ISLAMABAD: A key clue in unlocking the mysteries of the evolutionary path of modern man — the Sivapithecus Indicus fossil skull, which was discovered in Pakistan’s Potohar plateau and went missing in 1996, had been shipped to the United States under a secret deal.
The revelation was made by the Director-General (DG) of the Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP) Imran A Khan before a parliamentary panel on Tuesday.
“My predecessor had lent the skull for research and the same was shipped to the US under a deal,” Khan told the Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources chaired by Senator Muhammad Yousaf.
Official documents presented before the committee revealed that Khan may have been attempting to shift the blame since he was allegedly involved in smuggling the skull of the extinct primate to the US.
The fossil believed to be millions-of-years-old fossil had mysteriously re-emerged in the University of Arizona in the United States, while the GSP remained unaware of the fossil’s disappearance till last year. Dr Jay Kelly from the University of Arizona confirmed via email that the key fossil was in his possession.
The petroleum ministry had initiated an inquiry against DG GSP Khan for handing over the precious find to Kelly without the knowledge of the ministry. But the ministry has kept the inquiry under wraps for the past few months despite evidence that the skull may have been smuggled on the pretext of research in return for kickbacks.
Earlier, Khan had also held GSP’s assistant director, Munir Khan, responsible for the missing skull. Khan refused to provide a No Objection Certificate to Munir, who had been granted a US visa on March 15, 2012 to complete his PhD thesis.
“Munir (the GSP assistant director) has an original fossil skull of the Sivapithecus Indicus with him and unless he does not hand it over to me, I will not issue the NOC for his visit abroad,” said Khan.
Meanwhile, the panel also took note of the GSP chief’s daily travel allowance of Rs8,000. The panel asked Khan to head back to GSP headquarters in Quetta when it learnt that Khan was operating while residing at his private residence in Islamabad.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2013.
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