This article explores the surprising role of the ancient Buddhist past in the construction of Pakistani national histories in museum exhibits and archaeological guides from 1950 to 1969. Although Pakistan was created as a homeland for Indian Muslims during the 1947 Partition of British India, Pakistani historians struggled to forge a unifying history for the new Muslim nation-state through Islam. In response, Pakistani museum curators co-opted and reframed Buddhist sculptures from before the arrival of Islam to differentiate Pakistan from India and to make sense of Pakistan’s recently drawn borders. They creatively retold the history of ancient Gandhara (first century BCE to fifth century CE), a Buddhist kingdom in northwest Pakistan and Afghanistan, to provide deep historical logic for Pakistan’s existence as a religious homeland in the mid twentieth century and to build global cultural connections to Southeast Asia and to Europe.
Amstutz, A. (2019). A Pakistani Homeland for Buddhism: Displaying a national history for Pakistan beyond Islam, 1950–1969. South Asia: Journal of South Asia Studies, 42(2), 237–255. https://doi.org/10.1080/00856401.2019.1580814