ISLAMABAD: Nestled in the forests of Shakarparian at the base of the mega Pakistan monument which overlooks the federal capital, the country’s largest cultural institution and the museum is in a state of disarray.
The National Heritage Museum — Lok Virsa, operates under the Federal Ministry for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage. It was set up in 1974 and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) named it an Institute of Folk Heritage so that people can learn about the cultural heritage and lifestyle of Pakistan.
The physical space houses multiple halls and auditoriums including a media hall with a mini-cinema, an open-air theatre and even a rooftop space along with a cultural museum. A large number of people, from across the country and even from abroad, come to the centre to get a taste of the different cultures of Pakistan.
For this purpose, Lok Virsa organizes cultural exhibits and performances of artisans and craftspeople from all corners of the country. An annual fair, the Lok Mela, also organised which provides a glimpse to all the different cultures of the country.
Connecting with culture: Lok Virsa holds discussion on indigenous Sufi music
But the centre seems to be a picture of neglect.
The signboards and information boards put up within Lok Virsa appear faded and weathered, as if the centre was located in the wilderness and not in the federal capital.
A group of four domestic tourists including Behroz Nasir, Muhammad Haseeb, Noman Kiyani and Qaiser Mirza, who were visiting the federal capital and had stopped over at Lok Virsa, said that our rich cultural heritage is an important hallmark and has so much to offer about the region’s civilization. They said that our culture should be celebrated as much as it is preserved.
They urged the government to undertake measures to protect and keep such institutions functioning independently to preserve our culture without bias.
They added that In developed countries such as the United States, Japan and France, and even closer such as the United Arab Emirates, museums and historical sites not only educate their local population and visitors about the heritage of those countries but also help generate millions in tourism revenue.
They suggested that to add such value for Lok Virsa, its facilities must be upgraded to bring them at par with international standards.
A Lok Virsa officer, who did not wish to be named since he was not authorised to speak to the media, said that the facilities at the institution, including its museums, open-air theatre, Virsa Khaba and library will soon be upgraded.
He conceded that they had failed to replace the signboards and other information boards across the facility for the past three years, but noted that they will be replaced soon.
Moreover, he said that the roof of the open-air theatre will also be fixed as per international standards. In this regard, he said that the project concept (PC)-1 has been prepared and will be sent to the information ministry for approval.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2019.