Wednesday September 22, 2021

Illegal excavation of archaeological sites in Mardan, Swabi, Swat continues

April 08, 2021

MARDAN: Illegal excavation and digging of various archaeological sites has continued in various part of Mardan and Malakand divisions where rare antiquities, statues and coins were recovered by the smugglers.

It may be added that North Pakhtunkhwa, particularly Peshawar, Mardan and Malakand divisions, which includes Swat, have archaeological sites of Greco-Bactrian, Gandhara, Hindu Shahi and Muslim periods. Extremely rare antiquities including Fasting Buddhas, pottery and large number of gold, silver and copper coins were recovered mostly by smugglers and sold and smuggled abroad.

A prominent historian and expert on Gandhara civilization, Farhad Khawar, told this scribe that smugglers are busy in various part of Pakhtunkhwa, particularly at Topi in Swabi district where rare antiquities were recovered by the illegal occupants and sold to the dealers. He mentioned that a gang of smugglers started excavation at Pontia village near Topi of Swabi and he gave an application to the local administration to stop work on it and his request was accepted.

He claimed that the area is known for sand and gravel which the people carry away, but actually it is an archaeological site. He said that the Mines and Mineral Department leased out some 4,837 kanal land for Rs330,000 to a dealer identified as Basharat Zaman of Ghazi in Haripur district. “I was astonished that despite the ban, the Mines and Mineral Department not only gave the same site on lease but also allotted further 249 kanal plot adjacent to it. He mentioned that this time the lease was given for Rs50 million, which explains how precious was the site.

According to Farhad Khawar, he once again the knocked the door of the court on April 4. 2004 for closing the work on the site but this time the lease owner started working on Friday and continued it till Sunday night because of official holidays. He said that when the local police reached the site, which was a mound, it had been completely razed to the ground. He claimed that the smugglers excavated rare statues. coins and pottery that were smuggled out of Pakistan within no time.

Farhad Khawar said that now he has submitted a writ petition in Peshawar High Court (PHC) against Chief Secretary KP, Secretary Mines and Minerals, Secretary Archaeology department, Commissioner Mardan Division, Deputy Commissioner Swabi, Assistant Tech Mineral department and Basharat Zaman, the local lease- holder seeking action against them for failing to protect KP’s heritage and archaeological sites.

Asfandyar Yusufzai is the legal consul of the petitioner.