Friday, January 31, 2014

Pakistan: Experts Concur that Mohenjo Daro is Safe
The Sindh Festival and the Sindh Government are taking every necessary measure to ensure the integrity of the ancient ruins at Mohenjo Daro, Sindh, the location of the Opening Ceremony of the debut Sindh Festival, scheduled for February 1. “As long as all precautions are taken to ensure that no damage is inflicted on the archaeological remains and they are carefully guarded, promotional events at important heritage sites such as Mohenjodaro are organized around the World and are not a cause for concern,” said Yasmeen Lari, Sitara-­‐i-­‐ Imtiaz, Chair & CE of Heritage Foundation of Pakistan.
Objections from others have also been revised. When the precautions that had taken place at Mohenjo Daro were shared with Ali Gul Metlo, one of the original signatories of the letter of complaint sent to UNESCO published in many of today’s papers, he insisted that he was “satisfied that all appropriate and necessary precautions are being taken” and he was happy to withdraw his complaint. “We are grateful for the concern voiced by Pakistanis on all media platforms about protecting the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mohenjo Daro,” said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, founder of the Sindh Festival and Patron-­‐in-­‐Chief of the Pakistan Peoples Party. “We share this concern deeply, and have taken extraordinary and foolproof measures to protect this heritage site from any possible harm or damage.”
Following the concerns raised on social media about the ancient ruins, Director of the Sindh Archaeology Department Qasim Ali Qasim showed Mr Bilawal Bhutto Zardari around Mohenjo Daro yesterday afternoon to ensure that construction work for the Sindh Festival’s Opening Ceremony remained strictly and fully compliant with international preservation standards. “The stage and seating are not being installed atop the ancient ruins,” said Sharmila Farooqi, Advisor on Culture to the Sindh Chief Minister. “Preparations for the Opening Ceremony at Mohenjo Daro are being undertaken with all due care and we are faithfully abiding by the advice and instructions of well-­‐reputed conservationists both in Sindh and abroad.”
This advice began with the location of the site itself. As can be seen in Picture 1, an open space between the Citadel Area and the Buddhist Ruins, right in front of main entrance Gate of SD Area, was chosen. As can be seen in Picture 2, the stage and the seating area were very carefully placed to ensure that they did not touch the ruins themselves. Both the location and the placement of the stage and seating area were chosen and approved by the Archaeology Department in consultation with international archaeological experts.
A lightweight wooden scaffolding stage is being built over the earthen surface and not on the ruins. The construction has been performed to the highest standard of operating procedures. All the labourers at the site were fully briefed before the work began and every stage of this construction has been overseen and instructed by the Archaeology Department.
For the purpose of protecting the nearby ruins lightweight wooden scaffolding was erected over some surrounding walls to act as a preventive barrier in the unlikely event of an accident during the stage construction. This scaffolding was the basis of the outrage that erupted on social media because people erroneously believed that a stage was being built on top of the ruins. Following the completion of the stage this scaffolding was carefully removed and absolutely no damage has occurred to any part of the ruins. All this scaffolding activity was carried out under strict supervision and on the instruction of the Archaeology Department.
For the illumination of the stupa and adjoining ruins lightweight LED lights have been placed on open surfaces and on top of a layer of sacrificial mud, which had been applied by the Archaeology Department to protect the site from natural elements. The aluminium lighting structures have been placed on top of wooden sheets to spread the load, and that wooden base sits on top of a layer of sacrificial mud. There is absolutely no drilling into the site whatsoever. What is more the placement of lights conforms to the same plan that was used and approved for lighting up Mohenjo Daro by UNESCO archaeologists two years ago. The team that is responsible for the laser and light show, Laseronix, has done laser shows at the Egyptian Pyramids, the Luxor, Petronas and German Heritage Sites, and maintain international standards required for working at world heritage sites.
“Events such as the Sindh Festival Opening Ceremony at Mohenjo Daro take place at heritage sites around the world. As long as appropriate safety measures are taken to ensure the preservation of the site, they are a useful tool for awareness and heritage conservation. Qasim Ali Qasim, Director of Archaeology in Sindh, is the archaeologist with the authority of the supervision and oversight of the heritage site of Mohenjo Daro, and is accordingly best placed to ensure that the necessary precautionary measures have been taken. His decades professional experience, which includes more than a decade of experience at Mohenjo Daro itself, should be respected,” said Prof Dr. Qasid Hussain Mallah, Chairman of Archeology Department, Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur.
