Sindh festival at Moen Jo Daro: Civil society starts own ‘coup’ to protect culture
By: Hafeez Tunio
KARACHI: Three days before the ‘cultural coup’ in Sindh is scheduled to kick off, civil society members write to Unesco to save the inauguration site – Moen Jo Daro – from further destruction.
The brainchild of Pakistan Peoples Party patron-in-chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Sindh Festival, will start from February 1. The historical site of Moen Jo Daro was chosen for the inauguration ceremony and preparations are already under way.
A group of archaeologists, historians, academia, civil society leaders and writers of Sindh have requested Unesco to intervene and save Moen Jo Daro from further destruction.
“The organisers of this event are not aware how this kind of an event can damage our archaeological assets, history, culture and art of the province,” said a letter written to Unesco country representative, Kozue Kay Nagata. “We appreciate the effort to revitalise the long-lost culture but it should not be done at the cost of destroying the ruins and structure of the site.”
Ishtiaq Ansari, Badar Abro, Hakim Ali Shah Bukhari, Khalid Hashmani, Zulfiqar Halepoto, Aziz Narejo, Dr Ali Gul Metlo, Munir Bhurgari, Ali Palh and Shuja Qureshi are among the signatories of the letter. The archaeological ruins of Moen Jo Daro are declared one of the greatest and precious cultural heritage of human civilisation. The site was inspected by a Unesco team in 1980 and was declared as the greatest heritage site to be preserved and protected.
These people shared their grievances soon after the preparations of the inauguration ceremony began. Labourers have been hired to build a massive stage and poles and tents have been erected around the site so that shops can be set up for the festival. “Live musical and dance programmes will be held on this site where thousands of people are expected to attend,” pointed out Halepoto. “This can ruin the site.”
Copies of this letter have also been shared with Bilawal, his father and former president Asif Ali Zardari and other PPP leaders. “This is not a promotion or celebration of culture. This is complete destruction and madness and it must stop without any further delay,” the letter stated, urging Unesco officials to talk to the provincial government and stop the non-technical labour from carrying out further construction.
These archaeologists and writers have also sought Unesco’s support for a more intense conservation plan to save the site and promote it as a wonder of the ancient world that seems to have been forgotten.
The letter also pointed out that nearly $23 million were generated through the ‘Save Moenjodaro’ international campaign, jointly run by the federal government and Unesco, but very little is known about how the money was used.
Culture secretary Saqib Soomro termed the accusations in the letter as mere speculation. Everything is a ‘makeshift arrangement’ and no one is digging to erect electric poles, he said, adding that only a few people have been invited to the event to raise funds for Moen Jo Daro conservation.
“Every day we hear of blasts and hardly hear any good news,” he said. “This is an excellent opportunity, which is being opposed by some people for their vested interests.”
Archaeology director Qaim Ali Qasim also told The Express Tribune that he has been personally monitoring the event and nothing will happen to the site. “There will only be a laser show along with a display of the statue of dancing girls, a kind priest and other artefacts found from the site,” he explained. Meanwhile, Halepoto felt the entire event was nothing more than an attempt for a “photo session”. “Why don’t they select other nearby place for the event? Why Moen Jo Daro?”