US returns nearly 200 rare artifacts to Pakistan

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Karachi, Pakistan

The United States has returned nearly 200 rare 8,000-year-old artifacts to Pakistan in one of the largest antiquities repatriations in decades, state media said on Saturday.

The antiquities, which belong to the 8,000-year-old Mehrgarh civilization, were returned by the Department of Homeland Security to the Pakistani consulate in New York in a ceremony, following an investigation into an antique dealer. Indian-American art, reported the Associated Press of Pakistan. , citing the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

A total of 192 antiquities, 187 of which were stolen and smuggled into New York in the 1990s by Subhash Kapoor, were handed over to Pakistan’s Consul General Ayesha Ali.

The district attorney’s office identified Kapoor, who owned the Art of the Past art gallery in New York and a business specializing in the sale of Southeast Asian antiques, as one of the traffickers. “world’s most prolific” antiquities.

The artifacts, which include a Gandharan statue of a Maitreya – an enlightened form of the Buddha – were placed in a warehouse rented by the art gallery until seized by US authorities this year, it said. -he declares.

Kapoor, who was arrested in October 2011 at Frankfurt International Airport in Germany and extradited to India for receiving stolen artefacts, was sentenced to 13 years in prison by an Indian court last week.

The United States, which indicted Kapoor and seven co-defendants in a “conspiracy to traffic in stolen antiquities” in 2019, is seeking to extradite him.

“We will continue to pursue full liability against Mr. Kapoor and his co-conspirators, who have shown blatant disregard for the cultural and historical significance of these antiquities,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said.

Six of the defendants were convicted in Indian and US courts from 2013 to 2020, according to the district attorney’s office.

Pakistan is home to dozens of archaeological sites – dating back thousands of years – many of which are revered by followers of Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism and prehistoric religions such as Aryan, Barhaman and ancient Iranian religions and Greek.

But the country has failed not only to preserve and protect its corroded architectural treasure from the ravages of time, but also to curb the widespread theft and smuggling of ancient artifacts.

Located in the southwestern province of Balochistan, the archaeological site of Mehrgarh was discovered in 1974 and has long been a favorite target for artefact smugglers due to a lack of security measures.

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