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 http://whc.unesco.org/archive/periodicreporting/APA/cycle01/section2/143.pdf
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 - http://www.wmf.org/project/thatta-monuments
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 http://whc.unesco.org/download.cfm?id_document=117524
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.