ISLAMABAD: The Department of Archaeology and Museums has turned down the government’s request to convert film legend Dilip Kumar’s ancestral house in Peshawar into a national heritage, describing the idea as ‘unfeasible’.
Now it is up to Information and National Heritage Minister Pervaiz Rashid, who had received an order from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif earlier this week about designating the house as a heritage, to resolve the conflict because the Department of Archaeology is a national heritage wing of his ministry.
Information and National Heritage Secretary Mohammad Azam, who did not appear to be aware of the reply given by the department, said officers concerned were already in Peshawar to work on the proposed project and prepare a report on how to go about it.
However, the Department of Archaeology and Museums has informed the ministry that it does not support acquisition of the house.
In a letter to the ministry, it said the house was situated in a highly congested area and could not be easily accessed through a street that was as narrow as six feet and 33 feet long making the approach difficult for visitors.
“The house is totally unsuitable for conversion into a museum or library being very small and congested,” it said, elaborating that the house of three to four rooms was not protected under the Antiquities Act of 1975 either.
It also said that the owner had demanded Rs80 million for the house in 2013, which might be higher now. Arguing against sustainability of the project, the department said that the price was too high to purchase the house for the very purpose it was being acquired for.
The letter said: “The Information, Public Relations and Culture Department, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has termed it wastage of taxpayers’ money.”
A source in the ministry of heritage said that even after its acquisition, significant funds would be required for its preservation and transforming it into a museum or a library, besides a huge recurring expenditure. “The purpose for which all this exercise is being done will not be fulfilled.”
The source said that under the 18th Amendment, acquisition of land was now a subject of the provincial government.
Under the 18th Amendment, all national monuments belonging to Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Allama Iqbal, and other national heroes had been devolved to the provinces and there was no justification for acquiring a house by the federal government which was not even associated with a national hero, the source said.
Nonetheless, Information and National Heritage Secretary Mohammad Azam argued that Dilip Kumar might be an Indian national but he belonged to Pakistan.
One of his officers, Director, PID, Majeed Niazi described the house to be situated on a land of five marlas, hidden in a congested and busy marketplace.
“The gesture is to recognise the actor who actually belonged to Pakistan. We still have to visit the site and complete a survey to acquire the house, declare it protected under the Antiquities Act, 1975, before enlisting it among national heritage of Pakistan,” he said.
Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2014