I asked a friend’s uncle, who is fairly active in local politics in Sindh, to ask around about the Makli business.
He was in Thatta last Sunday and had the opportunity to talk to people on both sides of the issue.
Palejo recently built something like a dyke to protect his land during heavy rainfall. Dr. Awab reported on his blog (see link above) that it was a drain. In any case, some kind of earthen construction that seems to have upped the ante – allegedly by damaging some of the artefacts in the Makli cemetry and possibly also by more clearly defining the extent of Palejo’s land claim.
Palejo questions why only he is being held accountable on the issue and claims that it is no more than blackmail. In fact, he has sued Sindh TV (a private channel) and claimed that various journalists have tried to blackmail him on this issue. My interlocutor reminded me at this point that while the policeman was able to extort money from pretty much anyone in Pakistan, journalists as a body are the only segment who actually blackmail policemen, and that too on a regular basis – hence lending a general sort of credence to Palejo’s claim.
It seems to be general knowledge that many other sites of historical interest have been damaged/violated through similar allotments.
Apparently, however, the Sindh Archives/Culture/Arhaeology people have said that the land belongs to the Palejo family, while the nationalist people feel that all such allotments, infringing on historical sites, are illegal.
The problem is that Sassi Palejo (a close relative of Ghulam Qadir’s) is the Sindh Culture Minister and may have leaned on her ministry/department to issue a statement favourable to her family’s interests.
The solution seems to lie in a full review of all historical sites in Sindh, investigation of all claims of expropriation/squatting and fair judgments in each case.