Three archaeological sites in Islamabad to be preserved

November 28, 2019

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Shah Allah Ditta Caves in D-12 have a potential to attract tourists. — White Star
Shah Allah Ditta Caves in D-12 have a potential to attract tourists. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has decided to allocate Rs100 million to preserve three archaeological sites in the capital.

In collaboration with the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) and the archaeology department, the CDA will develop the Shah Allah Ditta Caves, a step well commonly known as Kenthala Baoli and a baradari.

“We are going to hold a meeting of all the stakeholders during the ongoing week,” CDA Chairman Amer Ali Ahmed said, adding that the authority is not facing funding issues.

CDA spokesperson Syed Safdar Ali said the authority has decided to allocate Rs100 million to develop and preserve these sites.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan in July this year directed us to take steps for the sites, particularly the Shah Allah Ditta Caves,” he said, adding that the CDA has no direct role by “we are going to develop the sites voluntarily”.

Rs100m to be allocated, deadline and roadmap will be determined at upcoming meeting

A roadmap and deadline for the project’s completion will be decided on at an upcoming meeting, likely to be held tomorrow (Friday), he added.

“The aim is to attract tourists,” Mr Shah said. “The Shah Allah Ditta Caves have great potential to attract national and international tourists.”

During a meeting on CDA affairs on July 17, Mr Khan had directed the CDA chairman to work with the National History and Literary Heritage Division to develop and preserve the caves.

Also on Wednesday, the Ministry of Interior sought a progress report from the MCI on the development of the Shah Allah Ditta caves in light of Mr Khan’s directives.

“Since the CDA, Islamabad Capital Territory, MCI, archaeology department and Evacuee Trust Property Board – the custodian of the caves – are supposed to take these steps, we have been asked for a progress report by the interior ministry,” an MCI official said.

There has not been any meaningful progress so far, he said, but a roadmap and deadline will be determined at an upcoming meeting.

A CDA official said that the authority had first planned to only develop the Shah Allah Ditta Caves. They decided to develop the other two sites after directions to this effect from the CDA chairman.

The CDA had prepared a PC-I for the preservation and protection of the caves in 2010, alongside the development of Sadhu Ka Bagh nearby, but the project was not completed.

The Shah Allah Ditta Caves are said to date back to the Stone Age when, archaeologist have said, these caves and rock shelters were first brought into use by humans.

They are said to have been used during various eras, and surviving frescos on the walls depict Hindu deities while a stream in front of the case also shows that the site was used by Hindus before partition.

The CDA also plans to preserve a step well in the Kentla area on the border between Islamabad and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which was built by Sher Shah Suri for caravans that travelled between Kabul and this part of the world.

The Kuri Baradari, believed to have been built during the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1799-1840), will also be developed. The historical site has fallen victim to neglect, with the structure itself deteriorating and the fresco inside faded.

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2019