SWABI, March 19: The government has been requested to take extraordinary steps to protect the rich archaeological sites of Aziz Dheri from illegal excavation by the smuggler mafia.

Prof Dr Naeem Qazi of department of archaeology and museums, Peshawar, told reporters here on Tuesday that the department of archaeology and museums in cooperation with the University of Peshawar had initiated excavation at Aziz Dheri in January succeeding in discovering the 1,700 years old stupa from the site. He said the excavation was still going on.

He said red paint over the stupa was still clearly visible, making its originality and importance for archeological experts very clear and attractive.

Expressing concern over lack of security at archaeological sites, he said in 2010 about a dozen stupas had illegally been excavated only from Aziz Dheri site by unidentified smugglers. “If the government failed to protect Aziz Dheri the smugglers mafia would strike again. We have been advocating for its protection due to its great historical importance worldwide,” he maintained.

“After we stop excavating at the Aziz Dheri site it would again be vulnerable to smuggler mafia as there are just two watchmen to protect the site,” he said.

Mr Qazi called for more excavations to discover more important archaeological materials and secure the same for the future generations. “It was Sir Johan Marshal of Great Britain who recovered the first stupa from Taxila during the British colonial rule between 1913 and 1931. It was a turning point for the archaeological researchers who gave great importance to the areas of the Gandhara civilisation,” he said.

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