What’s ‘mine’ isn’t yours, say Makli’s dead to diggers

Aisha Iqbal/shah Waliullah April 28, 2010

KARACHI: Not left alone even in death, the graves at the Makli necropolis in Thatta were being rocked by the attempts of the Pakistan Steel Mills to get minerals.

The mineral-rich area has been the site of many an extraction projects that use dynamite to excavate coal, sand, stone and other materials. The steel mills is one of the bigger players that have been extracting materials for several years now. Lately, their explosions were starting to form cracks in the walls of offices and the underconstruction district jail near the extraction sites. Thatta DCO Manzoor Ali Shaikh wrote the Sindh government, informing them of the risk.

The home department responded by banning excavations within a 1.5 kilometre- radius of the graveyard. To make up for the lost land, the department formed a fivemember committee to find a substitute area for further PSM excavations. The committee is headed by the additional home secretary Riaz Qureshi and has a PSM representative on board as well. Its job is also to ensure that the blasting does not take place in the demarcated area.

“Sometimes we can hear the explosions in our offices,” said Shaikh. According to him, the blasting is carried out with the permission of the government’s mining department. “The graveyard is part of our heritage and we felt that if these explosions continue, the ancient graves would be badly damaged,” he added. Although he was not sure of the effects that these extractions have already had on the cemetery, the effects on the district jail being constructed nearby were obvious. “We decided to take action when we saw the cracks in the walls of the jail and even our offices,” he told The Express Tribune.

“It is a hard decision since the Pakistan Steel Mills is a national industry and it also has to work,” he said. The DCO felt that 1.5 kilometres was a good enough distance to ensure that the Makli Qabristan and the neighbouring buildings would not be damaged. As for the graveyard, its preservation is currently intangible and in the form of ideas and plans. Several of these heritage sites were handed over the Sindh government by the federal government. So far, the Makli graveyard does not even have a boundary wall. “The budget of the plan for that has been approved,” commented Shaikh.


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