Many years of civil wars and clashes have had severe impacts on Afghanistan's socio-political scenario. These wars and clashes have influenced the country in so many different ways. There have not been losses only in life and blood but in culture, tradition and values, as well. It is believed that for a civilization to flourish, it is necessary that there should be peace, tranquility and stability. Unfortunately Afghanistan has suffered in this regard.
Though there has been relative peace and stability and there have been efforts to reestablish the Afghan society after the downfall of Taliban, a lot more has to be achieved to make a real difference in Afghan society. It is necessary, at the present scenario, that Afghanistan must have a sense of national integration and harmony.
It must be reiterated for the people of Afghanistan that they once had a rich culture and civilization and they had times in their history that knew nothing of violence and terrorism and a relatively peaceful and rich civilization flourished on their land. Moreover, this should be insisted for them that they have to preserve the traces and remains of their rich history that should help the new generations realize the worth of their history and tradition. Unfortunately such insistence is very rare to see in the society where most of the discussions are centered on clashes and terrorism.
One of such insistences took place on Sunday, August 5. Hundreds of archaeological artifacts that were looted from Afghanistan were handed over to the country's national museum during a ceremony in the Afghan capital, Kabul. The artifacts were basically stolen during Afghanistan's civil war in the 1990s and they were smuggled to black market. Even more unfortunate is the fact that more than two thirds of the exhibits at the National Museum in Kabul were stolen or destroyed during the civil war.
The British Museum in London helped to complete their return through the British Ministry of Defense that flew the pieces back to Afghanistan in large crates, landing at their military base in Camp Bastion and the British Embassy in Kabul handed over the collection to the Ministry of Information and Culture at the ceremony at the National Museum.
There are around 843 items in the recovered artifacts that belong to different eras and civilizations in the rich Afghan history – from Bronze Age to the Islamic period. They include items, such as a 1st Century AD elephant ivory, a Buddha stone statue, coins, pots, stamps and a 3000 years old axe. Stone statues of Buddha and intricate ivory carvings are up to 4,000 years old. One stone Buddha, thought to be around 1,800 years old, was stolen from the museum in Kabul and recovered in Japan.
Afghan archaeologists and authorities say the repatriation of the treasures, which had been feared lost forever, is a source of national pride.
Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, naming the ancient artifacts a valuable part of the Afghan cultural heritage, said: "That these have been recovered and repatriated to their home is a moment of pride and joy for all Afghans." Rassoul, while thanking the assisting hands, said: "We're grateful to all those inside and outside Afghanistan who played a part in identifying, retrieving and repatriating this cultural treasure to Afghanistan. We're especially grateful to the British government and the British Museum for their help."
National Museum Director Omara Khan Massoudi, who played a critical role in preserving a large number of artifacts during the war years in the 1990s, said: "The return of these invaluable artifacts will further enrich our National Museum."
It is really unfortunate to note that the members of Afghan society themselves have not been very much careful about the rich traditional remains and artifacts. There have been culprits even from within Afghan authorities who have been involved in the filthy business of selling their traditional treasures. It is impossible to imagine that the artifacts that have now been recovered could reach to the Black Market without the support of the responsible authorities. Moreover, the instability and the absence of a particular system to take care of such treasure also helped in their smuggling.
It is also unfortunate to note that Taliban, during their rule in the country, played a negative role regarding the preservation of the rich Afghan tradition. The destruction of the Buddha of Bamiyan in this regard was clear indication that Taliban had not respect for the historical wealth and they considered them to be the remains of the non-Islamic civilization. However, they forgot the fact that they depicted the truth about the history of Afghanistan and they also depicted a more peaceful and tranquil era.
It is also important to note that the foreigners have been more helpful for Afghanistan to keep alive its tradition and history and have assisted Afghanistan in this regard to a great extent. Even the recovery of the artifacts mentioned above could not have been possible without the support of the British government and Museum and the generous contributions from different donors which made the purchase of the artifacts possible.
The insensitive attitude of the Afghan authorities themselves in this regard is unfortunate and the government needs to play a tremendous role to make sure that they themselves start guarding their tradition and culture. Definitely, there have been many other problems, more basic in nature, for Afghans to ponder upon and spend time on but now when they are in a better position they must play their role.
Though the return of artifacts to Afghanistan is a joyous piece of news, yet there are concerns about their fate. As there are doubts about the future of peace and tranquility in the country, the certainty about the proper preservation of the artifacts cannot be maintained at the moment. With the withdrawal of international forces in 2014, there will be serious security challenges and if the situation is not handled properly there are possibilities that insecurity may creep within the society swiftly. The growing insecurity will definitely have a lasting impact on the capability of Afghan authorities to guard their relic, artifacts and tradition.