3-day Kashmir Conference on Archaeology concludes

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Altaf Hamid Rao,

MIRPUR (AJK): The 1st-ever 3-day Kashmir Conference on Archaeology concluded here on Sunday with special emphasis for exploration and preservation of the ancient archaeological asset of AJK for the promotion of archaeological and religious tourism through revival of rest of all natural routes on Line of Control at the pattern of Indo-Pak Kartarpur border for the pilgrimage of the religious and archaeological sites by the people including from both sides of the LoC in the Himalayan State.
AJK Minister for Sports, Youth & Culture Ch. Muhammad Saeed was the Chief guest at the concluding session of the grand moot, hosted by AJK Tourism, Archaeology, Information and IT Departments of AJK Government.
The concluding session was addressed among others by Secretary Tourism, Archaeology, Information and Information Technology Ms. Midhat Shehzad and Director General Tourism & Archaeology Pirzada Ershad Ahmed, Kashmir-origin Lord Mayor of British Scotland city Ch. Altaf Hussain, K D Khan, seasoned archaeological expert and Advocate General of AJK, ex DG Tourism and Archaelogy Dept. of AJK and historian of Jammu Kashmir state Dr. Mohsin Shakeel, Mian Atiq Ahmed, Secretary General Museum Association of Pakistan, Muhammad Alam Head of Tourism and Hospitality and Dr. Muhammad Zahid from Hazara University, Aftab ur Rehman Rana, President Sustainable Tourism Development Foundation of Pakistan, Dr. Asma Ibrahim Director State Bank Museum Karachi, Dr. Kanwal Khalid from Punjab University , Ambassador (Retd) Arif Kamal (originally from occupied Jammu) Retired Prof. Nazir Tabassam from Mirpur and others.
Secretary Tourism, Archaeology, Information and Information Technology Ms. Midhat Shehzad and Director General Tourism & Archaeology Pirzada Ershad Ahmed and DGPR AJK Raja Azhar Iqbal, earlier, highlighted the salient features of the objectives of holding of the grand moot on archaeology, first of its own kind held in Azad Jammu Kashmir, inviting the intending entrepreneur to move for invest in the tourism and archaeological sectors under the joint ventures private-public partnership for the promotion of tourism industry across AJK. Experts from various parts of the country including AJK participated in the grand moot.
In its strong recommendations, the conference urged the need of strengthening the State Department of Tourism & Archaeology for turning it a vibrant institution for exploring, preserving and safeguarding the centuries old cultural heritage of Azad Jammu Kashmir.
The declaration with series of healthy proposals for the promotion of archaeological and religious tourism for the people of Jammu Kashmir hailing from both sides of the LoC (AJK and IOK) in particular, continued as saying as under :-
“”To achieve the multi-dimensional and multi disciplinary task, the department should be provided with the sections / directorates of conservation, archaeology, heritage & Museum and section of archaeometry. Through regular SNE the human resource needs of the department may be addressed by sanctioning the required human power, it suggested
The declaration also strongly recommended the establishment of an advisory / Management Board, comprising technical experts of the field, eminent citizens, intellectuals and scholars at least for next five years under the Chairmanship of the Chief Secretary of the State.
It further said that in view of the prevailing tendency of expansion of towns, stringent steps would be required to make a strong check on encroachment on state land with prime focus toavert the destruction of heritage sites. It recommended for documentation of the heritage and archaeological sites in the State. To achieve this task, the conference strongly suggested for undertaking the comprehensive district-wise survey, being an exclusive development scheme, of Azad Jammu Kashmir to develop a State list of heritage.
The congregation also emphasized the need of establishing a Rsearch Grant, to be awarded annually to the scholars applying with the specific research topics including at least one Fellowship Award each year to some senior scholar for comprehensive study.
The conference also recommended the due role of the department for ensuring the establishment of Institute of History to promote the work in the history of the State and also to help in collection of the regional histories.
The conference also strongly suggested the emergence of an Endowment Fund to ensure the availability of funds on priority for any emergent intervention for preservation of the heritage projects.
The moot strongly suggested the promulgation of the rules to ensure swift check and balance under the Antiquities Act, in form of Conservation Rules, Exploration & Evacuation Rules, Scientific Support to Archaeology Rules.
The Conference strongly recommended the immediate establishment of at least three Musuems at the all three Divisional headquarters of AJK including the capital town of Muzaffarabad, Mirpur and Rawalakot, besides some site museums at local level to attract the tourists.

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