Jobs @ MG
Pakistan next on line ?
By Dr. Manzur Ejaz
|Taliban's destruction of ancient
statutes is an extreme action of a state power. It has destroyed a
heritage that was created by people of that land in thousands of years. In
Pakistan it has not happened yet, but one cannot rule out such a
possibility if the Taliban- like primitive minded forces take over the
country. Many would contest such a projection, pointing out fundamental
difference between populations of Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, if
rising sectarian divide in Pakistan can lead to killing of hundreds of
innocent citizens who will save pieces of paper, clay and stone embodying
art? Already, due to negligence of the state, Pakistan's prime museums
have been deprived of priceless pieces of art by greedy influential
persons who have smuggled them to the west for financial gains. In any
case, state affects the discourse of art and culture in every society.
The state, by taking a certain ideological direction, determines, directly
or indirectly, what type of an art is produced and appreciated. A close
examination of historical facts reveals that the state determines the
choices, sometimes directly like in China and sometimes indirectly like in
Pakistan and many other countries. In overtly ideological states, the
state directly dictates which type of music (and other forms of art) can
be played and which one is banned. In states like Pakistan, choices are
determined by control of communication channels.
Pakistani state's complete control over radio and TV determined cultural
dimensions in several ways. For example, up until radio had a monopoly
over transmission of voice, certain types of music--mostly Urdu ghazal--was
the most popular form of singing: Farida Khanam and Mehdi Hasan were
considered to be the icons of the music world. After the audio revolution,
that made recording and distribution of music manageable by individuals
and small firms, different forms of folk music in regional languages
started dominating the scene: Ata-Ullah-Eesakhailvi, Abida Parveen and
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan became the best sellers. Technological breakthrough
made state control redundant.
In the field of visual arts, Pakistani state control of TV determined the
contents and the languages to be used. On the contrary, lack of control
over the film industry presented a different picture. Since buying a
ticket for the movie was purely a choice of the consumers, Punjabi film,
reflecting the size of the population dominated the scene.
Due to market conditions, even non Punjabi film directors and producers
preferred to make Punjabi movies. Compensation for Punjabi film stars was
higher. Therefore, even non Punjabi actors and actresses were forced to
learn Punjabi. However, in recent years, starting from Zia era, film
industry has been demolished by debilitating taxes.
Similarly, development of languages has always been the prerogative of the
state. When the Indian states were dominated by immigrant elites from
Iran, Persian was the court language of almost every capital in India
except southern parts. When the British started patronizing many native
languages, elevating them to be used as official languages of respective
provinces, the linguistic scene was changed. Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, Sindhi
and many other languages were standardized and became the vehicle of
expression for the people. On the contrary, due to political or other
reasons languages neglected by the British such as Punjabi, Pushto,
Baluchi and some others, are barely surviving now. Incidently, most Indian
languages (other than languages of south India) were standardized and made
useable at the official level by the British colonialists. However,
languages neglected by the British have remained so even after the end of
the colonial era.
Linguistic politics of the state affects the literacy rates and
intellectual discourse. Most of the Indian states (and other countries)
with highest literacy rates are those where native languages are used as
medium of education. This has been a pattern occurring throughout history.
When Latin was the official language of England, literacy was limited to a
tiny upper class. However, when Latin was replaced with the French,
literacy expanded to sections of the middle classes. Mass literacy in
England was accomplished only when English (standardized form of Celtic
dialect) was adopted as official language and was made medium of
education. Therefore, by preferring one language over the other, the state
determines as to who should be educated and who should be left out.
Current cultural conflict between Europe and the US reflects a basic
reality as to how much a state intervention can affect the creative arts.
In recent years, American music, dance, film, and other forms of arts have
been winning European hearts at the popular level. The European
aristocracy, still dominating most of the institutions of the states, have
been extremely resentful of the American domination of their cultural
markets. Fact of the matter is that due to absence of any intervention or
control by the state different forms of arts have been thriving in the US.
Every year, new forms of music and dance are created and popularized in
the US. On the contrary, cultural discourse controlled by aristocratic
traditions abetted by the European states has deprived the societies of
creative vibrance so eminent in the US. The US Bill of Rights and freedom
of speech--such provisions are lacking in most of the European states till
now-- have created an egalitarian society which is more conducive to
creative faculties of the individuals in every sphere of life. The
Europeans are outmanoeuvered by the US in the cultural field because of
their stringent cultural policies. Similar discrepancies exist between
India and Pakistan. India, intervening less in the entertainment industry,
has a significant edge over Pakistan in film, TV and other forms of
artistic expression. If BJP succeeds in its retrogressive cultural
revolution, Indian progress in cultural fields will be stalled.
It is evident that the state does not affect society by controlling
politics and economy only. On the contrary, every sphere of life is
influenced by policies of the state. Pakistani state by adopting
regressive policies has harmed the creativity of its citizens. If
Pakistani state continues embracing theocratic dictates, ancient artifacts
in Harappa, Mohinjodaro and Texila may not be spared by Pakistani Talibans.