We are losing our national treasures It is slowly — but definitely — being taken away from us as we allow centuries of history and culture to be lost. On July 6, the police seized a truckload of artefacts, most of them dating back to the 2,000-year-old Gandhara civilisation, as they were being taken through the Korangi area in Karachi. They were reportedly headed for Sialkot, where an attempt to smuggle them abroad was likely to have been made. It is thought that such an effort to send the artefacts abroad through Karachi may have failed.
There have been major seizures of Gandhara artefacts in the past, but what we do not know is how many may have been successfully smuggled abroad, both in the case of the Gandhara relics, as well as those from Mohenjodaro, Mehergarh and other sites. We also know that there have been museum thefts aided by museum staff. Some of these artefacts are now displayed at some of our museums, claimed by experts to be replicas of the original items, which were presumably stolen at various points and sold either to private collectors or illegally taken to other lands.
What is also shocking is the way these artefacts are handled by the authorities after retrieval. The episode in Karachi illustrates this. The police — unaware of the value of the Buddha artefacts — hurled them down to the ground from a considerable height of the truck, damaging some of the items. These can never be restored. In other cases, workers who accidentally dug up statues during construction work in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the Taxila area broke the figures considering them to be ungodly ‘idols’. In Swat and other places, carvings in rocks have been destroyed by the Taliban and even official collections are often badly looked after. We need to build a greater respect for these items and inculcate in people’s minds a value for the heritage they represent. This is as important as seizing consignments and making efforts to stop smuggling.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2012.
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Perhaps its better for our confused heritage (which is Indian and pretends to be Arab). I visited the Museum in Lahore. It was so dark I could not see anything. They detained the cameras it the gate so it was likely empty anyway
In the long run removing these treasures may be the best way of preserving them --- beats having Pakistan religious zealots destroying them. With luck they can be repatriated in the future.
No country can come down to this level that they start selling their national heritage monuments & antiques thousands of year old. Very sad & pathetic situation!
Just to take a contrarian view, I think we should encourage these treasures to be taken out this country. Before someone pounces on me, please hear me out.
We have disowned our indian subcontinental heritage anyway, in our bid for an Islamic identity and an Arab heritage. Most of the marvels of Pakistan are from the preislamuc time anyway. And, given that much of this is considered idolatry and unislamuic, it will most likely will be destroyed like the bamiyan Buddhas or the swat gandhara art by religious extremists. In fact the best we can hope for is that it is neglected completely in the musty basement of a museum. On the contrary, if these art pieces are smuggled out it will be the centerpiece and main attraction of major museums around th e world. It will be in a place it is well taken care of. More importantly, it will help pakistan's soft image abroad and say to the world that we are a people of high civilization not just thugs and boors.
So, let these great objects of art go freely out of the country.