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Author Solivagant
#1 | Posted: 22 Nov 2013 15:36 | Edited by: Solivagant 
We have just returned from a comprehensive tour of Pakistan's Inscribed and T List WH Sites. Over the next few weeks I will no doubt get round to reviewing most of them individually. However, looking back, there has been little mention of this country and its sites on the Forum. Given its position as the World's 6th most populous country and its significant geo-political status it seems worth raising a new "discussion subject". I start it off with an overview of Pakistan's WHS history and status and of our general experiences and impressions.

Pakistan was an active member of the WHC from the very start in 1979 and was present for most years across 2 terms until 1992 – since then its activity has been very limited. It has 6 inscribed sites – 5 from 1980/81 and 1 from 1997 (although that had first been nominated in 1991). A broad categorisation of these is - 3 archaeological sites (Moenjodaro from the Indus civilisation and Taxila/Takht-i-bahi from the Buddhist/Gandhara period) and 3 structures from the Muslim Empires period – Lahore Fort, Rohtas Fort and Makli (2 forts/palaces and 1 set of tombs)

The current T List covers 17 sites (officially 18 but the Tomb of Rukn-e-alam is listed twice!). 2 such lists have been submitted - 1993 and 2004 and 8 remain from the first. A categorisation could be - 3 Indus (Harappa, Mehrgarh, Rehman Dheri), 1 Buddhist/Gandhara (Ranigat), 2 Mauryan (Mansera and Shabazgarhi), 7 Muslim Empire of which 5 are primarily Mughal (Uch and Rukn tombs plus Badshahi, Shah Jahan and Wazir Khan mosques with Hiran Minar and Jahangir Tomb). These include 4 of tombs (with pre-Mughal Chaukandi), 3 of mosques and 2 of forts (Baltit and Rani kot). Banbhore Port from 1C BC to 11 C AD makes up the list. If any of these do progress it would seem likely that a number of them would be handled as extensions to existing inscriptions or would be combined.

Beyond the submission of an extra T List in 2004 I can only discover 2 examples of nominations since the last "success" in 1997
a. The proposal to add Harappa, Mergarh and Reman Dheri to Moenjodaro to create a comprehensive "Indus Valley" inscription. This was put forward in Mar 2006 for the 2008 WHC but had already been rejected as "Incomplete" at the 2007 WHC and has not re-emerged. Given the problems with Moenjodaro and management issues, at least in Harappa, this is hardly surprising.
b. The (to me at least) amazing nomination in 2011 of the site of Hiran Minar a few kms outside Lahore. It was rejected as incomplete but how and why this poorly managed (we visited it) monument by Shah Jahan to a pet deer (!!) should have been thought either suitable or ready is beyond me.

The UNESCO Mission of 2012 to Lahore suggested that the adjacent (and very fine) Badshahi Mosque be added to the Lahore Fort inscription with inclusion in its buffer zone as a first step but the Punjab Directorate of Archaeology replied that even this couldn't be done because of "management and ownership issues which would take an indeterminate time to resolve"!!!

So it will be gathered that Pakistan's strength (or at least its self-view of that strength) is in cultural sites which reflect its long history of civilisation and of being a recipient of influences and rulers from India and Central Asia. Muslim sites in the form of tombs and mosques figure significantly, as do forts. Natural sites aren't included at all, though one might have thought that Pakistan's Himalayan areas could have provided some opportunity – it did once try with Karakorum NP but India objected! An IUCN analysis has identified the Thar Desert, which Pakistan shares with India, as a natural gap to be filled but only India has this on its T List ("Desert National Park"). Pakistan also tried with nearby Lal Suhanra and Krithar NPs way back in 1980 but failed and never put them back on its T List (Although Krithar has re-emerged on the T List in the cultural guise of Rani-kot fort).

