After floods, Pakistan’s Mohenjo Daro becomes symbol of global warming threat to humanity’s cultural heritage

In this file photo taken on February 9, 2017 visitors walk through the UNESCO World Heritage archeological site of Mohenjo Daro some 425 kms north of the Pakistani city of Karachi. (AFP)
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Updated 18 November 2022

After floods, Pakistan’s Mohenjo Daro becomes symbol of global warming threat to humanity’s cultural heritage

  • Built around 3000 BC by Indus civilization, Mohenjo Daro was not swept away by the floods, thanks to the genius of its designers
  • Perched high above Indus river, city was equipped with primitive drainage system and sewers so floodwaters could be evacuated

PARIS: One of the world’s first cities came close to being wiped off the map during tragic floods this summer in Pakistan. Though Mohenjo Daro survived, it has become a symbol of the threat global warming poses to humanity’s cultural heritage.

Built in around 3000 BC by the Indus civilization in modern-day South Asia, Mohenjo Daro was not swept away by the floods, most likely thanks to the genius of its designers.

Perched high above the Indus river, the city was equipped with a primitive drainage system and sewers, meaning much of the floodwaters could be evacuated.
Nearly 1,600 Pakistanis died in the floods and 33 million others were affected in a disaster “probably” made worse by global warming, according to World Weather Attribution, a network of researchers.

The ancient metropolis “could have disappeared with all the archaeological traces” it contains, said Lazare Eloundou Assamo, the director of the World Heritage program at UN agency UNESCO.

The Pakistani site was “a victim” of climate change and was “very lucky” to still be around, exactly 100 years since it was first discovered in 1922, Assamo said.

Fortunately, “the situation is not catastrophic” in Mohenjo Daro, said Thierry Joffroy, a specialist in brick architecture who visited the site on behalf of UNESCO.

Despite ground sinking in some areas and water damage to some structures, the site “can be repaired,” Joffroy said.

For 50 years, Paris-based UNESCO has compiled a list of World Heritage sites, significant places that are deemed worthy of protection, and is marking the milestone this week in Greece.

“To protect this heritage ourselves... is to confront the consequences of climate disruption and the loss of biodiversity. It’s the main threat... that we assess in a tangible way,” UNESCO director Audrey Azoulay told the conference in Delphi on Thursday.




In this photograph taken on February 9, 2017, a visitor takes a photograph beside of replica of a statue of King Priest discovered at the UNESCO World Heritage archeological site of Mohenjo Daro some 425 kms north of the Pakistani city of Karachi. (AFP)

Of its 1,154 World Heritage sites, “one site in five, and more than a third of natural sites, already see this threat as a reality,” she said.

“We are experiencing many more incidents of floods, hurricanes, cyclones, typhoons,” said Rohit Jigyasu of the International Center for the Study of the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM).

“We have these climate-related disasters, which are having a huge impact on sites, for example Mohenjo Daro,” he said.

Huge forest fires have scorched the Rocky Mountains in Canada, which are a world heritage site, and this year flames came within 15 kilometers (nine miles) of Delphi as heatwave intensify the severity of wildfires across the Mediterranean basin.




The Rocky Mountains in Colorado are seen in this aerial shot taken on January 27, 2017. (AFP/File)

In Peru, meanwhile, landslides occurred this year at the foot of Machu Picchu in the Andes mountains.

Other less noticeable changes can also have serious consequences.

In Australia, the protected Great Barrier Reef is experiencing bleaching episodes due to rising water temperatures.




This picture taken on March 7, 2022 shows the current condition of the coral on the Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of the Australian state of Queensland. (AFP)

In Ghana, erosion has washed away part of Fort Prinzenstein, which is conserved as a notable slave trading post.

“Slow factors” that do not have an immediate impact pose “new kinds of risks in many of these sites,” Jigyasu said.

These include invasions of wood-eating termites in areas that were previously either too dry or too cold for the insects to thrive.

In other countries, the drying out of soil due to declining rainfall can have a “destabilising” effect on some heritage sites, said Aline Magnien, director of the French state-funded Laboratory for Research on Historical Monuments.

Under drought conditions, “the soils contract and... make the foundations move,” then “swell suddenly when it rains,” which causes cracking, she said.
When parched and hard, they absorb less water, which promotes flooding.

“We may have certain heritage sites that we will not be able to save, that we will not be able to transmit, which will perhaps be doomed to disappear,” said Ann Bourges, a researcher from the French culture ministry.

“It’s not just the heritage that is affected when you lose part of it, but all the social system around it,” added Bourges, who is also secretary general of the International Council of Monuments and Sites (Icomos), an NGO.

In Mongolia, archaeological sites have been abandoned then looted because “the population no longer had access to water,” Jigyasu added.

Expected water shortages in the future could also lead to an increase of conflicts in which important heritage sites might be lost.


