Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is pushing the federal government to return some 3,150 ancient Gandhara artefacts currently houses in museums in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Taxila.
“If the federal government obliges, Taxila Museum, the National Museum of Pakistan in Karachi and the Lahore Fort Museum, will be left almost empty,” former Lahore Museum director general Salimul Haq told Dawn.
Gandhara art makes up some of the oldest and most significant collections in all major museums, he said and was more important than artefacts from the Mughal and British periods.
“The statue of Fasting Siddharta alone is the most expensive ancient Gandhara article in Lahore Museum to give you one example,” Mr Haq added.
Dr Fazal Dad Kakar, the former director-general of the Department of Archaeology and Museums in Islamabad, said that Gandhara art “unites the country”.
“The National Museum Karachi, Taxila Museum and Lahore Museum are home to some of the most significant Gandhara articles ever discovered,” he said.If federal govt obliges, Taxila Museum, National Museum in Karachi and Lahore Fort Museum will be almost empty, former Lahore Museum official says
These museums have thousands of Gandhara articles in stores and on display. Between 1860 and 1902, all the excavated items were kept in regional offices of Department of Archaeology in Lahore and were also shifted to Calcutta. After Sir John Marshal took over the department small and large discoveries were kept in stores in Taxila.
Dr Kakar explained that after the 18th Amendment, the ownership of items and setups on the concurrent list, such as sites and monuments, were handed over to the respective provinces.
“However, all the museums, libraries and laboratories and such institutions listed in the federal list were retained by the federal government under constitutional law,” he said.
The Harappa Museum, Javed Manzil in Lahore and Sikh and Mughal galleries in the Lahore Fort are, among others, legally properties of the federal government. The National Museum in Karachi is also owned by the federal government.
There are more than 1,180 Gandhara art pieces in the National Museum of Pakistan in Karachi, and some 1,600 articles ar the Exploration and Excavation Branch in Karachi.