When planning for our trip we didn't identify a lot more opportunity beyond the current T List
a. Pakistan's cities don't seem to have the volume and concentration of significant Indo-British Colonial buildings as does India. Lahore and Karachi have the odd fine example but not special enough I would have thought.
b. There are undoubtedly yet more forts which could be put forward. We saw 2 (Derawar and Kot Diji) which, to our eyes, were magnificent in their desert locations. In happier times one might have hoped that India and Pakistan might have cooperated in a joint nomination but India would seem to have cornered the market in desert forts!
c.. The lack of adequate representation of Pakistan's non-muslim religions could also be regarded as a gap which might even demonstrate a degree of prejudice against them! Whilst it has chosen Buddhist sites Pakistan hasn't, to date, included any sites which could be regarded as significantly Hindu or Sikh. Perhaps the most significant Hindu site in Pakistan is the Katasraj Temple. Wiki suggests that the Pak government is "considering" nominating it but I haven't been able to discover any subsequent activity. The condition of this site has caused negative comment in India - see
Another of Pakistan's historic religions is Sikhism – but that too is unrepresented on either the inscribed or T List. UNESCO has suggested that the Samahdi of Ranjit Singh be added to the adjacent Lahore Fort inscription. There has been no action that I can discover although again expressions of concern about the maintenance of this monument have been made from Indian quarters -

Across the years, Pakistani WHS have suffered from major "management problems" and most of its inscribed sites still face significant and often worsening issues -
a. Lahore Fort/Shalimar was placed on the "In danger" list at Pakistan's request at the time of inscription. It was removed in 2012 (even though the original reason for its placement there had not been rectified!) but still faces many problems
b. Makli/Thatta is close to being added – prior to doing so the WHC sent a mission in 2011 and its 2012 report recommended that Pakistan be given some more time to put things right.
c. Moenjodaro faces major physical problems and is the subject of regular review
d. Taxila is concerned about security and artefacts have "disappeared" from its superb museum seum-without

In June 2011 Pakistan transferred responsibility for cultural heritage to the Provincial level and, in the short term at least, this seems to have resulted in a significant worsening of conservation with State of Conservation and newspaper reports etc commenting on the lack of skilled personnel and general degradation of results. We could relate to this from what we saw and our guide confirmed the trend. On the other hand the provincial authorities appear to be using the change to flex their muscles v the national government. The preparation of "management plans" has been a growth area which would be perfectly reasonable IF the results are acted upon rather than merely becoming "library-ware"!!

Generally Pakistan relies heavily on overseas support - particularly in terms of money, with Norway, Japan, Netherlands (Prince Claus Fund) and the World Monument Fund all financing work across a number of inscribed and T List sites (e.g Lahore, Makli, Takht-i-bahi, Uch Tombs). But examples of poor quality management and control are rife e.g this on restoration work at Rani kot -

See Next Post

Author Solivagant
#2 | Posted: 22 Nov 2013 15:38 | Edited by: Solivagant 
The vast majority of Pakistan's Inscribed and T List sites can relatively easily be taken in on a natural route of around 2500 kms between Karachi and Islamabad following the Indus. We visited all 6 inscribed sites and 12 of the T List in 14 days by car with relatively little back or side tracking (and could probably have done it in 12). We had already visited the northern areas a few years ago but someone who has never been up to Hunza/Gilgit might also want to add this area to their tour even though it only contains a single T List site (Baltit Fort)

The lack of foreign tourists and the revenue they generate is often cited as a part cause for the management issues described above. Indeed, we saw only one other non-Pakistani visitor during our travels (An Austrian who was motor cycling around Asia/the World). I should state that at NO time did we feel/experience any personal hostility or danger – indeed usually the complete opposite. However, that didn't mean that we escaped the results of the tensions present in the country. Our travels coincided with the Day of Ashura and the period of increased religious fervour leading up to it. This was no direct threat to us other than in our getting caught up in sectarian violence – hence hotels in several cities were not allowed by the police to take us (though this was pure "back covering" as it merely transferred the problem somewhere else!!). We couldn't fully visit Rohtas as a Shia procession was taking place that day and the police wouldn't let us into the village in the centre of the site. Most significant of all, the Lahore Fort area was closed as a precaution and taken over by the army (as well as sectarian violence there was fear of Taliban retribution for the drone killing of their Pakistani commander a few weeks earlier)- only persistence by ourselves resulted in us getting to see the Major in charge who took the sensible decision to let us in with a guard! And finally, 9 deaths from violence in Rawalpindi resulted in a curfew in that city, the establishment of road blocks round it and heightened concern everywhere - we only escaped out to Taxila by sitting in the back of our car and keeping our heads down!