During the event itself the ruins are being completely cordoned off. Guests will only be allowed to walk on pre-­‐approved paths and the ruins will be completely off limits to all people. The highest precautions have been taken by the Sindh Government and the Sindh Festival organizers to maintain the integrity of this important site.
The Sindh High Court yesterday evening also issued directions to the Sindh Government to ensure that all preparation work at the site continued to be done with “extreme care”. The Sindh Festival, its organizers and the Sindh Government share this objective. The construction work, which is being undertaken with due diligence and keen cognizance of the site’s significance for Pakistan, Asia and the world, will conclude tomorrow.
The sole objective of the Sindh Festival is to preserve, promote, and protect our rich, common cultural heritage. The Sindh Festival and the Sindh Government are aware of their responsibilities and are taking measures, over and above those prescribed by conservationists, to ensure that Mohenjo Daro and all heritage sites in Sindh remain entirely safe from any potential damage whatsoever.

The surprising transformation of Bilawal Bhutto into a leader of Pakistan's anti-Taliban movement
His call has gone down very well far beyond the family stronghold
The Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban are two very different things. The Afghan Taliban, who have stubbornly resisted the worst that the US and Britain could throw at them for the past 12 years, brought a measure of peace and stability to their war-racked country during the late 1990s. Sons of the Pashtun soil, they gained widespread support with their claims to being pious and honest, even though their version of Islam was brutally reductive. That helps to explain why they are still such a force to reckon with today.
The situation is completely different in Pakistan, west of the Indus River, where the shaggy-bearded, bloodthirsty Islamists of the Pakistani Taliban are seen in the same light as ancient Romans regarded the Visigoths – as terrifying barbarian invaders. For all its failings and contradictions, Pakistan enjoys a measure of civilisation unknown in Afghanistan beyond the watering-holes of Kabul. The Pakistani Taliban are a direct threat to all that.
That’s one reason why the decision by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 25-year-old son of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s recently retired President, to call for decisive military action against the Pakistani Taliban is going down very well far beyond the Bhutto family’s strongholds in Karachi and rural Sindh.
In an interview with the BBC’s Lyse Doucet this week, Bhutto said: “Dialogue is always an option but we have to have a position of strength. How do you talk from a position of strength? You have to beat them on the battlefield. They are fighting us. It’s not only confined to North Waziristan. They are attacking us in Karachi. We would like to eradicate the Taliban from Pakistan.”
This fiery declaration comes after a long series of unprovoked, murderous attacks by Pakistani Taliban against Christians, Shias, Sufis, Hazaras – the typically diverse enemies of the totalitarian Islam they want to impose. They have also killed schoolchildren and paramedics struggling to inoculate the poorest people in the country against polio, as well as many soldiers.
For all its corruption, the Pakistani state enjoys a degree of democratic legitimacy that is the envy of countries like Libya and Iraq, let alone Syria or Somalia. The Pakistani Taliban would love to put a bomb under all that; yet the chief beneficiaries of the ballot box, Imran Khan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, balk at confronting the fundamentalist menace. On Wednesday Sharif backtracked from a planned army offensive, explaining: “Since the other side has shown intent to negotiate, we also wish to give peace another chance.”
Bilawal Bhutto promptly tweeted, “I want [Sharif] to be our Churchill. Unfortunately he is becoming our Neville Chamberlain…” Bull’s eye! Sharif, a notorious trimmer, must have blushed to the roots of his thinning hair.
Bilawal’s Hal-to-Henry V transformation is all the more surprising given his earlier reputation as an effete, Westernised young man who struggled with his Urdu and, during the last elections, campaigned from Dubai to improve his survival chances. For younger, urbanised Pakistanis, as for their Indian counterparts, political dynasties are so last century: a Gujarati taxi driver told an Indian friend of mine that Rahul Gandhi is “a puppy still suckling his mother’s milk, who hasn’t yet learned even to bark!”
But the flipside of dynastic privilege, on both sides of the border, is assassination, generation after generation. In Bilawal Bhutto at least it seems to have produced some steel.