In a shocking development, a rare statue of Gautam Buddha was found vandalised in Pakistan's northwest Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province on Sunday. Video of the incident went viral on social media, after which an FIR was filed under Pakistan's antiquity act. As per reports, four suspects have been arrested so far. Quoting local residents, news agency PTI said that the statue was discovered in tehsil Takhtbai of Mardan district and was destroyed allegedly on the orders of a local Maulvi.
District Police Officer Zahidullah said the incident took place when a water line was dug up and construction workers discovered the statue. "We have arrested contractor Qamar Zaman and his workers, Amjad, Aleem and Saleem for smashing the Buddha statue and have also recovered some of its pieces from them," he said. A senior officer of the Tourism Department said after the video surfaced the authorities reported the matter to the police for action against the culprits.
Heart breaking.— Ahsan Hamid Durrani (@Ahsan_H_Durrani) July 18, 2020
A life sized statue of Buddha was discovered in a construction site in Takhtbhai, Mardan recently.
However, before the Archaeology dept was informed about it, the contractor had already broken it into pieces as the local molvi warned him that he would lose.. pic.twitter.com/nWHHzkOxe7
Takhtbai area is a tourist destination for people from Sri Lanka, Korea and Japan since it was a part of the Gandhara Civilisation - one of the earliest urban settlements documented in the history of the subcontinent. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's old name is Ghandhara and the region is a highly revered place for the followers of Buddhism.
Earlier in May, Buddhist rock carvings in the Chilas area of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK)'s Gilgit-Baltistan were found to be vandalised. The rock carvings belong to 800 AD and are archeologically important. Visuals show slogans and the Pakistani flag painted over the carvings.
In May, sources reported that the vandalized carvings were found by local Buddhist residents and the vandalism was allegedly in retaliation to the protests over the Pak-China DiamerBhasha dam project, which will reportedly destroy this archeological site. 19 years ago, the Taliban had demolished the carved statue of Buddha in Bamyan valley of Afghanistan in 2001.
As per reports, the Taliban's 'Commander of the Faithful' - Mullah Mohammed Omar ordered the destruction of all statues and non-Islamic shrines located in different parts of Afghanistan on February 26, 2001. Explosives, tanks, and anti-aircraft weapons blew apart two colossal images of the Buddha in Bamiyan Province in stages. Initially, the statues were fired at for several days using anti-aircraft guns and artillery, and then anti-tank mines were placed at the niches, as per reports. Later, 25 men were lowered down the cliff-face to drill holes and place explosives, damaging more parts of the statues. Ultimately, the Taliban launched a rocket leaving a hole in the remains of the stone head, justifying it 'in accordance with Islamic law'.