Logic is Variable

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Paradox and the Joy of Pakistan

One of the earlier recorded monument goers was Herodotus, the Greek historian who voyaged to Egypt 2400 years ago to stand in awe before the pyramids. One of the valid causes around the world these days is raising awareness about historic monuments and national sites in need of repair. Awareness can make the difference.

As a traveler, I have been all over the country paying tribute to Pakistan’s wealth of ancient sites. Starting from Karachi where 600 buildings have been listed by a heritage foundation to Multan and Lahore with their own distinct architectural style to Peshawar where legendary character of Qissa Khwani bazaar is changing and its old landmarks like city walls are disappearing. I also touched Thatta, Ptttan Munara, Uch Sharif, Sialkot, Nandna (in Salt Range) and Mansehra in the way. In my pursuit, I have traced the routes followed by conqueror Alexander the great and Chinese traveler Hieun Tsiang in the part of the world we call home. I have seen many extraordinary sights feeling comfortable and at peace and completely in the grip of history as I stood before each of them.

Pakistan Federal Archeology Department identifies over 350 sites of irreplaceable and intrinsic value ranging from ruins in Mohenju Daro, Harappa and Texila to the tomb of the only Mughal Emperor (Jehangir) in Pakistan that has been rated third in the Subcontinent after Taj Mahal and Qutab Minar. The heritage sites in Pakistan are fast falling apart. Pilfering pollution, harsh climate, over development, lack of funds and expertise for maintenance, neglect and apathy of all concerned and law and order situation in the country all add up to crumbling monuments and disappointing travelers.

We are poised to lose forever countless bits and pieces of amazingly divers land’s history, it seems. One problem facing the heritage custodians and town planners in Pakistan is what to do with the splendid legacy of the past?

History and archeology make for good tourism that is largely a function of prosperity. The more money people have the more of it they will spend on travel and other intellectual pursuits. Today, worldwide tourism is an unprecedented 4.4 trillion dollar industry expected to be 10 trillions by 2010. Now once every beach, airport and other conventional tourist spots feel crowded like a cinema hall, people are constantly looking for quite unique and brand new destinations where they can see things and experience cultures that are not possible at home. Last year 90 million people came to Asia alone. But the irony is that outside world does not know about Pakistan or has a distorted image of it hence tourists cannot plan to visit. The tourism department foreign missions abroad, national airline. hotels and even the private sector and multinational giants of tourism could do a lot more than what they are doing to promote this industry. After all Pakistan has much more to offer than many other countries combined together.

This is the paradox and the joy of Pakistan a young national forged in the crucible of one of the world’s oldest civilizations. Some of the initial human history began here. The cultures are expressed in beautiful mosques, gardens tombs, forts, temples, monasteries, palaces, havelis, and other Islamic, pre Islamic, Hindu Sikh and British architectures. All these are the magnificent vistas of a land of mountains and plans, fields and orchards, farmland and sweeping river valleys. But all this has to be opened to the rest of the world.

No ordinary coldness of phrasing can express the surprise and delight with which one makes acquaintance with the heritage sites spread all over Pakistan.

Their perspective gives you a wonderful sense of being. That is what I do when I am tired of being tied with the desk.


posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:28 PM,


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