Cultural Heritage of Pakistan and its Impact on Economy

Cultural heritage has huge importance for a country’s development.  It provides economical gains, protects a state’s identity, and pride, and reminds people of their common history and progress. Many types of research have been done recently which demonstrate the crucial importance of cultural heritage to societies and its great potential to contribute to a country’s social, economic, and environmental goals. Not only does cultural heritage enable sustainable development in terms of economic growth, such as increased tourism and local jobs, but it also enhances the inhabitants’ sense of identity and a feeling of connection.

Pakistan is blessed with a huge number of ancient and historic places. These places keep us linked to our past and conserve our culture and customs for centuries. Pakistan is a treasury of ancient culture and customs through centuries.

Mehrangarh is considered one of the most important Neolithic archeological sites, Mohenjo-Daro is one of the earliest and most advanced of its times, Harappa is known for the development of the first accurate standardized weight and measures system, Gandharan civilization is famous for its Gandharan style of art inspires by Greek and Hellenistic style, Shardha Temple in Kashmir is known because, for its role in Kashmiri Pandit religious culture, Altit fort is famous for being home to ancestral rulers of Hunza carrying the title of ‘Mir’, Taxila is known for its collection of its Buddhist religious monuments like Dharmarajika  Stupa, Mohra Muradu and the Julian monastery, Takht-i-Bahi in Swat valley is seat to the Buddhist religion, Rohtas fort situated near Jehlum city was built for defending Sur dynasty from Gakhar tribe and the Chaqchan mosque built in the mountains of Skardu Valley when the religion of people was Buddhism (after the construction of the mosque, many people converted into Muslims).

Various kinds of research have been made which tell us how important cultural heritage is for a society’s social and cultural development. Not only it has helped in sustainable development i.e., an increase in tourism and employment rate but it also gives the locals a sense of recognition and connection with another world. Cultural heritage helps labor makeup to 60-70% of conservation costs, increases tourism which lowers poverty, empowers youth women, and gives migrants a better lifestyle.

Preserving cultural heritage has never been a priority for the Pakistan government’s annual budget plan. Due to the high tourism potential in Pakistan, SPO under its Cultural Heritage Preservation and Tourism Programme has proposed some measures to increase the acceptance and conservation of cultural tourism in Pakistan. It aims to:

  • Spread knowledge among the people through conventional and digital means
  • Enhance the capacity of local communities to benefit economically through cultural tourism
  • Spread awareness among the local communities regarding its preservation and presentation
  • Sensitize communities on responsible tourism and provide easy access to cultural tourist sites and festivals

SPO in the past twenty years has gained a lot of experience and success in cultural tourism-based projects which include various exposure visits of youth to cultural and religious sites. It has also organized events in collaboration with the Pakistani government.

Pakistan requires vast financial and efficient management to run the engines of economic growth. Culture is considered a non-economic activity in Pakistan. Public financing for culture and tourism is considered a total waste. But in recent times, the provincial governments have started to realize the importance of cultural heritage in their respective domains. Punjab, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have concluded that their precious cultural heritage can contribute a lot to their economic and social development.

In Punjab, there are three government departments responsible for the protection and promotion of tourism:

  • Information and culture department
  • Tourism Department
  • Archeological Department

These three departments work on the protection of cultural heritage and employment generation by attracting people to their tourism sites. Punjab has recognized the economic worth of its culture and investing in it. But at the end of the day, all success can only be achieved by proper management and the functioning of government.

Right now, Sindh is way more active in heritage protection than any other province. It works on building cultural centers, libraries, museums, cultural research institutes, music academy, Buddha institutes, music academy, restoration of various cultural sites in Karachi, and other archeological sites of Sindh.  Mohan-Jo Daro and Makli Hills were allocated funds protects by the government. But still there is a need of highly effective management structure to implement more sustainable management reforms for cultural heritage protection.

In 2014, the KPK government approved a five-year Integrated Development Strategy in which government had prioritized development of tourism sector. The IDS document also declares that 19 per cent of tourist traffic is catered by KPK. The total economic value of domestic tourism in KPK is RS. 12 billion per annum. IDS focused on increasing KPK’s domestic tourism by 10 per cent every year, on conserving the archaeological sites and to attract tourists by improving hotel and other accommodation facilities.

Almost Rs.100 billion set aside for the conservation purpose of province’s cultural sites. Like other provinces, KPK also needs good governance for its tourism development.

The Baluchistan government also allocated almost Rs 27.9 million for new projects on heritage protection. But not much details about these projects were announced to the public.

Pakistan needs massive financial resources, administrative capacity and effective governance to protect and promote its cultural heritage which is also going to help in economic growth.  Despite the fact that the provinces mentioned above have contributed a lot in its favor but still there are many more measure that need to be taken as Pakistan is a country rich in culture and it’s a vital part of our identity. Cultural heritage has the potential of becoming the leading sector to generate our economic growth by remaining consistent and improving management of the tourism department.

Yousma Qayyum

The author is student of BS Economics in NDU

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