People reluctant to visit Taxila amidst terror threat


Abdul Qadeer, 60, has spent a major part of his life in guiding people about the ruins of Taxila, comprising Buddhist stupas, but he is now confronted by a plethora of financial challenges as a result of reduced number of visitors at the historical sites.
Taxila is a tehsil in Rawalpindi district and situated 32 kilometres northwest of Islamabad and is an important archaeological site. “I have been working as a guide for last 28 years but it has now become difficult to survive in this field,” said Qadeer while talking to Pakistan Today.
He said ten years ago, his income was Rs 15,000 but now he could earn only a few thousands per month during a time when inflation was hitting the country hard. “Visitors used give me some money as a tip on guiding them about every ruin but, presently, I am totally dependent on salary as no one prefer to visit the place nowadays,” he said.
Qadeer said that for the last three months, the federal government had handed over the site to the Punjab government. “The ruins of Taxila contain buildings and Buddhist stupas, covering a huge area. The main ruins of Taxila are divided into three major cities, each belonging to a distinct time period,” he said.
The oldest of these is the Hathial area, which yielded surface shards similar to burnished red wares (or ‘soapy red wares’) recovered from early phases at Charsadda, and may date between the 6th century and the late 2nd BC. Bhir Mound also dates back to the 6th century BC.
The second city of Taxila is located at Sirkap and was built by Greco-Bactrian kings in the 2nd century BC. The third and last city of Taxila is at Sirsukh and relates to the Kushan kings.
In addition to the ruins of the city, a number of Buddhist monasteries and stupas are also found in the area. Some of the important ruins of this category include the ruins of the stupa at Dharmarajika and the monasteries at Jaulian and Mohra in addition to a number of stupas.
Qadeer said it could become the most attractive place for the archaeologists but no authority had moved forward to preserve the history. In 1980, Taxila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site with multiple locations and it had also been ranked as the top tourist destination of Pakistan in the past, he said.
However, Qadeer considers the prevailing terrorism in the country as one of the biggest reason of decline in his work. “After a number of terror attacks across the country, the tourists also became hesitant to visit Taxila,” he said, adding that most of the visitors of Buddhist stupas were the foreigners.
“Now, the foreigners are reluctant to visit the sites which have no proper security arrangements. This area is also facing security threats as there are no boundary walls,” he said.
Expressing his distress over the current situation, he said he was responsible for the three children of his dead brother. “My brother, who was a labourer at the Wah Factory (Pakistan Ordnance Factories, Wah), passed away some years ago and it is now my responsibility to take care of his children, who are currently getting education.”Qadeer raised a number of complaints not only about the administration of the preservation authority but also about the outsiders, who intrude into the vicinity and take refuge there, saying they were unaware of the legacy of centuries old ruins and destroying the historical sites as there was no one to prohibit them touching and walking around the sites.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Ali Sher, a student, said the Punjab government should take some measures to promote this place as it could become a most attractive place for the archaeologists of the world. “Wild weeds and poor cleanliness has made it difficult for people to visit the site,” he added.
The visitors and employees were of the view that the federal and provincial governments should take every possible step to promote the historical sites in the country, which would give Pakistan a worldwide recognition.


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