File image of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan | Photographer: Cate Dingley | Bloomberg
File image of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan | Photographer: Cate Dingley | Bloomberg
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New Delhi: Even when Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan does something as simple as tweeting a picture of the ancient Buddha of Swat, he is not spared. On Monday, PM Khan praised the seventh century rock carving by calling it “one of the largest engravings of Buddha”.

Some Pakistanis recalled the fate of Buddhas of Bamiyan, two 6th-century monumental engravings in Afghanistan that were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. Others accused Khan of promoting tourism in Swat while maintaining silence on the treatment of Buddhist minority in the country.

There were also those who criticised the PM for tweeting about the monument instead of rising inflation in the country, an issue that is affecting their daily lives.

The rock carvings are located in the Swat Valley, once occupied by the Pakistani Taliban or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The TTP, a banned terrorist organisation, attacked the Buddha of Swat in September 2007 and blew up half the statue’s face, triggering worldwide anger. In 2018, it was restored by the Pakistan government with Italian assistance.

In the past, reports have referred to TTP’s attack on the Buddha of Swat as an “echo” of what the Afghan Taliban did in the Bamiyan Valley in 2001.

‘Protect statue from your Taliban friends’

Taking a dig at the proximity Pakistan enjoys with the Afghan Taliban, some users went on to refer the Taliban as Khan’s “pals” and “friends”.

Some replied to the prime minister’s tweet with before and after pictures of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, while others asked if Khan is helping the Taliban locate the remaining Buddha statues to destroy.

One Afghan user also remarked: “You have destroyed the oldest and biggest Buddha in Bamyan Afghanistan, now your worshipping this small one (sic)”.

‘Taking us back to Stone Age’

Many Pakistanis online used their prime minister’s tweet as an opportunity to criticise rising inflation and record-high petrol prices, which are taking the country back to the “Stone Age”.

Many joked that they showed this tweet at their local fuel station and availed a fifty per cent discount. “Thank you for sharing this,” said one user, sarcastically.

 

A Twitter account that has over 69,000 followers replied to the PM with a meme of the Buddha of Swat saying “Get inflation under control”, in Urdu.

“Look what Buddha is saying,” read the user’s caption.

‘Silence’ on treatment of Buddhist minority

Khan’s tweet triggered discussions about the treatment of the Buddhist minority in Pakistan, with some users criticising the PM for promoting the rock statue to the world but not speaking about how Buddhists “vanished from Afghanistan and Pakistan”.

According to a recent Dawn report, the few practising Buddhists in Pakistan are facing extinction “due to unavailability of worship places, religious teaching and government patronage.”

Lala Muneer, head of a five-member group of practising Buddhists from Naushahro Feroze in Sindh, was quoted saying that there were around 650 families of practising Buddhists in different districts of rural Sindh, including Ghotki, Sanghar, Khairpur, Nawabshah and Naushahro Feroze. There is no temple or Stupa for them to offer their religious rituals, he said.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)

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