The State Department has announced that the Cultural Property Advisory Committee will meet on April 26-27 to consider a request for the United States to enter into a cultural property MOU with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. According to the Federal Register Notice, public comments and requests to speak are due no later than April 19, 2022 for the public session which will take place from 2:00-3:00 PM on April 26, 2022.
The Cultural Heritage Center's website indicates the exceptional breadth of the Pakistani request. That request covers the lower Paleolithic period through the first half of the 20th century:
The Government of Pakistan seeks import restrictions on archaeological and ethnological material from the Lower Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Historic Pre-Muslim Period, Early Muslim Period, Mughal, Sikh, and Colonial periods through the creation of Pakistan. Requested archaeological material includes, but is not limited to, stone; ceramics; metal objects including coins; stucco/plaster; glassware; bone, ivory, shell, and horn; manuscripts, paintings, proclamations, deeds, books, and documents; textiles of silk, wool, leather; and wood, dating from the lower Paleolithic (2 million years before present) through the first half of the twentieth century A.D. Requested ethnological material includes, but is not limited to stone; ceramics; metal objects including coins; stucco/plaster; glassware; bone, ivory, shell, and horn; manuscripts, paintings, proclamations, deeds, books, and documents; textiles of silk, wool, leather, and wood objects both architectural and moveable objects; and wooden objects dating from the Pre-Muslim Historic period through the first half of the twentieth century A.D.
The request should raise a number of important general questions. First, are all the listed archaeological objects not only of "archaeological interest" but of "cultural significance," and do they meet the governing statute's 250 year threshold? Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act, 19 USC Section 2601 (C) (i) (I)(II). Second, are all the listed ethnological objects really the products of "tribal or nonindustrial society" "that are important to the cultural heritage of a people because of its distinctive characteristics, comparative rarity, or its contributions to the knowledge origins, development or history of that people?" 19 USC Section 2601 (C) (ii) (I)(II).
Third, has Pakistan taken "measures consistent with the [1970 UNESCO] Convention to protect its cultural patrimony" under 19 USC Section 2602 (a) (1) (B) when concerns have been raised about Pakistan's notoriously poor stewardship of its own cultural heritage, including not only neglect but theft and outright disrespect for minority cultural heritage.
Finally, does the State Department intend to recognize the Islamic Republic's rights to ownership and/or control of the cultural heritage of today's small Hindu, Christian and Jewish communities? These groups have suffered from severe discrimination, and such recognition would raise the same concerns as has been expressed with other controversial MOUs with authoritarian Middle Eastern countries. There also is the issue of ancient Buddhist statuary which has not only suffered neglect and disrespect as noted above, but outright destruction from local iconoclasts.
Coins also raise a number of specific issues. First, there appears to be a substantial overlap in the types of Indo-Greek, Kushan, Indo-Sassanian, Turkish and later Islamic coins found in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Under the circumstances, how can the State Department conclude that particular coins were "first discovered within and [are] subject to export control by" Pakistan? 19 USC Section 2601 (2) (C).
Second, coins of all periods are legally bought and sold in Pakistan. So, why should our State Department restrict Americans from buying the same type of "Pakistani" coins abroad?
Finally, metal detectors are in wide use in Pakistan. That raises the question if they first should be regulated as both a "self-help" measure and "less drastic" remedy before import restrictions are placed on American coin collectors. See 19 USC Section 2602 (a) (1) (A) (B).
How to comment? According to the State Department,
For general comments, use http://www.regulations.gov, enter the docket [DOS-2022-0008], and follow the prompts.
Unfortunately, the links provided to comment do not appear yet to be active. CPO hopes to update this post as soon as comments are accepted.
UPDATE (4/6/22): The blue "comment now" button is now active on the regulations.gov website. It may be accessed here.