Pakistan central bank to set up special wing to ensure Shariah-compliant banking — finance minister

Updated 8 sec ago

Pakistan central bank to set up special wing to ensure Shariah-compliant banking — finance minister

  • Federal Shariat Court gave a five-year deadline to the government to Islamize the country’s financial system
  • Religious scholars call for practical steps to transform Pakistan’s banking system under the court’s verdict

KARACHI: Pakistan’s finance minister Ishaq Dar said on Wednesday a dedicated wing would soon be established at the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to ensure the country’s transformation into an interest-free economy to comply with a ruling of the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) earlier this year.

The FSC directed the government in April to eliminate riba, or interest, within five years while pointing out its prohibition was absolute in all forms and manifestations in Islam.

The finance minister said his government was committed to transforming Pakistan’s banking system by December 2027, adding it would up the special wing at the SBP to expedite the process.

“A wing would be formed at the SBP and I will notify the formation of wing within a week,” Dar said while addressing at a seminar on the prohibition of riba in Karachi.

“We can’t establish a ministry [to oversee the economic transformation] which is also not needed,” he continued while emphasizing that the role of the central bank was “pivotal” in Islamizing the banking system of the country.

Referring to the deadline set by the court, the finance minister said the conversion of the banking system was doable within five years.

“This is not the work that can’t be done in five years,” he said while asking the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) along with the central bank to diligently work on the project.

“A base has already been established as the share of Islamic banking in terms of the overall assets and deposits has surged by 20 percent and 21 percent, respectively, of the overall banking sector,” he added.

The finance minister noted that significant progress had been made in relation to the Islamization of Pakistan’s banking system during his government’s previous tenure, adding that things came to a halt due to political instability in the country.

“Today the financial share of the Islamic banks would have been 40 percent instead of 20 percent,” he said.

Earlier, the SBP governor, Jameel Ahmad, noted the demand for Islamic banking services was far greater than the conventional ones. He added the central bank was therefore taking more “measures to meet the growing demand.”

“We have already commenced work on a transformation plan to shift to Islamic banking,” Ahmed said.

He informed a high-level working group of officials from the SBP, SECP and finance ministry had been formed and activated which was responsible for developing Sukuk structures.

Ahmed said that Pakistan currently had five full-fledged Islamic banks offering a wide range of products and their annual growth rate over the last five years in terms of their assets and deposits had been 25 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

This, he noted, was far higher than most conventional banks.

Speaking at the seminar, Mufti Taqi Usmani, a prominent Islamic scholar, appreciated the government’s decision to withdraw appeals against the FSC decision which had earlier been filed in the Supreme Court.

Usmani asked the finance ministry to take practical steps to move toward an interest-free system in the country while pointing out that some private banks had yet not withdrawn their petitions against the FSC ruling.

Political and religious leaders, including Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam, and Siraj-ul-Haq, emir of Jamaat-e-Islami party, also participated in the seminar.


Pakistan PM meets new army chief, lauds military's professional abilities

Updated 30 November 2022

Pakistan PM meets new army chief, lauds military's professional abilities

  • Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tells General Asim Munir it is a huge honor to lead the Pakistan Army
  • The PM hopes the armed forces will protect the country’s security better under its new leadership

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif praised the military’s professional abilities while holding a meeting with the new army chief Syed Asim Munir on Wednesday, saying it was a huge honor for anyone to lead the armed forces of Pakistan which were tirelessly working for the country’s security.

This was Munir’s first meeting with the prime minister after taking over the army’s command in a ceremony held at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Tuesday. He replaced General Qamar Javed Bajwa who retired from the post after leading the army for six years.

“We have full confidence in the professional capabilities of the Pakistan Army,” the prime minister was quoted as saying in a statement released by his office after the meeting.

“It is a great honor to lead the Pakistan Army,” he said while addressing the top general. “It is hoped that the armed forces under your leadership will deal with the challenges facing the country’s security in a better way.”

Sharif congratulated Munir on taking charge of his new position.

He maintained the whole nation was proud of the army’s role in protecting the frontiers of the country and fighting violent extremism and militancy.

The army has ruled Pakistan for almost half of its 75-year history, either through coups or as an invisible guiding hand in politics.

Munir’s appointment coincides with a dispute between the army and former premier Imran Khan, who blames top military generals for playing a part in his ouster in a parliamentary no-trust vote earlier this year.

Khan also expressed hope earlier in the day the new military leadership would end the “prevailing trust deficit” between the army and the public.

The PM Office said in its statement Sharif’s meeting with the army chief focused on professional issues related to the country’s defense and security.

Munir also met President Arif Alvi during the day.

In a separate meeting, Alvi discussed defense related matters with the new Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Sahir Shamshad Mirza.

Pakistan President Dr Arif Alvi (right) meets army chief Syed Asim Munir in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 30, 2022. (PID)

 


Gas blast at Pakistan coal mine kills nine workers, injures four

Updated 30 November 2022

Gas blast at Pakistan coal mine kills nine workers, injures four

  • Coal deposits are found in the northwestern Orakzai district that sits on the Afghan border
  • Mine workers say lack of safety gear, poor working conditions are key causes of accidents

PESHAWAR: A gas blast at a coal mine killed nine workers in a northwestern Pakistani district on Wednesday, a government official said, and a team investigating the incident said gas sparks had caused the explosion.

