Pakistan News

Gandhara International University gets green light

Gandhara International University gets green light

TAXILA: The government plans to establish the Gandhara International University in Taxila, in an effort to revive the 3,000-year-old Buddhist university of ancient Taxila and make Pakistan a centre for interfaith harmony and Buddhism studies.

The chairperson of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) as well as the steering committee of the project, Siddiqul Farooque, told Dawn that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had formally approved the establishment of the university. The chairperson said the university would be a centre of excellence on Buddhism, Buddhist art and architecture, as well as a centre for interfaith harmony where scholars from Buddhist countries would be invited to study.

He said with the government’s approval, the ETPB had been given formal approval for the university’s establishment, and the board would provide the land.

He said the university would attract religious tourists, scholars and researchers from around the world, especially Korea and Japan.

He said the Taxila valley was home to some of the world’s oldest Buddhist sites, and that the establishment of the university would play a key role in the revival of the oldest Buddhist seat of knowledge.

In addition, the institute will counteract the negative image of Pakistan and promote the region’s tourism industry. He said the institute would also bridge the gap between Islam and other religions, particularly Buddhism.

He discussed the historical significance of Pakistan’s Buddhist sites. He said coins discovered in the region bearing images of deities from Zorastrianism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Greek mythology were evidence of the peaceful coexistence of various religions in the region, and that the region would once again play a role in promoting interfaith harmony, peace and tolerance.

Ayesha M. Hamid, educationist and ETPB member, said the establishment of the institute aimed to revive Taxila’s ancient university by providing modern facilities. She said the establishment of the centre would bring with it a tsunami of religious tourists, scholars and researchers from all parts of the world.

She said Pakistan was where the first image of Buddha emerged, and that the Yogacara school was the only Buddhist religious school of the mind and conscious – the core of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy founded by Asanga and Vasubandu, the world’s oldest university.

She said a text on Buddha’s teachings was first written by monk Marananta, who spread Buddhism in China, Korea and Japan, and that the golden period of the region flourished from the region that is now Pakistan.

Taxila assistant commissioner Shahid Imran said that a meeting was held at the ETPB head office, at which Higher Education Commission (HEC) auqaf secretary, secretary of archives, and other officials were present, where the establishment of the university was given the go-ahead.

Imran said that Taxila is a peaceful town and the ideal location for a university of this kind due to its environment, culture and its proximity to major Pakistani cities as well as ancient Buddhist sites like Takhat Bhai and Swat.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2015

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