A total of 91 archaeological sites in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) are set to get a new manager. These sites, previously under the control and supervision of the Federal Archaeology Department, will be handed over to the K-P Department of Archaeology, official sources told The Express Tribune. Some of these sites are on Unesco World Heritage List.
These sites, which are scattered in nine districts of the province, include 17 ancient Buddhist sites in Taxila. The officials added that on-the-ground verification of all the sites is underway and is expected to be completed by the end of this week.
Following the 18th Amendment, the powers of about 26 departments and ministries were devolved to the provinces, including the Department of Museums and Archives, which was previously taking care of archaeological sites across the country.
The federal government has already issued a circular asking the K-P government to take control of 91 archaeological sites and monuments in Dera Ismail Khan, Swat, Mardan, Swabi, Charsada, Banu, Malakand, Haripur, Abbottabad and Mansehra. These sites include seven of the 17 Buddhist sites in Haripur District.
The Buddhist sites in Haripur include a Buddhist Monastery from around 300 BC, commonly known as Julian University, Jinan Wali Dheri, Jandial Stupa, Badal Pur Stupa, Mound Pind Ghakhra, Tofkian Stupa, Mirpur Mound, Sirsukh, Piplian archeological site, Lalchuk Stupa, Chiti archaeological site and Bhir mound. These sites are among the most frequently visited by foreign tourists, especially Chinese, Bhutanese, Sri Lankans and Koreans, and are a major source of revenue.
K-P Archaeology Department Director Saleh Muhammad Khan confirmed that site verification was underway and that a team of six members comprising archaeologists, engineers and revenue officials were visiting these sites.
He said that purpose of verification was to determine the condition of the sites listed by the federal government. “It is not clear whether we will take over all the listed sites because the on-ground situation has changed.
Some of them have disappeared due to lack of conservation, while others have been taken over by influential people,” Khan said.
Responding to a question, he said that his department was fully capable of taking care of these sites and would make efforts for further preservation and new excavation if given funds. He said that proper upkeep of these sites, coupled with immediate steps for promotion of tourism, could help the department bring in a handsome income annually.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2011.