KARACHI: Provincial authorities have appealed to the Sindh High Court (SHC) to order the federal national heritage department to retrieve from India a prized relic from ancient Moen Jo Daro.
The request for the bronze statue of the Dancing Girl came during the hearing of a petition filed by a group of Sindhi lawyers. The provincial advocate-general surprised all by adopting the petition’s contents.
AG Zamir Ghumro even adopted the request made by the petitioners, who had sought direction for the federal government to ensure the return of the Dancing Girl from India via diplomatic channels.
A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Munib Akhtar, directed the federal government to file a detailed reply to the petition by March 3.
Filing the petition last year, the petitioners had named the federal ministry of information, broadcasting and national heritage, the director-general of the federal archaeology department, the provincial chief secretary and the secretary of the culture and heritage department as respondents.
According to the lawyers’ group’s vice-chairperson, Advocate Masood A Noorani, the bronze statue of the Dancing Girl was excavated from Moen Jo Daro in 1926 along with other artefacts such as the ‘King Priest’, during an excavation by archaeologist Earnest Mackey. It is currently preserved at the National Museum of New Delhi.
In 1946, British archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler had taken these two relics to the United Kingdom to display them at an exhibition, according to the petitioners. Since then, Pakistani officials have recovered the King Priest and other relics but the Dancing Girl still remains in India.
The petitioner argued that under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Convention of 1972, the original owner of any artefact is the country where the relic was found. He maintained that the Dancing Girl is the property of Sindh and its people.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 3rd, 2017.