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Pakistan to be returned with a long-lost Buddha sculpture

ISLAMABAD: A Buddha sculpture that was trafficked from Swat to the United States in the 1980s will be reimbursed to Pakistan on Thursday.

According to some guesses, the rare sculpture is worth more than US $1.1 million.

A service relating to return of the trafficked relic will be prearranged at the district attorney general’s office in Manhattan, New York on Thursday.

The figure was put up for sale at an art show in New York.

Back in 2015, customs officials held a passenger with a Gandhara-era relic from Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA).

Khan Zafar Ali, a Pakistani-origin German national, was transporting eight figures of Buddha. The passenger was booked for Turkey on a private airline but was stopped and taken into charge after the statues were found in his baggage.

The artefacts were sent to the Department of Archaeology and Museums, which said one of the statues was an original Gandhara-era artefact, while the rest were mock-ups.

A customs official said the original statue was worth Rs1 million locally and around Rs1 billion in the international market. “Mixing originals with replicas is a popular trick among smugglers of archaeological artefacts,” he said.

The Gandhara civilisation been in what is now the Potohar region, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Afghanistan from 1500 BCE to around 500 CE.