- July 7, 2012
Millions in looted Buddhist relics seized in Pakistan
Culture and Mythology Examiner
A huge smuggling operation that focused on black market antiquities was stopped today in Pakistan when government officials seized a twenty foot long container truck that they discovered was packed with priceless ancient artifacts.
It is unclear at this time what alerted authorities to the nature of the cargo the truck was carrying. The truck was caught leaving the port city of Karachi as it was headed north to the country capital Islamabad. From Islamabad the items were slated to travel to collectors around the world. Salimul Haq, a director at the government's archaeology department, estimated that many of the recovered artifacts were over two thousand years old and would have garnered millions of dollars once they hit the black market.
The majority of the recovered items were statues of Buddha and assorted other items of religious significance. It is believed that the items were looted from archaeological sites across the northwest of Pakistan. This northwest region was once part of Gandhara, the ancient Buddhist kingdom that stretched across modern-day Pakistan and Afghanistan in the first to the fifth century. This area has become a favorite of looters who raid sites to supply the private collections of wealthy buyers world-wide.
AdvertisementLooting of ancient relics has become an increasing problem in Pakistan. In December officials seized an eighteen thousand year old Buddhist statue that could have fetched tens of thousands of dollars on the international antiquities market. Several men were arrested in conjunction with this theft but officials fear that cases like these are just the tip of the iceberg. For every object recovered countless more make it out of the country to be sold.
Others point to the vandalism and destruction of Buddhist artifacts by Taliban militants and feel that these priceless antiquities are better off out of Pakistan than within it. Many hardline Muslims view images of Buddha as false idols and target them for destruction. Italian archaeologists are currently in Pakistan trying to piece together the remains of the twenty foot tall Jahanabad Buddha, which etched high on a huge rock face in the 6th or 7th century and was dynamited by the Taliban five years ago.
The Italian archaeologists in Pakistan have been posting guards outside the most important of the known Buddhist sites but the recovery of so many looted artifacts today shows just how much more help is needed in Pakistan.
Subscribe to this topic to get free updates sent to your email address or follow us on Pinterest
Millions in looted Buddhist relics seized in Pakistan - National Culture and Mythology | Examiner.com