TAXILA: The commissioner Rawalpindi has ordered a survey and demarcation of encroached land blocking access to the ancient Buddhist stupa and monastery of Dharmarajika in Taxila.
The survey has been ordered on the direction of the Lahore High Court (LHC) issued to the Punjab government on a petition filed by two citizens.
Commissioner Joudat Ayaz on Saturday chaired a meeting which was called to resolve the blockade of access to Dharmarajika Stupa, a Unesco World Heritage Site and protected under the Antiquities Act 1975.
The petitioners, retired Maj-Gen Saeed Ahmed Wahla and retired Brig Abdul Malik Khan informed the meeting that the path leading to the Buddhist Stupa and monastery, comprising Khasra No 151 of the revenue department, was protected under the Antiquities Act 1975. Keeping in view its international significance and importance, it should be protected.
They pleaded that the blockade of access to the site was against national and international rules and could send a negative message to the world in general and to the Buddhist community in particular.
The petitioners prayed that the private land developer be ordered to restore the path to the site to its historical shape.
The land developer, Mohammad Muazzam Ali Goraya, claimed that the gate and wall were built “to protect his property against miscreants.” He said no one had been or would in future be refused access to the Stupa through his property. He claimed that the employees of and visitors to the Taxila Museum were using the passage through his land without any restrictions.
The commissioner ordered the revenue department Taxila to demarcate over a kanal, comprising Khasra No 151, inside the boundary wall which was a government property but claimed by the developer to settle the issue.
“Encroachments blocking free access to tourists have not been removed even though Section 22 of the Antiquities Act prohibits any construction within 200 feet of protected sites,” petitioner Ahmed Wahla told newsmen.
Irshad Hussain, deputy director department of archaeology and museums, said the matter would be resolved after a demarcation was carried out by the revenue department.
If the private property has encroached on government land or access to government land, the wall and gate would have to be demolished.
The path leading to the Dharmarajika Stupa has been blocked for nearly 10 years after the private developer purchased land near the site and constructed a boundary wall around it.
Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2019