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CANBERRA: Australian authorities returned on Wednesday a Bronze Age “stone aniconic weight” that was smuggled out of Pakistan to the country’s High Commission in Canberra.

The object believed to be dating back to 3rd millennium BCE was handed over to Pakistani officials at a ceremony held at the Pakistan High Commission, Canberra.

The “aniconic weight” was clandestinely excavated and illegally smuggled out of Pakistan. It was purchased online by an Australian national from a seller in the United States (US) and imported into Australia in July 2020.

The object was seized during an inspection by the Australian Border Force (ABF) and upon examination it was found to be an authentic antique from Pakistan.

“The High Commission for Pakistan had made a restitution request to the Australian Office of the Arts for the return of the object to its rightful owner under the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property 1970,” a statement by the High Commission said.

Both Pakistan and Australia are signatories to the said convention. This is the first time that an object of cultural heritage was returned by the Government of Australia to Pakistan under the UNESCO Convention.

High Commissioner Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri appreciated the efforts of the Australian government in “intercepting, retrieving and returning to Pakistan of this immensely valuable cultural property from the Bronze Age”.

He also underscored the importance of close cooperation among countries against illicit trafficking of cultural property. He reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to working with international allies and partners for the protection of common cultural heritage.

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