The missing cruciform casket.
The missing cruciform casket.

PESHAWAR: A rare cruciform relic casket of Gandhara civilisation was reported missing from the reserve collection of Sir Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum Museum at University of Peshawar about six months ago.

However, the administration of the university is dilly-dallying to hold a probe into the matter and take necessary legal action.

The relic casket was rare and excavated by famous archaeologist late Prof AH Dani from the archaeological site of Sheikhan Dheri in Charsadda in 1962. It was highlighted in exhibition catalogue in 2008. It was even taken for display in Bonn, Paris and Zurich in 2010.

In early December last year, an assistant curator initially reported a cruciform relic casket and an oil lamp, both pieces of Gandhara art, missing from the reserve collection at the museum.

No action taken against people responsible for taking care of artifacts at UoP museum

In January, once again after search when it was ascertained that the relic was missing, Dr Zakirullah Jan, the curator of the museum, informed Dr Mukhtar Durrani, the chairman of archaeology department, about it.

The chairman formed a committee comprising archaeologists, who after various visits conducted a thorough probe. The committee also came to know about a fire incident and whitewash activities that took place last year, rising suspicions that the object was misplaced during these activities.

“I had formed a probe committee comprising experts. They proved that the relic was missing. I still don’t know why an FIR was not registered against those, who showed negligence, instead another probe committee was set up recently,” said Dr Mukhatr Durrani.

He also sounded angry at UoP administration for not keeping him in loop while another probe committee was constituted and the first probe findings were brushed aside.

“I fear the second probe committee is to protect somebody. Whom? I don’t know,” alleged the chairman of archaeology department.

He said that he had reason to believe so because he was asked to stay away from the matter and told that the museum was not under the archaeology department at UoP.

Dr Mukhatr Durrani said that action should have been taken in the light of the previous probe committee. Everything was done in a haphazard manner, he added.

He insisted that an FIR should have been lodged and the museum should have been sealed once it was established that a relic was missing after the committee’s report.

He said that the committee did not name anyone but those taking care of the objects should be held responsible for the negligence.

The UoP administration was contacted to get its views on the issue of the missing relic but to no avail.

“Now they are saying that oil lamp, a small one, was found lying somewhere but the relic casket is still missing,” said Dr Mukhtar Durrani. He added that he would not be surprised if the casket was replaced with a ‘fake one’ to save someone’s skin. However, he said that he would not let such a forgery take place.

Dr Zakiruall Jan, the curator of the museum, when contacted, simply said that re-verification of the objects was going on at the moment and they were unable to locate the relic casket.

“I was the one, who reported it missing. There are other staff members too who were responsible to take care of the collection,” said Dr Zakirullah Jan, who has been working as curator for about a year.

He said that he wanted to verify the artifacts after a fire incident and white wash took place last year and so far there was problem in re-verifying the relic casket.

He said that the basement was full of artifacts. Some were dumped there so they were verifying objects in the basement reserve collection, he added.

“I was the one who reported it missing and called for an inquiry. I won’t call it missing or stolen. We are just having trouble finding it at the moment,” said Dr Zakirullah Jan. He added that an inquiry committee was set up to probe everyone responsible to take care of the artifacts but he knew neither about the findings of the previous committee nor members of the new one.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2017

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