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Pakistan’s Turmoil Endangers Its Archaeological Treasures

December 27, 2009

In the mountains and valleys of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province, palace ruins and crumbling Buddhist monasteries dot the hills above war-torn locations such as Mingora, Peshawar and the Swat Valley. These magnificent ruins are all that’s left of the Gandhara kingdom, which flourished from the 6th century B.C. to the 11th century A.D. It vanished under the pressure of war and conquest, re-emerging only in 1848 when relics and ruins were re-discovered by the British archaeologist, Sir Alexander Cunningham.

Now, Gandhara is in danger of vanishing a second time from the same old threats. Just as the Afghan Taliban destroyed the 1,500-year-old statues of the Buddha in Bamiyan, Afghanistan in 2001, militants in Pakistan have attacked the Buddhist heritage in Pakistan, driving away foreign research teams and tourists, forcing the closure of museums and threatening the integrity of valuable digs.

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