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Home > impact on women / resistance > PAKISTAN: HERITAGE UNDER THREAT


Monday 20 January 2014, by siawi3

Source: Dawn, editorial 14 January 2014

LAND-grabbing is a serious problem across Pakistan, as is encroachment and poor governmental oversight vis-à-vis new development. State or private land is gobbled up with impunity, and even historical sites are not spared. Islamabad and its surroundings are also not immune, as encroachers have occupied some of the capital`s most historically important sites.

As reported by this paper on Monday, ancient Buddhist caves in the Shah Allah Ditta area of the Margalla hills are being threatened by commercial activities.

Restaurants and housing colonies sprouting up in the picturesque environs pose a threat to the ancient caves, which are said to contain paintings dating back 2,400 years. As some observers note, in many cases such enterprises are illegal, built in defiance of court orders.

Apparently the Capital Development Authority had drawn up plans to preserve the caves, but they remain on ice.

Elsewhere in the capital`s surroundings, Taxila a World Heritage Site is also facing dangers from encroachers and commercial interests, while the Paharwala Fort needs protection from land-grabbers.

What is more, not far from the caves of Shah Allah Ditta lies a mosque said to date back to the Ghaznavid period, as well as a stupa and monastery belonging to the Buddhist period. If efforts are not made to stop the illegal occupation of land, these sites may be next in line to be taken over and commercialised.

Apart from putting historical treasures in peril, of which there are many in the Islamabad region, such unplanned `development` also puts the environment at risk. There is a lot of space to build housing societies and eateries; why spoil the environment or damage archaeological treasures just to make a quick buck? The CDA, archaeology authorities and other government organs must play a more active role in preserving Islamabad`s heritage and environment. For one thing, the plan to preserve the Buddhist caves must be reactivated while other historical sites in the capital region need to be protected from the rapacious land mafia.