SWAT: An ancient Gandhara artifact worth millions of rupees has been recovered in Swat, police said on Wednesday.
The Bodhisattva statue, which is made of Black Shift Stone and measures 60×27 cm, dates back to the 4-5th century.
According to police, they received a tip-off regarding an illegal excavation in Amlook Dara Stupa, located in Barikot.
“During our raid, we caught two people red handed and recovered the statue from them,” SHO of the Ghalegey police station Sayed Zaman told reporters.
The accused were identified as Akbar Ali, a resident of Peshawar, and Murad Ali, a resident of Swabi. According to police, they were reportedly planning to smuggle the Gandhara artifact to foreign countries, where it would be sold.
According to different sources, both the accused belong to an international gang involved in the smuggling of precious artifacts. A case has been registered against the gang and a trial is under way in courts.
“They offered a huge bribe to keep the matter discreet but police refused to do so,” a local of Amlook Dara said on condition of anonymity.
“The Bodhisattva statue is state property and we have officially asked to take possession of it, but as it is under trial it is still in police’s custody,” curator of the archaeology department Faizur Rehman told The Express Tribune. “It will be handed to our department as soon as the case is decided,” he added.
Civil Society members have demanded that the investigation into the case be handled seriously as it might lead to other thefts.
“We demand from the government and high authorities to hand the artifact to the Swat Museum as every antiquity found in Swat is the property of the museum,” Svastu Arts and Culture Association Chairman Usman Ulas yar told The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2012.