By Aurangzeb Malik:
The government needs to take action to stop stone crushing machines eating up the ancient mountains along the River Chenab in Chiniot/Rabwah.
The chain of mountains is going to be diminished as mountain stones have been consumed unchecked for commercial purposes for the last many decades.
In 2007, a blast in such a mountain resulted in the appearance of a cave from a mountain. The cave, local residents say, had ancient stone statues and other items. Before archaeologists could study them, a big stone rolled down and capped the cave entrance.
In 2007, the Punjab Information, Culture and Youth Affairs Department declared these hill historical sites under the Special Premises under Punjab Special Premises (Preservation) Ordinance, 1985.
A landlord, Col Asim Ali Shah (retired), offered his adjacent land to establish a museum and Archaeological Department offices. Mines Department contractors, however, continue to crush stones.
Seeing inaction of the Punjab government, some residents wrote to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani seeking his help to stop contractors from crushing the stones.
The Prime Minister’s Secretariat issued a directive on May 9, 2010, to the culture division secretary with subject ‘Chiniot rock art at the mercy of stone crushers’ directing him to take necessary action to safeguard the visual heritage of the country. No action, however, has been taken.
Recently, the Lahore High Court, on a writ petition, stayed the stone crushing ordering the administration to ensure halt of blasting and preserve the cultural heritage.
Ahmad Ali, a resident of the mountainous range, said he had seen some statues inside the cave.
DCO Dr Irshad Ahmad says he had asked the police and revenue authorities to stop this stone crushing work.