Punjab’s cultural heritage Bureaucratic wrangling delays documentation

Talking to Daily Times, sources alleged that a government official, who had recently got the documentation of Naqaar Khana done by University of Engineering and Technology (UET) students for Rs 25,000, had proposed to the authorities that UET students would document more than the 1,000 unprotected cultural monuments in the Punjab for only Rs 15 million.

Sources claimed that certain senior Planning and Development Department (P&D) officials had objected to the proposal and had insisted on experts carrying out the documentation. Sources alleged that the senior P&D officials wanted the appointment of a project director and the purchase of several vehicles and high tech cameras for the project. Sources said the projected cost of the project that the P&D officials wanted to start, including having a separate building for the documentation process, would cost about Rs 80 million and not Rs 15 million.

Sources alleged the government official presented the documentation of Naqaar Khana to the authorities concerned and had said that hiring UET students for the project could save a lot of money, but the authorities concerned refused his proposal.

The wrangling over the project’s budget had delayed the documentation of monuments in the Punjab, sources claimed, adding that a PC- II of the project was currently lying with the P&D for approval.

Important cultural monuments and other heritage paraphernalia of the Punjab have not been listed since 1985. The issue was re-addressed in August 2005 when Oriya Jan Maqbool, a bureaucrat and columnist, took over PAD as director general (DG). After his appointment, PAD took over Lahore Fort and Shalimar Gardens, considered one under world heritage monuments.

Maqbool took the initiative and started the process of documenting non-protected buildings. PAD has 244 protected monuments in the Punjab while more than 1,000 are still unprotected.

Sources claimed that Maqbool, after Waliullah Khan, was the t honest DG PAD had ever had and that he was pursuing corrupt PAD officials.

Sources alleged that the Rs 80 million project would involve National College of Arts students, who along with PAD officials and a project head, would document buildings in Lahore and other Punjab districts. Sources claimed the PC-II would be approved by the end of February.

PC II: Punjab is a repository of a rich heritage spread over its 34 districts. However, a database on tangible heritage has not been developed yet. This heritage includes archaeological sites, monuments, urban historic centres as well as important heritage buildings in rural areas.

The Directorate General of Archaeology does not have data available on historic urban centres including the several walled cities of the province. Although the Punjab government enacted the Punjab Special Premises Ordinance 1985, only a few heritage buildings in Lahore were declared “Special Premises”. No further listing was done nor was a strategy to protect Punjab’s heritage prepared.

Therefore, a large number of monuments/sites/urban/historical buildings remain unprotected and undetected. Due to public ignorance and commercialisation, Punjab’s heritage is at risk and rapidly disappearing. The monuments/sites/urban/historical buildings need to be documented first so that they can be identified and categorised as unprotected.

To safeguard Punjab’s heritage, the PAD DG has proposed starting a phased project that includes preparing the inventory and cataloguing tangible heritage through a Project Management Unit under his control. The inventory will be disseminated through publication, developed for each urban historic centre and other monuments/sites in each district as well as a computerized database.

This will be followed in the subsequent stages with detailed documentation of selected premises including a condition survey first and measures and conservation plan with costs.

The foret responsibility of the Directorate General of Archaeology is to make a thorough survey of the entire Punjab province, enlist all existing archaeological sites and monuments with a purpose to ascertain the archaeological and cultural wealth of the Punjab.

A strategy for the conservation and environmental improvement will also be undertaken in subsequent phases. The PAD DG will create a repository of data on Punjab’s heritage and build its own capacity by setting up a documentation centre, a library and research cell and trained personnel.

The systematic survey of Punjab’s archaeological wealth will provide data to put important monuments on protected lists and to drop priority schemes for their conservation and preservation. The publication of the results of the project will project and propagate Punjab’s culture, history, art and architecture in Pakistan and abroad. New discoveries will promote the tourism industry. Information collected will also be available to all government educational and research institutions. This will generate further searches and create awareness on the importance of cultural heritage.

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