ISLAMABAD – Pro-culture and heritage organizations in a press release issued on Tuesday urged the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa government to move into action to save an ancient Hindu temple which is being demolished to pave the way for construction of a commercial plaza.  

The newly formed association of four organizations: Sarhad Conservation Network, Frontier Heritage Trust, Institute of Architects Pakistan and Karwan Jirga have set their goal to keep ancient artifacts, works of art and archaeological sites safe from destruction and also the ones facing menace of market forces. 

“We are witnessing a tragedy of destruction of heritage, systematic and deliberate attacks on culture,” said an official to Dunya news reporter. 

During a seminar titled ‘Save Our Heritage’, organized by the Institute of Architects of Pakistan Peshawar Chapter and Sarhad Conservation Network (SCN) in Peshawar in early February, talks were held to invoke KPK government’s focus on conserving many of the damaged, demolished and neglected ancient buildings that portray culture and heritage. 

On the occasion, speakers asked Peshawar DC Riaz Mehsud to impose Section 144 to protect historical buildings and sites.

According to sources, Muhammad Khalid, an architect, said, “We are losing our heritage sites one by one.” He claimed that heritage sites help promote tourism and generate revenue for the government, but the K-P government has failed to utilize its resources in this regard.

“We have never seen the provincial government take measures to protect the heritage for the last several decades,” Khalid said.

The famous Kapoor haveli, located in Dhakki Munawwar Shah, near Qissa Khwani, birth place of cinema legend Raj Kapoor had the top two storey’s of the building demolished overnight after it turned into a threat for neighboring houses. However, the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums stepped and halted the destruction of this iconic structure based on antiquity laws of the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Antiquities Bill 2015. Under this act, anyone damaging or destroying a protected or important antiquity will be punishable with the rigorous imprisonment extending up to five years and fine of Rs2 million.

Khyber Pakthunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak said on Monday that restoration and protection of historical heritage and sites was the top priority of their government. Addressing a high-level meeting regarding restoration and rehabilitation of historical heritage of Peshawar, the CM directed the authorities concerned to submit comprehensive reports of long, medium and short term projects within two weeks.

He ascertained that his government would utilize all available resources for restoration of the heritage and historical sites of the area. Special Assistant to the Chief Minister, Mushtaq Ahmed Ghani, Secretary Culture, Chairman Institute of Architects of Pakistan, District Nazim and other concerned officials were also present at the occasion.

Muhammad Khalid, Chairman Institute of Architects informed the meeting about different historical buildings, sites, existing situation, restoration programs and economic situation of the province besides proposed reforms and its possible outcome

Immensely rich that Pakistan is in its heritage, there seems to be a reluctance to accept this heritage, observers said. History in Pakistan, it seems, starts from the time the Afghan invader Mahmud of Ghazni pillaged the areas that are Pakistan and beyond. In hundreds of years of Muslim rulers, foreign invaders cemented the mentality that all cultures alien to the invader did not deserve consideration. 

However, recently, there has been slight inclination towards the policy making for protection of culture and heritage in Pakistan. The Culture Department of the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Government joined hands with local organizations and launched a number of activities to revive the indigenous cultural heritage. The recently launched project titled ““Revival of Indigenous Cultural Heritage (RICH)” is being implemented in partnership with other organizations for excelling in literary and cultural fields.