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PHC takes suo moto notice of illegal excavation in Swabi

April 16, 2021

MARDAN: Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan of Peshawar High Court (PHC) has taken suo moto notice of a news item regarding illegal excavation published in The News against the lease-holder and various officials of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government.

The story of illegal excavation at an archaeological site in Swabi district was published recently. The PHC took suo moto action against the lease-owner and concerned officials of the province. A two-member bench of the court is hearing the case.

The Mines and Mineral department of KP gave lease of 4,857 kanal land of sand and gravel at Pontia village near Topi in Swabi district.

It was later learnt that it is an archaeological site and the lease was cancelled by the authorities.

However, once again the Mines and Mineral department gave the lease to a local of Haripur identified as Basharat Zaman. In fact, it leased further 249 kanal adjacent plot to him.

The lease-holder started work at the site despite the ban.

Earlier the area was given on lease for Rs330,000 while next time along with the 249 kanal adjacent plot the lease price was raised to Rs50 million.

Experts said it was a rare Buddhist site and precious rare statues and pottery were recovered from there and smuggled out of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, a prominent historian and expert on Gandhara culture, Farhad Khawar, complained against the lease to the local administration, which again cancelled the lease. But this time the lease-holder prior to the cancellation order completely razed to the ground the site comprising a mound.

According to Farhad Khawar, rare statues and pottery were recovered by the lease- holder from the site and sold.

He approached the PHC against the lease-holder, Basharat Zaman, and officials of KP Mines and Minerals department. The court issued notices to the concerned officials.