Islamabad: Pakistani police have seized a large number of 2,000-year-old Buddhist artefacts and relics dating from the Gandhara era and arrested two men who were allegedly trying to smuggle the items out of the country.
The artefacts were recovered in two major police raids in the southern port city of Karachi in the last 24 hours.
Police first seized artefacts and relics on a tip off when they stopped a container in Awami colony in Korangi yesterday while today they raided a warehouse in a residential area of Korangi and recovered more artifacts and relics.
"The seized items contain statues of Gautam Buddha, life sized idols, plaques and utensils," a senor police official said.
The haul included 10 statues of the Lord Buddha.
Some heavier artefacts were damaged due to handling and careless unloading of items at a police station.
The government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, which was home to the Gandhara civilisation, has demanded that the items should be handed over to it by police in Karachi.
The Gandhara civilisation evolved in the Peshawar Valley and parts of eastern Afghanistan over 2,000 years ago.
Qasim Ali Qasim, an official of the Sindh culture department, said that the artifacts enjoy protection under the Antiquities Act of 1975. The law restricts digging of and trade in protected objects, prescribing long prison terms and heavy fines.
Ali said the goods were being transported to Sialkot when the police intercepted the container.
He said the raid on the godown was conducted on information provided by the arrested driver and the cleaner of the container.
According to police, the two identified the owner of the contraband consignment as Arif Butt.