Rock Art Parks in Karachi

Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro suggests that we take a leaf out of the Italian model for such sites

Rock Art Parks in Karachi
Based on research which I did for books on rock art – in the course of which I traversed the Khirthar, Bado, Bhit and Lakhi Hills in Sindh – I want to give the following policy recommendations  on how to convert rock art sites into “rock art parks”. I recommend that we should follow the Italian model of accomplishing this. The best examples are the rock art parks of Val Camonica in Italy. There are many other rock art parks (Naquane National Rock Art Park, Massi Di Cemmo National Park etc) which have a very positive impact on local economy of the valleys concerned.

Based on my research in Sindh-Kohistan which comprises three districts of Thatta, Jamshoro and Karachi, I suggest that rock art sites of Karachi only should be converted into rock art parks. All of these sites are easily accessible from Karachi city.

recommend that the following rock art sites in Karachi district can be converted into rock Art parks and should be labeled with their original names as:

1.) Thado Dam Rock Art Park

2.) Gidran Waro Gharoto Rock Art Park

3.) Lahut Tar Rock Art Park

4.) Maher Rock Art Park

The Thado Dam is the only tourist site for the local people who visit during the holidays and weekends. Many people from Karachi, Gadap and other areas visit Thado Dam during the holidays and weekends. People don’t know about the existence of a rock art site near the Thado Dam. This rock art site is located 300 m east and south-east of the Thado Dam. Once it is converted into a rock art park and later advertised as potential tourist destination, it could do wonders for the local economy. At an international level, rock art tourism will attract many Buddhists to visit not only a proposed Thado Dam Rock Art Park but also two other rock art parks. These are sites where vital Buddhist heritage in the form of stupa drawings can be found.

Rock Painting in Maher valley, Karachi

We know that Buddhist pilgrims and visitors frequently visit other sites in Pakistan particularly Taxila, Takht-i-Bahi and others. The sites mentioned in Sindh, given their proximity to Karachi, would be of great interest to them. The local people can provide accommodation to the tourists by opening guest houses, campsites and hotels. They can also start small restaurants on the route to rock art parks or near the tourist destinations themselves. This will further generate new opportunities and employment of all kinds – managers, receptionists and waiters etc. They can also participate in tour guiding and arrange cultural activities for the tourists. The locals in collaboration with non-locals can also manage or own the transport involved, for instance, taxi and bus services. I also believe that apart from direct participation of the local community, there are also other opportunities which arise indirectly, for instance food supply, handicrafts, gardening, security, conservation, construction and maintenance.

I also recommend that site conservationists should be involved to chalk out strategies to protect/conserve these sites as some of them are under threat from vicious land-grabbers. More and more housing schemes are devouring the cultural landscape, particularly of Karachi around Gadap – where the major rock art sites of Gidran Waro Gharato, Lahut Tar, Lahut Buthi and Thado Dam are located.

A number of rock paintings in Maher valley, Karachi

The Lahut Tar in Mol valley in Karachi district should also be protected from land-grabbers. Currently, stone-crushing activity is going on over there. It is feared that that we might lose this rock art site in the future if it is not protected in a timely manner. The authorities concerned should take concerted efforts to involve all the stakeholders including the local community, the owners of the housing schemes and civil society to develop a consensus about site protection.

Moreover, community ownership of all this is also a very important issue to be taken into consideration. Local people should be educated about the importance of rock art and other sites of cultural significance. I think that in order to create awareness and educate the community, fortnightly or monthly lectures about the importance of these sites should be delivered. After all, these are treasures left behind by the prehistoric and historic communities of Karachi in Sindh-Kohistan region of Sindh.

I further recommend that the pamphlets written in Sindhi, which is local language of the area, should be distributed frequently in the community.

The author is an anthropologist and teaches at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), Islamabad. He may be contacted at:

The author is an anthropologist. He tweets at: @Kalhorozulfiqar