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.


Youngest Bhutto, Aseefa, will make her political debut at opposition’s Multan rally

Updated 29 November 2020

Youngest Bhutto, Aseefa, will make her political debut at opposition’s Multan rally

  • The 27 year old Bhutto has never before addressed a large scale political gathering
  • Chairman PPP, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, is in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 last week

ISLAMABAD: The sister of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman and youngest daughter of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Aseefa, will be making her political debut at the opposition alliance rally in Multan on Monday, the PPP provincial secretary general said on Sunday.
The 27-year-old Bhutto, who is an ambassador for polio vaccination awareness, has never taken part in a large-scale political gathering but PPP has confirmed that she will be addressing the crowd in her brother Bilawal Bhutto’s absence, who is quarantining after testing positive for COVID-19 last week.
“The leadership of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) will start addressing the gathering at noon, and Aseefa will speak at 2 o’ clock,” Faisal Karim Kundi, KPK’s PPP General Secretary told Arab News on Sunday.
The PDM is an 11-party alliance of Pakistan’s main opposition parties who are campaigning nationwide at rallies attended by tens of thousands, to oust the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan and calling for early elections.
The Multan rally, in eastern Punjab province, is the PDM’s fourth large scale gathering amid sharp government criticism in the wake of rising coronavirus cases in the country.