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Endangered heritage

June 04, 2012


PRESERVING heritage has always been a tough task in Pakistan, perhaps because the state as well as the people have never considered doing so a priority. As per a report in this paper, land-grabbers have occupied a portion of a five-century-old Eidgah in Thatta, Sindh, near the famous Makli necropolis. Though not part of Makli proper, the encroachers have reportedly damaged some old tombs in the graveyard attached to the Eidgah. There are claims that the elements involved are associated with a political party. An anti-encroachment effort on Friday failed to achieve much. Nearby Makli — a Unesco-designated World Heritage Site — is no stranger to encroachment. In the past, portions of the vast graveyard have been occupied. Makli also suffered considerable damage when flood victims took refuge on its higher ground in 2010. Elsewhere in Sindh, there have been illegal burials at the Chawkandi tombs near Karachi, while the ruins of Moenjodaro have been damaged by heavy rain. In Punjab, the Lahore Fort and Shalamar Gardens, also World Heritage Sites, have been listed as endangered due to neglect. This is not surprising, considering these sites have been used to host official functions.

Some observers are of the opinion that since the upkeep of historical monuments was entrusted to the provinces after the 18th Amendment, things have actually become worse, especially in Sindh. This is worrying. The state — specifically the provincial governments — needs to make extra effort to ensure heritage sites are preserved. There can be no compromise where the safety of historical treasures is concerned; all those who encroach upon historical sites or destroy monuments must face the law. So far, we have not done a very enviable job where the preservation of culture is concerned. What is required is a change in attitude, both at the state and the societal levels, so that preserving Pakistan’s rich cultural heritage becomes a priority.