Stolen artefacts

Apart from recovering lost artefacts, we still need to do a lot more to appreciate the value of our past.

Editorial July 22, 2012

You can learn a lot about a country by the way it treats its heritage. Pakistan, unfortunately, has always fallen short on that count. From the ruins of Mohenjodaro and Harappa to our lost Gandhara art, we have never taken preservation all that seriously. It is this laxness which can explain the loss of artefacts stolen from a police station in Karachi. Over the last couple of weeks, the police in Karachi had managed to recover hundreds of pieces of Gandhara art, although it was not known how many were genuine and how many were forgeries. However, the artefacts were simply left at police stations because of a dispute between the central government and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provincial government over who should take possession of these pieces.

Needless to say, thanks to this tussle, many of the pieces have now been stolen and are no longer around to be claimed by either. This question of ownership should, at best, have been a secondary one with the primary duty of both governments being that the pieces are kept safe and publicly displayed at museums for the benefit of citizens. Such artefacts belong to the entire country and now that the police have finally decided to become serious about keeping smuggling in check, we shouldn’t be reliant on our self-interested government to allow us to appreciate our heritage. Even though we don’t have a culture of setting up and maintaining museums, it is high time we now do so to properly display our heritage. Not only will it be of educational value to citizens, it can also boost tourism and bring foreign researchers to the country.

Apart from recovering these lost items, we still need to do a lot more to appreciate the value of our past. The rare fossils that were destroyed by the military raid that killed Akbar Bugti barely merited a footnote in all the news coverage of the event. And the fact that so much of our heritage is now in India means that we show it scant attention. Heritage, however, transcends present-day borders and we should work with India to facilitate the display of our joint heritage in both countries. It is the least the government can do to educate its citizens.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2012.


bismah | 11 years ago | Reply

I, for one, agree with 'kakar'. it belongs where it was discovered. Now, when mohen-jo-daro was discovered in sindh, the government didnt just take its artifacts and move it to different museums in the country. the people who are interested, simply come and explore it in sindh. So, these artifacts should just be kept in pakhtunkwa. And stolen from the POLICE STATION! where was the police when it happened. Probably scaring people and taking bribes from them.

ethicalman | 11 years ago | Reply

Nothing new in this story..the Maldivians radicals recently took hold of their museums and destroyed pre Islamic history (Hindu and Buddhist)..The same thing was done my Malaysians and Indonesians when they were converted to Islam they destroyed the Buddhist and Hindu iconographies. The last Hindu place in Indonesia is Bali and even Bali is under constant attack. Everyone knows what all has happened in Afghanistan’s history. Similar things happened in Central Asian Muslim countries. Pakistan has tried it’s best to kill the Indian culture from their land be it in attire they wear, food they eat, language they speak , script they write in, festivals they celebrate..I really don’t understand what culture or civilization they stand for and want to protect, the time is running before Pakistan becomes the next Afghanistan..

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