IT is encouraging that, slowly, projects of heritage conservation and preservation appear to be taking off. These achievements are notable occurring as they do in a sector that is often overlooked and certainly underfunded, and that lacks in technical expertise. In early September, in Hyderabad, restoration work on the century-old Mukhi House was declared of a standard fit for inauguration as a museum. The event was held even as the Sindh culture minister remarked bitterly that he “would not beg for alms” from the relevant federal ministry. His sentiments will no doubt have found traction in conservation bodies across the country. Even so, earlier this month, the KP Directorate of Archaeology and Museums concluded its years-long efforts to secure for the purposes of preservation the ancestral homes of Bollywood legends Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar. Now, on Thursday, the directorate asked the district administration to impose Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, on the former Wali-i-Swat’s residence to declare it a national heritage site. This had been a long-standing demand of local activists, who have for decades taken issue with several such buildings having been damaged after the royal state’s merger with Pakistan.

Meanwhile, also on Thursday but further south, the Sindh culture department announced that starting Nov 14, public tours would begin to be made available to Hyderabad’s sites of historical importance. The department, in collaboration with the district administration, plans to initiate similar ventures to heritage locations in other cities, as well, with visitors being facilitated in every way possible. This represents laudable intentions, and it can only be hoped that these bodies stay the course. Heritage preservation is crucial, but so is further education of the public in Pakistan’s tapestried past and the various measures being taken to protect it. As important as the conservation work itself is getting right the optics of these projects. The other provinces must make sure to not lag behind in the task of conserving culture.

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2021

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