By Hidayat Khan
Home to the historic Indus Valley and Gandhara civilisations, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has a multitude of sites that have immense archaeological and historic significance, from the Takht Bhai ruins in Mardan to Buddhist rock carvings in Swat to Sikh-era havelis in Peshawar.
However, government indifference and neglect coupled with encroachment and ill-designed preservation efforts have damaged many such structures. Perturbed by the lack of preservation of historically-significant sites currently under the control of various government departments, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Archaeology and Museums director has asked the government to handover these sites to his department.
At the moment, a majority of historic sites are under the jurisdiction of the local government and auqaf departments, therefore, there is little access to carry out preservation attempts.
The only sites in the city that the archaeology directorate has authority over are Gor Gathri, ancient tombs in Dalazak and Palosai, Sethi House and Dilip Kumar’s house. Within the Gor Gathri archaeological complex, a 17th century mosque is under the auqaf department, while the centuries-old Hindu temple falls under the local government department. The issue of the ownership of Dilip Kumar’s house is lingering in court.
“The [historic] sites should be handed over to us for preservation because only archaeologists can do such work,” said Archaeology and Museums Director Abdul Samad while speaking to The Express Tribune on Friday.
He said his department had raised the issue with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan in a recent meeting.
“There are more than 500 historically-significant sites in the city and almost all of them are in a state of disrepair. They require immediate preservation and restoration,” said Samad, adding inexperienced contactors and builders given the task of restoration have further ruined such structures.
According to Samad, the archaeology directorate has sent several summaries to the provincial government seeking control of all historic sites but the requests have fallen on deaf ears.
The director added the city has a rich history that should be preserved for future generations. “The ancient wall built around the city has been almost completely destroyed due to no efforts to protect it.”
Samad said there is a dire need to preserve the walled city areas. “A summary has been sent to the government to renovate the old city and bring it back to its glorious past,” he said, adding historic sites which fall under the auqaf and local government departments should be brought under the archaeology department.
The director lamented that the houses of celebrated actors Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor were handed over to the culture department because the government thought the houses were connected to people who were culturally significant.
According to Samad, the culture department is one of the most dormant bodies of the province and its officials’ disinterest has ruined the state of both buildings.
“We have conservation experts and have the capability to carry out preservation work on these sites. We should be given authority over them.”