Investing In Heritage
The mountain landscapes in the northern areas of Pakistan are not the only remarkable touristic sites of the country. Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan all have a lot to offer, being sites of ancient history and having a rich cultural background. Punjab, having hosted capitals of many empires, being a popular land in history for sufis and shrines, has a lot of historical tourist sites. Unfortunately, most of those sites are not properly appreciated, nor well preserved and taken care of. Attention was paid towards historical landmarks like Badhshahi Masjid and Masjid Wazir Khan only in the last decades and the influx of both domestic and foreign tourists at these sites bears testament to the need for restoration. A dedicated preservation effort can be seen in the Mughal artifacts in Lahore, the result of which saw a rise in tourists.
However more attention needs to be paid to heritage restoration in the rest of Punjab as well. UNESCO has offered the Punjab government services of internationally acclaimed experts on archaeology for better conservation and restoration of heritage sites. This offer was extended during a meeting of Secretary Tourism and Archaeology Departments (TAD) Mushtaq Ahmad and National Project Officer Amina Ali.
Secretary TAD welcomed the offer and said UNESCO should cooperate in capacity building of the Archaeology Department. The proposed efforts include promotion of religious tourism at the shrine of Bibi Jewindi in Uch Sharif, district Bahawalpur, as well as more international efforts to promote the ancient Gandhara Civilisation at Taxila.
Other than for tourism purposes, these efforts also hold a high symbolic value. Religious tourism needs to be promoted to bring light to Pakistan’s inclusivity and embrace of diverse cultures, traditions and practices. The ancient civilisations in Pakistan also greatly require more study and research; these sites demonstrate that Pakistan hosted civilisations going back thousands of years.
These sites need to be well maintained and given the due care they deserve—not just to increase their potential for tourism, but because they are historical landmarks signifying Pakistan’s rich, inclusive history and culture.