they don't have Food, Shelter. Who cares we will Celebrate Sindh and Punjab Festivals.

saj Jan 30, 2014 11:15pm

What bilawal zardari is saying who cares what happens to the ruins i will get an expert to say their going to be okay and hold my disco there. I could get an expert to say anything just as musharraf got an expert to say he will die if he goes to court and a former president got one to say he was insane so he could avoid trial.

Syed Jan 30, 2014 11:16pm

texan Jan 30, 2014 11:31pm

Don't worry....most of the pakistan is on its way to be like moohinjodaro.

ssf Jan 30, 2014 11:42pm

This kid should first complete his higher education which will make him more mature than what he is right now. His father is the one making him do all these events to create a favorable profile for his future political carreer. Take it it easy BIlawal.

TKhan Jan 31, 2014 12:02am

The man would be king, how dare anyone question is judgment?

GA Jan 31, 2014 12:28am

Any given Pakistani town or city looks like a ruin thanks to bad planning and neglect. Why ruin the the ancient ruins?

kautiliya Jan 31, 2014 01:02am

It is time that Indian and Pakistani Archeologists with the help of their respective governments must work together to advance,share and preserve the archeological finds. I am sure that the both governments can agree with this suggestion.

Adeeb Khan Jan 31, 2014 01:20am

What a waste of precious wood, time and money

Newsreader Jan 31, 2014 02:04am

Bilawal doesn't know basic stuff about preservation of archeological sites?? Did he not study at Oxford??

syed Jan 31, 2014 02:09am

let the kid play ... will you !!!

desiinpardes Jan 31, 2014 03:35am

Being from that part of the country, I humbly request to Bilawal to please move the venue of the festival to some other place. Even if the stage and lightings didn't cause any damage, it would be hard to control the public who is more likely to wreak havoc. Apart from it what message we are giving to people? We are celebrationg Sindhi culture on the expense of our historical heritage?

Syed Rizvi Jan 31, 2014 03:37am

This needs to be stopped !!

Ashish Jan 31, 2014 05:33am

Pakistan should make every effort to preserve this part of the Indian civilization until it is ready to hand it back to the motherland.

ak18 Jan 31, 2014 06:24am

he will either destroy it completely and then rebuild in his own hideous image... or back down... and make it look like he has made an extraordinary self sacrifice for the sake of a national treasure... which he obviously doesn't even care about.... in either case he will of course expect the people of Pakistan to be evermore grateful to his 'holy/divine' self as is the nature of such immensely arrogant 'people' (NB: I use the term 'people' very, very loosely)

sudhi Jan 31, 2014 06:43am

If you are serious about your cultural treasures, I don't know why a place in the midst of the heritage site is selected as the venue. From the photo of the stage it seems that some a huge show is going to take place, which will in turn attract thousands of people. This will definitely damage the site. Hope that sanity may prevail and stage may be shifted to some other place nearby so that the damage can be avoided.

Kumar Jan 31, 2014 07:22am

Bilawal tweets bilawal tweets tweets. He needs a feeder, so he stop tweeting.

Tunio Jan 31, 2014 08:31am

Launching of a Zardari as a Bhutto! Why ruin the ruins!

Pakistani Jan 31, 2014 08:45am

Sind and its culture can only be saved by giving right education to the masses instead of these politic. I wonder this toddler attended one of the great university. Wasting public funds in the name of Cultural festival and endangering heritage site in the name of preservation. Height of hippocracy. Awaam marson

S. Roy Jan 31, 2014 10:15am

"Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, ... has launched a campaign to conserve the heritage of his home province of Sindh with a two-week festival due to begin on Feb 1."

"conserve the heritage"??? Has he gone nuts? How can anyone - ANYONE - with a sane mind can build anything, however temporary, at an archaeological site that is Mohenjodaro?

Why Pakistani authorities are allowing this insane act? Aren't there any laws in Pakistan to preserve archaeological sites, particularly those such as Mohenjodaro? If there are laws, WHY aren't they being enforced?

Often archaeological sites in South Asia are not maintained properly, at best, or ignored, at worst. Mohenjodaro and Harappa were the cradle of civilization in South Asia and beyond. What started there ultimately and certainly spread in most of Asia. To some, desecration of such sites is nothing short of treasonous.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari MUST be stopped.

Mumbai-Pune Express Jan 31, 2014 10:19am

OMG.......Harrapa and Mohonjodaro are the India's Oldest civilization i.e. Origin of INDIAN people. And in whole article, author not even single time mention the name INDIA, very strange!!

Indus Valley Civilization found in 1922 at that time there was no Pakistan, it is not the origin of Pakistan it is the origin of India. Dancing girl and Pashupati's statues had been found there. Please don't distorted the History.

Rahul Jan 31, 2014 06:15pm

These ancient ruins are living proof of muslims ancestry is Hinduism and not arabiya and original religion is Hinduism not Islam.

NHM Jan 31, 2014 06:32pm

No worries about ancient ruins.Let these parties rule for anther ten years, then we will have plenty of modern ruins around Pakistan to cry for

ALI KHAN Jan 31, 2014 06:42pm

The ppl of pakistan must have serious issues to their health, if they belv Baby Bhutto is going to be a saviour. if they do ... they deserve what they get, misery, poverty and lawlessness. Congrats

Chaudhry Jan 31, 2014 09:20pm

Bilawal khape for Pakistan

Umar Jan 31, 2014 09:59pm

I dont know what this champ have learnt from abroad. I think he even doesn't know how important this site is This site is of international importance and this event should be banned at this site.

jamshed khan Feb 01, 2014 12:34pm

The Zardari clan is out there to destroy the country, why would they care amout a small ancient site.

ammar Feb 01, 2014 02:37pm

What baseless criticism from everyone in comments and author of the article. If we can provide safety and security to visitors and build an attraction in these historical places, these places will earn enough to pay for their maintenance and feed many a house holds. Its a good initiative by scion of Bhutto family. I hope he succeeds and others learn from it. Every precaution should be taken to avoid any risk to ruins of one of the world's ancient civilizations and it should be preserved for generations to come.

Spice Feb 01, 2014 06:29pm

@Mumbai-Pune Express: Brother it is unislamic, I have been shouting from the rooftops but these foolish politiians don't understand...we have to hang our head in shame....

Spice Feb 01, 2014 06:31pm

@Kumar: He needs to get married...that will mature him a little. His mother would have wanted him married...but seems this is not the case with father

Mohammad Salman Dhedhi Feb 01, 2014 11:30pm

This party does not care about the country. Why would they care about an ancient site ?