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Sindh's Culture Minister Sassui Palijo examines the artefacts at the National Museum in Karachi. – Photo by INP

KARACHI, Aug 7: Archaeological experts will start examining over 395 artefacts seized from smugglers last month within a couple of days to find if they are original or counterfeit, said Sindh Culture Minister Sassui Palijo on Tuesday afternoon.

Speaking at a press briefing at the National Museum, she said that once the experts confirmed that the artefacts, most of which appeared to be 1500 to 2000 years old, were not fake they would be put on display at the Gandhara Gallery in the museum.

She added that a catalogue regarding the artefacts mostly belonging to Gandhara civilisation would also be published.

Out of the 395 artefacts, around 300 are said to belong to Gandhara civilisation. While a majority of them were made from stone, a few were made from stucco and the remaining artefacts are metallic. Some of them are said to belong to the late Mughal period.

The team of archaeological department experts that will examine these artefacts is led by Qasim Ali Qasim. It includes Ejaz Illahi and Mohammad Shah Bokhari. Besides, an expert based in Moenjodaro might also be called to join in.

The whole process is expected to be completed within a few weeks.

A large number of archaeological sites had been handed over to the provinces under the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, she said.

However, she said, there was a shortage of technically-qualified staffers and efforts were being made to strengthen the culture department by getting more funding and capacity building of the staffers.

She said that efforts were also being made for provincial legislation on the pattern of Antiquities Act 1975, which was a federal law, following the devolution of archaeological sites control from the federal government to the provinces.

Later, the minister showed to the media some of the huge artefacts being kept outside the museum building.

Many of them were wrapped in paper and kept in big wooden boxes. It would be difficult to move the huge artefacts into the building and shift them to the first floor, where the Gandhara gallery is located, without their being damaged.

Some artefacts were damaged last month when policemen threw the boxes to the ground while unloading them from a container-mounted articulated truck at the Awami Colony police station. The 40-foot-long vehicle was transporting these artefacts from Karachi to Punjab when the police acting on a tip-off stopped it, confiscated the container and arrested a driver and a cleaner.

Some artefacts were reportedly stolen from the police station also. The case is being tried in a court.

The minister said that the department approached the court requesting that the precious artefacts be handed over to the National Museum for safe keeping and display till the case was decided. The plea was accepted and the court ordered the shifting of the artefacts from the police station to the museum, she added.

She said that the department also wanted to join the investigations so that the trail could be tracked to the real crooks and they be caught.