More on Pakistan police foil huge artefact smuggling attempt

A day after seizing dozens of third century Buddhist artefacts from a container truck, the police found more such figurines stuffed away in a warehouse in the Ibrahim Hyderi area, Korangi. 

A policeman looks at a sculpture found from warehouse [Credit: Athar Khan/Express]
The police said that they were able to recover some more Gandhara relics on information provided by the arrested driver and cleaner of the truck. The artefacts seized on Friday morning were also stocked in the same warehouse and were loaded onto the truck. 

However, the sculptures recovered on Saturday could not be shifted to the police station as they were “too heavy”. The statues were stuffed in two large boxes and one of a smaller size. SP Latif Siddiqui told The Express Tribune that a mechanical lifter was called to shift the ancient artefacts to the police station. “[But] we had to call a crane later,” he said. So far, the police and heritage officials have counted about 200 artefacts from the batch seized from the truck while some more remain to be recorded. “The newly recovered artefacts will be counted at the police station,” the police officer said, suspecting that the total count may exceed 300. 

A case has been registered against the driver and cleaner of the seized container truck. The FIR also includes the names of the truck’s owners, Asif Butt and Atif Butt. The arrested suspects appeared in court on Saturday, where the judge remanded them in police custody until July 11. 

Experts’ job 

After a number of Gandhara relics seized on Friday were damaged courtesy the careless handling of police officers and labourers, archaeological experts arrived to take care of the artefacts. 

On Saturday, they carefully unpacked and recorded the details of the third century relics at Korangi’s Awami Colony police station. 

National Museum’s director, Mohammad Shah Bokhari, told The Express Tribune that 80 Gandhara artefacts seized from the truck have had their details recorded so far. He said that the process of unpacking them was still ongoing as this is time consuming. “We are handling [the relics] with care since pieces were broken during offloading,” he said. 

Bokhari said that the artefacts were around 1,500 to 2,000 years old. “Many of the relics narrate pictorial stories of different phases from Gautama Buddha’s life.” 

The director said that the artefacts looked like they had been packed several years ago. “We believe that they were excavated from the northern areas, but can’t tell the exact location for sure.” The biggest statue in the haul was of Buddha meditating with his devotees. The sculpture is 94 inches long and 70 inches wide. 

According to Qasim Ali Qasim, the archaeology and museums department director, some of the artefacts were damaged slightly due to mishandling. “It is nothing to worry about as these are repairable,” he said. “The statues’ worth and other things would become clear after they are handed over to the archaeology department.” 

Author: Rabia Ali | Source: The Express Tribune [July 08, 2012]

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