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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

CHAWKANDI TOMBS: Site Threatened by Proposed Industrial Development

Guest Post by: Sameeta Ahmad, Founder Culture Concerns Group




A recent allotment of 68 acres of land adjacent to the Chawkundi Tombs in Karachi for industrial use threatens the 16th-century historic burial site physically, visually and in terms of allowing future public use - this is an amenity plot converted to a commercial plot to make this sale by the Sindh government to a private owner possible.


The ‘Chawkandi tombs’ site, a sixteenth-century burial ground at Karachi, is an officially “protected site” with the federal level of the Government of Pakistan’s Department of Archeology. It is a cluster of sandstone tombs, graves and pavilion tombs with exquisite carving of geometric arabesques and stylized motifs resembling that of the Samma Cluster at the Makli necropolis. Adjacent to it, a 68 acre plot of land has in 2006 been allotted to a private firm for industrial use by the Land Utilisation Department of the Sindh Government. The land is part of an amenity plot that has now been sold for commercial use, and since it lies between the burial site and the National Highway, construction on it will block the direct view of the site from the road, damage the sandstone with industrial emissions, and makes impossible the future use of this land for public use related to the heritage. The Antiquities Act that protects sites and monuments of historic significance in Pakistan only requires that a buffer area of 200 feet from any such site be left clear of any development, and officials claim that this rule will be followed there. The Department of Archeology states that it has not been officially consulted or informed of this major decision regarding the fate of this major heritage site in Karachi.



With industrial use, the resultant carbon emissions will directly harm the porous sandstone as will the pollution from the increase in vehicular traffic. Since there is no solid boundary wall to the ground, and its layout makes it hard to construct one, increased human traffic is also expected to create more intervention and vandalism at this exposed site. Already, there has been pilferage and new graves are constantly constructed there right next to the historic structures.


The concrete boundary wall of the newly privatized plot is currently being built along the highway edge and is already beginning to block the view of the site from the highway. The back wall of the plot has not been marked yet but the legal requirement of leaving 200 feet clear could technically be accommodated. However, the burial site boundary, running parallel to the highway, which is marked by openly spaced concrete posts, is not uniformly distanced from the actual tombs inside it, which it is supposed to protect. While at the entrance gate of the site the distance between the tombs and their marked boundary is roughly 160 feet, this reduces to only 24 feet at the other end of its length. Thus the technical clause of clearing 200 feet will be meaningless in this case if it is not protecting the actual historic material, nor creating the visual and environmental buffer space needed.


The federal Department of Archeology states that it will be requesting the Sindh government to cancel the plot allotment and hand it over to it through the agency of the federal government. It says that it had earlier submitted a conservation master plan for the Chawkandi site in 2006, which is to be reviewed by the Federal Secretary of Culture soon. However, the plan requests only 8 acres of adjacent land to be handed over to it for protection and conservation, though the department does recommend keeping land between the site and the highway free from development. Public uses are also suggested by the local communities there, which urge authorities to follow a 1994 proposal for creating a public services complex on the same plot. At the moment the plot is only being used informally as a stop for trucks and trailers and can be easily and immediately cleared by the government. But authorities have instead ordered the police to provide protection to the new private owners.


References:


  • “Land near heritage site given to industry”, Hasan Mansoor, Dawn, Feb. 27, 2007.
  • Lari, Y., “Excursions & Trips - Chaukandi”, Karachi: Illustrated Travel Guide, Heritage Foundation, Karachi: 2002.
  • Personal Communication. Qasim Ali Qasim, Director, Department of Archeology (Southern Circle- Sindh and Balochistan), Government of Pakistan. March 1 2007.

*Cross-posted from
Culture Concerns Special Interest Group. The author, Ms Sameeta Ahmad is an architect and planner who teaches at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Justice Rana Bhagwandas at SANA Convention, July 5th, 2008, Dallas, Texas



Biography of Justice Bhagwandas from Wikipedia:

Honourable Mr. Justice (R) Rana Bhagwandas (b. December 20, 1942), a highly respected name of the Pakistani judiciary was a senior judge and former acting chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He remained the acting CJP during the 2007 judicial crisis in Pakistan and also briefly became the acting Chief Justice of Pakistan when the incumbent Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry went on foreign tours in 2005 and 2006[1], and thus became the first Hindu and the second non-Muslim to serve as chief of the highest court in Pakistan. [Continue Reading]


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Highlights from SANA Conference in Dallas, Texas



Courtesy: Ayaz Gul Soomro of KTN NEWS, Los Angeles Bureau

Highlights from the Annual SANA Banquet:

Courtesy: Ghorakh Hill, SANALand Blog

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Josh FM 99 Sindhi FM Radio Station


Josh FM 99 is Pakistan's Premier Sindhi FM Radio. It covers areas between DHA/Clifton Karachi and farthest borders of Thatta district. With 20 million potential listeners it is the newest and the fastest growing Radio Station in the region.

