By Barrister Arslan Raja
MY Lordship, I admire your interests in the matters of public importance, hence I write as a “whistleblower” in terms of 2012 SCMR 6 Supreme Court & PLD 2012 Supreme Court 292, to bring into your kind notice, continuous sheer corrupt practices being uninterruptedly done by the high officials of the Culture, Tourism and Antiques Department of Sindh Government.
In an open letter to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Barrister Arslan Raja has sought the apex court’s attention towards sheer corrupt practices in the Culture, Tourism and Antiques Department of Sindh.
My Lord, Moenjo-Daro, Umerkot Fort, Makli Graveyards, Bhanbhore are the important archaeological heritage sites in the Sindh, which are considered as “Protected Heritage Sites” in terms of the Sindh Cultural Heritage (Preservation) Act 1994, nevertheless these archaeological heritage sites are currently threatened by the continuous corrupt practices being done by the high officials of Culture, Tourism and Antiques Department of Sindh Government.
Several news reports by different media channels have identified and highlighted that the senior officials of (CTAD) have unlawfully released billions of rupees “development funds” to their blue-eyed contractors, for the development, growth and expansion of the aforesaid heritage sites, however, no such work was carried out, in fact nothing was done at all. My Lord, the reports further highlighted that the high officials of (CTAD) are involved in absolute dishonest and corrupt practices by way of kickbacks, bribe and pure embezzlement, thereby not only causing a loss to the international archaeological heritage sites in the province but also causing a huge loss to the public exchequer.
It is pertinent to mention that the Planning & Development Department Monitoring & Evaluation Cell, vide letter number 74/LRK/SMO/(MEC) P&D/176467(CI) dated 25TH April 2019, has declared the development on Moenjo-Daro as “Worst” despite the allocation of funds of billions of rupees.
The news report(s) further highlighted that the senior officials of CTAD are undoubtedly involved in billions of rupees corruption by way of kickbacks, bribe, and pure embezzlements. It is worth mentioning that numerous complaints have already been filed in the Provincial Anti-Corruption Department, however, the Department purposely failed to take any action, despite the evident reports from the Planning & Development Department Monitoring & Evaluation Cell.
It is appropriate to mention that Article 9 of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973 includes all those aspects of life, which made a person’s life meaningful, complete, and worth living, such as his tradition, culture and heritage. It is notable that the Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan in its recent judgment reported in 2018 SCMR 211 held that “the heritage had to be preserved and protected in all respects, all of its virtues, qualities, facets and characteristics were to be secured from all kinds of harm, including impairment of its visual integrity”. The Apex Court further held that “the statutory intent of protecting and preserving the heritage and avoiding any harm thereto was so strong and overwhelming that potential harm to the heritage could not be taken lightly.”
My Lord, this aforesaid corrupt practices by the high officials are not only a sheer violation of Prevention of Corruption Act 1947 & Sindh Cultural Heritage (Preservation) Act 1994 but also constitute an absolute infringement of the fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan in terms of Article 9 of the Constitution of Pakistan, hence this significant issue falls under the purview of “Public Importance” matter that has its repercussions on the Public-at-Large in which general interest of the citizens of Pakistan is directly concerned.
As a concerned citizen of Pakistan, I believe that it is my duty to bring this important issue into your kind notice. It is accordingly humbly requested to kindly take a suo motu notice or kindly order to form an impartial “Commission” or “Joint Investigation Team (JIT)” to initiate inquiry/investigation to protect the international heritage sites in Sindh and to further protect the public money to ensure that public exchequer is not deprived of amounts and to hold accountable the officials of Culture, Tourism And Antiques Department of Sindh Government involved in massive corruption and abuse of authority and office.
—The writer is a Barrister and practices law in Karachi.