Dawn, FRANCES BULATHSINGHALA — UPDATED OCT 07, 2016 09:13AM
Pakistan and Sri Lanka have embarked on a new journey in bilateral relations by benefiting from a common Buddhist heritage.
Till the end of Lanka’s war with the Tamil Tiger rebels in mid-2009, the relationship was based on military support to the Lankan government. However, a gradual cultural orientation was in the offing in Pakistan’s diplomatic policy with Sri Lanka. In 2007, the book Buddhist Gandhara — History, Art and Architecture, written by a Pakistani musicologist and archaeologist, Mr Ihsan H Nadiem, was translated into Sinhala.
In 2009, the then Pakistan High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Seema Baloch, revived Pakistan’s ancient links with the Buddhist world, with the intention of introducing the Lankan public to the archaeological, aesthetic and cultural diversity of its neighbouring state.
Muhammed Daud Ehtisham, the Press Attache in 2010 and the principal cultural aficionado in the Pakistan High Commission, led the shaping of the new stage of Pak-Lanka relations, expanding it with arts and culture-related initiatives.
He compiled a publication, Majestic Pakistan, this year and published it in three official languages in Sri Lanka: English, Sinhala and Tamil. He felt that these efforts would help in breaking stereotypes about Pakistan by offering glimpses of Pakistan’s landscape and culture with a separate section dedicated to Buddhist sites and their archaeological relevance.
Among the famous Buddhist sites mentioned in the publication are the Takht-i-Bahi, a monastic complex 80 kilometres from Peshawar. It was unearthed in the early 20th century and included in the Unesco World Heritage list. Mohra Muradu, a 3rd century monastery based in Taxila, is among other sites mentioned in the book. Continue reading