Japanese Ambassador to Pakistan Matsuda Kuninori
Japanese Ambassador to Pakistan Matsuda Kuninori at the site of the Shah Allah Ditta caves in Islamabad. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: The Japanese Ambassador to Pakistan Matsuda Kuninori visited the Buddhist historical site in the suburbs of the federal capital, Shah Allah Ditta Caves, in a boost to tourism.

2,400-year old Buddhist era relic

The caves of Shah Allah Ditta in the Margalla Hills are internationally known Buddhist caves, preserving around 2,400-year old Buddhist era murals.

The ambassador, who was accompanied by his wife and staff of the embassy, admired the grandeur of the ancient caves which date back to the times when the young Buddhists travelled long distances to reach this region which spanned from the Margalla Hills to Taxila, Swat and beyond. The Buddhist monks spent time here in meditation and taught their disciples the message of Buddha.

Former Deputy Mayor of Islamabad and a representative of the Shah Allah Ditta community, Syed Zeshan Naqvi, received the ambassador and briefed him about the caves that date back to the times of Alexander the Great.

He said the ancient caves had various engravings of Buddha on its walls that are a treasure of information and have great historical significance.

Huge potential for tourism

While appreciating the site as a potential tourist point, the Japanese ambassador said the site had a huge tourism potential and showcased to the outer world the footprints of the Buddhist civilisation.

The ambassador also spent a few moments in meditation under the old Banyan tree at the site.

Naqvi, while briefing the Japanese envoy and his wife, highlighted the issues the local government of Islamabad (that completed its term earlier in February this year) faced in preserving the place.

Construction work threatening these caves

This historic relic of the past is threatened by construction work in the adjacent areas and because of the lack of infrastructure and support by the international community, he said.

Ambassador Matsuda Kuninori said Pakistan was a safe country and the way Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government had combatted coronavirus by imposing smart lockdown was commendable. Japan, he said, had already eased travel restrictions on Pakistan.

Preservation of Taxila Museum

An official of the Japan embassy while talking to the media said that upon request from the Government of Punjab, Tourism Department, the Government of Japan is considering providing cultural grant assistance for preservation and upkeep of the Taxila museum.

The grant would also be spent on the improvement of equipment for exhibition and conservation in the Taxila Museum which stores the rich cultural heritage of ancient Gandhara civilisation, he said.