Another Bamiyan-style vandalism in Pakistan

via TIMES NEWS NETWORK & AGENCIES published on November 12, 2007

ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI: In a re-run of the horrible vandalism that destroyed the Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan, Pakistani Taliban rebels have carried out a second attack on a historic 40-metre tall Buddha statue in the Swat valley, destroying the head, shoulders and feet. The rebels have threatened a third and final attack on the statue to reduce it to rubble.

The world had shuddered with horror at the blasting of the Bamiyan statues. Yet another such act is happening in Pakistan and the Musharraf regime seems helpless to prevent it. Said president of Asia Society Vishakha N Desai: “Political and cultural leaders from around the world had condemned the destruction of the Bamiyan statues in 2001, yet in Pakistan the same disaster is being repeated.”

The problem is that the writ of Pervez Musharraf no longer runs in Swat, a picturesque tourist centre 200 km northwest of Islamabad, that has now been overrun by Islamic fundamentalists led by Mullah Fazlullah, known as ‘Mullah Radio’ because of the FM propaganda radio station that he runs.

The radio station, apart from giving orders to people, justifies acts that fly against civilised norms as understood in the 21st century, like the destruction of the statues, closure of girls schools, destruction of Indian music shops and beating up of barbers who shave beards.

Swat, falling in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province, has a priceless Buddhist heritage. The Harmarajika stupa in Taxila and Butkarha stupa in Swat were among the earliest stupas of Gandhara — an ancient kingdom consisting of modern-day Peshawar, Taxila, Swat and, according to some historians, parts of Kashmir.

These stupas had been erected on the orders of Emperor Ashoka and contained real relics of the Buddha. The Gandhara school is credited with the first representation of the Buddha in human form.

Adriana Propser of Asia Society in New York, said: “The art of the Gandhara area shows the impact of Hellenistic and Roman influence through the conquests of Alexander. Any destruction of archeological and artistic sites here are an enormous loss for mankind, especially for those who treasure historical records and rare works of art.”

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