There were 13 workers in the mine at the time and nine bodies were recovered, said Adnan Farid, the area deputy commissioner.

The remaining four miners were rescued from the rubble and have suffered critical injuries, he said.

A government team from the mineral development department inspected the site of the incident and said the explosion took place "due to gas sparks inside the mine," Orakzai district police chief Nazeer Khan told Reuters.

A government report seen by Reuters said the blast caused the collapse of the mine, and that gas build-up had triggered the blast. It didn't specify what type of gas it was.

Coal deposits are found in the northwestern Orakzai district that sits on the Afghan border and mine accidents are common, mainly due to gas build-ups.

Mine workers have complained that a lack of safety gear and poor working conditions are the key causes of frequent accidents, labor union officials have said in the past.


At exhibition celebrating UAE National Day, envoy says Pakistan ties ‘unique in region’

Updated 30 November 2022

At exhibition celebrating UAE National Day, envoy says Pakistan ties ‘unique in region’

  • The photo exhibition highlighted 51 years of friendship between the UAE and Pakistan
  • Al-Zaabi expressed optimism about the trajectory of relations between the two countries

ISLAMABAD: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Pakistan are destined to take their relations to new heights, said the envoy of the Arab country, Hamad Obaid Al-Zaabi, while visiting a photo exhibition in Islamabad on Wednesday.

The exhibition that highlighted 51 years of friendship between the two states is part of a string of events organized to celebrate the UAE national day that falls on December 2.

Students of Sheikh Zayed International Academy, Islamabad, sang the national anthem of the Arab country and performed traditional dance to celebrate the occasion.

“We are always optimistic about the future of bilateral relations with Pakistan and see this relation jump to a different level,” Al-Zaabi said while addressing the ceremony.

UAE Ambassador to Pakistan Hamad Obaid Al-Zaabi (3rd from left) inaugurates a photo exhibition in connection with the 51st UAE national day in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 30, 2022. (AN Photo)

He maintained the UAE national day was always a major occasion that meant a great deal to the citizens of his country. He also expressed his gratitude to all the students for participating in the program and making it memorable through their performance.

Al-Zaabi said Pakistan and the UAE enjoyed a strong and historic relationship which was spread over 51 years of shared cooperation.

“We always look at this relation as unique in the region,” he continued. “There are feelings of trust between the people and leaders of the two brotherly countries.”
The UAE envoy said his country looked to future generations through educational cooperation.

“Under Sheikh Zayed International Academy, students from different nationalities and cultures have come here to celebrate the UAE national day with our culture which is really important for all of us,” he added.

Students of Sheikh Zayed International Academy are performing to celebrate the 51st UAE national day in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 30, 2022. (AN Photo)

Speaking on the occasion, former president of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industries Sardar Yasir Ilyas said Pakistan could learn a great deal from the UAE, including how to strengthen its tourism industry.

“Tourism has made the UAE a hub of international attention and Pakistan should learn from [UAE’s] experience to tap its vast potential in this field,” he added.


Pakistan Navy seizes thousands of kilograms of drugs in Arabian Sea

Updated 30 November 2022

Pakistan Navy seizes thousands of kilograms of drugs in Arabian Sea

  • Pakistan is part of a transit route in the lucrative drug smuggling trade
  • Navy says its ships located and effectively intercepted two ‘suspicious’ dhows

KARACHI: In an operation in the North Arabian Sea, two Pakistan Navy ships seized approximately 5,800 kilograms of drugs valued at approximately Rs8.6 billion, a spokesperson for the navy said on Wednesday.

Pakistan, like India, is part of a transit route in the lucrative drug smuggling trade, due to its proximity to Afghanistan, the world’s largest producer of opium, from which heroin is made.

“Successful counter narcotics operation was conducted by two Pakistan Navy Ships in Arabian Sea in which a large cache of drugs has been apprehended,” the navy said in a statement.

“While conducting Maritime Security Operations in North Arabian Sea, Naval Ships located and effectively intercepted two suspicious dhows. Upon scrutiny of these boats, a large quantity of drugs that valued approximately Rs. 8.6 billion in international market was seized.”

The navy said both dhows have been handed over to law enforcement agencies. It did not specify what types of drugs were seized or how many people were arrested on board the two dhows.

“The successful operation by Pakistan Navy to seize huge quantity of narcotics reaffirms the resolve and commitment of PN to fulfill national and international obligations for maintaining good order at sea,” the statement said. “Pakistan Navy is vigilant to counter any illegal activity and safeguard its maritime borders.”

In October this year, Indian authorities arrested six Pakistani nationals and seized heroin worth tens of millions of dollars from a Pakistani fishing boat in the Arabian Sea near the western state of Gujarat.