Cultural Postcards + [Pakistan]

Heritage: Thousands of archaeological sites in northwest Pakistan yet to be registered
The Directorate of Archaeology and Museums of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (one of the four provinces of Pakistan, located in the north-west of the country) is compiling a data of sites, believed to be around 6,000 according to different researches, that exist in various districts but have not been registered by the government.

Thousands of archaeological sites in northwest Pakistan yet to be registered
A rock-carved sculpture dating back to the seventh century 
in Jahanabad, Swat [Credit: Dawn]

The registration of these sites in the gazetteer form would help to protect and preserve these. “A bill is also on the anvil to protect such registered archaeological sites,” officials said.

Director of Archaeology and Museums Dr Abdul Samad, who has initiated compilation of the archaeological sites scattered all over the province in July this year, says that these sites would be enlisted along with its details in a gazetteer form.

There are around 100 sites listed as ‘protected sites’ under the Antiquities Act of 1997 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but the archaeologists say that it is not a true picture of this region, which is rich with sites of Gandhara civilisation.

Owing to lack of attention even the less older buildings , which are included in the list of protect sites, have fast vanished unnoticed by the authorities.

“Falak Sair Cinema hall, which was a 75-year-old building, exists as a protected site in documents only,” says Dr Samad, who with his like-minded conservationists has also prepared a bill to protect the archaeological sites from fading away.

Falak Sair Cinema was demolished few years ago to build a commercial plaza at that valuable property. There are thousands of years old archaeological sites, which are still unprotected and endangered.

There are about 100 protected sites but only 60 actually exist in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The efforts to compile data of the scattered archaeological sites, surveyed and mentioned in different researches from time to time by archaeologists, are meant to show that the province has at least 6,000 such sites which need to be included in the list of protected sites. These 6,000 sites have been published in different research journals.

“In July this year, the compilation of these 6,000 sites started and so far details of some 3,000 sites have been collected,” the official says.

A district-wise gazetteer of archaeological sites would prepared by collecting information from the publications. It would also act like an inventory of the archaeological sites of the province in each district.

Dr Samad says that not only compilation but protection of these sites through replacing the current Antiquities Act 1997 by a new one to better tackle the issues arising in the recent years can really help to preserve and protect archaeological sites in the province.

After passage of 18th Amendment, the province needs a new antiquities law. Dr Samad says that a bill called Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Antiquities Act 2014 is in process. Besides the registered sites, this bill focuses on protection of important sites, which are on the way to qualify for inclusion in the list of protected sites list.

“We are going to register these 6,000 sites in the gazetteer so that the new law can be applied on these for their protection,” says Dr Samad.

The official says that it would be the first ever law to incorporate all clauses in it that would ensure protection of tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

Author: Sadia Qasim Shah | Source: Dawn [September 29, 2014]