PHC ordered to stop mining near archaeological sites

Peshawar: The Peshawar High Court on Thursday ordered the mining department to immediately end mining and stone crushing activities near archaeological sites in the province and warned non-compliance officials of criminal action.

During the hearing of the case, a bench of Chief Justice Kaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Ishtiaq Ibrahim appointed Director (Archaeology and Museums) Dr Abdul Samad as the focal person to check the compliance of the orders and submit a report to him regarding the same. instructed to do. After visiting the Tarali heritage site at Mardan, the Rani Gatta area in Buner, and archaeological sites in Barikot and other areas on 15 December.

The Chief Justice expressed concern over the functioning of stone crushing units near archaeological sites in the state and warned that if those activities were not stopped, the court would order registration of an FIR against the authorities concerned for legal action.

The bench also directed the Deputy Commissioners of the respective districts to conduct a probe into mining and crushing near those sites.

Warning of criminal action to non-compliance officers

It asked the officials of the departments concerned whether the country was made to set up stone crushing plants near heritage sites.

The Chief Justice had taken cognizance of the issue a few weeks back and summoned the concerned authorities for their views on the matter.

Abdul Samad, Additional Advocate General Sardar Ali Raza, Director General (Mines and Minerals) and other concerned officers appeared in the court.

The Director (Archaeology) told the bench that the age-old Tarali archaeological site was discovered near Savaldhar village in Mardan in 1994 and was the fourth major Buddhist site here.

He said mining activities were taking place in the surrounding areas threatening the site.

The bench wondered what the departments concerned were doing since the excavation of the site in 1994. It asked the officials who had given permission for mining near the site.

Dr Samad said that letters were sent to the concerned authorities to investigate the mining near the site. He said the structural remains of the archaeological site were fragile and vulnerable to crushing and similar activities.

The Director stated that the crushing plants were extremely dangerous and damaged the sites.

The bench wondered as to how the mining department can lease out the areas for the purpose of mining once the archaeological remains are found.

The bench directed Dr Samad not to spare anyone involved in activities under the law.

The Director General (Mining) said that as per the earlier order of the court, mining activities have been stopped near most of the sites.

He said that when such activities were brought to the notice of the department, action was taken.

The DG said that the permission for setting up the crushing plant was given by the Industries Department and not the Mining Department.

The Chief Justice observed that the court had reports which showed that mining and crushing was still going on near the archaeological sites.

The bench said that after receiving the report from the Director (Archaeology), action will be taken against all those responsible for such acts.

Published in Dawn, November 26, 2021