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Italian Archeologist Luca Olivieri returns to Swat for the preservation of Buddhist Statues destroyed by Taliban

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As the restive Swat valley continues its struggle back to normalcy after a decade long atrocious rule of the Taliban, Italian Archeologist Luca Olivieri Is back with his usual aplomb and from what one gathers from his sturdy disposition, is undoubtedly a “Man on a Mission”.
 
The Taliban Rule led by Maulana Fazl-Ullah and his comrades not only ripped through the social structure of the once thriving Swat but did whatever it can to demolish the historic Buddha Statues spread over a large area in the valley.

The statues, some of which date back to 500-600 AD, are the remnants of the once flourishing Buddhist Citadel in the valley. Famous Buddhist Monk Padmasambhava who is credited of spreading the faith in far-fetched regions like Tibet, also hailed from Swat.


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Among some 120 Archaeological sites and 200 Rock Carvings, the featured Jahanabad Statue is the biggest of them all and stands at a colossal six meters (20 feet).

Falling short of sufficient explosives to destroy the whole statue on similar footings to what was done to the Buddha Statues in Bamayan just before 9/11, Taliban bore holes in the face, blasting it into pieces. 

As for the sturdy Italian, the preservation work in Pakistan is a never-ending job. Inspired by the valley in his school days back in 1987, Olivieri has been monitoring and leading the archaeological preservation work in Swat for the last two decades. 

With the rise of Taliban some four years back, Olivieri persevered against the odds but ultimately had to leave the country in 2008. He has now returned to carry on with his unfinished work, tending to the riches of the history left by the trailblazer Alexander the Great and the Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim invaders who followed.


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But for the Jahanabad Statue, Olivieri insists he will not rebuild the
face as there is no photographic evidence of the statues face.

He said, “Whatever you do in the absence of perfect data is a
fake”.

The security situation in the valley has since improved after a major  operation by the Pakistani forces, driving and apprehending most of the followers of Mualana Fazl-Ullah. 

The Italian mission has posted guards at the most important sites and is also training them to become guides by teaching them English, first aid and basic conservation techniques. 

The mission opened in 1955 in an office provided by the Wali of Swat, the one-time princely ruler of the territory.


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2 replies »

  1. Please preserve your cultural heritage and you must be proud of these magnificent archives and artifacts. A nation and people (kaum) will prosper only when they learn to respect their culture and history. Whether you agree or not many of your citizens are direct descendents of people who worshipped these sculptures. These are world heritage sites.