Islamabad: Heritage? Who cares! That was the sarcastic comment of a Pakistani daily after a massive hoard of ancient statues and coins were found in a container.
"As if it were not bad enough that the Taliban and other religious extremists keep attempting to destroy all trace of pre-Islamic culture and statuary, the robbers are making a determined effort as well," said an editorial in the News International.
The police intercepted a container in Karachi containing ancient statues and coins that are estimated to be worth billions of rupees on the international stolen art markets.
Much of the material was over 2,000 years old.
The editorial said that at least one of the artefacts is "a well-known depiction of the Buddha that was at the side of the main road passing through Swat, and would have been extremely difficult to remove without somebody noticing what was going on - or not".
"Theft of artifacts is nothing new either - museums are regularly looted - and there seems little inclination to stop the rot.
"In the past we had tourism to defray some of the costs associated with guardianship, but with tourism dead in the water it is down to provincial and federal budgets and archaeology is not high on anybody`s `to do` list.
"Heritage? Who cares!"
Dismayed at the state of affairs, the daily said: "There is not a shred of doubt that the entire country is virtually carpeted with sites of international cultural importance and renown, and equally little doubt that this government and its predecessors since Partition have never adequately protected or conserved this priceless heritage."
"There have been exceptions...but much of what we are custodian to is going back to the dust from whence it arose. The jewel in our archaeological crown, Mohenjo-daro, is falling apart so fast that some experts have been quoted as saying that the site may not last more than another 20 years; and that re-burying it may be the best option," it added.