Sindh festival: Learn from Bilawal, arrange culture festivals in every province!
Regardless of whether you like or dislike Bilawal Bhutto, regardless of where your political affiliations are based, the Sindh Festival initiative deserves nothing short of unanimous praise.
The homepage of the Sindh Festival website reads,
“The inaugural Sindh Festival, instigated by Patron-in-Chief of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, was conceived because Sindh’s rich heritage and culture is in danger. Mohenjo-Daro, the world’s oldest planned urban landscape, lies in a state of disrepair, a victim of neglect and indifference. It is but one of a myriad of sites of antiquity scattered across Sindh and Pakistan which need attention now if they are not to be lost forever.”
The festival will last for two weeks, starting on February 1, 2014 and ending on the15th. There is no point getting into details of what the festival will cover. Pakistan’s media has been abuzz with it for a while, ever since it was initially announced a few months back. But even for ones not familiar with the schedule, they can go through it on the mentioned website. The point here is the importance of this festival.
The area that is modern day Pakistan, is one of the most culturally rich areas on the planet. It was home to civilizations such as the Bronze Age Indus Valley and the Neolithic Mehrgarh, going as back as 3300 BCE. Sindh traces its history back to the time aboriginal tribes who spoke the language of the Indus Valley Civilisation. Originally predominantly Hindu and Buddhist, fundamentalist Muslims rulers played a pivotal role in forcibly converting millions of native Sindhis to Islam. It is no surprise then that as things stand currently, the province of Sindh is Pakistan’s most liberal province which is in no small part down to its diverse history.
The importance of this festival is deep rooted in the current socio-political dynamics of Pakistan. The last one decade has seen the outbreak of unprecedented social suffocation in Pakistan, an era which has seen culture take a backseat.
It is not just limited to culture in Sindh but culture in other parts of our country too.
We remain a country with a diverse and rich history but all of that has fallen in the background of a violent spree of religious extremism that has poisoned us.
Every passing day witnesses gory stories of bloodshed screaming out of our TV screens and printed across our newspapers.
If that isn’t enough, political instability and a civil society in a perpetual state of confusion has given rise to more negative energy than positive. With a country effectively in a state of war for the last one decade, there have been very few instances to send a lease of new life through our veins and even fewer instances which make the air around you seem fresh.
This initiative by Bilawal is one such instance.
To fully appreciate the importance of this festival, one perhaps needs to understand the importance of culture. Once that is done, for a culturally rich region like Pakistan, the importance of this festival only magnifies.
Culture is one of the strongest forces binding people. It is something that brings people together across borders, backgrounds and ethnicity. The celebration of culture is healthy in a multitude of reasons, the most significant of which is celebrating your history and paying homage to your roots, something that has sadly dwindled from Pakistan in the recent past.
This is one of the many reasons why this initiative and its timing is so good, and why it feels like a breath of fresh air.
Our other provincial governments should also take a leaf out of Bilawal and the PPP’s book, and celebrate culture in other provinces too. Shahbaz Sharif has managed to organise the Punjab Youth Festival but it is primarily sports based. It needs to be expanded into a complete cultural aspect, incorporating elements of art and daily life. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and the government in Balochistan, in whatever capacity possible, need to organise events and festivals that celebrate their culture.
How the Sindh festival ends up is any one’s guess but by the looks of it, the whole thing will be nothing short of spectacular. Even if it doesn’t manage to live up to its hype, the initiative should be lauded across the country regardless of whether you are Sindhi or not.
Kudos to Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. May this be the first of many great things to come!
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.