top of page

Archaeological Heritage Management (AHM) in Pakistan

In many countries Archaeological Heritage Management (AHM) truly became a component of social and economic planning after WWII, when countries were beginning to redevelop their war torn cities. Concepts such as 'rescue archaeology' and protective legislation for monuments began to take root in this time, especially in European nations (Cleere, 1989). Management is no longer simply the passing of legislation and the designation of heritage but a complex system that involves a number of interrelated matters including; administration and supervision of heritage, adoption of conservation methods that preserve the authenticity of heritage, the promotion of heritage and much more (Mughal, 2011). It is a difficult and evolving process that has to balance the interest of different communities and has only recently taken the interests of indigenous peoples into consideration (Skeates, 2000).

It was soon after WWII that many colonial nations sought independence and created governments and heritage policies of their own. Pakistan was given independence in 1947. By this time many ideas and policies concerning the protection of archaeological heritage were adopted from the British colonials (Mughal, 2010) e.g. The Ancient Monuments Preservation (AMP) Act, 1904. Many countries have their own definitions of archaeological heritage, which can be found in their laws. A number of Pakistan’s heritage laws are remnants of its British colonial past or are based on heritage laws and practices of international heritage bodies such as UNESCO. In this case we will be using the definition of archaeological heritage (movable and immovable) as defined under the Antiquities Act 1975 (as amended 1992).

The management and preservation of heritage in Pakistan first began in the British colonial period before when Pakistan was still a part of British India. Early archaeologists such as Cunningham (ASI, 1861) and Burgess (ASI, 1886) made a number of archaeological discoveries in this region which alighted the interests and imaginations of British officials and intellectuals and made archaeology an important feature of British India. Other individuals such as Viceroy Lytton (appointed 1876) Curzon (appointed 1899) then made the first efforts towards preserving and managing the newly discovered archaeology which was, by this time, considered an 'imperial duty'. In 1899 the first legislation for the protection of archaeology was put in place which eventually became the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act in 1904 (Mughal, 2010; 2011). It was from these earlier notions of heritage management that Pakistan's AHM was then adopted and adapted.

Pakistan's first legislation pertaining to the protection and preservation of archaeology was the 1968 Antiquities Act (replaced in 1975, amended in 1992). Since this time numerous policies have been put in place (See 'Heritage Legislation' Table), international doctrines have been adopted and governmental and non-governmental bodies have been established for the management and preservation of archaeological heritage in Pakistan. The Antiquities Act 1975 defined archaeological heritage, putting them into more broad, inclusive and useful categories of ‘movable’ and 'immovable' antiquities (Mughal, 2011). This and other policies, such as the AEE Rules (1978), gave powers to archaeologists and other qualified individuals that would allow them to declare antiquities/archaeological heritage as protected protect archaeology and put restrictions on them. Terms of ownership of antiquities and sites have also been defined under these laws. Protected antiquities, premises, sites e.t.c. can be owned privately. In fact almost three quarters of protected heritage is under private ownership (Mughal, 2011) though they cannot be touched or repaired without official approval. Other policies such as the Customs Act (as modified in 1994) and Export of Antiquities Rules (1979) aim to tackle the problems of looting and export of archaeological heritage by putting restrictions on what can be exported, authorization for exportation as well as penalizing (through fines or imprisonment) those who breach the rules. Much of the terminology and content of these policies have been based on similar policies from countries with strong heritage management like Britain and USA or on recommendations by international heritage agencies. All of these policies were put forward with the best of intentions and with interests of the archaeology and interested parties in mind. However these policies do also have their limitations and so are used in conjunction with international heritage doctrines and aided by NGOs and interest groups.

Legislation is not the only guideline for management and conservation used by archaeologists and heritage authorities in Pakistan. A number of international doctrines (see Appendix 7) have also been used to inform and guide management efforts in Pakistan. The Venice Charter (ICOMOS, 1964) is one of the key documents used by Pakistan's heritage authority to guide their management efforts. It developed on the ideas of earlier charters (e.g. Athens Charter, 1931) which promoted respect for the authenticity of archaeological heritage as well as the preservation of their aesthetic and historic qualities. It also emphasized a need to create international guidelines for heritage management. However because these charters and guidelines were developed based on the experiences of western countries they sometimes clash with ideologies and cultures of non-western countries that try to adopt them. An example of this can be seen in Australia where aborigines’ communities and the charters have divergent definitions and methods of treating heritage (Burke and Smith, 2010).

The fact that international heritage doctrines are less suited to Asian and developing countries is not something that has gone unnoticed. Herzefeld (Byrne, 2015) and Byrne (1991) are just two scholars who have discussed, at length, the limitations and issues with international doctrines when applied to nations, especially in Asia. They feel that organizations such as UNESCO are upheld by concerns and values of nation states that have created a 'global hierarchy of value' which is a western concept. A common phrase used in this discussion to describe this bias to western values is 'Western Hegemony'. The Cartesian thought behind much of the international heritage doctrine does not mesh well with certain ideologies e.g. Islam and Buddhism. Mughal (2010; 2011) feels that, instead, heritage management guidelines developed by Asian countries that have successful AHM frameworks would be better suited to the needs and capabilities of Pakistan's archaeological heritage. One prime example is The China Conservation Principles (2004) which takes the goals and guidelines of previous international charters and adapts so that they are suited to the interests of the indigenous people and the methods are practical and achievable. In an ideal situation Pakistan would develop its own heritage management guidelines that have been fully customized for Pakistan's social, cultural and political situation.

