The recent destruction of a Gandharan Buddha Statue in Mardan is an example of how some Pakistanis are indifferent or intolerant towards religious minorities and lack respect for the country’s diverse historical background. Such ignorant acts also threaten the tourism industry which banks on the immortalisation of such rare antiques.

The ancient statue was discovered and wrecked by four men acting on the words of a religious cleric who claimed that their faith would be renounced if they did not dismantle the sculpture. Their blind obedience goes to show the immense influence amassed by local clerics promoting fanaticism through manipulation.

During the Gandharan period, the entire region was ruled by Buddhists. This explains why many of the archaeological findings in northern Pakistan are of Buddhist temples, sculptures and reliefs. In light of their religious and historical importance, the tourism industry has worked hard for their preservation so that people from all over the world could practise their faith, perform pilgrimage and learn more about the ancient era. Such incidences render their work useless and subjects the country to economic loss along with international scrutiny.

Needless to say, accountability for such actions is dire. Notably, the four men were charged timely under the KP Antiquities Act of 2016 and now face conviction. The cleric whose instruction they acted on is facing criticism and a demise in credibility, rightfully so. After having successfully set an important precedence of intolerance towards such acts of vandalism, the government should move onto educating people about our open-minded past as well as its significance in order to bring about an organic behavioural change in the present day.