The government has recently launched a probe into encroachment of the archaeological site of Mohenjo-daro in Sindh; a local landlord, using his political clout to pressurise authorities, illegally dug up portion of the protected land to open up a fish farm. While the Culture Department and local district authorities eventually managed to intervene, the fact that the diggings were allowed to happen in the first place reveals a lot about institutional negligence and where the government ranks protection of historical sites in its priorities.

This episode lays bare the slackness with which the government is maintaining historical sites; not only was the construction of the fish farm – barely 600 meters from the site – almost complete, there are several other buildings such as houses and shanties which are built on protected land. Where was the curator, the maintenance staff and the security when this was happening? Where they simply too lethargic, or were they compensated for looking away? If they were being politically pressurised to stay silent, then why was this not reported? Whatever the answer, their vigilance and dedication have been found wanting. It is not this incident alone; UNESCO has been asking the government insistently to carry out dry core drilling to demarcate the boundary of the site so that it can establish a buffer zone. As of now it remains the only site on the World Heritage List not to have a defined boundary.

What is more distressing is that Mohenjo-daro is a cultural landmark of global importance; along with the Fertile Crescent and the Nile Delta, Mohenjo-daro is the ancient cradle of civilisation; the first places where humankind settled down and constructed permanent cities. While other governments treat even relatively recent minor historical sites with great reverence and diligence, Mohenjo-daro rots away in the dust. Over the years, vandalism, poor maintenance and the elements have robbed the site of much of its former splendour; a sentence that is true for the majority of cultural landmarks in Pakistan. If the government is not careful, all that Pakistan will be remembered for is deserts and bombs.