Thursday, February 26, 2009
Looting of Mohenjodaro Continues Unabated
From The News.com.pk Authorities look away as plunder of Mohenjodaro continues Tuesday, February 24, 2009 By Dilshad Azeem ISLAMABAD: Authorities appear to be dragging their feet in preventing the pilferage of precious artefacts from the Mohenjodaro site, according to an official document. A revised master plan for conservation and promotion of cultural tourism at the Mohenjodaro site awaits the federal government’s nod at a time when President Asif Zardari and PPP senior vice-chairman and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani are at the helm of affairs. But the Mohenjodaro site, falling under the federal government’s jurisdiction, is regrettably facing a double whammy: non-stop pillage of antiques and severe seepage and damage, reveals the document made available to The News. Major features of the revised master plan are archaeological conservation, acquisition of land, further excavation and conservation, landscaping and environment development, a tourism monument plan and an interpretation system. Additionally, it provides audio-guided tourist movement, construction of a model on-site museum, a tourist complex for overnight stay, construction of boundary walls, a regular power and water supply plus an ethno-archaeological park. The ministry of culture had rejected the original plan requiring funds worth Rs6,500 million in five years for the development of the site, with instructions to officials at the site to bring it down to one-third. “The revised one is also lying pending as only routine funds are being released,” one official revealed. The Antiquity Act of 1975, which provides for protection of and legal cover to archaeological and historical sites, is not being implemented, as far as the world’s one of the oldest civilisations at Mohenjodaro is concerned, the officials explained. “While the law stipulates that no trespassing can be done within 200 meters around a monument, in practice there is trespassing in the surroundings of most of the monuments,” reads the revised master plan, prepared by Mohenjodaro officials working at the site and provincial authorities at Sindh. A summary of the master plan was dispatched to the federal government for approval after reducing the cost but nothing in practical is insight to ensure stoppage of flux of antiques from the site and save it from damages due to seepage, official sources said while handing over the master plan copy to this correspondent. The document links non-implementation of laws and paucity of funds to the stealing and smuggling of precious artefacts and relics to other countries. “Due to trespassing, the monuments cannot be developed for attracting tourists and, therefore, strict implementation of the law is envisaged in MTDF to develop these culturally-rich sites for tourists.” The plan emphasises promotion of cultural tourism. Preservation and restoration of the Mohenjodaro site, also on the world heritage list, is an ongoing activity and, therefore, the situation is ripe for steps to develop the site in a befitting manner, because the focus of donors is on this part of the world, which must be exploited for presentation of site for posterity to come. At the very beginning, the Prime Minister Secretariat (Public Affairs Wing) UO No 01/JS (PA) 2008, dated May 13, 2008 instructed preparation of a comprehensive master plan that may be pursued by the ministry of culture. But despite its presentation and revision, the ministry does not seem to jerk into action. The mid-term development framework of 2005-10 (original) envisaged an investment of Rs6.5 billion in culture, sports, tourism and youth affairs over a period of five years. With the world’s oldest civilisation, exotic mountain beauty and splendid seasonal variety, Pakistan has immense tourist potential. But the key sector is still in early stages of development for a variety of reasons, including policy constraints, lack of infrastructure and inadequate tourist services. The mid-term plan provides that tourist arrivals and receipts are expected to grow at an annual rates of 10 and 20 per cent, respectively, to reach 850,000 arrivals and $500 million receipts by the year 2010 had it been approved and implemented from 2005-06. The plan also envisages milestones such as building a world-call management scheme in the Pakistan expert advisory committee, which is committed to the success and funding of the Mohenjodaro development works.