Josh FM 99 is the only Sindhi talk Radio Station (4 million exclusive audience) in Karachi and Thatta but also plays hit Indian and Pakistani songs in all languages.

Josh FM 99 has not only been envisioned, created and built by students but is also operated by students. The presence of young and energetic management is a guarantee to its listeners, that the hottest play list will be aired at all times. Josh FM 99 has a strong belief in the motto 'More Music Less Talk.'

Join this young team of Josh FM 99, sit back and enjoy the ride.

Visit the Josh FM 99 Facebook Page
Visit Josh FM 99 Home Page

Saturday, July 5, 2008

SANA. 24th Convention: July 5th -Continued...

Currently blogging live from conference floor. July 5, 2008, Dallas, Texas:

In my previous post I failed to mention Ahsan Iqbal, MNA Government of Pakistan (PML-N) as

Ahsan Iqbal spoke immediately following Justice Bhagwan Das' keynote, video to be posted shortly.


Ahsan Iqbal spoke candidly. He affirmed his party, the PML-Ns commitment to the coalition government. He also said that, if PML-N had the votes in the National Assembly it would have moved towards impeachment of President Musharraf. However he went on to stress the need for the coalitions cooperation, citing numerous conversations Sharif has had with Zardari.

Assemblyman Iqbal after asked about the National Language bill, said if presented to the house they'll most definitely move to approve it. The assembly requires a 2/3 majority to pass the bill.

Also, Ahsan Iqbal was asked about his opinion regarding the Kalabagh dam. Upon the audiences insistence, he said "if Sindh doesn't want Kalabagh dam, then we won't build it." This response got a standing ovation.

Ahsan sahib also commented about the PPP meetings with MQM. He said that PML-N signed the same resolution as other parties that there will be no dealings with MQM until the May 12th issues are resolved.

Click for Video of Ahsan Iqbal's Q&A Session


Click for Justice Rana Bhagwandas' Q&A Session


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SANA 24th Annual Convention, Dallas, June 3rd - 6th, 2008

On July 4th, 2008 over a 450 Sindhis from all across North America, and Pakistan gathered at the Westin City Center in Dallas, Texas for SANA (Sindhi Association of North Americas annual convention - http://sanalist.org.

The event spotlights were the recently disposed judge, Justice Bhagwansas, Ghazala Rahman Rafiq, Safdar Sarki, Nusrat Lashari, and several others from the Sindhi intellectual and activist sphere.

Sindhi is an ancient culture that dates back to the Indus Valley civilization. Its langauge is the only structured regional language of Pakistan.

During the first day, July 4th sessions the following motions were called to action:

* Call for the uncoditional restoration of pre PCO judges.

* Motion to give Sindhi, along with other regional languages status of national languages in Pakistan.

* Appeal to the Federal Government in Islamabad to honour the 1940 Pakistan resolution that allows for provincial autonomy.

* Call for the impeachment of President General (rtd) Pervez Musharraf on grounds of violating the constitution of Pakistan

Following the days session, conference attendees flocked to a energic Sindhi music night.

More updates to follow, along with Bagwandas' keynote address.




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Online Sindhi English Dictionary

The South Asia Language Resource Center at the University of Chicago have funded a project allowing for a Sindhi English Dictionary on the web. The site also has an online Sindhi script keyboard so people can type in words in Sindhi to look up the relevant English translation.

I found it a bit difficult to look up words by typing in, but thankfully all the Sindhi letters are on the website so one can just click on a particular alphabet and see all the words starting with it on a separate page. There's also a 'word of the day' feature like other online dictionaries.

The project was developed in collaboration between the Center for Research in Urdu Language Processing (CRULP) at the National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences in Lahore and Dr Jennifer Cole at the Univeristy of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Good stuff and definitely worth a look.