Islamabad, November 14, 2016: An iconic 7th-century Buddha statue in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, which was defaced by the Taliban nine years ago has finally been restored to its original form by a team of Italian archaeologists, it was reported on Monday.
The Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan, helped along by the locals of Jahanabad in Swat district, was able to undo the damage inflicted by the Taliban militants in September 2007 after four years of hard work, the Geo News reported.
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“It was our professional and moral obligation toward the people and heritage of Swat and Pakistan which forced us to restore the Buddha. It took about five missions of about a month each from 2012-2016 in its complete conservation program,” said head of the Italian Archaeological Mission, Luca Maria Olivieri, adding that international experts worked on the restoration process.
The militants had blown up the iconic statue’s face by inserting explosives and damaged the shoulders and torso by drilling holes into the structure. The act had sparked worldwide ire, especially among the Buddhist community, historians and archaeologists.
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The Italian team started restoration work on the Buddha in 2012, employing latest 3D technology and restoration and 3D experts.
The meditative Buddha statue, dating back to 7th century, is considered to be the biggest such structure carved in stone in South Asia.
Towering at 21 feet long and 12 feet wide, the statue is an icon of the Gandhara art – a style of Buddhist visual art that developed in what is now northwestern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan between the 1st century BCE and the 7th century CE.
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There are around 20 sites in the Swat valley with ancient historical significance.
The statue at one time drew a large number of tourists to the Valley, including Tibetan pilgrims and archaeology enthusiasts. It is now hoped the restored Buddha statue would once again be able to attract people from all over the world as well as from other parts of Pakistan. (IANS)
Ghazni, Washington October 11: Taliban militants have ordered mobile phone companies to shut down their networks at dark in central Ghazni province, provincial police authorities told VOA.
In a bid to mitigate risks, the insurgent group has asked telecom operators in Ghazni province to halt operations from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in order to make it difficult for the Afghan forces to get intelligence and tips on militants through mobile phones.
The insurgent group has destroyed several telecom towers in the restive province over the last three days.
“The recent uptick in airstrikes against militants is causing increasing casualties in Taliban ranks. The militants want to destroy telecom towers to disturb communications,” Fahim Amarkhil, a police spokesperson in Ghazni told VOA.
The Taliban has said Afghan and U.S. forces use the network signals to locate the group’s fighters.
In addition to Ghazni, the insurgent group has asked mobile phone companies to halt their networks’ coverage in several other provinces as well, an official of a major cell phone company in Kabul told VOA on the condition of anonymity.
The official added that in many cases, the operators have no option but to comply with what the insurgents want.
The disruption in telecom services have angered customers in Ghazni who rely on mobile phone as their only means of communication. The residents fear that if the government does not address the issue in a timely manner, the telecom companies may end their operation in the province.
“Some time ago, the Taliban had warned the telecom companies to pay taxes to the Taliban, not to the government, and the issue was resolved,” Jamil Weqar, an activist in Ghazni told VOA. “But this time, they destroyed the towers which has created many problems [for customers],” he added.
The telecommunication sector in Afghanistan has made tremendous progress following the fall of the Taliban and the establishment of a new government in the post-2001 era. With little to no access to cell phones and the internet 15 years ago, the country now has more than 20 million mobile phone subscribers, covering more than 85 percent of the population.
The communication blackout comes as the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is increasing military pressure on militant groups across the country. The new plan includes a more intensive use of airpower against militants.
The latest official data shows U.S. forces dropped 751 bombs in September against the Taliban and militants linked to the so-called Islamic State terror group in Afghanistan. This is the largest number of bombs dropped on militants in a single month since 2012.
“This increase can be attributed to the president’s strategy to more proactively target extremist groups that threaten the stability and security of the Afghan people,” according to a summary from the U.S. Air Force’s Central Command.
U.S.-backed Afghan forces are trying to regain control of areas and districts lost to the Taliban across the country.
The government has said it controls nearly two-thirds of the country’s 407 districts. Taliban reportedly control 33 districts, less than 10 percent of the national total. Around 116 districts are “contested” areas, according to a recent U.S. military assessment. (voa)
U.S. President Donald Trump in his speech called out Pakistan for harboring terrorist organizations, including the Taliban and Haqqani network
US considering strict measures like increasing diplomatic and economic pressure, and intensifying anti-terrorism drone strikes to keep terrorist sanctuaries under check in Pakistan
Pakistani ministers have rejected claims of hosting any terrorist sanctuaries
Islamabad, September 6, 2017 : Pakistan says it seeks to amicably resolve issues with the United States, cautioning “any [coercive] American action” would cause instability in the country.
The remarks by Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan came days after U.S. President Donald Trump singled out Pakistan for harboring terrorist organizations, including the Taliban and Haqqani network, which destabilize Afghanistan and plot attacks on American troops there.
