PAKISTAN, February 27, 2001: Afghanistan is rebuffing international demands to rescind a government order to destroy all Buddhist statues in the country. Some governments pointed out the statues had not been destroyed under the past 1,200 years of Islamic rule in the region. The Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, said on Tuesday, “We don’t care why the statues weren’t destroyed in the past, but we have a government now in Afghanistan that is religious, and we want to stop all things that are against Islam.” As well as the two giant Buddhas, Afghanistan’s national museum — which has been damaged by rockets — has hundreds of small statues of Buddha. They would also be destroyed under the order, Zaeef said. However, he said officials would not enter the temples of minority religions, including Hindus or Sikhs, to carry out the order. “We respect Hindus and Sikhs, and they will not be stopped from performing their rituals,” Zaeef said.