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National Monument sinks in darkness

June 16, 2012


ISLAMABAD, June 15: Once, the National Monument sit proud on top of Shakarparian and gleamed at night. But no more.

It now suffers in darkness and the glory enshrined in it has been closed to visitors as power supply was cut to the monument and the museum attached to it two weeks ago.

There is dullness in the National Monument Museum at Shakarparian not because the exhibits are losing charm but because its electricity supply has been cut for the last over two weeks.

The museum that had acquired the status of one of the best and most frequented since its opening in November 2010 closed its doors to visitors 16 days back after Islamabad Electric Supply Company (Iesco) cut its power.

And it was not just the museum that lost its sheen. Most citizens noticed the National Monument sitting on the hill overlooking a scenic capital also plunged into darkness after sundown. The two structures shared the same power line.

The Capital Development Authority that maintained the two structures and took care of its bills like it does for a few other government buildings owed an estimated Rs7.2 million in electricity bills.

“The authority is waiting for the Cabinet Division to make funds available to make the necessary payments,” said a senior official in CDA on the basis of anonymity.

It was not just the visitors who were affected by the closure but the architects and officials who spent 18 months straight without a day off to make the museum a state-of-the-art facility and functional were a lot more hurt.

“It’s one of the best facilities in the city. Locals and foreigners especially cannot believe their eyes when they stand before the dioramas because no other facility captures the cultural heritage of the region,” said the Director National Monument Museum Asif Javed Shahjahan who explained how power cut had been damaging some of the museum’s rare collections.

His concern was obvious because without the air conditioners and humidifiers, the air in the museum carried a pungent-chemical-synthetic smell. The museum had no source of light except that came in through the glass doors in the day. It was difficult to see two feet away in the two small galleries dedicated to the relics of the Quaid-i-Azam and Allama Iqbal that were as black as night.

“The climate in the museum is managed at controlled temperatures,” said the director, explaining how heat could damage the 80 to 90 years old relics.

The galleries had some  original relics such as Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinah’s furniture, trunk and clothing, as well as Iqbal’s handwritten letters, poems and personal notebook besides his woollen hat and tailcoat to mention some of his belongings – loaned by the Department of Museum and Archaeology.

Equally attractive are the dioramas that preserve history of the region from Mehergarh 7, 000 BC down to the Indus Valley, the Arians, Buddhism, the arrival of the Muslims besides reflecting on the impact of the Mughal rule in the subcontinent.

“Most guests turn around and leave as soon as they enter because of the suffocating atmosphere inside the museum,” said the security guard at the entrance.

The museum director explained how most plants as well as trees had started decaying since they had not been watered in two weeks.

While CDA Chairman  Farkhand Iqbal, was not available despite repeated attempts, the civic agency’s director electrical and mechanical, K.M. Sethar, said he was away in Karachi for a wedding and unaware of the blackout at the monument.