RAWALPINDI: The Pakistan Customs’ Air Freight Unit (AFU) has seized several ancient statues of Buddha, which were being smuggled to Japan, at Benazir Bhutto International Airport.
The smuggling bid was foiled on a tipoff, received by Customs Collector Dr Arsalan Subuktageen, that a Japan-bound consignment contained suspicious items.
The Customs personnel found the invaluable artefacts when they re-examined the consignment, Dr Subuktageen said, adding that the export of such items is banned under Section 24(2) of Section 35 of the Antiquities Act, 1975.
Deputy Collector Shahid Jan told media that the export consignment, cleared vide Sialkot International Container Terminal, was filed by Leo’s Corporation on behalf of exporter M/s B2B Traders, Sialkot.
Contrary to the declaration as “decoration Items” found invaluable antiquities which have been confirmed by the Directorate General of Archaeology and Museums, Islamabad.
Out of total seized artefacts, 10 items are counterfeit statues of the Buddha (Gandhara Art), six items are original antiquities having Indo-Iranian influence of 2nd to 5th century AD made of gold thin sheet (337 grams).
Jan said that the value of statues of Buddha can’t be estimated with much accuracy because these are [simply] not available in the market. The recovered items contained about 29 tolas of pure gold, he added.
Shahid Jan said that the Islamabad Archaeology and Museums directorate general has also confirmed that some of the items recovered by Customs officials were indeed centuries-old artefacts.
The AFU has also launched an investigation into the affairs of Customs officials at the Sialkot Dry Port.
The deputy collector said that the Customs officials at the said dry port would be asked to explain why they sent the consignment containing the contraband items to Islamabad for export.
“It is surprising that they didn’t export the consignment from Sialkot and [instead] sent it to Islamabad,” he said and added: “Customs officials will be booked, if found guilty.”
An FIR had been registered against the culprits and further investigations launched.