PESHAWAR, July 7: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Archaeology Department is sending a team of experts to Karachi for examination of Gandhara civilisation artefacts and relics, which were seized there on Friday.
Director Museums Dr Shah Nazar told Dawn on Saturday that a five-member team led by Prof. Farid Khan would proceed to Karachi on Monday for physical verification and examination of the seized archaeological objects.
Other members of the team included Peshawar Museum curator Nidaullah Sehrai, Dr Samad of Hazara University and Mohammad Fawad from University of Peshawar. The team was constituted in Peshawar on Saturday.
“These people are archaeologists and expert on Gandhara,” said Dr Nazar, adding that the team would cooperate with the Sindh Archaeology Department in verification of the artefacts.
Police recovered a huge consignment of artefacts dating back to Gandhara period from a container and arrested two people. The director said that the team would also determine whether the recovered objects were original or fake. He said that only geologists could confirm originality of archaeological objects made of stone.
Soon after the seizure of relics and artefacts Provincial Minister for Tourism and Archaeology Syed Aqil Shah demanded return of the objects to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He stated that Gandhara civilisation belonged to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and under the existing law seized objects should be returned to its place of origin. He said that these pieces would be displayed at Peshawar and Swat museums.
Dr Nazar said that the seized items were now case property and after decision by the court the provincial government would ask for the return of these objects to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “Once the court decides the case the provincial directorate will take up the issue with the concerned quarters for handing over these objects to the province,” he said.
However, sources in the federal archaeology department said it was not necessary that the seized objects belonged to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
A senior archaeologist said that Gandhara civilisation was spread over vast region, including parts of Afghanistan, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Taxila.
“The seized objects might have been excavated in Afghanistan or any other area,” said the archaeologist, adding that only experts could determine its place of origin. He said that federal Antiquity Act 1996 still existed and its ownership could generate controversy.
Officials in the provincial archeology department acknowledged large-scale illegal excavation of archaeological sites in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other parts of the region. They said that these objects might be excavated illegally from a site.
Dr Nazar, however, confirmed that so far there was no theft case reported from any of the museum in the province, therefore, it appeared that the seized artefacts might be outcome of illegal excavation.
“Of course, illegal excavation is taking place everywhere and archaeological objects are smuggled,” he said in reply to a question.
Sources said that even if the artefacts turned out to be fake it would require the relevant authorities to investigate the matter, as making fake artefacts was also a crime under the law.