Smuggled archaeological artifacts returned to Pakistan by France

Pakistan is home to some of the oldest civilizations (Gandhara, Indus, Mehrgarh), and has a large repository of ancient artifacts. Some 512 artifacts dating back to second and third millennium BC, stolen and smuggled from Pakistan to France were seized by French Customs at Paris Airport during 2006-7.

Taking notice of the issue of stolen and seized artifacts of Pakistan in foreign countries, the Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi instructed the Ministry and its Missions in respective countries to engage with the host governments for their repatriation to Pakistan.

After verification of their origin and completion of tedious and protracted legal and administrative formalities, 486 archaeological artifacts were handed over by the French government to the Embassy of Pakistan, Paris on July 2, 2019.

Mr. Rodolphe Gintz, Director General of Customs and Indirect Rights, French Ministry of Action and Public Accounts handed over the rare and precious artifacts to our Embassy in France in a simple ceremony, which was attended by French officials from concerned Ministries and Representatives from several French cultural and archaeological institutes and museums, as well as French print and electronic media.

Pakistan’s Deputy Head of Mission, Mr. Muhammad Amjad Aziz Qazi in his remarks thanked the Government of France, especially French Customs, Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Culture for their support and cooperation in completing the formalities for the restitution of artefacts.

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Speaking at the ceremony, Mr. Rodolphe Gintz, Director General of French Customs, expressed satisfaction over the successful closure of nearly twelve years old case in which France fulfilled its obligations under UNESCO Convention of 1970 on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and transport of Ownership of Cultural property, to which both Pakistan and France are signatories.

Pakistan and France enjoy historical cooperation in the field of archeology. French Archeological Mission has been working in Pakistan for the last 60 years, having made important discoveries including more than 7,000 years old Mehrgarh civilization. The restitution of Pakistan origin artifacts has further strengthened the bonds of cooperation between the two countries.