Trump did not outline what actions he might order to pressure Islamabad to move against the alleged terrorist sanctuaries. A range of punitive measures reportedly is being considered, though, such as increasing diplomatic and economic pressure, and intensifying and expanding anti-terrorism drone strikes inside Pakistan.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday in Islamabad, Defense Minister Khan again rejected that there are any terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan. He said Pakistani security forces already have taken action against all terrorist groups and are in the process of eliminating their “remnants” in the country.
Minister Khan also cited U.S. military assessments that say less then 60 percent of Afghan territory is under the control or influence of the Kabul government.
“That is why we are all gravely concerned about the fact that 40 percent of Afghanistan has perhaps become a safe haven [for terrorists],” he said.
The Pakistani minister added that his country is not feeling threatened by the U.S. following the harshly worded Trump speech.
“However, we are maintaining an extremely strict monitoring of our land, sea and air frontiers,” noted Khan.
He sounded upbeat, though, about “better and quality future engagements” between Islamabad and Washington.
Khan said the Pakistani foreign minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, plans to travel to Washington for official talks after consulting key regional partners, including China, Russia, Iran and Turkey.
“We are trying to resolve the issues amicably because any American action would cause instability in Pakistan,” the defense minister warned.
BRICS on terrorism
On Monday, China, and the four other countries that comprise the BRICS group of major emerging economies — India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa — agreed to boost cooperation against terrorist organizations threatening the region.
A statement issued after a BRICS’ leaders’ summit hosted by China contained the names of Pakistan-based, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad militant groups blamed for orchestrating attacks against India. Pakistani authorities already have outlawed the organizations.
Responding to the BRICS’ announcement, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said it also is concerned about the threat posed by terrorism and extremism in South Asia.
In a brief statement, the ministry pointed to the presence of terrorist groups in “the ungoverned spaces of Afghanistan,” including the Pakistani Taliban and its associates like Jamaatul Ahrar, Islamic State and anti-China militants.
“Pakistan also remains concerned at the rise of extremist ideologies and intolerance in the region encouraging social stratification and systematic targeting of minorities,” the statement reads.
Islamabad alleges that India is partnering with the Afghan intelligence agency to support anti-state militants sheltering in Afghanistan to plan attacks against Pakistan, charges Kabul and New Delhi reject. (VOA)
Insurgency in Pakistan has destroyed most of the public infrastructure, including education institutions
Nearly seven million Pakistani youth do not attend school
Over 1,100 girls’ schools in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have been damaged or fully destroyed by the insurgency in Pakistan
Pakistan, September 4, 2017 : Years of militancy and counterinsurgency operations in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal region have destroyed much of the infrastructure, including education centers, in the area.
More than 1,100 girls’ schools in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which is adjacent to the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, have reportedly been damaged or fully destroyed by the decade long insurgency, according to Pakistan government estimates.
While the Pakistani government claims to have rehabilitated around 900 schools, hundreds of schools have not been rebuilt or rehabilitated in FATA.
Experts say the government should take immediate steps to rebuild the destroyed schools in the tribal region.
“Several factors adversely affected education institutions in the tribal region. One factor is the Taliban who destroyed schools and education institutions, particular girls’ schools,” A.H. Nayyar, a Pakistan-based educationist, told VOA’s Urdu service. “Unless the schools are fully rehabilitated, it would be extremely difficult to give hope to the youth in the region.”
“It is important to open the doors of education for tribal youth so that they get the sense that they could achieve a lot in their life, like other citizens, particularly the girls; the government must rehabilitate their schools, utilizing all available resources,” Nayyar said.
Some tribesmen are returning home after more than one million were displaced by Pakistani military operations against the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) in parts of FATA. According to U.N. estimates, about 95,000 families fled to nearby cities within Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan’s Khost province.
Pakistan’s Army says many areas have been cleared in recent counterinsurgency operations, and it is slowly allowing the displaced tribesmen to return to their home.
U.S. military commanders until recently considered the North Waziristan region in FATA as the “epicenter” of international terrorism. The region has for years served as a training ground for Taliban and other militants groups.
During the past several years, insurgent groups, including TTP, have repeatedly targeted education institutions and schools in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA region, depriving its younger generation of acquiring education.
Nearly 58 percent of the children between the ages of five and 16 are not in school in Pakhtunkhwa, according to Dawn, a local English language daily. Besides the militancy, extreme poverty and lack of infrastructure are also blamed for the lack of schooling.
Recent statistics by Alif Ailan, an education advocacy organization in Pakistan, show 48 percent of primary and secondary schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa operate without adequate physical infrastructure.
Pakistan is 50 years behind in its primary and 60 years behind in secondary education targets, according to a recent United Nations report. The literacy rate in poor rural areas stands at 14 percent for females and 64 percent for males. Nearly seven million Pakistani youth do not attend school. (VOA)