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Pakistan

A hammer blow to Pakistan's Buddhist heritage

Controversy surrounding the destruction of a Buddha statue in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa highlights growing religious intolerance

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A hammer blow to Pakistan's Buddhist heritage

The ruins of an ancient Buddhist monastery in Takht Bhai in Khyber Pakhtunkwa province. (Photo: YouTube)

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Activists across Pakistan are calling on authorities to protect minority sites after a video on social media showed Pashtun men smashing a life-size statue of Buddha with a sledgehammer.

“Look, this is his belly button. This is the undergarment of Gautama Buddha,” stated a bearded man scratching away the mud with his fingers. Others thanked him for making the discovery. “We did it,” exclaimed another after hitting the statue discovered at an excavation site in the Takht Bhai area of Mardan in Khyber Pakhtunkwa province. 

“Your nikah [marriage] would cease to exist and you will no more be a believer if the statue isn’t disposed of,” a cleric told people at the site.

Four men were arrested on July 18 following a complaint by the Tourism Department. A first information report has been registered against them under the Antiquities Act 2016. Experts claim that the ancient statue was worth US$20 million.

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