IMO, of the sites we saw, only Moenjodaro and Taxila reach the "world class" threshold, but many of the others are as good as many from other countries on the list. You wouldn't go to Pakistan because of its WHS but they provide a good "hook" to hang the journey on and this is a fascinating country facing major directional choices with uncertain results and well worth gaining an increased understanding of given its importance in current world affairs. I was very happy with our choice of having a private car with driver and guide following a personally negotiated route. I don't "need" the hassle and delay from travel by public transport any more and these are significant in present day Pakistan. Having a knowledgeable guide (even erudite in our case!) adds significantly to the experience and indeed to interactions with locals via translation.

Author meltwaterfalls
#3 | Posted: 24 Nov 2013 17:05 
Oh I'm very much looking forward to reading you updates on this.

Pakistan has always been on the periphery of my readings and future dreaming, I would be keen to know the realities of travelling there. The only people I have met that have been there have either been Pakistani or Indian ex pats in the UK and each group has their own take on travel there, which wouldn't really apply to me.

Have you been there before this visit? Have you been further up north to Gilgit/ Karakorum highway? And more importantly is the food as good as I would hope, or does it tend towards the Central Asian love of mutton kebabs?

Anyway thanks for the overview and I'm looking forward to the reviews.

Author Solivagant
#4 | Posted: 25 Nov 2013 11:35 | Edited by: Solivagant 
One perplexing issue which emerged during our planning for and travel to the Pakistani WHS currently titled "Historical Monuments at Makli Thatta" was whether the Shah Jahan Mosque in Thatta is (still) a part of the inscribed site.

It is perhaps worth setting out the History/geography of Thatta/Makli
a. The city of Thatta was the capital of Southern Sindh between 1335 and 1592. It acquired great wealth from trading during these years and was ruled by 3 different dynasties – Samma, Arghun and Tarkhan. The latter 2 were Mongol/Turkic invaders from Afghanistan. In 1592 it became a part of the Moghal empire but the Tarkhans continued in power as Moghal governors.
b. Probably because of silting up of the Indus (but also because of its loss of "Capital" status?) Thatta decayed considerably in the next 130 years at which point it and S Sindh were given to Persia. Today NOTHING remains of old "Thatta" other than 2 mosques – the Mosque of Dagbar which is ruined and the Shah Jahan mosque which is still operational and in reasonably good condition. That mosque is a superb architectural monument, having been given to Thatta by Shah Jahan in thanks for help which the town gave him when he was exiled by his father
c. Makli on the other hand is a necropolis on a hillside a few kms outside Thatta. It is claimed to be the largest Muslim necropolis in the world. Apart from one minor mosque it is all about "Tombs". The hillside had been a place of religious significance irrespective of what was happening in Thatta because of its use by Muslim/Sufi "holy" people. Because of this the rulers of Thatta also decided to use it for their burials and over the centuries created a number of architecturally significant Mausolea. This practice extended to senior government officials, military personnel etc Because of its wealth and the religious significance of Makli Thatta attracted large numbers of poets and scholars who studied there and who also used Makli for their burials. It is these mausolea which create the OUV of the site as currently described. The site has maintained a religious role for "Sufi-minded muslims" in Sindh to this day

