THERE are fears that the recently conducted ‘renovation’ work carried out at the Makli necropolis may rob the historical site of its World Heritage status. A report in this paper has cited the concerns of archaeologists and conservationists that the shoddy so-called renovation carried out on a number of old graves, especially the magnificent mausoleum of Isa Khan Turkhan-II, governor of Thatta from 1627 to 1644, may lead Unesco to remove Makli — which, with its half a million graves, is considered to be one of the world’s oldest burial grounds — from its list of World Heritage Sites. Experts believe that the work — which should have been more an exercise in expert preservation — has disfigured the fine craftsmanship of the tombs. Unfortunately, for a number of years, the necropolis has been left at the mercy of the elements and thieves who sold tomb carvings to make a quick profit. Unesco experts have been carrying out annual inspections of the site, and for at least the past two years they have been asking the authorities to carry out conservation work as per international guidelines on some badly damaged tombs. The UN body has also repeatedly warned Pakistan that if adequate conservation work is not carried out in Makli, the graveyard might lose its heritage status.

Tragically, the provincial government has an appalling record when it comes to the preservation of historical sites in Sindh. For instance, experts have complained that the Sindh government’s efforts to conserve the 4,500-year-old city of Mohenjo Daro have only accelerated the existing damage to its ancient brick structures. As if ignoring theft and weather- and terrain-related damage to heritage sites were not enough, the officials of the Sindh antiquities department have made matters worse by hiring evidently incompetent people who have caused further harm to invaluable historical assets. The question is: do the authorities intend to rectify the situation, or will they allow Sindh’s history to crumble into oblivion as they helplessly look on?

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2021

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