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Faster decay stares past

April 17, 2011

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ISLAMABAD, April 17: After devolution of the Department of Archaeology and Museums (DOAM), more than 200 sites and monuments scattered across the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), including two forts built in 15th and 16th centuries, face a gloomy future. Dawn

In a recent meeting of the Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD), bureaucrats showed little interest in maintaining the DOAM, which is responsible for these sites and monuments in the ICT, has learnt. Last month the department, which was a subject of the Federal Legislative List, was devolved in violation of the 18th amendment.

Sources in the Ministry of Culture said the division seemed more interested in 'rationalising' the department, now staffed roughly with 100 employees.

Painting a gloomy scenario for the department, a senior official of the ministry, on condition of anonymity, said most likely it would be reduced to three or four staff members. The rest of the staff will be adjusted elsewhere, he added.

“Members seemed little interested in the organisational chart of the department after devolution. They were more concerned with deciding its importance in the centre.”

With the department becoming less effective, the official feared more ruin for the ancient sites and monuments falling in the ICT jurisdiction. “The centre is responsible for their preservation and conservation.”

Naturally defended by a small Himalayan range from one side and the Soan River on the other, the Pharwala Fort was built by the Gakhars in the 15th century on the ruins of a 10th century fort. It has been continuously facing neglect over the years. Similarly neglect had done more damage to the 16th century Rawat Fort than the battle between the Gakhar chief, Sultan Sarang Khan, and Sher Shah Suri in 1546.

The two forts, properties of the federal Department of Archaeology, were protected under the Antiquities Act 1975.

Other sites and monuments under the purview of DOAM include the Sari Kharbuza of the Mughal period, Bobri, Kenthala, Kuri, Mohra Malhair, Shah Ditta, Peja, the Rawal Lake temple, Ahadra Cave, rock shelter in sector G-13, and archaeological remains in G-12.

Officials say now after the devolution, DOAM has become “solely responsible” for more than 200 sites and monuments in the jurisdiction of ICT. But they add that if there is no effective department at the federal level, these sites and monuments, already facing neglect, will be wiped out.

Taxila Institute of Asian Civilisations (TIAC), Quaid-i-Azam University, had also documented more than 60 sites in ICT.

The dream of a National Museum of Pakistan in the capital also remains unfulfilled. As eight acres land was allotted for the national museum in Shakarparian in 1947, the project is late by 64 years. The project was suspended due to lack of funds.

“They spent millions of rupees on National Monument but not a single penny for a national museum. Islamabad is probably the only capital in the world without a national museum,” said the ministry's official. “It will be criminal to abandon these sites,” he lamented.

According to DOAM's officials, several sites had already been destroyed by new housing schemes in Islamabad.

“An NOC from DOAM is a prerequisite before going ahead with construction,” one of them, not ready to see his name in print, said. “Land is bulldozed without giving any thought to the immense loss the nation suffers,” the official added, and referred to the damage caused by the ongoing construction of houses to two million years old rock shelter in sector G-13.

The official asked the bureaucrats to keep in mind that the “nation that forgets its past is unable to deal with its present and future.”