The inscription "history so far" -
a. The site was inscribed in 1981 with the name "Historical monuments of Thatta". It had been nominated in 1980 and was within an inch of being rejected. The scanned-in documents of that meeting clearly show an original recommendation of "reject" with a handwritten addition of "Defer" – it gets inscribed in the following year
b. No nomination File is available but the AB evaluation includes the following comments "among the edifices of brick and glazed tiles are the Mosque of Dagbir, that of Shah Jahan and numerous mausolea and tombs" .... "Neither in their technique nor in their colour do the monuments of Thatta resemble those of Lahore. The effect of the Grand Mosque of Shah Jahan with its complex of blue and white buildings capped by 93 domes is absolutely unique. ICOMOS expresses the wish that adequate measures be taken to ensure the preservation of the archaeological site and the monumental complex of Thatta both the city and the necropolis. A map designating the extent of the zone of protection does not appear to have been drawn up ... Only the Jamia mosque has until now been the object of a true restoration". So, at the time of inscription the site would appear to comprise BOTH the Necropolis on Makli Hill AND the 2 Mosques in the town of Thatta.
c. In common with most inscriptions in those very early days there appears to have been a dearth of detailed back up documentation - in particular of maps and boundary definitions. The map provided on the UNESCO Web site is simply a general one of the Thatta/Makli area with no boundary lines etc
d. In 2003 the Shah Jahan Mosque in Thatta is added as a SEPARATE entry on Pakistan's T List. I can find no explanation of or comment upon this anywhere on the Web. Why would Pakistan add a site to its T List which is ALREADY inscribed??
e. In 2003 a "State of Conservation Report" (SOC) is produced for the site. The Summary version is includes a photo of the Shah Jahan mosque BUT the text makes absolutely no mention of it. The site is described as follows "The historical monuments of Makli Hills, Thatta, lie about 100 km east of Karachi and 22 km from Janshahi Railway Station. Half a million tombs and graves spread over an area of 10 sq km make it the greatest Muslim necropolis in the World". Another location-specific phrase is "The hilltop location of the property exposes it to natural hazards". The more detailed Part II report is the same in its description of the site –everything is couched in terms of Makli Hills and there is NO mention of the Shah Jahan Mosque
f. In 2005 the "Thatta Monuments" are included in the WMF 100 most endangered sites "Monument Watch" for 2006. Despite the name referring only to the city, the work clearly refers solely to the monuments at Makli -
g. In 2007 another SOC report recommends "(i) Urgently identify the boundaries of the core and buffer zone of the necropolis; (ii) Adjust the strategy from a one-monument concept to a serial-site strategy (cluster of many individual tombs) with individual registration and evaluation of each tomb including their historic value, state of conservation, and an individual treatment plan;" And then "(v) Request a name change of the World Heritage property to adequately reflect its Outstanding Universal Value". Again there is no mention of the Shah Jahan Mosque.
h. In 2009 another SOC continues much as before – it is all about Makli Hill with no mention of the Shah Jahan Mosque. Re the boundary issue it states "Urgently identify the boundaries of the property and buffer zone of the necropolis.The necessary work for defining the boundaries of the property and buffer zone, including topographic steatite imaging and archaeological work, is awaiting approval from the Government as part of the overall Master Plan."
i. In 2009 the name of the inscribed site is changed from "Historical Monuments of Thatta" to "Historical Monuments at Makli, Thatta"
j. In 2011 a "Reactive Monitoring Mission" is sent to investigate the state of the site and determine whether a recommendation for inscription on the "In danger" list was appropriate. It reports in 2012
k. The only reference in the entire report to the Shah Jahan mosque is this on page 24 in a section titled "Justification". "It is from those times that Makli received its eminence. But now it is Thatto which derives its importance from Makli. Modern Thatto is shabby without much evidence of its past glory except for the Mughal Shah Jahan Mosque and the pre-Mughal Dagbar Masjid". No indication is given anywhere, for instance, that the Mission recognises the Mosque as part of the inscribed site but isn't investigating it because there are no problems there (in fact there ARE conservation problems there!!).
l. In section 1.2 it states "The following Statement of OUV is pending approval by the WHC at its 35th session" The full text of this can be read via the above link – but at no time does it ever refer to anywhere OTHER than the Necropolis/Hill of Makli
m. The current description of Makli on the UNESCO Web site makes no mention of the Shah Jahan mosque except in its "Long Description" where it carries forward (deliberately or by mistake – it having been there for years!) the sentence "among the edifices...." from the AB evaluation quoted in para c above. The "Gallery" contains NO photos of the Mosque

