Khyber Pakhtunkhwa demands seized Buddha statues
Farzana Ali Khan
ISLAMABAD: Following the seizure by the Karachi police of a huge cache of 2,000-year-old sculptures of the Gandhara civilisation, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is demanding that these be returned to the province immediately.
When contacted, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Minister for Tourism and Museums and Sports Syed Aqil Shah said that according to the history of Pakistan, there has been only one source of these sculptures and these must be immediately returned to the province to be kept in the Peshawar and Swat Museums. The director of Archaeology of Sindh has also admitted the origin of the Gandhara heritage artefacts, he added.
Honorary Adviser to the Ministry of Archaeology and Museums Feryal Ali Gauhar said the officials concerned would move the court to clarify the situation further and find out whether the sculptures were genuine or not.
KP Additional Secretary Culture Ashfaq Nusavi explained that curators Mohammad Shah Bokhari and Aijaz Elahi had been assigned to clear the container and only 30 percent of the cartons had so far been checked. He said the seated image of the Buddha was the second only to the Bamiyan Buddhas. A late journalist had pointed out that the image that was attacked was not in a remote area. In fact, it was next to the central road that runs through the valley.
Despite repeated requests to the local authorities by Pakistani archaeologists to protect the seated Buddha and other sites, especially after the first Taliban attack, no action was taken. In fact, militants were able to carry out their work by drilling holes in the rock, filling them with explosives, and detonating them in broad daylight.
They did this not once but twice. The first time, the image escaped heavy damage because of the militants’ incompetence. The second time, they were more successful, destroying not only the sculpture’s face, but also its shoulders and feet.