ISLAMABAD: The change in leadership at the Capital Development Authority (CDA) will not bring any change to the Shah Allah Ditta caves, a historic archaeological site in the federal capital.

In 2010, the CDA prepared a PC-1 for the preservation and protection of the site, in addition to the development of Sadhu ka Bagh, a tourist attraction next to the caves. The project has not yet been completed for various reasons.

In May this year the CDA announced in an official statement that it would preserve the caves and develop a tourist site at the historical location to promote tourism. The CDA also announced the release of Rs5 million, a “token” fund to start the stalled project.

No development work has begun at the site yet, as the current management of the CDA – which took over a couple of months ago – appears uninterested.

Despite announcing plans to preserve the archaeological site, the authority has not released funding

“We have been taking up this issue for the last many months, but the CDA remains unmoved to begin full-fledged development work to preserve the caves and develop a tourist site,” deputy mayor Syed Zeeshan Naqvi said.

Mr Naqvi, who is from the Shah Allah Ditta area, said the caves have great potential to attract foreign tourism. “The funds announced in May have not yet been released, which shows how serious the CDA is about preserving this historical site,” he said.

The chairman of the CDA, Mayor Sheikh Ansar Aziz, said the authority has a vision to preserve all the historical sites in the capital.

According to Sajid Mahmood Awan, senior research fellow at the National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research (NIHCR), the authorities are responsible for preserving the site.

“This step will promote tourism in the city and the country’s soft image, as foreign tourists and diplomats are always interested in visiting such historical sites,” he said.

A CDA official told Dawn that while the age of the cages is disputed, it is safe to say they are thousands of years old.

The head of the Taxila Institute of Asian Civilisation at Quaid-i-Azam University, Dr Ghaniur Rehman, said the caves are from the Stone Age.

“The caves and rock shelters were first brought into use by human beings during the Stone Age. The caves of Shah Allah Ditta are our heritage and there is more research on these sites is also needed,” he said.

“Generally I would say these caves are thousands of years old, the exact era of these caves cannot be identified without carrying out an excavation,” he said.

Dr Rehman said the caves were used during various eras.

“The surviving fresco on the walls represents images like Hindu gods, and a stream in front of the caves shows that this site also remained in the use of Hindus before partition,” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 20th, 2016


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