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Visit of Member of US President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts (PACA) to Taxila

Islamabad, January 18, 2024, The Europe Today: On Tuesday, 16th January 2024, Mr. Zaildar Ahsan Shah, Managing Director Elaan Research Centre, hosted His Excellency, Shahid Ahmed Khan, member of US President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts (PACA) in Zaildar House Taxila.

H.E. Shahid Ahmed Khan, a Pakistani American community leader, political adviser, and businessman. He played an integral role in mobilizing and involving the South Asian-American community in the “Biden for President” campaign. His extensive experience in international affairs, with a specific focus on the Asian and Muslim world. His expertise centers on advancing U.S. values and principles through constructive community engagement with American-Muslim and South Asian communities.

H.E. Shahid Ahmed Khan served as a member of the Advisory Board of the Democratic National Committee and also as the National Finance Co-Chair for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. The Pakistani-American businessman has served as an advisor on presidential, gubernatorial, senatorial, congressional, mayoral, and judicial campaigns in the United States for the past twenty years.

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During his visit, Mr. Zaildar Ahsan Shah guided H.E. Shahid Ahmed Khan, on a tour of the ancient city of Taxila, showcasing its historical significance and highlighted the exquisite, Taxila Museum, Dharmarajika complex, and Gandhara Art Village, which are considered a true treasure of the region.

Taxila is an archaeological treasure trove, encompassing a Mesolithic cave and the archaeological remains of four ancient settlements, Buddhist monastic complexes, along with a Muslim mosque and madrassa.

Positioned strategically along a branch of the Silk Road that connected China with the Western world, Taxila experienced its zenith between the 1st and 5th centuries CE, solidifying its status as one of Asia’s most paramount archaeological sites. The combined archaeological sites of Saraikala, Dharmarajika, Bhir, Sirkap, and Sirsukh hold profound significance in tracing the development of urban centers in the Indian subcontinent.

During their visit, Mr. Zaildar Ahsan Shah, Mr. Ovais Ali Khokhar, CEO House of Elaan and Ovaisco Group, Mr. Khalid Taimur Akram Executive Director, Elaan Research Centre, Zaildar Zaheer Shah, Member of the advisory board reimagining Gandhara and Mr. Anjum Dara, Deputy Director Taxila museum, welcomed H.E Mr. Shahid Ahmed Khan at the Taxila museum—a repository teeming with the wealth of history and culture. Mr. Anjum Dara, gave briefing about the history and importance of Taxila museum. This museum proudly houses a remarkable assortment of artifacts and exhibitions that provide a captivating window into Taxila’s bygone eras and its pivotal role as a hub for education and culture. The museum stands as an enduring testament to Taxila’s legacy and its profound influence on the history and culture of the region.

The museum stands out for its comprehensive assortment of Gandhara art, covering the period from the 1st to the 7th centuries AD, predominantly sourced from the ancient Taxila ruins. Noteworthy are the well-preserved ancient stupas and historical landmarks in the immediate vicinity, providing visitors with an opportunity to delve into the rich cultural heritage. H.E Shahid Ahmed Khan also toured the museum, displaying a keen interest in the artifacts, statues of Buddha and disciples, as well as everyday items on display. He expressed deep admiration for the diverse range of artifacts and their meticulous conservation during the visit. During his visit, he also rang the ‘Peace Bell’ at the Taxila Museum, a symbolic gesture representing peace and goodwill.

Following this, their schedule included a visit to Gandhara Art Village, which opened its doors in the early months of 2023. On arrival of H.E. Shahid Ahmed Khan at Gandhara art village, Mr. Rafique Butt, Incharge Gandhara Art Village and Mr. Khurram Dar, Regional Director for Small Industries Cooperation Punjab, welcomed the honourable guest and brief about the art village. This art village serves as a vibrant embodiment of Taxila’s rich culture and the extraordinary craftsmanship that characterizes the city. Within its premises, visitors can be captivated by the exquisite handcrafted jewellery and pottery items, meticulously crafted from marble and stone.

