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Nov 12, 2017
Officials complicit in stealing Mes Ainak relics: MPs
Nov 11, 2017 - 19:27
KABUL (Pajhwok): Wolesi Jirga members on Saturday accused government officials of their complicity in the smuggling of historic artifacts from the Mes Ainak site in central Logar province. But government officials rejected the claim.
A $3 billion contract was inked between the Afghan government and China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC), a Chinese state-owned enterprise, back in 2008 on developing the Mes Ainak copper mine.
During the extraction process, thousands of stones and clay idols, gold coins, wood and metal were recovered. Initial excavations of the historic objects were conducted unprofessionally, prompting the government to transfer the duty to the Ministry of Culture and Information.
The Wolesi Jirga today summoned Ahmad Javed Sadaat, deputy minister of mines and petroleum, Abdul Rasoul Bawari, deputy minister of information and culture and Gen. Murad Ali Murad, Deputy In-Charge of Security at Interior Ministry to brief the house on the Mes Ainak contract, the process of excavation and the allegations of smuggling of historic items.
Lawmaker Kamal Naseri, head of the House Religious and Cultural Affairs Commission, said the Afghan government had abided by its responsibilities defined in the contract, but the Chinese company did not.
He added some artifacts found at the Mes Ainak site had been stolen because of lack of attention from the government and smuggled to Pakistan. He accused government authorities of their involvement in the looting and smuggling of the artifacts.
Without naming anybody, Naseri said a number of officials in Kabul and Logar province were involved in the smuggling of the relics.
Deputy information and culture minister Abdul Rasoul Bawari said since the excavation work was handed over to the Ministry of Culture and Information, approximately 1,300 items had been found at Mes Ainak. These items have been transferred to the national museum.
He added some items were sent to Hungary and Italy for renovation and others moved to other places due to their larger size. He said all the artifacts were being kept at proper places.
Bawari also rejected allegations of smuggling, adding when the smuggling of relics was reported some time ago, the government quickly reacted and detained the individuals involved, who were then handed over to the Attorney General Office (AGO).
Gen. Murad said the Interior Ministry had tasked 1,750 security personnel with keeping security at 134 historic sites in the country.
He said police were able to stop illegal mining and smuggling of historic objects.
Deputy Minister of Mining Ahmad Javed Sadaat said the exploitation of Mes Ainak had been delayed due to excavation of historic objects from the site. He also accused the Chinese company of not abiding by their commitments.
He added there were some points of disagreement in the contract. The Chinese company has pointed out 75 such points on which both parties will hold talks.
Initially there was no map for excavation of copper from the site, but now the ministry has chalked out a map. But for the work to resume, an approval from the Economic Council is needed.
The Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) in its recent report claimed that illegal mining of natural reservoirs is underway at approximately 3,000 points across the country.
The report accuses armed non-state groups and powerful individuals of illegal mining activities in collaboration with local government officials.
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