Protecting The Past

In a country where basic human rights are not protected, one naturally assumes that the protection of our cultural heritage is a farfetched dream. However the government has acknowledged that a large number of antiques have been smuggled to United States, United Kingdom, Italy and France from Pakistan and shown a commitment to their return. The Federal Minister for Information and National Heritage Pervaiz Rashid clarified in the National Assembly that the smuggled artifacts will be brought back to Pakistan under the Unesco Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970.
The black market trade of illicit antiquities is a billion dollar industry. While the world treasures these artifacts, that have been discovered and unearthed at archeological digs and hold significant historical and cultural value, in Pakistan we greatly undervalue all precious things that define our culture. Be it archeological sites dilapidating into empty excavated plots of land, or historical monuments, our culture artifacts have held little for the common Pakistani. All the more reason for the government to protect them- because no one else can.
As many as 39 artifacts of Pakistan origin had been repatriated from USA in 2007, 198 artifacts smuggled from Pakistan were apprehended in UK and 96 antiquities smuggled to Italy were seized by the police and returned back to where they belong.
Even though an Antiquities Trade Control Branch was established to control smuggling of antiquities and illegal excavations on archaeological sites, the lack of political will is apparent with smuggling cases popping up around the globe. It is high time we instill a sense of importance and pride for our national heritage. This begins as early as the primary school level, where the next generations of children are taught to value and respect history and culture. As it is, our museums lay bare and our monuments have become ruins.

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