Karachi: Owners of truck smuggling Gandhara relics granted bail
KARACHI: The owners of the truck that was intercepted trying to smuggle priceless 2,000 year old Gandhara Civilsation relics were granted bail by the Judicial Magistrate (East) on Tuesday, while at the same time, the culture department planned on submitting an application before the same court on Wednesday (today) to request the formation of a joint investigation (JIT) team to probe the case. Two applications on behalf of brothers Atif and Asif Butt — the owners of the vehicle — were submitted in the court of Judicial Magistrate (East) Hafeeza Usman. The truck owners claimed they were innocent of the charges. The court considered the arguments submitted on behalf of the applicants and set pre–arrest bail at Rs50,000 each
The same court already allowed the two–day physical remand of the driver and cleaner of the truck; Zafar and Asif Majeed. July 11 was fixed as the next date of hearing for the case.
Meanwhile, the Sindh Culture Department proposed the establishment of a joint investigation team to look into this intriguing case. Director Archaeology Qasim Ali Qasim, while speaking to The News, said that the JIT should comprise representatives of the culture department, archeologists and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
Qasim highlighted the importance of setting up the team and pointed out that the Punjab government had also shown interest in the relics as they may belong to Taxila or Rawalpindi.
“If the relics were being shifted to a Sialkot dry port in Punjab from Karachi, it could mean that someone in customs had given ‘assurances’ for the safe passage of these artefacts,” he said. “The smugglers would not have planned the transport of such precious relics if that was not the case.”
Qasim said the culture department would submit an application before the Judicial Magistrate East on Wednesday (today) to form the investigation team as soon as the police submit their Challan.
The relics are to be shifted to the National Museum of Pakistan, where further studies will be conducted. The culture department has prepared an inventory of the 300 items, 90 percent of which, they believe, belong to the Gandhara civilisation.
Meanwhile, a source in the culture department revealed that Unesco in Islamabad showed interest in the recovery of the relics and sought a written report. However, Additional Secretary Culture Ashfaq Hussain Musavi said he was not aware of any such communication. “Unesco is mostly interested in world heritage sites like Makli and Mohenjodaro.”
Clearing agent arrested
The police claimed on Tuesday that they had recently detained the clearing and forwarding agent allegedly involved in the smuggling bid.
Sub–Divisional Police Officer Mirza Abdul Majeed of the Landhi Division told The News that based on information provided by the detained driver and cleaner of the truck used to transport the artefacts, the Awami Colony police raided a house in the Journalist Colony of Gulshan–e-Iqbal and arrested the agent, Tahir Butt.