Smuggled archaeological artifacts returned to Pakistan by France

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By Muhammad Luqman

French government has returned 512 artifacts to Pakistan which were stolen from various sites of ancient Gandhara and Indus civilizations and various museums and seized by French customs at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle Airport during the year 2006-07, according to a statement of Foreign Office.

“Taking notice of the issue of stolen and seized artifacts of Pakistan in foreign countries, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi instructed the Ministry and its Missions in respective countries to engage with the host governments for their repatriation to Pakistan,” Foreign Office spokesman Dr. Muhammad Faisal said.

After verification of their origin and completion of tedious and protracted legal and administrative formalities, four hundred and eighty six (486) archaeological artifacts were handed over by the French government to the Embassy of Pakistan, Paris early this week.

Rodolphe Gintz, Director General of Customs and Indirect Rights, French Ministry of Action and Public Accounts handed over the rare and precious artifacts to Pakistan’s Embassy in France at a simple ceremony.

Pakistan’s Deputy Head of Mission, Muhammad Amjad Aziz Qazi  thanked the Government of France,especially French Customs, Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Culture for their support and cooperation in completing the formalities for the restitution of artefacts.

Speaking at the ceremony,  Rodolphe Gintz, Director General of French Customs, expressed satisfaction over the successful closure of nearly twelve years old case in which France fulfilled its obligations under UNESCO Convention of 1970 on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and transport of Ownership of Cultural property, to which both Pakistan and France are signatories.

Pakistan and France enjoy historical cooperation in the field of archeology. French Archeological Mission has been working in Pakistan for the last sixty years, having made important discoveries including more than seven thousand years old Mehrgarh civilization. The restitution of Pakistan origin artifacts has further strengthened the bonds of cooperation between the two countries, Foreign office spokesman said.

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