Aerial view of the Gandhara archaeological site Sirkap and Wazir Khan Mosque preservation supported by the U.S. government; stone panel depicting palace life of Prince Siddhartha – 2nd/3rd Century Gandhara period returned to Pakistan by the United States.
Bilateral Cultural Property Agreement: On January 30, 2024, the United States and Pakistan signed a cultural property agreement to restrict the importation of certain archaeological objects belonging to Pakistan into the United States, and to facilitate the return of those objects. This agreement commits both parties to work together to counter theft and trafficking of cultural objects, promote a clean market for Pakistani art and antiquities in the United States, and increase opportunities for U.S. museums and the American public to learn about and experience Pakistan’s history and culture.
The United States currently has bilateral cultural property agreements with 31 countries around the world. Cultural property is a unique, nonrenewable resource that is important for learning about the diversity of human history and cultures. Common types of cultural property include archaeological artifacts, rare manuscripts, and objects used in ceremonies. These objects may be important for community identity and practices, recognized as part of a group’s cultural heritage, and protected by law or tradition.
U.S. Cultural Preservation Projects in Pakistan: Since 2001, the U.S. government has provided more than $8.4 million USD to support 35 cultural preservation projects in Pakistan. The projects range from U.S. Mission-initiated efforts – including the conservation of Sirkap and Takht-i-Bahi, and the restoration of Hazrat Shah Shams Tabraiz – to additional projects completed through the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, and academic and cultural partnerships. More information regarding U.S. government supported cultural preservation projects in Pakistan can be found here.
- U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation: In 2001, the U.S. Congress established the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP). This program supports projects to preserve a wide range of cultural heritage in less developed countries, including historic buildings, archaeological sites, ethnographic objects, painting, manuscripts, indigenous languages, and other forms of traditional cultural expression. Since the program’s inception, the United States has assisted in the preservation of more than 1,200 cultural heritage projects worldwide. AFCP-supported preservation efforts in Pakistan include Masjid Wazir Khan, Varun Dev Temple, Frere Hall, and the preservation of medieval manuscripts at the University of Peshawar.
- Academic and Cultural Partnerships: The United States supports the preservation of Pakistani cultural heritage through academic partnerships, including multiple Boston Architectural College-led projects that provided training on heritage conservation methods to researchers in Lahore and Baltistan. Cultural partnerships, such as the program between the Smithsonian and Lok Versa Museum, have led to joint research and efforts to catalog a number of cultural traditions, including Sikh heritage, through the digitalization of archives and creation of audio tours.