Steeped in religious history, Pakistan’s KP to host conference for Buddhist countries

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Takht Bhai is the most complete Buddhist monastery in Pakistan founded in the 1st century. (Photo Courtesy of Social Media)
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Ancient remains of a Buddhist monastery in Takht Bhai, in Mardan, KP province. Dec. 8, 2019 (AN photo)
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Reverend Dr. Neung Hur, a leading Buddhist monk and scholar from South Korea, points to his paintings in Islamabad on Dec. 8, 2019. (AN Photo)
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Buddhist scholars Dr. Esther Park and Reverend Dr. Neung Hur, and Sadaf Raza, Director for a Pakistan based NGO, pose for a photo on Dec. 8, 2019. (AN photo)
Updated 09 December 2019

Steeped in religious history, Pakistan’s KP to host conference for Buddhist countries

  • Pakistan’s government has been working to boost religious tourism in the country
  • Korean Buddhists trace their religious origins to the area that is now Pakistan

PESHAWAR: Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province will host a conference for Buddhist countries next year in a bid to boost greater religious tourism, a senior official said on Saturday.
Buddhist tourism has an estimated market of 500 million Buddhists across the world, according to the US-based think tank, Pew Research Center. For these Buddhists, Pakistan’s Gandhara region in the country’s northwest, which includes Mardan, Taxila and Swat, holds a special place. Specifically, Korean Buddhists trace their religious origin to the area that is now Pakistan, which was where Korean monk Hyecho traveled 1,300 years ago.
In a brief chat with Arab News, spokesperson for the KP Tourism Corporation, Nisar Muhammad, said the idea for a conference first emerged during a meeting between provincial tourism minister, Atif Khan and South Korean Ambassador to Pakistan, Kwak Sung-Kyu on Friday.




Buddhist scholars Dr. Esther Park and Reverend Dr. Neung Hur, and Sadaf Raza, Director for a Pakistan based NGO, pose for a photo on Dec. 8, 2019. (AN photo)

“Though the date has not been specified yet, the conference is expected to be held by the end of January or the start of February next year,” he said.
A statement released by the KP Tourism Corporation said both dignitaries had agreed to set up the Gandhara Research Center in the province with the help of the Korean government. 
“KP has more than 2,000 Buddhist historical and sacred sites and the provincial government is taking effective steps to secure and develop these places,” the statement said, and added that Khan’s government had earmarked Rs. 1 billion for the preservation of all archaeological sites including Buddhist holy sites in the province.
Reverend Dr. Neung Hur, a leading Buddhist monk and academic from South Korea, told Arab News he appreciated the KP government’s efforts in planning to host a Buddhist countries’ conference, which would project sacred Buddhist sites to the world and attract more pilgrimages.




Reverend Dr. Neung Hur, a leading Buddhist monk and scholar from South Korea, points to his paintings in Islamabad on Dec. 8, 2019. (AN Photo)

“This conference is of paramount importance...(it) intends to promote interfaith harmony and bring followers of different faiths closer,” Dr. Hur said. 
Dr. Esther Park, a Korean Buddhist scholar, added that the people of her religious community had matchless regard for the Gandhara region of KP, which had thousands of sacred Buddhist sites. 
“We are keenly looking forward to attend this conference,” she told Arab News. 
Earlier on Wednesday, Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Pakistan, Noordeen Mohamed Shaheid, held a meeting with the Tourism Minister in Peshawar to discuss religious tourism, bilateral relations and investment in various sectors, according to a press release.
On the occasion, Shaheid said 72 percent of the population of Sri Lanka comprised of Buddhists and that a Buddhist delegation would visit Pakistan, especially KP province, early next year.


Women hopeful as Pakistan parliamentary committee approves bill granting fathers paternal leave

Updated 34 min 20 sec ago

Women hopeful as Pakistan parliamentary committee approves bill granting fathers paternal leave

  • Parental leave bill was passed by Senate in January and will be voted by lawmakers in the coming weeks
  • The regulation will apply to all institutions in Islamabad if passed and pave the way for its nationwide implementation 

ISLAMABAD: Women lawmakers and activists said this week they welcomed approval by a National Assembly committee of a bill which would allow fathers to take one month of paid time off on the birth of a child.
The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice this week approved the parental leave bill which was passed by the upper house of parliament in January. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the law in the coming weeks.
About 90 out of 187 countries around the world now offer statutory paid paternity leave, usually for a few days or weeks.
“Extremely happy and immensely proud that this important bill moved by me in 2018 has finally been passed by the NA standing committee on Law and Justice after their passage from the Senate,” Senator Quratulain Marri from the opposition Pakistan People’s Party, who initiated the motion in the upper house, told Arab News on Thursday.
In accordance with the bill, she said, at the time of the birth of the first three children, “the mother will get six months, four months and three months leave respectively and the father will get 30 days each time.”
If passed, she said, the regulation would apply to all government and non-government institutions in Islamabad, and pave the way for it to be implemented nationwide.
“I am hoping that the provinces will replicate the same once it is passed from the National Assembly in the coming weeks,” Marri said. “This might not seem like a very big step at this point of time but I think it’s important to change the mindset and introduce the concept of paternity leave and father’s bonding with the child and will prove to be a very important step.”
The NA committee’s chairman, Riaz Fatyana, said the bill would allow fathers to look after their wives after childbirth.
“This will be a good opportunity for male parent, father, who can look after his newborn child and wife,” he told Arab News.

A parliamentarian from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party, Naureen Ibrahim, said if the regulation were passed, it would help men learn to share childcaring responsibilities with women.
“It will be beneficial especially for working women,” she said. “They will get longer leave and also the father will learn about sharing the responsibility of parenting. Fathers will also take care of the child and will realize the difficulties which are faced by wives.”
Women’s rights activist Farzana Bari said the new law would help change the mindset of childcare being an exclusively female responsibility.
“There has been a changing concept of masculinity in Pakistan in recent time,” she said. “Many young educated males have started sharing the responsibility of childcare and domestic work. It [new bill] will be very helpful for them.”