Stolen Antiquities Returned to Pakistan

In recent news, the United States returned around 45 stolen pieces of antiquities to Pakistan. It is believed that these antiquities date back to the Gandhara period and are worth nearly $250,000. 

On Monday, these Buddhist artifacts belonging to the 2nd century were handed over to the country at a ceremony being hosted at the Pakistan Consulate General. The meeting was being attended by Ayesha Ali, Consul General, and Cyrus Vance, the New York County District Attorney. The two signed an agreement for the return of the stolen antiquities. 

The ceremony was attended by various important officials. The deputy special agent-in-charge of Homeland Security Investigations, Erik Rosenblatt, was also present. 

Ayesha Ali also addressed all the officials and expressed gratitude on behalf of the country to the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the District Attorney in New York County. She stated that the country was grateful to the United States for all their efforts that led to the retrieval of the stolen cultural treasures. 

According to the Consul General, the return of the stolen antiquities was a sign of an important manifestation of friendship between the two countries. 

The District Attorney also addressed all the attendees of the ceremony. He discussed how people believe that theft and looting of antiquities are injustices, which only occurred in the past. Vance pointed out that such crimes of culture are still committed all across the world on a daily basis. 

Moreover, he encouraged gallery owners and collectors to investigate and conduct due diligence to ensure that all the pieces in their possession have been legally and lawfully acquired. The District Attorney expressed that he was honored to be returning 45 artifacts to the public and culture of Pakistan. 

Back in the year 2015, HSI New York and the District Attorney’s Office had approved of a number of search warrants that allowed them to seize nearly 100 antiquities. They had found all these treasures in the possession of a known trafficker, Nayef Homsi. The suspect had been involved in illegal exportation, looting, and consequently selling of ancient art. It was later concluded that the antiquities found with Homsi had been taken from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and several other nations. The US had informed the world about these developments in an official statement issued by the relevant authorities. 

Of the seized pieces, forty-five were given back to Pakistan in the ceremony held on Monday. Five were also returned to India back in August of 2020. 

There were a number of culturally and historically important pieces in the repatriated items. These included a ‘Gandharan Frieze’, which featured a Bodhisattva Maitreya, as well as seven figures of Buddha and a ‘Gandharan Box’, which was full of religious relics. ‘Panchika and Hariti Stele’, a gray schist relief of Panchika himself along with his consort ‘Hariki’ was also a part of the 45 antiquities returned. 

Amongst the returned stolen pieces was also ‘Gandharan Head Under Bodhi Tree’, which is simply a gray schist head of Buddha below a bodhi tree.