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Chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (L) and PPP leader Sharmila Farooqi (R), arrive to attend a cultural heritage festival at the ancient ruins of Moenjodaro. — Photo by AFP
Chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (L) and PPP leader Sharmila Farooqi (R), arrive to attend a cultural heritage festival at the ancient ruins of Moenjodaro. — Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Sindh Cultural Festival took off amid dazzling lights, but the din continues that it threatens Moenjodaro, the inaugural place of the festival listed with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) as a world heritage site.

About a week before the launch of the two-week festival at Moenjodaro on Friday, the director of Unesco’s world heritage sites had described it as an ‘improper’ activity which could threaten its universal values.

But adviser to the Sindh chief minister on culture Sharmila Farooqi said all precautions had been taken during the inaugural ceremony at the ancient site.

Conservationists at the department of archaeology and museum said any human activity within 200 feet of any national heritage protected under the Antiquities Act 1975 was illegal.

“The act states that not even an electric wire can pass above a national heritage, let alone installing floodlights and setting up stage on a site protected under the law,” said a senior archaeologist in Islamabad.

The technical consultative committee of National Fund for Moenjodaro had also warned that the decision to hold inaugural ceremony at the site could cause irreparable damage to the fragile remains of Moenjodaro.

Unesco official Jawad Aziz said the organisation’s world heritage sites director had contacted Pakistan’s permanent delegate to investigate the matter and take steps to prevent the site from any harm. “About five days ago we passed on this message to the Sindh government to safeguard the universal value of Moenjodaro,” he said, adding that they were still waiting for a response from the departments concerned.

Asma Ibrahim, director museum of the State Bank and member of the Heritage Management Board, criticised the holding of the ceremony at Moenjodaro and said no-one had been allowed to enter the site for three days and access to it was blocked by hundreds of policemen.

“More than 500 guests were invited to the event which continued till late night. There is no way to tell the extent of damage caused to the site. The remains of Moenjodaro are already fragile. Salinity has weakened the walls to an extent that they can collapse by even loud sound,” she said, adding that the mud-brick remains required extra care.

Ms Ibrahim said she had tried in vain to convince Sharmila Farooqi to hold the ceremony outside the 200-foot protected area. The event had been held without obtaining a no-objection certificate from the Sindh department of archaeology, she said, adding that cases should be registered for violating the law.

Kaleemullah Lashari, Member National Fund for Moenjodaro, wrote two back-to-back letters to the Sindh secretary for culture, tourism and antiquities warning of the damage to be caused to the ruins by the opening ceremony.

In a letter written on Jan 30, a copy of which is available with Dawn, Mr Lashari urged the secretary to use vast lawns of the museum and offices for the ceremony, instead of protected areas of the site. “The world community does not endorse such improper activity and it will be an embarrassment if a wall of the remains collapses or any other fragile section of the remains is damaged,” the letter said.

No conservation efforts have been undertaken at Moenjodaro for over 10 years. A better sense prevailed in 2010 when the government stopped the construction of a highway through the ancient remains believed to be as old as 4,000 BC.

Sharmila Farooqi claimed that no harm was caused to the world heritage site. “Arrangements for the event were meticulous. All the officials concerned and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari (PPP patron-in-chief) personally visited the site before the opening ceremony,” she added.

But Asma Ibrahim said the damage could be assessed only after the government allowed access to the site which was still closed to outsiders and its caretakers.

Comments (52) Closed

Despise Feb 03, 2014 04:56pm

Through out the world heritage site, including the pyramids light and sound shows are a normal event. UNESCO instead of crying fowl after the event took place should've started a campaign PRIOR to the event. This is lame

Arif Khan Feb 03, 2014 05:01pm

Bilawal Zardari with his Auntie, Sharmila broke all laws by holding the Festival, can they be brought to charge?

ann mcneela Feb 03, 2014 05:10pm

Its an absolute disgrace to allow a festival of any kind be it Cultural or otherwise to take part on such a historical site. If Bilwal Sardari is hoping to make himself popular and get more people to vote for him, he is going the wrong way. He would do better by helping the poor and distressed of Sindh provence and make their lives better. I would like to know how many of them were invited to attend or would even be allowed to attend the festival. It wouldnt be allowed in Europe There would be uproar. .

NASAH (USA) Feb 03, 2014 05:14pm

This kid is another Imran in the making and I don't mean it as a compliment.

AR Feb 03, 2014 05:23pm

Now I understand why Indus Valley Civilization could not sustain 2600 years back.

Mohammad Farooq Feb 03, 2014 05:32pm

These politicians would care less about the ancient ruins, as they are getting ready to dance on ruins of Pakistan.

Agha Ata Feb 03, 2014 06:19pm

Has anyone thought of terrorists' attack at the cite?