We visited the Shah Jahan Mosque – and very fine it is too. NOWHERE at its entrance or inside it is there ANY reference to it being a World Heritage site. Now Pakistan wasn't among the best countries I have experienced for publicising UNESCO status but everywhere else we managed to find at least 1 faded blue and white notice with the UNESCO logo on it! We also asked several people inside the Mosque and none of them knew of such a status for their mosque. Indeed some stated that such a status would be quite unnecessary since the mosque was self evidently part of the heritage of Pakistan and of Islam. I wonder if that provides a possible reason – I have described above Pakistan's reaction to UNESCO's suggestion that the Lahore Badshahi mosque be added – namely that this involved "management and ownership issues which would take an indeterminate time to resolve". It is perhaps not accidental that none of the existing Pakistani WHS include an active congregational mosque.

My general conclusion from all this is that, at some time, Pakistan/the WHC/WMF etc decided NOT to continue to include the Thatta town mosques in the inscribed site which now SOLELY covers the Makli Necropolis. Though when exactly this might have happened and why isn't clear.

Author elsslots
#5 | Posted: 25 Nov 2013 13:06 | Edited by: elsslots 
NOT to continue to include the Thatta town mosques in the inscribed site which now SOLELY covers the Makli Necropolis

This affects about half of the Connections for this WHS, and all the previous reviews by Pakistani visitors - somehow the mosque is the most inspiring place

Author Solivagant
#6 | Posted: 25 Nov 2013 13:43 | Edited by: Solivagant 
This affects about half of the Connections for this WHS, and all the previous reviews by Pakistani visitors - somehow the mosque is the most inspiring place

Certainly - but does it have anything to do with the Necropolis??

I have actually e-mailed the Pakistan Heritage Organisation which has been working on the conservation of Makli about what they know of the official situation - but with no response as yet

Note that there is no mention of the Mosque in any of their Web pages either. But there are statements like "The site is located on the outskirts of the historic town of Thatta"

Author winterkjm
#7 | Posted: 17 Apr 2014 17:18 | Edited by: winterkjm 

Author Solivagant
#8 | Posted: 18 Apr 2014 03:51 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Yes, please just inscribe our entire tentative list without delay!

This provides a wonderful insight into the realities of Pakistani politics and government.

Bilawal is the latest scion of the Bhutto family to take over running of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) - and with it the chance to "divide the spoils". Aged 25, brought up largely in exile in UK/UAE and educated at Oxford he has never been elected to anything other than being made Chairman of the party by his father (Husband of the assassinated Benazir who was presiident until last year).

I note his claims that he is "personally monitoring the preservation of Moen Jo Daro"!! The Bhutto family is the largest landowner in the area and the family mausoleum is nearby. Bilwal's grandfather, the former president Zulfikar, hosted the Shah of Iran there for a conference back in the 1970s (A statue in the gardens commemorates the event). Back in November we were "privileged" to use the plush VIP room of the guest house and were told that the room we were assigned had been "used by Benazir"!!

Thiese articles might be of interest in providing a view on how Bilwal is (or is being accused of) using Moenjodaro for his political purposes by holding a "Sindh Festival" inside the ruins!!! y/

Author elsslots
#9 | Posted: 29 Sep 2022 03:21 | Edited by: elsslots 
Not much seems to have happened in the WH community regarding Pakistan after Solivagant's extensive visit in 2013, as detailed above and in his reviews.

Until now that is - Thomas & Roman recently visited the country together, and Roman has shared his photos of 13 Pakistani TWHS to feature on the TWHS pages. Really glad to have them, as I can now better imagine what Baltit Fort, The Salt Range and Khewra Salt Mine, and the Wazir Khan Mosque look like!

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