KARACHI: Not all Gandhara artefacts confiscated a few months ago in Karachi are counterfeit, a final report by the Archaeological Department of Sindh has concluded.
At least 161 items, out of 395, have been found to be genuine antiquities, some of them 2,000 years old, and are worth billions of rupees, the director of the department, Qasim Ali Qasim, told Dawn that 72 of the genuine antiquities were metal objects and the rest made of stone. About 234 other relics are counterfeit, but “still have an art value”, he said.
They are ‘case properties’ and until the case was decided by the court, they would remain with the Karachi museum, he added.
The genuine artefacts will be placed in the museum, while the fake ones will be ‘donated’ to smaller educational museums across the province because the “replicas, though fake, have been carved out with expertise nevertheless”. “We too make replicas for souvenir purposes,” Mr Qasim said.
However, the director was not sure about any item having been stolen from the Awami Colony police station. In fact if he were to be believed, no relic had been stolen.
According to a story carried by Dawn on July 20, a head hacked off one of the antiquities was still in possession of an individual, and not with police. And some sources said at least three items had gone missing from the police station.
Asked about reported theft of the head, the director said: “It is possible, but we have received all items as per our record.”
Whatever that means, it does not answer the question as to how the missing head and other items were accounted for.
SINDH-KP FRICTION: The artefacts caused friction between the Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments. The KPK government claimed the artefacts were its property as most of the historic Gandhara region lay within the province while the Sindh government contended that since the relics were recovered in its jurisdiction, it was the rightful owner.
A team of experts from the KPK also examined the artefacts and reportedly declared them all fake, but its report could not be substantiated by the Sindh government. The KPK government, however, has demanded return of the artefacts.
The Sindh government has refused to return them, saying there is no law to bolster the KP’s claim.
So far the place of excavation of the statues and other artefacts has not been determined. That’s for the police to investigate, Mr Qasim said.
Police have been interrogating the suspected smugglers from whose possession these relics had been recovered. They were arrested but released on bail.