Laeeq,NY Feb 03, 2014 06:26pm

Why they have worry about their heritage? All they are worried about their party heritage. They are trying to resurface their sinking party. Bilawal is drumming up for his party support by anti Talibans rhetoric but he forgot that they had five years of government, and his party was just busy ripping off the country,a wealth and turned away their faces on any act of terrorism. Their governor nd minster was murdered, minorities were butchered but government was busy just more and more corruption. They did not let leave any chance to make money. Their indifference form this menace terrorism must be haunting them.. Does any body know where is the governor Tasir son is? They never tried to recover him until Prime minister Gilani,s son met the same fate. What they did not curb, came back to them big time.

khanm Feb 03, 2014 06:29pm

We are super elite we are above all norms

El Cid Feb 03, 2014 06:56pm

This is a crime against civilization and world heritage. The criminals must be charged with it in an international court.

TI Feb 03, 2014 07:10pm

It's unconsciousable to hold a political rally in the disguise of cultural event at that archialogical site. What are they thinking? It's totally bizarre and misguided approach to advance political career of the baby Zardari (who insist on calling himself Bhutto) at that site.

Kashif Javed Feb 03, 2014 07:22pm

Another example of the high handedness of our so called leaders. They treat the national assets as their personal properties and claim to be the well wishers of the country.

Ahsan Feb 03, 2014 07:41pm

I saw a report on sindh tv about an year ago. it showed young bikers racing in the streets inside moin-jo-daro the report wanted to bring it to notice that heritage is at risk. point is nobody really cared about it until now. I am sure bike racing is much more dangerous than lighting it up with flood lights.

rafiq Feb 03, 2014 08:18pm

Looks like Oscar Award show. Nice and expensive dress worn by both Bilawal Zardari and Sharmila.

Muhammad Naqvi Feb 03, 2014 08:18pm

This has to be cultural vandalism of highest order. Does this historical site belongs to Zardari family now, in that they are using it to further their personal political games. If Zardari Junior wishes to join politics let him do it at his father

Zeeshan Ahmed q Feb 03, 2014 08:26pm

One of greatest things about being a Muslim is knowing how to gauge your actions against context of truth. Ruins and remnants of previous civilizations that were not on the path of Islam are left as a token for Muslims to reflect and ponder upon. When the Prophet (pbuh) passed by the remains of a people who perished without trace because of their disbelief, he asked his companions to hurry and advised them not to visit such places unless they were crying from the fear of Allah. And look at us today, holding concerts and festivals on sites that should serve as a lesson to Muslims, not a party to celebrate a past of disbelief.

me Feb 03, 2014 08:57pm

PPP - adding to their Hall of Shame as always...

nj Feb 03, 2014 09:17pm

how will they protect our future when they can't even respect the past

Mumbai-Pune Express Feb 03, 2014 09:44pm

I am scaring that TTP or other organization would not plant any bomb here. Because this is the site of Hinduism, Non-Muslims. If they can explode Buddha's statue in Afghanistan then this is their enemy's ancestor's site, Indian they will easily make their target.

Concerned Feb 03, 2014 09:48pm

Do you think quoting the law related to no ceremonies within 200 feet of ruins will deter our rulers to back off - since when they started to care about the laws of the nation/province they rule?

Saeedullah Narejo Feb 03, 2014 10:03pm

Ego and wish of 'future dubbed PM' was more important than the world heritage of Moen jo Daro....This spoil child needed to have an activity, a party which was arranged fantastically in his honor. Even half of the funds that have spent on this activity would helped to restore all of the archeological sites of Sindh....but dat would have not suited as launching pad for the 'future PM'. Funny is dat a person who never lived in Sindh talk abt its culture, who doesnt speak or read Sindhi being Sindhi talk abt Sindhi culture and his mature thoughts and approach is well gauged by the 'Logo' launched for the Sindh festival.

waseem Feb 03, 2014 10:03pm

I am very much convinced that common sense and PPPP are two different and pole apart ideas. Sharmila Farroqi saying Bilawal visited the site.....indeed, what good is he at archaeology ???

Janjua Feb 03, 2014 10:16pm

That was totally against d law and completely immoral. I hv seen the video which was based on west culture. Sharmilla says, Bilwal Bhutto visited the place before ceremony,by the way who is he. ?he is not an expert and totally unaware of such technicalities .. But what will happen?nothing this is Pakistan "might is right"

Nasir Feb 03, 2014 10:20pm

You know, wearing a sherwani and having a semi-attractive woman on your side doesn't make you a politician. Or does it?

Blitzer Feb 03, 2014 10:46pm

"Sharmila Farooqi claimed that no harm was caused to the world heritage site.

Ghazanfar Feb 03, 2014 11:07pm

I am amazed by the comment of Sharmila Farooqi "Arrangements for the event were meticulous. All the officials concerned and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari (PPP patron-in-chief) personally visited the site before the opening ceremony"

I think there were "uran qaleen" on top of Moenjodaro ruins ... and Bilawal is the Chairman of PPP (why? thats another issue) has got the automatic distinction in Archaeology and Heritage Management... true picture of Iqbal words "Waay afoos maata-e-karvan jata raha" next "aur karvan k dil se eahsas-e-zian jata raha" ... what a negligence and pride on it at the hihgest provincial order"

Paolo Biagi Feb 03, 2014 11:28pm

THis is simply incredible. Hundreds of archaeological sites of Sindh have been destroyed or are being destroyed for one reason or another and the Government does not care at all. In a few years Pakistan will be a country without national heritage and any cultural background. But this is most probably what somebody wants No words!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Prof. Paolo Biagi PhD Hon FSA

Paolo Biagi Feb 03, 2014 11:53pm

THis is simple incredible

Prof Paolo Biagi PhD Hon FSA

Archaeologist Feb 04, 2014 12:03am

National government needs to take control of Mohanjodaro from Sindh Govt.

