Don’t ruin the ruins, SHC tells govt
Karachi: By the looks of it, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s plan to bring Mohenjodaro and Makli back to life has backfired. The Sindh High Court has stepped in to stop the authorities from possibly destroying the protected archaeological site of Mohenjodaro by staging a cultural show on the ancient ruins.
First it was the civil society and then came the court, but the Sindh government’s plan to celebrate culture at the protected site attracted widespread criticism. The world heritage site was chosen for the inauguration ceremony on January 31 for the Sindh Festival, an idea of the Pakistan People’s Party patron-in-chief. Preparations were under way with a massive stage being built right on top of the ruins at Mohenjodaro when the civil society raised its voice against the potential damage the organisers would cause to the archaeological site.
For years, there has been no progress in preservation at the ancient civilisation site and people are often seen selling artefacts stolen from there. The latest move of the government was perceived as yet another step toward degrading the protected heritage site.
Apart from the outcry on the social media, the lawyers of the Sindh High Court Bar Association actually went to the court, challenging the cultural event planned by the government at the protected heritage site.
On their petition, the Sindh High Court (SHC) ordered on Thursday the provincial cultural and heritage department should take utmost care and ensure all measures so that no damage was caused to the archaeological site.
The petitioners – Qazi Ali Athar, Abdul Wahab Baloch, Syed Ghulam Shah and Mohammad Asif Qureshi – had alleged the government was destroying the world heritage site of Mohenjodaro, believed to be a part of the Indus Valley civilisation, by holding the inauguration ceremony for the Sindh festival there. The cultural event at the historical site would damage the originality of the place, which holds great importance for the entire nation.
The plaintiffs feared the activities on January 31 might cause irretrievable damage to the archaeological site if extreme care was not taken by the cultural department, and it would amount to a “national tragedy”. The inaugural session, they warned, would be attended by thousands of people and unless the government functionaries were cautioned beforehand, the petition would become useless.
Expressing urgency, the petitioners asked the court to stop the festival arranged by the government at the world heritage site and declare the site the most precious heritage site of the state. They also requested the court to pass a restraining order for all future activities on within or near the site at government or public level.
The SHC division bench, headed by Chief Justice Maqbool Baqar, issued notices to Sindh chief secretary and the culture department secretary as well as the Sindh advocate general and ordered the culture and heritage department should take utmost care to ensure no damage was done to the heritage site.
Khuhro rejects concerns
The Sindh education minister has rejected the impression that the culture event to be held at Mohenjodaro would harm the national heritage in any way.
Talking to the media at the Sindh Assembly building, Nisar Ahmed Khuhro said the location of the stage being built for the January 31 event was being reviewed to avoid any damage to the archaeological site. “How can the people who are proud of national heritage damage it?” he asked. “When a programme can be organised at Kot Diji, it can also be organised in Mohenjodaro.”
He said that there would be a system for the arrival of people at the programme to protect the ruins.
Bilawal visits site
Later in the day, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari flew to Larkana on a short visit and visited Mohenjodaro along with the archaeological site’s curator to personally oversee the arrangements of the inaugural ceremony of Sindh Festival.
He tweeted that he had himself inspected the culture event site with the archaeology director Qasim Ali Qasim, who has an experience of 30 years, and explained to him how every precaution had been taken to keep the heritage site safe from damage.
Sindh Festival @sindhfestival, the official Twitter page of the event, also explained that the pictures of the scaffolding and protective sheets for the stage were to actually protect the site from any potential damage on the advice of the archaeology director.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Sindh lawmaker Khurram Sher Zaman alleged the Pakistan People’s Party was going to destroy the culture of the province by organising the culture festival in Mohenjodaro. He criticised the authorities for setting up the stage in Mohenjodaro, fearing it would damage the 5,000-year-old archaeological site. “Through this festival, the Sindh government is promoting the personality of one person, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari,” he said. “Mohenjodaro is our identity at international level and the PTI will not let the PPP organise the festival there.”
Zaman even advised the PPP to spend the money for the festival on the poor.
Athar Minallah @MinallahAthar
This is not enough. Bilawal must realize it is in his interest to stop this
Raveem Choudhry @ExplorePakistan
This is utter madness digging up 3 feet and pinning down steel stands
Shama Junejo @ShamaJunejo
@BBhuttoZardari Dear Son! Please see the videos of building stage.They are ruining and they HAVE ruined it.Please don’t destroy #MoenJoDaro
Bilal Akbar @BilalAkbar480
I’m a PPP supporter, but this is just regrettable. It wont hurt to change the site, or else this could turn into a disaster.
Fariha Akhtar @farihaak
Disappointed.I thought #SindhFest was to protect Sindh not destroy it by damaging historic sites.
Gururaj S @Equateall
Pictures don’t lie. But, people do.