Saturday, September 19, 2020
The National Artists Association of Pakistan has written to Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood on Saturday to bring his attention to the disappearance of gifts, artworks and souvenirs worth tens of millions of rupees from the Pakistan Arts Council.
The Artists' Association, in its letter, explained that gifts, souvenirs and artifacts received by the government are kept in permanent collections in the Pakistan Arts Council. However, since 2016, no concrete action has been taken by the Arts Council to prevent the theft of invaluable art pieces from that collection.
About 10 artworks made by renowned artist Anwar Jalal Shemza (also known as A.J Shemza) are currently missing from Pakistan Arts Council, the letter revealed, mentioning that the artist’s wife has demanded the return of those artworks from the institute.
A.J Shemza's wife had donated 10 works of his art to the permanent collections of the Pakistan Arts Council in 1985, the letter highlighted.
Demanding the protection of Pakistan's cultural heritage, the Artists' Association demanded that the heads and staff members of the Pakistan Arts Council be thoroughly interrogated and those responsible be held accountable for the disappearance of priceless artifacts.
This is not the first instance of artwork theft in Pakistan. According to an article published by the Daily Dawn in March 2017, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had launched an inquiry into the disappearance and theft of artwork and precious paintings from the Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) in Islamabad.
According to the FIA, 134 pieces of art, worth millions of rupees in total, had either disappeared or been stolen from the PNCA over several years.
Ustad Allah Ditta's famous Ramchand and Lakshman was included in the centuries-old works of art which had gone missing from the PNCA.
Ustad Bashratullah's Half Kali Davi and Half Mahadev also disappeared from the arts council, the article revealed.
It was rumoured at the time that the missing pieces of art had either been gifted to influential people or sold at high prices in the black market.