BUREAUCRATIC lethargy and political disinterest have both contributed to the deterioration and neglect of heritage sites in Pakistan, especially in Sindh and Balochistan.
While major sites in Sindh such as Moenjodaro and Makli do make it to the news, usually when they face threats, other lesser-known but potentially equally important sites do not get the same attention.
Know more: Footprints: Mysterious Agham Kot
Take Agham Kot, for example. As reported on Saturday in this paper, the site in Sindh’s Badin district, which is estimated to be several centuries old, is in precarious condition, with the brickwork of certain monuments falling apart, while there is no protection from thieving visitors who walk away with artefacts.
The lack of protection is attributed to the fact that Agham Kot is not on the Sindh government’s list of protected monuments, though it can be argued that even ‘protected’ sites — such as Makli in Thatta district, which has Unesco recognition — have not been spared by encroachers.
Experts say there are hundreds of sites in the province that should be on the list of protected heritage, which would bring funds and official attention towards their maintenance and upkeep. Balochistan’s archaeological heritage is in dire straits due to a paucity of official attention.
And while there are some relatively successful stories — the Punjab government is doing a relatively better job, while the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa administration gets high marks for being the most active in preserving heritage — much remains to be accomplished.
Perhaps the first step towards protecting heritage would be passing legislation that provides legal cover; following the 18th Amendment this is now a purely provincial concern.
However, in Sindh’s case, the draft antiquities law is still reportedly sitting with the law department. Perhaps this reflects the priority the bureaucracy and politicians give to promoting historical heritage.
Along with passage of the law, all historical sites need to be listed and documented. If need be, the state can ask students and volunteers to help complete this essential process, which would feed into creating a reliable database of historical sites.
Also, the Sindh and Balochistan administrations could consult the KP authorities to see what best practices can be applied in their respective cases. There are a variety of threats Pakistan’s heritage sites face, most notably encroachments, deterioration and relic hunters.
Unless the provinces craft robust responses in their individual capacities that address the preservation of heritage, it will continue to be eroded, brick by brick.
Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2015
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