KARACHI, July 20: The illegally excavated Gandhara-era artefacts recovered by police in Karachi on July 6 are dumped in a compound of a police station in Landhi and so carelessly guarded that anyone can easily walk away with them.
A man who approached this reporter on Friday and wished to remain anonymous was able to remove — unnoticed and unchecked — the head of a statue from among the large number of 2,000-year-old relics.
He allowed the piece to be photographed but took it away with him, saying he could have removed other artefacts as well if they had not been too heavy for him to carry.
The head, part of a large statue of the Buddha made of heavy stone, had broken off when police failed to handle the item safely and was lying among other broken pieces when it was easily lifted and taken away. No one was present to ask any questions.
“Yes, it’s possible,” replied Qasim Ali Qasim, director of the Sindh archaeology department when informed that a piece of a statue had been removed from the police station.
He said the department had prepared an inventory that listed 395 artefacts.
“We have photographed them as well and when we take possession we will hold police responsible for any missing item.”
Mr Qasim did not appear to be satisfied with arrangements at the police station.
He said untrained people had been handling and examining the items which were lying in the open.
The Buddhist relics were discovered and seized by police earlier this month when they were searching a suspicious container mounted on a trailer in Landhi.
On further investigation and after the arrested driver and cleaner of the trailer provided information more relics were found in a godown in Korangi.
They were moved to the Awami Colony police station where, according to our visitor, they were lying haphazardly out in the open.
While unloading the pieces, police threw them down from containers from a considerable height. It was only after the intervention of some officials that two mechanical lifters were used.
There are reports that three statues have gone missing from the police station, but there has been no official confirmation.
As far as the authenticity of the relics is concerned, Mr Qasim explained that they could not be examined at the police station.
“We don’t have many working hands,” he said, adding that the antiquities can only be examined once handed over to a museum.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had said it would be sending a team to examine the artefacts, while some experts were being commissioned by the Sindh government to assess their authenticity.
So far nothing has emerged about the findings of either province.