The archaeology department is adamant on pushing through with the establishment of a national museum at Shakarparian, despite heavy resistance.
After being shelved for three years by the Planning Commission, National Heritage and Integration Minister Samina Khalid Gurki told the National Assembly on Friday that the project is “under consideration again”.
She said a proposal amounting to Rs1.359 billion was submitted to the Planning Commission for approval on October 14, 2008, but the project was deferred due to financial constraints in the Public Sector Development Programme. She said that the proposed site for the museum, measuring 8.33 acres, had been acquired from the Capital Development Authority (CDA) three years ago, and an updated proposal will be submitted to the Planning Commission soon.
Other stakeholders do not share Gurki’s enthusiasm for the project, however. “There are already four cultural institutions in the vicinity and the archaeology department could use any one of for the national museum,” said a senior official of the Planning Commission. “It is a futile exercise,” and the planning commission will not support it, he added.
The CDA spokesperson also opposed the idea. With Lok Virsa Open Theatre, National Monument and Pak-China Friendship Centre already present, no other similar institute should be established in the vicinity, he said.
Environmentalists, too, are unhappy with the proposal, saying that development is already prohibited in the green area of the National Park as per CDA bylaws and the project will only serve to ruin the beauty of the city.
Artist and author Fouzia Minallah said that haphazard construction has ruined the beauty of Islamabad. “There is no planning of sustainable development in the city,” she said, while adding that the preservation of archaeological sites is a more imminent need than opening museums. “But I am not denying the importance of museums. A museum is a good idea, but consider the fact that there is not a single archaeological site being preserved in Islamabad.”
Dr Ashraf, head of Taxila Institute of Asian Civilizations at Quaid-i-Azam University, said that a national museum is needed in the capital city. He said there is no other building suitable to preserve the hundreds of thousands of antiques that needed preservation.
He said that Fazal Dad Kakar, as head of the Federal Archaeology Department, is working on the assignment, which is in the interest of Pakistan. “Efforts are also underway to preserve archaeological sites in the capital city,” he said.
Kakar refused to comment on the issue.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2012.