A huge, centuries-old Buddhist statue in northern Pakistan has been badly damaged after it was attacked by Muslim militants, Asia Times reports.
Spurred on by a former cleric known as the Radio Mullah, who broadcasts from a pirate radio station in the region, militants detonated explosives on the statute, destroying its face.
The 23-foot-tall, 7th century Buddha of Jehanabad is the last remaining of many huge statues and carvings from the Gandhara civilization, which had its capital in what is now Pakistan’s Swat Valley.
The attack was reportedly carried out by members of extremist group Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Sharia Muhammadia, after their leader, Maulana Fazlullah, used his radio station to call for the destruction of “un-Islamic” imagery.
The attack echoed the Taliban’s 2001 destruction of Afghanistan’s equally historic Bamiyan Buddhas.
Once a popular tourist destination known as “the Switzerland of South Asia,” the region has lately become home to supporters of Afghanistan’s Taliban, as well as homegrown militants who wish to impose Muslim sharia law in Pakistan.
Government forces have been battling militants in the region, forcing many residents to flee their homes.
— Will Crain/Newsdesk.org
“Radio Mullah vs Gandhara Buddha”
Asia Times, Dec. 20, 2007