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The Gandhara Art Village is a diverse establishment, encompassing workshops where these artistic masterpieces are brought to life. It also houses a modest medical clinic, addressing the healthcare needs of the local community. Additionally, there are accommodations in the form of hostels catering to travellers, and a dedicated gallery where these unique creations are prominently displayed for the delight of tourists. Mr. Zaildar Ahsan Shah articulated the gallery’s purpose as “celebrating and advocating for the city’s skilled artisans and their craft”.

Following the conclusion of their journey, the delegation received a lunch invitation from Zaildar Zaheer Shah, member of the advisory board reimagining Gandhara. The gathering included substantive conversations on history, culture, and art, with the participation of Mr. Shahid Ahmed Khan from the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts and Mr. Zaheer Shah. During the discussion, Mr. Zaheer Shah expressed his deep pride in serving as an ambassador for Gandhara on the global stage. He also conveyed immense satisfaction in hosting H.E Shahid Ahmed Khan in Taxila.

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Mr. Zaildar Ahsan Shah expressed his gratitude to the Shahid Ahmed Khan for his gracious acceptance of the invitation and for sparing time to visit. He highlighted H.E. Shahid Ahmed Khan’s active role in enhancing cultural ties between Pakistan and the United States. Mr. Zaildar Ahsan Shah expressed optimism that, in his capacity as the member of US President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts (PACA), H.E Shahid Ahmed Khan would work towards further strengthening and solidifying cultural relations between the two nations, fostering a more robust and enduring partnership in the realms of culture and arts. He hoped that H.E Shahid Ahmed Khan’s visit would pave the way for improved cultural relations between the United States and Pakistan. Mr. Zaildar Ahsan Shah remarked that the appointment of His Excellency Shahid Ahmed Khan as a member of the US President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts (PACA) is a source of pride for the Zaildar family and the cultural community of Pakistan. He went on to express a commitment to cooperate and exert efforts to foster cultural promotion and enhance mutual relations between both nations.

Mr. Ovais Ali Khokhar, Managing Director of Elaan Research Centre and CEO of House of Elaan and Ovaisco Group, expressed gratitude to H.E. Shahid Ahmed Khan for visiting Taxila. He emphasized that such visits contribute to the improvement of people-to-people connectivity through cultural exchange, ultimately leading to increased tourism.

Mr. Khalid Taimur Akram, the Executive Director of Elaan Research Centre, spoke highly of the visit by H.E. Shahid Ahmed Khan to Taxila. He stated that Shahid Ahmed Khan’s visit signifies an effort that will contribute to fortifying cultural and arts relations between Pakistan and the United States.

H.E. Shahid Ahmed Khan gratitude to the Zaildar family for the gracious invitation to Taxila and their warm hospitality during a delightful lunch. Mr. Shahid Ahmed Khan was pleasantly surprised by the vibrant cultural heritage of the city and deeply impressed by the Gandhara Art Village initiative. Acknowledging the Gandhara Art Village as a priceless asset to the city, they pledged to leverage their influence to promote and support it. Underlining the enduring and close relationship between Pakistan and the US, they applauded the dedicated efforts of Mr. Zaildar Ahsan Shah in fostering and strengthening this bond.

Mr. Shahid Ahmed Khan stated that his visit aimed to explore opportunities for enhancing ties in the realm of art and culture. He highlighted the longstanding and amicable relations between the two countries, spanning several decades, and emphasized the United States’ commitment to fortify cultural bonds. Mr. Khan also commended the remarkable collection at Taxila Museum and praised the dedicated efforts of the Directorate General of Archaeology, Punjab, in safeguarding the abundant cultural heritage. Furthermore, he expressed a keen interest in fostering the relationship between Pakistan and the US in the spheres of art and culture. The proposed establishment of a Pakistan-US cultural forum is expected to reinforce these cultural ties between the two nations.

The collaboration between the cultural communities of both nations will not only advance the arts and cultures of each side but also contribute to bolstering political and diplomatic relations. The creation of a Pakistan-US forum will additionally foster increased people-to-people connectivity between Pakistan and the United States.