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A sorry picture of neglect

The News International Pakistan - July 19, 2002

The Mughal rulers of the subcontinent must be literally turning in their graves upon seeing the way the majestic and stately buildings bequeathed by them and now falling in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan present such a pitiable picture of official neglect and decay. One such building is the majestic Sheesh Mahal in the Lahore Fort, which is on the verge of collapse, thanks to the neglect and abuse it has been subjected to by our officials. For years, this remarkable pavilion, which many experts hail as the finest specimen of glass-mosaic decoration in whole of the subcontinent, far more stately than its counterparts in the Agra and Delhi forts, has been used by subsequent governments as the venue for entertaining foreign dignitaries, and also holding official functions. Needless to say this merciless abuse is one of the main reasons for the sorry state that this historic building has now been reduced to.

In fact so precarious and delicate is the condition of the roof of Sheesh Mahal that local experts are now extremely wary of touching it any further, fearing that even a slight miscalculation could lead to its caving in. A special iron structure has been installed over the roof. But this is just a temporary arrangement and is only meant to protect the roof from moisture and air once the restoration work commences. The Department of Archaeology has sent an SOS to the UNESCO, to send a team of experts to assist in the highly delicate task of rescuing the Sheesh Mahal from being lost forever. UNESCO has responded by offering to send Italian experts. But the archaeology department people have asked for experts from India, Iran and Turkey--probably due to their familiarity with similar buildings in their countries. Meanwhile, the sanctioning of a grant worth 10 million dollars for the restoration of Lahore Fort by the UNESCO head office is eagerly awaited.

But while the importance of funds in such an endeavour cannot be overlooked, for they pay for restoration materials and expenses of expert conservators, a bigger incentive that needed is the commitment of concerned quarters to lay off the historic site(s) and work diligently towards long-term, sustainable conservation of this and other endangered buildings.

This also brings into focus the importance of sensitising the public to the importance of preserving historic sites and also creating awareness among them of what not to do when visiting such places. After official misuse, it is also the general, insensitive people who cause the most damage to these buildings. Ending this widespread public defacing and desecration of our historic buildings should also be an important aspect of projects to preserve and save cultural heritage.

DISCLAIMER: The public material presented here is taken from various sources as it becomes available. It is presented without any bias to, or interpretation of, the contents whatsoever. We would be grateful for any help anyone can provide in obtaining other such public material of national importance to Pakistan in order to aid intellectual discourse and debate.

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Not even his political enemies ever accused Jinnah of corruption or self-seeking. He could be bought by no one, and for no price. Nor was he in the least degree a weathercock swinging in the wind of popularity or changing his politics to suit the chances of the times. He was steadfast idealist as well as a man of scrupulous honour. The fact to be explained is that in the middle of life he supplanted one ideal by another and having embraced it clung to it with fanatic's grasp to the end of his life.

The Great Divide, pp.38-39
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