ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration to development the historic Buddha Caves in Shah Allah Ditta.
Sources said Mr Khan issued the directions during a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office on July 17, and told both organisations to collaborate with the national history and literary heritage ministry.
A follow-up letter addressed to the concerned ministries from the Prime Minister’s Office said the CDA and ICT administration should collaborate with the ministry to develop the caves.
Tourist sites will be developed in coordination with national history and literary heritage ministry, CDA chairman says
It said the CDA chairman and National History and Literary Heritage Division secretary have been directed to take steps to develop the site.
Islamabad Chief Commissioner Amer Ali Ahmed, who holds acting charge as CDA chairman, confirmed that “we have been directed to develop the Buddha Caves to promote tourism.”
“The prime minister was keen to develop historical archaeological sites in the capital city,” he said.
He added that tourist sites will be developed in close coordination with the ministry.
“The Shah Allah Ditta caves have great potential to attract foreign tourism,” the chief commissioner said, adding that the CDA and ICT administration will carry out civil work and other amenity work while the archaeology department deals with the preservation of the site and so on.
Deputy Mayor Syed Zeeshan Naqvi, who lives in the area and belongs to the PML-N, said many past governments announced that they would develop the site, but to no avail.
In 2010, the CDA prepared a PC-I for the preservation and protection of the site in addition to the development of Sadhu ka Bagh, a tourist attraction near the caves. The project has yet to be completed.
“This site is very important to followers of Buddhism... Foreign tourists who visit here regularly complain about the neglected sites,” he said, adding that if the prime minister is taking an interest in these caves “it is a positive sign.”
He said the caves boast Buddhist murals that date back some 2,500 years.
National History and Literary Heritage Division Joint Secretary Syed Junaid Akhlaq said the archaeology department will play its due role in the preservation of these historical sites.
“These are protected sites and the archaeology department is already executing a small project to uplift and preserve them. Now after the prime minister’s directive, all the concerned departments will play our role to develop these sites,” he said, adding that the Evacuee Trust Property Board is the custodian of the caves, and the archaeology department is collaborating closely with them.
The Shah Allah Ditta caves are said to date back to the Stone Age. Archaeologists have said the caves and rock shelters were first brought into use by humans during the Stone Age.
The caves were used in various eras, and the surviving frescos on the walls represent images such as Hindu deities, while a stream in front of the caves also shows that the site remained in the use of Hindus before partition.
Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2019