SWAT: Sultan Mahmood Ghaznavi Mosque, one of the oldest in northern Pakistan, has hopes for a new life as the Italian government has initiated a renovation project.
Historians estimate that the mosque in Swat was constructed in 440 AH (1048-1049 AD) during the reign of Sultan Mahmood Ghaznavi. The renovation project will approximately cost two million Euros.
The mosque, which was discovered by the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan in 1985, represents a splendid design of old Muslim architecture.
After uncovering the ruins, the most striking aspects were traces of 30-foot-high walls, a graveyard, common rooms, student rooms and a water mill. The walls also show traces of a Buddhist stupa that was constructed before the mosque was made.
The Italian ambassador to Pakistan, Vincenzo Prati, and director of the Italian Archeological Mission to Pakistan, Dr Luca Maria Oliveri, visited the site on Wednesday. While speaking to The Express Tribune, Dr Oliveri said “This is the third such mosque in Pakistan and the earliest mosque connected to the Islamisation of the Ghaznavid period. The renovation project is part of the overall $100 million Archaeological Project, jointly signed by the Italian and Pakistani governments under an Italian Debt-Swap agreement in 2006.”
The archaeological project consists of four stages, the first of which is the conservation and restoration of the Mahmood Ghaznavi Mosque. The second stage is excavation and conservation of the Barikot site and the third is the restoration of the Saidu Sharif stupa, which was excavated by the Italians in the 1970s. The fourth stage, which is the most important in terms of the funds allocated, is the rehabilitation of the Swat Museum.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Prati said: “I am very happy to announce that we are going ahead with these agreements. The Archaeology Commission of Italy started work in this region in the 1950s, so we have actually been here for 50 years now. What we would like to do is to capitalise on our experience and with the support of the Pakistani government to invigorate the process. This is a small contribution from Italy, but from the core of our heart.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2011.