MULTAN: The provincial colonies department of the Board of Revenue has accorded approval to the transfer of 10-kanal state land in favour of the Punjab tourism department for the establishment of an archaeological ethnological museum in the city.

According to a letter [written to] Deputy Commissioner Ali Shahzad, the colonies secretary stated that the land is being transferred free of cost for the establishment of the museum and it will be utilised for the specific purpose within a period of three years failing which the land would revert back to the provincial government.

DC Shahzad told Dawn that the museum would be established at a cost of Rs80 million and “the allocation for the first year is Rs20m.”

“Currently the technical vetting of the project is awaited,” he said.

The move to establish a museum was initiated during the governorship of Makhdoom Sajjad Hussain Qureshi (1985-1988) and a number of sites were visited by the officials of the archaeology department; however the plan could not materialise.

During the tenure of prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in 2008, the matter to establish the museum in the city was again taken up and it was decided that the project would be completed within three years.

The then district coordination officer, Fazeel Asghar, proposed to establish the first museum of Multan in the building of the historical Clock Tower. The proposal was turned down by Shahbaz Khan, the then director general of the archaeology department, who declared the building unsuitable [for a museum].

The succeeding director general, Dr Syed Pervez Abbas, also visited the Clock Tower building and recommended that the museum could be established in the upper portion. The provincial assembly approved the establishment of the museum in the 2008-09 budget and included it in the annual development projects.

The then commissioner, Muhammad Ali Gardezi, who was authorised to approve schemes up to Rs100 million, gave his nod to the project in April 2008 and also issued administrative approval. However, some officials of the finance department raised an objection that the commissioner could not issue the administrative approval. They said only the archaeology department secretary could issue the approval.

The then information, culture and youth affairs secretary, Shoaib bin Aziz, approved the scheme by the end of June 2008 but Rs5m funds had to be surrendered as the fiscal year was going to be over soon.

In 2009, work on converting the upper portion of the Clock Tower into a museum was started after the provincial government had released Rs20m out of the Rs40.724m estimated to be spent on the project.

The project; however could not be completed and the establishment of the museum in the city turned out a distant dream; however this year again the provincial government allocated funds for it. And this time it has been decided that the museum will be established on 10-kanal state land located on Water Works Road by constructing a separate building for it by rejecting the idea to establish at damdama, the only surviving watchtower of the prehistoric fort of Qila Kohna Qasim Bagh.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2021

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