France returns back smuggled artifacts to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD:The French government has handed over to the Embassy of Pakistan in Paris, a total of 486 archaeological artifacts which were smuggled from Pakistan.

Some 512 artifacts dating back to second and third millennium BC, stolen and smuggled from Pakistan to France, were seized by the French Customs at Paris Airport during 2006-7.

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, a Foreign Office press release said here Tuesday.

After verification of their origin and completion of tedious and protracted legal and administrative formalities, 486 archaeological artifacts were handed over by the French government to the Embassy of Pakistan, Paris on July 2.

Pakistan is home to some of the oldest civilizations (Gandhara, Indus, Mehrgarh), and has a large repository of ancient artifacts.

Director General of Customs and Indirect Rights, French Ministry of Action and Public Accounts Rodolphe Gintz handed over the rare and precious artifacts to Pakistan Embassy in France in a simple ceremony, which was attended by French officials from the ministries concerned and representatives from several French cultural and archaeological institutes and museums, as well as French print and electronic media.

Pakistan’s Deputy Head of Mission Muhammad Amjad Aziz Qazi on the occasion 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 artifacts.

Director General of French Customs Rodolphe Gintz expressed satisfaction over the successful closure of nearly 12 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 were signatories.

Pakistan and France enjoys historical cooperation in the field of archeology. French Archeological Mission has been working in Pakistan for the last 60 years, having made important discoveries, including more than 7,000 years old Mehrgarh civilization.

The restitution of Pakistan origin artifacts further strengthened the bonds of cooperation between the two countries, the FO said.