Sri Lankans annoyed over destruction of Buddhist heritage in Pakistan

Sri Lankan Buddhists. (Photo Credit - Reuters)
Sri Lankan Buddhists. (Photo Credit - Reuters)

Islamabad [Pakistan], September 20 (ANI): The destruction of Buddhist heritage sites in Pakistan has annoyed the Sri Lankans that may impact the bilateral relations between the two nations.

The heritage sites in Pakistan has seen widespread demolition of Buddhist carvings and stupas and statues of Buddha, especially in Swat valley, reported Islam Khabar.

Moreover, Chinese -funded Diamer-Bhasha dam project - cum hydropower plant is going to cause the destruction of a whopping 30,000 raw carvings and scriptures of Buddhist origin in the Gilgit-Baltistan area of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

In 2020, a 1,700-year-old statue was demolished by a few Pakistani people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the north-western province of Pakistan.

The desecration of the statue filmed the whole incident on a mobile phone. The video of the demolition went viral on social media, reported Islam Khabar.

While civil activists and human rights activists expressed concerns, many Pakistani nationals supported the unfortunate act. Rawalpindi resident Umer Usmani hailed the desecration act by linking it with the teachings of Islam.

"As a Muslim, it is very necessary to smash and ruin all the idols in order to keep the Muslim separate identity from other nations. Pakistan was made on the basis of Islam, so Islam requires to eradicate the idolatry as our grandfather Ibrahim and the holy Prophet did," Usmani said on Twitter.

A few months ago, Pakistani President Dr Arif Alvi had sought to seek closeness with Sri Lankans when he met a delegation of Sri Lankan Buddhist monks in Islamabad and spoke about religious tourism as an excellent platform to strengthen ties.

However, the Pakistan government has even failed to protect heritage Buddhist sites from radical, religious fanatics in the country.

All this has revived the horrific memories of the destruction of two giant and 2000-year-old statues of Buddha carved into the hillside in Afghanistan's Bamiyan valley.

This certainly does not forebode good signs for the Pakistan government's plans to expand relations with Sri Lanka using religious tourism as a peg, reported Islam Khabar.

Ancient Buddhist rock carvings, paintings and sculptures are often damaged in Pakistan. Sometimes paintings are blackened and repainted with Pakistan's national flag. Pakistan is home to the world's earliest civilisation.

But the heritage asset has fall victim to discretion, vandalism, illegal excavation and smuggling. While there are global calls to preserve Buddhist history and heritage, the Pakistan government has failed to do so, reported Islam Khabar.

The number of tourists has seen a sharp decline due to the country being labelled as a hub of terror activities. Now, the demolition of religious structure not just lowered the tourist flow and revenue but also created challenges for Islamabad to maintain cordial relations with neighbour countries, especially Buddhist- majority Sri Lanka.

Moreover, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's intervention in the Sri Lankan government's decision to cremate all COVID-19 infected dead bodies including those of Muslims had annoyed the local Buddhist population. (ANI)