Pakistan People’s Party had promised in its 2013 manifesto to promote cultural and entertainment venues such as art galleries, theatres, cinemas, exhibition halls, fair and festival grounds, parks and playing fields and libraries.
When it comes to working on the promotion and development of cultural activities our government becomes zombies. Pakistan, where health and education sectors have been neglected, and left for the predators in the private sector to exploit the poor and the rich alike, expecting the government to invest anything worthwhile in culture and entertainment is asking for the sky. This question takes a severe twist when looked through the Sindh government perspective? Can we answer how many heritage sites have been restored and preserved by the Sindh government? How many libraries have been completed for the people of Karachi, Kashmore, Dadu, and Sukkur? How much has the government been investing annually in culture and tourism?
All these questions have no answers. No new scheme or project has been approved in the budget 2017-18 by the culture, tourism and antiquities department.
The allocation for the Sindh Department of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities has mainly remained the same in the 2017-18 fiscal year, with an allowance of Rs2.88 billion for 63 schemes – 48 ongoing and 15 new.
Last year, the culture department was allocated Rs2.01 billion for a total of 66 schemes.
The department had failed to complete even half of its old and new schemes during the last fiscal year. Many projects had been taken out of the original budget. These included the establishment of the Sindh Institute of Music and Performing Arts, Jamshoro at the cost of Rs70 million; the expansion and improvement of museums in Sindh; the establishment of the much awaited Cultural Village at Umerkot and the development of Amjad Sabri’s Institute of Sufi Music and Qawwali in Karachi. None of these projects gained approval.
The running schemes approved included the establishment of a museum in Kot Diji, Khairpur district, at an estimated cost of Rs38.83 million. The revised allocation for the project has been listed as Rs4.85 million.
Other approved schemes include the construction of guest-houses for writers and artists in Karachi and Hyderabad and the provision of a ferry service for tourists in Sukkur and Keenjhar Lake.
The Sindh minister for Culture Syed Sardar Shah has been accused lately of creating new vacancies in his department for the appointment of his friends. The minister had been successful to get his another friend Qasim Siraj appointed as the president of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) cultural wing.
According to media reports, the minister had been on a surge to appoint his friends and family members in his department.
When Truth Tracker talked to minister for Culture Sardar Ali Shah, he turned down the allegations of nepotism and refused to take the blame. “ I have been wrongly implicated by some media persons.” He further added that PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had been focusing on promoting the culture at every level. He also said that “All out efforts are being taken for the welfare and well-being of artists for further promotion and projection of cultural activities at local as well as international level. The Culture Department is doing a lot for the artists.”
Nusrat Abbasi, member of Sindh Assembly from Pakistan Muslim League-Functional said that the Sindh Government is not serious about anything, what to talk about culture. She also accused Sindh Minister of Culture of promoting nepotism in his department. “Sindh government only knows how to grab land and turn it into commercial use.” She said that if left to the PPP government they would replace every cultural and heritage site with commercial plazas.”
Pakistan’s renowned Architect and expert in Urban Development, Arif Hasan said that our cultural heritage is collapsing, but the government is not pushed. He added that the inadequacy and inconsistencies of the existing heritage-related laws and institutions for Karachi give the government immense power to design and implement heritage, conservation, and protection. However, the institutions created for implementing conservation lack capacity, capability and financial support primarily due to very little government will and support. He said: “The law must protect heritage sites from vested interests, and must combat a politically powerful developer’s lobby.”
PPP has compromised on its promise of giving undivided attention to the promotion and preservation of cultural and entertainment activities.