The governmental bodies that currently control and manage much of the archaeological heritage in Pakistan are various provincial departments as well at the federal Department of Archaeology and Museums (DOAM). The entirety of this heritage used to be in the control of the federal government until the devolution of much of its powers and personnel in 2011 (under the 18th Amendment). Some legal powers, such as the issuing of licenses, have been given to provincial governments to give them more control over excavations and archaeology. However the federal government still retain a lot of legal powers and act as representatives of Pakistan in the international heritage community (Olivieri, 2015). The four provinces now have control of 403 listed sites and monuments which include the 6 world heritage sites. However issues are now becoming apparent as DOAM and the provincial governments are debating over management powers especially concerning the WHOs. DOAM argues that the provincial governments are lacking in facilities and training to adequately manage the archaeological heritage. In Sindh problems arose when it was realized that the provincial government did not have enough funds to pay its employees let alone fund new projects for its sites and artefacts. Currently it seems that DOAM is making efforts to gain control of the 6 world heritage sites (Shahid, 2015). This conflict in the governmental organisation highlights some of the problems faced by heritage authorities who, despite having the knowledge and training to effectively manage archaeological heritage, are hampered by administrative disagreements and confusion.

There is also some inequality in the listing of heritage. It was found that in the provinces of KPK, Sindh and Punjab (some of the richest provinces for archaeology) only 26 (10.7%) of the listed properties were from Buddhist, Hindu or Sikh periods. Further, most of the listed properties were of a religious nature. This represented a bias in the listed properties that might suggest that heritage officials need to review how they define their heritage and list them. However it must also be noted that the overwhelming majority of archaeological sites were non Islamic (Naeem, 2013). These two facts might suggest that heritage or government officials do not always consider the ‘Islamic’ period as an archaeological that requires extra protection and thus the designation of the heritage reflects this. There are further conflicts and confusion in the government control over heritage because Islamic religious heritage, such as mosques and Sufi shrines which are still in use, are controlled by the Auqaf department and have separate management and funding. This confuses matters because some of the Islamic heritage, from the Mughal period especially, can be considered archaeological and religious under some definitions (Punjab Portal, 2015). Administrative confusion is not the only weakness in the AHM framework of Archaeology. Pakistan is a developing country and as such it is not able to allocate a substantial amount of manpower or funds for the protection and management of archaeological heritage. At least not to the amounts that can be afforded by Western or more wealthy nations.

Overall it can be stated that there is a foundation for a strong management system in Pakistan as the relevant policies are in place and management guidelines are followed by heritage authorities to the best of their ability. However there are limitations and issues with policies and guidelines when placed in the context of Pakistan. There are many threats to the archaeological heritage in Pakistan however various schemes, policies and groups have been formed to tackle these issues to the best of their ability. It should be recognized, however, that with the economic, social and political difficulties that Pakistan faces it is not possible for the heritage management to be comparable with Western and even Arabian management frameworks. In some cases heritage authorities will say that heritage management in Pakistan is ‘not run well but run differently'. It might also be suggested that it is becoming easier to manage archaeological sites because some sites that were deemed inaccessible, due to political strife in the area, are now being accessed by even the foreign archaeologists.

Sources and References:

Burke, H. and Smith, C. (2010). Vestiges of Colonialism: Manifestation of the culture/nature divide in Australian Heritage Managment. In: P. Messenger and G. Smith, ed., Cultural Heritage Management: a global perspective, 1st ed. Gainesville: Univeristy press of Florida, p.21.

Byrne, D. (1991). Western hegemony in archaeological heritage management.History and Anthropology, 5(2), pp.269-276.

Byrne, D. (2015). Archaeological heritage and cultural intimacy: An interview with Michael Herzfeld. 1st ed. [ebook] Sydney: Sage, pp.144-157. Available at: [Accessed 13 May 2015].

Cleere, H. (1989). Archaeological heritage management in the modern world. London: Unwin Hyman.

Mughal, R. (1995). Legislations for the protection and management of archaeological heritage of Pakistan. Karachi: Kifayat Academy.

Mughal, R. (2011). Heritage preservation in Pakistan from national and international perspectives. 1st ed. [ebook] pp.119-128. Available at: [Accessed 13 May 2015].

Naeem, A. (2015). The conflict of ideologies and ambiguities in conservation policy: a legacy of shared built heritage in Pakistan. In: K. Silva and N. Chapagain, ed., Asian Heritage Management : Contexts, Concerns, and Prospects, 1st ed. Routledge, pp.87-97.

Olivieri, L. (2015). Digging up: Fieldwork guidelines for Archaeology students. 1st ed. Lahore: Sang-e-meel Publications.

Shahid, J., 2015. Heritage sites belong to the federation, not provinces: law ministry. Dawn, [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 13 February 2021].Naeem, 2013

Skeates, R. (2000). Debating the archaeological heritage. London: Duckworth.

41 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page