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Monday, 2 April, 2001, 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
Buddha rubble 'up for sale'
Bamiyan destruction
After the dynamite, only the rubble of the Buddhas remains
By BBC Eurasia analyst Adrian Foreman

The rubble of ancient giant statues of Buddha, which were blown up by the Taleban authorities in Afghanistan last month, is said to have been offered for sale.

Reports say several truck-loads of rubble from the statues turned up in Pakistan and was offered to dealers.

The reports have led to heavy criticism of the trade from academics and collectors.

Koichiro Matsuura, the director-general of the United Nations cultural organisation, Unesco, is due in Pakistan on Wednesday for talks about stopping the sale of antiquities from Afghanistan.

Tragic situation

Reports from the town of Peshawar on the Pakistan side of the border with Afghanistan speak of truckloads of rubble, some of which can be clearly identified as having come from the Buddhist statues.

Bamiyan Buddha
The ancient statues were deemed offensive by the Taleban
But the UN is not yet convinced. Unesco says it wants to check, and has again appealed to dealers not to reward the illicit trafficking in antiquities.

It's a difficult and tragic situation.

The enormous statues, one as tall as a five-storey building, which had stood for 2,000 years, were reduced to rubble by Taleban weaponry because they were judged offensive to Islam.

No-one suggested as the Taleban showed off the ruined cliff face niches in Bamiyan, where the statues had stood, that there had also be an attempt to profit from the destruction.

Unpopular move

One dealer who said he had been approached to buy the remains suggested that private collectors of Buddhist artefacts, perhaps Japanese collectors, were prepared to pay for the statues to be restored in another place.

That would be a daunting task, and in any case would be deeply unpopular.

International experts say no museum nor respected collector would help if it would reward the destruction.

But if the rubble is found to be genuine and a private individual buys it, Pakistan only has to agree the paperwork for the sale to go through.

That is something which the Unesco director-general is surely going to discuss in Islamabad this week.

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See also:

15 Mar 01 | South Asia
Afghan Buddha destruction revealed
19 Mar 01 | South Asia
Footage shows Buddhas blast
14 Mar 01 | South Asia
Bosnia asks for ruined Buddhas
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