Taliban ‘smuggling out’ artefacts

New Delhi, May 18

Statues and relics might be against the Taliban’s Islam, but these artefacts, mainly Buddhist, are yielding good financial gains for the cash-strapped regime in Afghanistan.

“Taliban officials are known to be wheeling and dealing in the international markets to find better prices for the artefacts they possess,’’ reports Pakistani magazine Herald in its latest issue.

While the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan statue of Lord Buddha in March this year and were responsible for the collapse of Chakri Minar, senior officials were involved in the smuggling of “antiques and artefacts’’ out of Afghanistan.

The report said the police and officials were actively involved in smuggling. It added that the Taliban’s policy of preserving Islamic identity was just a facade.

Police officials, along with smugglers, had dug up life-size a statue of Buddha from a mound in Deh-i Sebz subdivision of Kabul province and tried to smuggle it out of the country, said the report.

They were, however, arrested and handed over to Maulvi Mohammed Nasim Haqqani, a subdivisional head.

But inquiries revealed that both the smugglers and the statue vanished three days after they were handed over to the Kabul administration.

According to the report, another Taliban regular, Mullah Mohammed Yousaf Mohali, was also involved in the illegal excavation at Deb-i Sebz area. He, along with his associates, had also taken away some precious antiques from the areas.

Quoting senior Taliban officials, the magazine said: “Excavation on the mounds and in ancient graveyards are being conducted in connivance with the Culture Ministry.’’

Extensive excavation has taken place around Kabul city, Khak-I-Jabbar, Chaharsiab and Karta.

The magazine said antique trade had penetrated into the higher echelons of power.

One such influential antique smuggler is Naseer Badoz, who is known to have obtained documents containing inventory of Afghanistan’s archaeological sites, which were drawn up by French, Italian and Russian archaeologists during the 1920s. All stolen relics were smuggled via the Torkham regions.

In 1999, a seven-foot-tall Buddha statue was transported to Peshawar and sold to an international trader. According to reports the Taliban had uncovered a woman’s statue in Bamiyan. The statue is being transported to Peshawar. UNI

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Source: http://www.tribuneindia.com/20010519/nation.htm#12
Referred by: Mukundan CM
Published on: May 21, 2001
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