ISLAMABAD: Pakistani police have seized a large number of 2,000-year-old Buddhist artefacts and relics dating from the Gandhara era and arrested two men who were allegedly trying to smuggle the items out of the country.
The items were found when police searched a container truck in the southern port city of Karachi yesterday.
The haul included 10 statues of the Lord Buddha. Some heavier artefacts were damaged due to handling and careless unloading of items at a police station. The artefacts included life-sized idols, plaques and utensils.
The government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, which was home to the Gandhara civilisation, has demanded that the items should be handed over to it by police in Karachi.
The Gandhara civilisation evolved in the Peshawar Valley and parts of eastern Afghanistan over 2,000 years ago. Officials said the artefacts were protected items under the Antiquities Act of 1975, which prohibits trade in such objects.
Persons convicted under the act can face long prison terms and fines, Mr Qasim Ali Qasim, an official of the Sindh Culture Department, told the media. Police said they intercepted the truck on a tip-off.
The driver and the cleaner of the truck were arrested. The National Museum chief, Mr Mohammad Shah Bokhari said an inventory had been made of 38 artefacts and some more items were yet to be examined.
Mr Qasim said the artefacts included a statue of a “Boddhisattva” or Buddha before achieving nirvana and a “Jataka” or a stone panel depicting the scene at the time of Buddha’s birth.