Militants in Pakistan destroy priceless Buddhist sculptures

PTI, Nov 13, 2007

Islamabad, Pakistan -- In a repeat of the horrendous vandalism that destroyed the Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan in 2001, militants in northwest Pakistan's troubled Swat valley have destroyed one of the oldest and most important Buddhist sculptures, second in importance in South Asia.

Despite repeated requests by Pakistani archaeologists to the local authorities to protect the seated Buddha and other sites, especially after the first attack, no action was taken.

"In fact, militants were able to carry out their work in broad daylight," said President of the Asia Society, Vishakha N Desai in an article in Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper.

Dating from around the beginning of the Christian era, and carved into a 130-foot-high rock, the seated image of the Buddha was second in importance in South Asia only to the Bamiyan Buddhas, Desai said, adding that the attack was the second one in less than a month.

Despite repeated requests by Pakistani archaeologists to the local authorities to protect the seated Buddha and other sites, especially after the first attack, no action was taken, she said.

"In fact, militants were able to carry out their work, drilling holes in the rock, filling them with explosives, and detonating them in broad daylight," she said.

"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. As if that were not enough, there are now reports of a third attack," she said.
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