ISLAMABAD - While, antiquities depict the cultural and historical identity of a nation, museums keep alive the historical and cultural legacy of a nation and through them the coming generations learn about their heritage.  It is pertinent to mention here that Islamabad direly needs a museum to house thousands of antiquities ruining in the godowns and on floors of Department of Archeology and Museums (DoAM). 

Unfortunately, the federal capital of Pakistan could not create a national level museum facility since shifting of capital from Karachi to Islamabad in 1960s. Despite claims of the authorities, nothing has happened during the last 15 to 16 years to set up a museum that could depict the cultural and historical identity of a nation. Further, the 3.24 acres land allotted for construction of National Museum of Pakistan in Shakarparian is left unused and is a play ground for stray dogs and other nocturnal animals. 

Thousands of antiquities are being ruined in the godowns and floors of Department of Archaeology and Museums (DoAM) which has already shortage of space but authorities are showing lack of commitment to materialize the long cherished dream of establishing a national level museum in capital,” an official of DoAM said.

The antiquities including unique sculptures of Buddhist era, clay utensils, guns of British era, oil lamps, jewellery boxes, mother goddess sculptures, lantern, handwritten Holy Quran scripts and many others are housed in the almirahs and floors of the department.  Similarly the artefacts recovered from other countries were also placed in godowns of the museums including Sir Syed Memorial Hall Museum and Taxila Museum due to shortage of space, the official added.

The museum was earlier designed for eight acres land but the land allotted to it was only three acres so a redesign of the museum was needed to start the project. The national museum project has lingered on for many years and received only Rs 4.5 million for its redesign in the 2016-17 budgetary allocations, the official said.  The redesigning work was completed and now PC-I of the museum is being prepared with the guidance of famous architect, Nayyar Ali Dada which will be submitted to the concerned authorities as per identifying the budgetary requirements. The artefacts retrieved from different historical places and recoveries made by the customs were housed at the floors and almirahs in different small rooms of the Department of Archaeology and Museums (DOAM) due to lack of space at Sir Syed Memorial Museum Hall, an official of DOAM said.

Prominent Archeologist and Director Exploration at Taxila Institute of Asian Civilization (TIAC), Dr. Muhammad Ashraf Khan said museums play a great role in promotion of cultural heritage, education and economy of the country and also become the key partner in the cultural tourism and innovative industry as well.  “It is very unfortunate that our federal capital has no national level museum facility despite land acquired for the proposed museum near Lok Virsa. PC-I for construction of the museum has already been completed. There is a dire need of the time to increase awareness regarding the importance of capital museum for the projection of the soft image of the country.

The government should take up this task on priority bases and allocate funds in the next financial year,” he said.  Dr. Ashraf said a special task force should be set up only for the establishment of museum in the capital as it would create more than 500 jobs in pursuance of the present government’s vision and policy and would help boost cultural tourism in the country.

It is pertinent to mention here that the national museum was established after Independence in the then capital of Karachi, which was supposed to be shifted to Islamabad after becoming the federal capital.  A nucleus of the National Museum of Pakistan was established in a private house of E-7 Sector in 1994, and then the project was rolled back in 1998 with shifting of the artefacts stored there to Taxila Museum. Again in 2002, the Nucleus of National Museum was established in a small hall of Sir Syed Memorial Building in Islamabad where only 145 selected artefacts of the previous museum could be housed while the remaining were stored in Taxila Museum.  The PC-I for Rs 13,569.589 million was submitted to the authorities in 2008 but the project was suspended for two to three years by the then Secretary Culture due to financial constraints. The architectural design of proposed `National Museum of Pakistan’ was finalized through a competition soon after 8.33 acres land acquisition at Shakarparian from Capital Development Authority (CDA) in the year 2009. The department again submitted PC-I of Rs 55.577 million in the September 2015 to the relevant ministry while the approval was not given, the official said.