Kabul halts reconstruction of ancient Buddhas

Updated 13 February 2014

Kabul halts reconstruction of ancient Buddhas

KABUL: Afghanistan has halted conservation work at a site once occupied by ancient Buddha statues destroyed by the Taleban because the team involved is suspected of secretly trying to rebuild one of the statue’s feet, the United Nations said.
Any attempt to rebuild the statues without official permission could lead to the site losing its World Heritage status.
The Taleban’s supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, decreed in early 2001 that two ancient giant Buddha statues in the valley in Bamiyan province were un-Islamic and ordered they be destroyed. They were blown up with dynamite the next month.
The German wing of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) had been working alongside the United Nations in the valley, aiming to reinforce the cliff into which the Buddha statues were carved.
But the work was halted after a team from the UN cultural agency UNESCO visited the site in December and found pillars built into the rock looked suspiciously like feet, according to a UNESCO official.
“These pillars are the controversial issue ... Questions were raised concerning their design, that they resembled somehow the feet or the legs,” said UNESCO’s Brendan Cassar.
Cassar said the pillars were never meant to look like part of the original statue and his office was unaware of their design when the work started.
“That should have been cleared not just by us, but the government and potentially the World Heritage Committee.”
The Ministry of Culture and Information had ordered that the work be stopped.
The ICOMOS office in Afghanistan referred queries to its office in Germany which did not respond to e-mail requests for comment. Telephone calls also went unanswered.
The destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001 shocked the world and drew attention to the hard-line rule of the Taleban.
Six months later, the Taleban’s Al-Qaeda allies launched the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. US-backed Afghan forces ousted the Taleban weeks later.
Since then, there have been proposals for the statues to be rebuilt but the government has yet to settle on a plan.
The government’s director of historical monuments said he was in favor of rebuilding the statues if the World Heritage Committee (WHC) approved of a design.
“The WHC has not approved but the government of Afghanistan has requested to rebuild the statue,” the director, Abdul Ahad Abassi, told Reuters at his office in Kabul.
“If the WHC accepts this request then we will proceed.”

The controversial work had taken place over two weeks in an eastern niche, where the smaller 38 meter statue once stood overlooking the valley. Its larger companion, to the west, towered 55 meters over the ancient Silk Route.
Abassi said he hoped the statues could be rebuilt with old fragments.
“We’ll put the original pieces in their place and maybe use some fillings for those that have vanished.”


Sharif awaits UK flight go-ahead for urgent medical treatment

Updated 12 November 2019

Sharif awaits UK flight go-ahead for urgent medical treatment

  • Sharif's name had still to be removed from the country’s Exit Control List

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s ailing former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, was on Monday awaiting the go-ahead to travel to the UK for urgent medical treatment.

However, the 69-year-old’s name had still to be removed from the country’s Exit Control List (ECL) after his release on bail last month from a seven-year sentence for corruption, due to his ongoing health problems.

According to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders, Sharif had been allowed by the government to get medical treatment outside Pakistan, but the country’s anti-corruption watchdog, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), was still considering his no-fly status, which if cleared would then require endorsement from the Ministry of Interior.

Sharif, who has dominated Pakistani politics for three decades and was premier three times, has denied the corruption charges, claiming they were politically motivated.

“All the arrangements for his treatment abroad have been finalized, and we are now just waiting for the government to remove his name from the ECL,” the PML-N party chairman, Raja Zafarul Haq, told Arab News on Sunday.

Haq said Sharif’s younger brother and PML-N president, Shehbaz Sharif, and his personal doctor, Adnan Khan, would travel with him to London.

FASTFACT

Nawaz Sharif, who was Pakistan’s prime minister three times, has denied the corruption charges, claiming they were politically motivated.

Sharif had been scheduled to leave Pakistan for Britain at 9:05 a.m. on Monday with a private airline but was delayed because of the ECL decision hold-up.

On Friday, the Pakistani government granted Sharif permission to go abroad after Shehbaz requested the Ministry of Interior to remove his brother’s name from the ECL.

“The Ministry of Interior has taken all necessary actions keeping in view the urgency of the matter as pleaded by Shehbaz Sharif in his request,” a ministry statement had said.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi added on Friday that doctors had recommended Sharif be sent abroad for further examination. “If that is what the medical treatment requires, the government has been positive,” he told Reuters. “The prime minister (Imran Khan) has said everything possible should be done to show his life is protected.”

Asked if Sharif might be trying to leave Pakistan to seek a second period in exile, Qureshi said: “If their hands are clean, why should they be running away? I hope he recovers. When he recovers, why should he be sticking around in London? There’s no logic, there’s no reason for that.”