Thursday 18 February 2010

Archaeological Collectables Smuggled from Pakistan

Two years ago, a shipment of 198 antiquities smuggled from Pakistan was seized by Customs officers at London's Heathrow Airport and they have just been handed over to Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Britain at a ceremony in London ("PM directs ministry to bring back country’s antiquities" Islamabad/Karachi Business Day February 17th, 2010 ). The assemblage had been smuggled out via Dubai in a shipment labelled ‘normal pottery’ with a falsified estimate of only one hundred dollars. In fact, the shipment contained 198 pieces of ancient pottery and fragments with an estimated value of 148,800 dollars.

Another shipment of 96 smuggled antiquities of Pakistani origin was seized by Italian police and has been handed over to the Pakistan Embassy in Rome. This mostly include prehistoric pottery from Central and Southern Balochistan, and others from the Indus Valley region. The material was spotted at a 2005 antiques fair in Italy.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has directed the Culture Ministry to send a two-member technical delegation to make necessary arrangements for the transfer of the confiscated antiquities from Italy and the United Kingdom. "Such returns represent a major victory in the battle against modern day smugglers of antiquities, although efforts must also be made to track down the chain of culprits involved to stop such crimes " , officials said on Wednesday.

Recently, the Culture Ministry also informed the National Assembly that the customs authorities had detained 500 ancient coins and 30 pieces of pottery at the Islamabad International Airport, which were being smuggled out to foreign buyers.

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