Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pakistani Looters Busted (For Now)

Pakistan police foil huge artefact smuggling attempt
By Jaffer Rizvi, BBC News
6 July 2012
Last updated at 10:32 ET

Photo from Art Daily's report on the bust. 

An attempt to smuggle ancient artefacts, possibly worth millions of dollars, out of the Pakistani port city of Karachi has been foiled, police say.

A top archaeologist has said the goods are at least 2,000 years old and were illegally excavated. Police have called in experts to help assess their value.

Two men caught trying to ship the items have been arrested, police say.

Karachi is often used by smugglers who can get criminal support to take valuable antiquities out of country.

Customs officers in 2005 foiled a similar attempt to smuggle nearly 1,500 artefacts worth more than $10m (£6.4m) out of Pakistan.

Some of the antiquities found in a container marked "furniture" at that time were 7,000 years old, archaeologists said.

'So heavy'
Police Deputy Superintendent Majeed Abbas told the BBC that police conducted the raid in the eastern part of Karachi in the early hours of Friday morning.

The artefacts are thought to have come from the kingdom of Gandhara, which spanned northern Pakistan and parts of eastern Afghanistan.

"These artefacts were loaded in a container... and were so heavy," Mr Abbas said.  "We had to call specific machines and a forklift truck to download them carefully."

Mr Abbas said that the two men arrested told police that the artefacts were brought to Karachi six months ago for a sales deal.

The deal was cancelled and the men told the police they then tried to take the antiquities to Rawalpindi.

"But the papers we've recovered from the vehicle show a different destination. [They suggest that] the vehicle was on its way to Sialkot City of Punjab province, probably for another deal," Mr Abbas said.

"We have a hunch that they were about to deliver it to some buyers on their way," he said.

Meanwhile leading archaeologist Qasim Ali Qasim told Geo TV that the relics were mostly Gandharan art, found in an area near Peshawar.

He said that most of the items depict the early life of Buddha, which added to their value.


And now a fight is on over ownership of these priceless precious objects:

From the Pakistan Daily Times
Sunday, July 08, 2012

* KP authorities demand possession

* Archaeologists say Sindh also has such relics civilization

By Razzak Abro

KARACHI: Antiquities authorities of Sindh on Saturday remained engage in examination and documentation of the antiquities recovered by Karachi police from Landhi.

The final possession of recovered antiquities may cause a row between Sindh and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa governments as both are claiming the property.

According to Additional Secretary of Culture Department Sindh, Ashfaq Hussain Mausvi, examination of some 180 objects had been done. He said that there were remaining four to five packets which were being examined. He said that the antiquities officials were also making documentation of the objects. Police had recovered antiquities, including ancient idols and statues of Gandhara Civilization, in a raid on container in Landhi which were being transported to Sialkot. According to antiquities department authorities, these antiquities were also brought from Sialkot to finalise custom formalities.

The Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa’s (KP) Culture Minister Syed Aqil Shah told local reporters that his government would formally approach Sindh government authorities for seeking possession of the impounded antiquities. He said that his province had remained centre of the Gandhara Civilization in the country, therefore, those antiquities, would be kept there.

However, the Sindh government authorities as well as archeologists of the province were opposing the demand. Additional Secretary Culture, Ashfaq Mausvi, said that the remains of the Gandhara Civilization were also found in Khirthar range and other parts of the province. However, he added, court would decide the matter. Renowned archeologist, Ishtiaq Ansari, said Sindh had also remained part of the Gandhara Civilization, and human ashes of Gautama Buddha, founder of Buddhism are buried in Kahu Jo Daro, Mirpurkhas. [Are they sure those ashes are still there???] He said that the history shows that Gautama Buddha’s human ashes were initially sent to some eight countries, and later to 84 countries, and the Sindh was also among those areas.

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