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At a time when a controversial festival organised by PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has drawn the attention of people to Sindh's ancient culture, Pakistani authorities are planning to ask India to return the famous 'Dancing Girl' statue from Mohenjodaro.
"We are writing to the federal government to help us repatriate our exiled heroine back to us from India," an unnamed member of the cabinet of southern Sindh province was quoted as saying by Dawn daily today.
The 10.8-cm bronze statue, made in 2500 BC, is on display at the National Museum in New Delhi. Along with the Priest King, it is considered one of the two most famous artefacts from Mohenjodaro, one of the oldest planned cities.
The demand comes at a time when Bilawal has organised the Sindh Festival at Mohenjodaro amid fears among archaeologists that the event would damage the ruins.
Unnamed officials were quoted by Dawn as saying that the Dancing Girl and Priest King were transported by British archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler to Delhi in 1946 for an exhibition. After the Partition in 1947, Pakistan sought the return of both relics.
A Pakistani official visited Delhi and succeeded in bringing back the King Priest and the Fasting Buddha. There is a popular legend that Indian authorities refused to hand over both relics and asked Pakistani authorities to choose between the Priest King and the Dancing Girl, the report said.
"The Pakistanis chose the King Priest made up of soapstone. Perhaps they were hesitant to get hold of a naked teenager to avoid a possible backlash from religious quarters," one official said.
The Priest King - a bearded man wearing an ajrak-like cloth with hair neatly combed back - is currently on display at the National Museum of Pakistan in Karachi.
Experts said they had asked previous governments to bring back the Dancing Girl but no one took interest.
The tiny bronze statue of a young woman is suggestive of two breakthrough - that Indus artists knew metal blending and casting and that the well developed Indus society had innovated dance and other performing arts, India's National Museum says in its description of the Dancing Girl.
Qasim Ali Qasim, director of Sindh's archaeology department, said Islamabad's efforts in 2009 brought back 13 artefacts of the Gandhara civilisation from several countries.