KARACHI, Dec 8: Mystery shrouds the project of Bhanbhore excavation by a joint Pakistani-French-Itahan mission after anomalies in the issuance of its licence surfaced, with the licensing authorities and all the stakeholders keeping mum over the issue.
A joint mission’s application for the renewal of the licence for the historical and archaeological research project at Bhanbhore was forwarded to the Sindh culture department by the Italian consulate in October despite the fact that the licence had already been renewed by the antiquities department (now merged into culture department) in May.
Despite repeated attempts by this reporter to get information about the date of submission of the application, neither the licence issuing authority (the Sindh culture department in which now the Sindh antiquities department has been merged) nor did the licence holders — the Pakistan, French and Italian team leaders — seem to know w’hen exactly the application had been moved for the licence issued on May 30, 2013.Sources said the Joint Pakistani-French-Italian Historical and Archaeological Research Project at Bhanbhore (Sindh-Pakistan) is being carried out by the Dr Monique Kervran-led French team comprising experts from CNRS University of Paris Sorbonne (Paris I and IV) / Laboratoire Orient & Mediterranee (Paris) 15, Rue Victor Cousin, Paris; Dr Valeria Piacentini Fiorani-led Italian team
of experts from Centre of Research on the Southern System and Southern Mediterranean (CRISSMA), Catholic University of Sacred Heart, Largo A. Gamelli, Milano; and the Pakistani team led by Dr Asma Ibrahim of the State Bank of Pakistan.
The sources added that the archaeologists intended to excavate / explore Bhanbhore, Gharo North Western area of Indus delta in Thatta district.
The project is being financed by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Centre of Research on Southern Systems and Wider Mediterranean, Catholic
University of Sacred Heart, Milan, Italy; LANDA Laboratory, Rome University “La Sapienza”; French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the University of “La Sorbonne”, Paris, France; etc.
The around 50-page application comprising ‘preliminary remarks, genera] aims and objects (2013-2015), objects of this 2013-2014 field season and modus operandi, plan of the area to be explored and proposed soundings, composition of teams’ was submitted to the Sindh government through a covering letter of the Italian consulate in Karachi.
The letter — Karachi, dated Oct 30, 2013, Prot.No.1531, Pos.No.L7 — has been written by Consul Roberto Franceschinis of the Italian consulate in Karachi to Sindh Culture Secretary Saeed Ahmed Awan. The subject of the letter was, “Joint Application for Pak-French-Italian Historical and Archaeological Research at
The letter stated: “Esteemed Mr Secretary, I have the pleasure of forwarding herewith, for its due process in conformity with all relevant rules and regulations, the application for the renewal of the licence for the ongoing Pakistan French Italian Historical and Archaeological research project at Bhanbhore (Sindh), jointly submitted by respective team leaders, as requested by the esteemed culture department. Very sincerely yours, Roberto Franceschinis, Consul.”
The sources said the licence that had been renewed by the department of antiquities roughly five months ago stated: “Name of institution / mission: Dr Asma Ibrahim Pakistan Italian French Archaeological Historical Mission in Sindh. Address: 1) International Centre of Multi-Disciplinary Research Banhbore; 2) Centre of Research on Southern System and Southern Mediterranean, Catholic University of Sacred Heart, Largo A. Gamelli, 1-20123 Milano, Italy.
Name of site and specific area to be excavated or explored: Bhanbhore and adjoining areas. Composition of missions and leaders: Dr Asma Ibrahim (Pakistan), Dr Monique Kervran (French), Dr Valeria Piacentini Fiorani (Italy). Validity of the licence is three years. The date of commencement of work in each season of work: from 2013 to 2015.
1978 with amendments of 1989 and additional conditions attached herewith,” stated the licence, which was signed by the then director general Kaleemullah Lashari.
The name of Mr Lashari, who retired in June a few7 days after issuing the licence, is mentioned in the licence in the capacity of coordinator.
Strangely enough, over three weeks after the Italian consul had
forwarded the joint application to the Sindh culture department for the renewal of the licence, the culture department rather than issuing or renewing the licence as requested, issued a “No objection certificate”.
The Nov 22 letter on the subject ‘Joint Pakistani-French-Italian Archaeological Mission, Bhanbhore’ issued by section officer (antiquities) of the culture department stated: “In pursuance of noti-
“The Licence is granted subject to the provisions of Section 29 of the Antiquities Act 1975 (VH of 1976) and the Archaeological Excavation and Exploration Rules dated May 30, 2013 by the Department of Antiquities, Government of Sindh, the Department of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, have no objection to carry out the second phase of Bhanbhore Scientific Research & Excavation by the Joint Mission in December 2013 up to February 2014.”
When Special Secretary for Antiquities Asjad Mahmood was
approached on the anomalies in the date on which the joint mission had applied to the antiquities department for the licence, he told Dawn that he asked his subordinates and despite making his all-out efforts he could not tell the date of application for the licence that had been issued on May 30.
In the absence of culture secretary, wrhen the same question was put to Additional Secretary Pir Bakhsh Mahar, he said he could not find out the date though he made repeated attempts and asked his subordinates about it.
Responding to Dawn queries, culture department’s archaeology director Qasim Ali Qasim said he had sent an application form for the issuance / renewal of a licence with proper format for the excavation at Bhanbhore to the Italian consul, who had requested for it, and only a few weeks back on the basis of that the Italian diplomat forwarded the application for the renewal of the licence on Oct 30, 2013 to the culture department.
Interestingly, none of the three team leaders, Dr Ibrahim, Dr Kervran and Dr Fiorani, replied to the separate emails sent to them by Dawn asking about the date they had applied for the licence.
The Italian consulate was also approached more than once to obtain the version of Consul Franceschinis on the issue. Instead another consulate official, Mr Haroon, talked to Dawn and after getting an understating of the issue assured that he would inform the consul and revert, which he never did.