Pakistani culture — the two narratives
What is our culture? Is it the one that Muhammad Bin Qasim brought with him or that of Mohenjodaro and Harappa? This has been debated a lot and written about since partition. And in contemporary times, Bollywood films and most recently Turkish dramas have been blamed for “damaging” our culture.
This was what speakers at ‘Hamara Culture aur Bairuni Asraat’, moderated by Masud Ashar, dilated upon on the concluding day of the Lahore Literary Festival on Sunday.
Noted analyst, writer, author Khaled Ahmed said there was never any clarity about the definition of culture. “Culture binds us together. Our culture is based on Sufi verses that unite us whereas religion creates divisions among us. We tend to find entertainment in culture. But some would say this is against our religion,” he said.
Ahmed said state also had a role to play; if state was ideological then it created problems for culture. “A state’s ideology is damaged if your culture starts mixing with other cultures. Our culture is being affected by non-state actors who have more power than the state. Hence, our culture is in danger,” he added.
Popular writer, translator Asif Farrukhi was asked about global culture and if there was such a phenomenon. His witty remarks were welcomed by the audience with laughter and applause, especially when he mentioned a popular Hindi song, ‘namaloom afraad’, the Dancing Girl of Mohenjodaro and Punjabi film songs.
“I don’t understand why we depend on Hindi songs for formulation of our culture. Also, anything that we can’t understand is termed foreign influence, just like basant originated from India so they thought it should be banned. We hate English but rely on it too. We must stop cursing global culture.”
Talking about regional cultures, writer, poet and activist Fehmida Riaz said every culture had common factors also. “Culture has been a toy in our establishment’s hands that has destroyed it. We belong to the sub-continent but refuse to become a part of it. No government or person can change culture,” she said.
Writer Intizar Hussain shared historical gems and his vast knowledge in the most amusing way. “Our problem is we’re Muslims and anything not Muslim for us is foreign and kufr. Ours is an amalgamation of the original sub-continent culture, one brought in by Muslim rulers and that of the Hindus. But no culture can grow in isolation.”
Ahmed said there was a line between entertainment and vulgarity. For years there had been debate on an ‘Islamic’ culture for Pakistan. “We slate Bollywood, but don’t look at Punjabi or Pashto films.”
Fehmida Riaz concluded the debate by highlighting oppression of women in Pakistan in the name of culture. “The barbaric, tribal, pre-historic anti-woman customs are sheltered in the name of culture. Women are stoned, buried alive. This is not our culture. Anyone against these customs is called Westernised.”