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Bhanbhore excavation licence termed ‘null & void’

January 08, 2013

KARACHI, Jan 7: The federal government has described a licence given by the Sindh government for the excavation of the Bhanbhore archaeological site as “null and void”, saying that it had been issued by an “unlawful authority” and that any work carried out under it was “illegal”, it emerged on Monday.

According to sources, the excavation licence had been given to a joint mission of Pakistani, Italian and French experts and seven people had been named to carry out excavation in three years – from 2010 to 2012.

The licence expired last month, the sources added.

Dr Mohammad Arif of the federal department of archeology and museums sent a communication to the Sindh government’s antiquities department on the subject of ‘Licence to carry out archaeological excavation at Banbhore’, copies of which have been sent to different federal and Sindh government departments.

The Nov 16, 2012 “confidential” letter says: “Dear sir, I am directed to state that this office has received from a reliable source on Oct 23, 2012, through fax a copy of Licence No: SO/SECY/Antiquities/ 2010/2132, dated Sept 03, 2010. The licence in question was issued under the signature of Dr Kaleemullah Lashari, Secretary, Department of Antiquities, Government of Sindh, Karachi to the semi-foreign / Pakistan Mission called Pakistan-Italian-French Archaeological-Historical Mission in Sindh (Pakistan) for a period of three years under Section 29 of the Antiquities Act 1975, by using the designation of Director General as mentioned in the Antiquities Act 1975.

“Under the Antiquities Act 1975, Director General, Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Pakistan is the sole authority to issue such licence in terms of Section 29 of the Antiquities Act 1975 (VII of 1976) and Rules made under the Act namely Archaeological Excavation and Exploration Rules 1978.

“Hence the licence issued by the secretary, department of Antiquities, Government of Sindh is null and void as it has been issued by an unlawful authority and any archaeological work carried out at Bhanbore site so far and being carried out under the said licence is illegal and contravenes the provisions of Section 29 (4) and (5).

“It is pertinent to mention here that with the passage of Constitution (18th Amendment) Act, 2010 (Act No:X of 2010) and in term of cabinet Division Notification No: 4-5/2011 – Min – 1, dated April 5, 2011 consequent upon deliberation / decision of the Implementation Commission, constituted under Clause 9 of Article 270 AA of the Constitution and with the approval of the cabinet, amongst others the functions of archaeology, national museums and historical monuments declared to be of national importance and the federal agency, that is Department of Archaeology and Museums, which performs the above functions, regulated through Antiquities Act 1975 is retained at the federal level. “Keeping in view the above facts, it is incumbent upon the provincial government departments that all matters relating to above functions, as mentioned above, be referred to the Office of Director General of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Pakistan, in light of the constitutional / legal position as explained above,” concludes Dr Arif, adding that copies of the letter were being sent to federal, foreign, interior, national heritage and integration ministries and Sindh’s chief secretary, and the home and culture departments.

The sources said the foreign organisation which was granted the licence on Sept 3, 2010 for three years was based in the Centre of Research on the Southern system and Southern Mediterranean, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Largo A. Gemelli, 1-20123-Milano, Italy. The specific area to be excavated and explored under the licence is ‘Bhanbore and adjoining areas’.

The exploration and excavation team, under the licence, comprises Dr Monique Kervran, Dr Valeria Piacentini Fiorani, Prof Eric Foucache, Dr Eng Sophie Reynard, Dr Kaleemullah Lashari, Dr Asma Ibrahim and Sarfaraz Nawaz Jatoee, the sources added.

Responding to Dawn queries, archaeology director Qasim Ali Qasim confirmed that at least two trenches — one by the Italian-French component and the other by the Pakistani component of the team — were excavated at Bhanbhore during November-December 2012.