A stone aniconic weight dating from the 3rd millennium BCE was handed over to Pakistan by the Australian Government on December 8, 2021. Image Credit: High Commission of Pakistan in Canberra

Islamabad: The Australian government handed over an iconic stone weight dating back to the third millennium BCE to Pakistan.

The stone, which originated in Balochistan, was officially handed over at a ceremony at the High Commission of Pakistan in Canberra on Wednesday.

Pakistan’s High Commissioner Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri thanked the Australian government for their efforts in retrieving and returning the object. “Extremely grateful to Australian government for cooperation in interception, recovery and handing over to Pakistan of its valuable cultural property from the Bronze Age,” he said.

“The object was clandestinely excavated and illegally smuggled out of Pakistan” the official statement said. “It was purchased online by an Australian resident from a seller in the United States and imported into Australia in July 2020. Australian Border Force (ABF) intercepted the artefact which later turned out to be an authentic cultural heritage from Pakistan.

This is the first time an object of cultural heritage has been returned to Pakistan by the Government of Australia under the Unesco convention. Pakistan requested the return of the object under the Unesco Convention on the Means of Prohibiting the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property 1970. Both Pakistan and Australia are signatories to the convention.

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

The ceremony was attended by senior officials from the Australian Office of the Arts, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Border Force, Interpol Canberra, and the Australian Federal Police.