Taxila-Demarcation of Buddhist stupa Dharmarajika detects that the path leading to the archaeological site had been encroached and a gate had been illegally affixed by a private land developer which obstructed access to the ancient monastery for local and foreign tourists, The Nation has learnt.

The report submitted by Commissioner Rawalpindi (copy of which is available with The Nation) reveals that according to the official land record verified by officials of the revenue department, the private land developer had encroached upon the land of Dharmarajika Stupa dated back to 3rd century B.C, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage and accredited for being one of the earliest Buddhist monuments, being one of the 8 largest Buddhist stupas in South Asia.

The Commissioner Rawalpindi in his report of June 24 revealed that ‘the private person has encroached upon the land owned by the federal government and has obstructed free access of the general public to the stupa by installing a gate.” The commissioner further states that the authorities might vacate the encroachment including removal of the gate installed illegally.

The survey was carried out following Lahore High Court directives issued to the Punjab government on a petition filed by two former military persons under Article 199 of Constitution invoking constitutional jurisdiction of court to bring to light a subject which has severely impacted heritage and historical sites affecting the entire people of Pakistan.

The two petitioners Major General (R) Saeed Ahmed Wala and Brig (R) Abdul Malik Khan argued that the path leading to Buddhist Stupa and Dharmarajika monastery comprising of khasara no 151 of revenue department is protected under the antiquities Act 1975 and keeping in view its international significance and importance, it should be protected being the enlistee of UNESCO World cultural heritage. They pleaded that blockade of access to the site amounted to an act against national and international rules which is sending a negative message to the world in general and to the Buddhist community in particular. The act is also bringing a bad name to our nation, they argued. The petitioners prayed that the land developer be ordered to restore the path to the site in its actual historical shape while requesting the civil administration to leave no stone un-turned in fulfilment of the task as soon as possible in order to avoid further damage to the reputation of Pakistan in the outside world community.

A team of revenue department and local administration led by the then Assistant Commissioner Waqas Aslam Marth had also carried out survey of the same area in March 2018.

The path leading to the Dharmarajika Stupa remains blocked for nearly 10 years as a private developer purchased land near the site and constructed a boundary wall that blocked access to the stupa.

According to officials of department of archaeology and museums, the stupa was one of eight shrines constructed in the 3rd century BC, during the reign of Maurya emperor Ashoka.