Sindh govt and Qaim Ali Shah are destroying a world heritage site!

Mohanjodaro cannot be trusted in the hands of QAS, AAZ and BZ.

M.S.Qureshi Feb 04, 2014 12:38am

Ruining the oldest culture of the whole sub-continent to launch his own version of local culture of which he doesn't know even the abc!

SK Feb 04, 2014 02:13am

It's nothing more than lack of insensitivity against our national heritage sites to gain cheap political in roads. Instead of promoting and preserving one of the world's ancient icons it harms and threatens it.

Zaheer Feb 04, 2014 03:47am

@Despise: UNESCO has already designated Moenjodaro as a world heritage site, which means there must be a written protocol to preserve and protect such sites. Now, the onus lies on the Government and the department concerned to assure that the protocol is followed and such sites are protected for the future generations of Pakistan and not used as a playground by any party or person for purely political purposes. But then again, we should not be surprised by the callous disregard shown here by the high and mighty, for them the whole country is a playground

GA Feb 04, 2014 03:50am

Unesco need not worry. Once Taliban have complete sway over this country, every city will resemble Moenjodaro.

Syed Husain Feb 04, 2014 05:45am

Bilawal may be young and foolish, but Aunty Sharmila Farooqi has no excuse. There is absolutely no need and serves no purpose to hold a cultural heritage festival at the ancient ruins of Moenjodaro. The more appropriate place to hold the cultural heritage festival would have been Larkana.

ali Feb 04, 2014 06:25am

Do something constructive for the people.

khan Feb 04, 2014 06:45am

What a shame.You are having festival in that part of country,where people don't have even clean water to drink.You think them slaves,because they are still living in 4,000 yrs BC.What an ignorance,that people still worship the most corrupt group of people of our society.

TK Feb 04, 2014 07:34am

And so NOW who is going to haul them before the SCoP? They have CLEARLY violated a law.

TK Feb 04, 2014 07:34am

@NASAH (USA): He will be gone long before he gets anywhere near Imran.

GM Feb 04, 2014 08:52am

"Who cares about what other low IQ people think. I can dance over the ancient ruins if I want to."

Danish Feb 04, 2014 10:00am

PPP's next program would be inside Mazar-e-Quaid......... Who cares!

deendayal lulla Feb 04, 2014 10:58am

A controversy,which could have been easily avoided.

sabeeh omer Feb 04, 2014 11:26am

The Sindh Festival meant to preserve the Sindh culture and heritage began with a poem in English by Balkhtawar Bhutto. The decision to hold the inaugural session on the ancient site itself speaks of the sincerity of purpose. Hundreds of people are dying on the streets of Karach and other cities in Sindh. It would be prudent if Bilawal Bhutto and PPP's mouthpiece (Sharmila Farooqui) would devote time and money for safeguarding the lives of the people of Sindh rather than try to gain cheap publicity by trying to instigate Sindhi patriotism!

Usuf Hasan Feb 04, 2014 11:35am

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari or Sharimila Farooqi the two Mama Child of the largest political party of Pakistan now take every sensitive issue with volition and self ego no matter what damage the country face in terms of money or reputation. Spending billion of fund for an event at site and at province is reminder the theory of Darwin

Amarnath Feb 04, 2014 11:43am

That is what happens when uneducated are allowed at the helm. They can read letters, but cannot understand and do not want to. This entire subcontinent is blighted by plenty of these.

Junaid Feb 04, 2014 12:17pm

@Despise: Completely agree. It is not a new thing to hold events near or on UNESCO protect sites. I wish the people that will eventually click the dislike button under this post could instead go to moenjodaro and donate money to pay for its maintenance. It is all well and good to complain, but being a part of the solution seems to be something we are not good at. This festival was meant to highlight the dire situation of our inheritance - to motivate people to do something. So go and do something.

Abro Feb 04, 2014 12:35pm

A number of national and international laws and regulations have been broken. CJ is requested take the suo moto action!

m h Feb 05, 2014 01:34am

So where is the government of Mr Sharif? Conspicuous by their absence as usual. I bet there will be no power cuts over the period of the festival.

graham Feb 05, 2014 03:48am

@Zeeshan Ahmed q:

For most Muslims we know, the truth begins and ends with the halal meat. There is not a speck of honesty in their daily lives.

Oops Feb 05, 2014 09:49am

@GA: Can not wait to see that day!!

Nasir Feb 06, 2014 04:05am

@graham: it depends a lot on where you live ;)

Haseeb Mukhtar Feb 06, 2014 04:47am

hi all, you all posted against the sind festival ??? but why because its world heritage site?? :) no body in world if its exists .. I am against PPP but sindh festival is indeed a good job.

Syed Salman Feb 06, 2014 07:19am

It is my Sindh ,I can do whatever I like to with it !