Islamabad, January 16: A four-day international conference concluded in Islamabad on Sunday, with reputed national and international scholars presenting papers on different themes related to “Archaeological and Cultural Heritage of Pakistan and Adjacent Areas”.
Surprisingly, no paper was presented on any aspect of the archaeological heritage of Gilgit – Baltistan despite of the fact that more than
50,000 rock carvings, 5000 inscriptions and many other heritage resources ranging from the Neolithic period, 8 to 9 000 years ago, are believed to be present between Shatial and Raikot (Diamer) only, not to mention the symbols of history and ancient culture present in Hunza, Skardu and Shigar.
The rock carvings and inscriptions in Diamer are threatened by the proposed construction of Diamer Dam, that will also uproot around 35,000 people, according to official figures.
The conference was jointly organized by the American Institute of Pakistan Studies in collaboration with the National Department of Archaeology and Museums, under the Ministry of National Heritage and Integration.
A group of students from the Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad, who attended the conference, told Pamir Times that the international gathering of scholars and practitioners could have been used to highlight the issue of the endangered rock-carvings and other elements of the region’s heritage.
The students argued that the decision to not present even a single paper on the endangered archaeological heritage might have been taken due to political considerations, “because the issue might create hurdles for construction of the Diamer Dam, by helping anti-dam protesters.”
The students, who requested anonymity, criticized the GB Government for not planning well to defend and promote the region’s cultural and archaeological heritage.
Regional and national experts of history and archaeology have been demanding of the federal government to come up with a plan for protection of the human heritage before the dam is constructed. So far, however, no such plan seems to be in place.