By Fakhar Alam

PESHAWAR, (APP):Known for Gandhara civilization and centuries-old primitive history world over, Khyber Pakthunkhwa government accords top priority to development and expansion of museums and archeological sectors in order to materialize the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan of making Pakistan a hub of tourism.
To bolster tourism and archaeology, Khyber Pakthunkhwa Government has decided to construct four new museums in different districts to conserve and protect precious antiques, artifacts and others primitive articles of Gandhara and other civilizations to attract foreign tourists besides archaeological, art, Buddhists, historians and architectural lovers.
Abbottabad, DI Khan, Kohat and Haripur districts will get new museums where ancient articles, sculpture, coins, manuscripts, books, paintings of Gandara civilization, Greco-Buddhist, Persian handicrafts, Mughal and later periods will be preserved.
Muhammad Asif Raza, Incharge Peshawar Museum told APP that Govt of KP has approved construction of four new state-of-the art museums in Abbottabad, Kohat, Dera Ismail Khan and Haripur which after completion, would serve as a great source of education, knowledge and recreation for foreign and domestic tourists besides archeologists, historians and young scholars. He said museums in KP will increase to 16 after construction of these new museums in the province.
“The work on Abottabad museum has almost been completed and would be shortly opened for tourists,” he said adding construction work on Dera Ismail Khan museum was in full swing and hopefully would be completed this year.
“The land has been purchased for construction of Kohat and Haripur museums and efforts would be made to complete them within two years,” he said.
He said, “museums and archeological sectors had achieved remarkable growth during tenure of PTI Govt in Khyber Pakthunkhwa where millions of rupees were spent on establishment, conservations and renovation of museums, historical buildings and archaeological sites.”
PTI Govt has spent about Rs 60 million on renovation and expansion of six museums in different districts including Peshawar Museum and work on other related projects was in progress that would make the province a hub for tourism, he maintained.
A state-of-the art museum at Hund Swabi district located near the site where Alexander the Great crossed Indus River in 327 BC, has been constructed. Hund is famous for Mehmood Ghaznavi’s invasion in 998 marking the beginning of Islamic era and the end of Gandhara Period. For the first time in history of KP, he said a conservation laboratory was established at Hund Museum where equipment would be soon provided.
Asif Raza said another mega ‘Cultural Heritage Trail in Peshawar, has been recently completed under which 500 meters long trail from ancient Ghanta Ghar to Gor Gathri has been renovated including centuries-old buildings, houses and shops besides establishment of a food street, new lights, benches, electricity and telephone wires etc were installed underground, which restored the original grandeur of Peshawar being home to 2000 years old civilizations.
The heritage trail starts at the historical Ghanta Ghar and passes through ancient Bazaar-e-Kalaan and primordial Mohallah Sethian. Mohallah Sethian has a number of beautifully architectural houses constructed by the members of wealthy Sethi family way back in 1880s. The tourists here will enjoy traditional food like ‘Chappli Kabab, Namak Mandi’s special Bar B Que with Peshawari Qawa’ and culture together.
Completed at a cost of Rs301.5 million, the heritage trail project has immensely helped renovate and refurbish facade or outer appearances of 85 heritage buildings and structures of Mughal, British and Sikh period with a cultural and historical touch without compromising on its original art and architectural work.
“The renovation work on Ali Mardan Khan Valley built during British era in Peshawar cantonment was also completed besides ancient inns of Mughal period at Gor Kathri in Peshawar City.”
There are over 6,000 archaeological and heritage sites in KP where research was being carried out to provide better facilities to tourists. “We have placed 1868 ancient houses, monuments and religious places in protected list after completion of documentation process and no owner can bring any kind of changes in architecture, art or renovate these without approval of the government,” he said.
Six archeological sites in Swat including Amlok Dara, Barikot, Stupa at Saidu Sharif, Bhudkada, Godara,
Panar, monuments at Chacha Younas Park in Peshawar were included in the protected list where even repair and constructions activities could not be allowed unless NOC was issued by government.
He said Sethi House at Peshawar was purchased by the government keeping in view of its historical importance and opened for tourists.
Raza said 3000 artifacts, antiques and other precious articles including 900 of Gandhara civilization were displaced at Peshawar museum attracting tourists and foreign dignitaries from across globe.
He said 20 new archaeological and tourists sites including construction of chair lift at Takhtbhai Mardan, Jolia Haripur, Budhkada Swat etc were identified by present KP government which would be made centres of tourism during next five years.
Raza said number of foreign tourists will increase after government’s bold initiative of easing visa procedure and a large number of foreign tourists especially from Sri Lanka, China, South Korea and North Korea were expected to visit Peshawar Museum in future where a rich collection of Bhudism was kept preserved.
“The first ever KP Antique Act 2016 has been passed by PTI government, empowering the Archaeology Department to protect and conserve historical buildings besides countering menace of smuggling of antiques and artifacts in the province.”
“The Department has planned to raise its own anti-smuggling antiques wing to take prompt action against smugglers” he said.
The Incharge Peshawar Museum stressed the need for inclusion of museums in education curriculum, proactive role of foreign missions of Pakistan and media to properly showcase these hidden treasures before the world.