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Defining history and culture

The neglected areas of history must be revisited through debates and dialogues

Defining history and culture
Eegional cultures are complementary and not antagonistic.

After 65 years of existence, some people still consider Pakistani culture a new and irrelevant concept. Pakistan freedom struggle was generally discussed in the realms of politics and religion. It was projected as a religio-political endeavour of the Muslims of India. However, its cultural and economic dynamics were overlooked.

An unrealistic approach was adopted to study the political, religious, economic and cultural factors of Muslims separatism in isolation. In the process, Pakistani culture and history was made the subject of heated controversy. In fact, heightened cultural sensibility was one of the major factors of the Muslim separatism. Confusion was further confounded by some people who tried to set up regional cultures against the overall Pakistani culture. In the debate the very fact that regional cultures are complementary and not antagonistic was altogether ignored.

Things were further complicated during the first decade after independence through Right-Left political polarisation. Assertive definitions of the Pakistani history and culture were given by the progressives and their opponents. Among the progressives, Faiz Ahmad Faiz put forward the most patriotic and enlightened view of Pakistani culture. Still his unambiguous belief in Pakistani nationalism, culture and historical continuity was ignored by his progressive colleagues and even his opponents. During the process much comprehensive literature was produced on the Pakistani cultural history by a number of scholars. Most important among these works included Sibte Hasan’s Urdu work Pakistan Mein Tahzeeb ka Irteqa, Dr Sayed Abdullah’s Culture ka Masala, Dr Waheed Quereshi’s The Ideological Basis of Pakistan, Dr Jamil Jalib’s Pakistani Culture and M. Yusuf Abbasi’s Pakistani Culture: A Profile.

Some of these works discuss Pakistani culture in a scholarly framework of Islam, some look at theoretical dimensions and others offer a marxist interpretation of Muslim politics and society. But still we need to nourish the idea of a strong Pakistani culture in a comprehensive historical context.

Culture can be defined as the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, expressed by everything from language, religion, cuisine, games, social habits, music and arts. It is a shared pattern of behaviours and interactions. Thus, it can be seen as the growth of a group identity fostered by social patterns unique to the group.

The word “culture” derives from a French term, which in turn derives from the Latin “colere,” which means to tend to the earth and grow, or cultivation and nurture. Likewise, History is a narration of the events which have happened among mankind, including an account of the rise and fall of nations, as well as of other great changes which have affected the political and social condition of the human race.

History is not what you thought. It is what you remember. It is like a dialogue between the present and the past. Through history and culture a nation shows to the world that how much supposedly it contributed to the onward march of human civilisation. That is why civilised nations are spending huge amount of their budget to preserve their archaeological and historical remains. History always repeats itself for those nations who fail to take lessons from the blunders committed by their predecessors.

Pakistan, the soil of magnificent history, amazing archaeological evidences and colourful culture, has a vital place among the world civilisations. Every region of Pakistan presents the unique beauty of its cultural and historical evolution. Culture is the name of unending natural expressions and feelings. As the sunlight is essential for every livelihood, culture is compulsory for human beings to decorate their lives. Every nation and country posses a thousand year experience, knowledge and environmental influences which create a particular identification known as culture.

The prestigious Quaid-i-Azam University is called a “mini Pakistan” because of its diverse ethnic composition among the students and teaching/research faculty. During my stay at QAU, I observed that the social, religious, psychological and cultural life of the overwhelming majority of the people continued to flow in the mainstream of Pakistani culture. But one still feels that there is a lot of work to be done in the domains of Pakistani history and culture. Keeping this in mind, I launched the idea of exploring and integrating the rich cultural and historical landscapes of different regions of Pakistan. And I deemed the National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research (NIHCR), Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad a right forum to debate these issues of utmost importance.

The promotion of research in the domains of history and culture is a prime mandate of the NIHCR. In fact, an ideal scheme would have been to write essays on the history and regional cultures that include Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Sindh, Punjab, Gilgit Baltistan and FATA. It will help in creating a syncretic image of Pakistani culture. The objective was to evolve a well-considered consensus on this issue of all the stakeholders in the country.

Accordingly, in 2012 an international conference on the history and culture of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was organised in Peshawar University. It was organised by the NIHCR in collaboration with the Pakistan Study Centre, University of Peshawar. About 50 delegates from Pakistan and abroad participated in the conference. The conference proved to be a right forum to discuss various cultural traits of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Ideas were exchanged and new avenues of research were highlighted by the scholars. In fact, a number of new issues were discussed that included struggle for new provinces, reforms in Fata, drug usage among the youth and many more. It was followed by another such event in November 2014.

A three-day international conference on Sindh: History and Culture was jointly organised by Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur and the NIHCR on 23-25 November this year. In his keynote address, Prof Sayed Wiqar Ali Shah said that Sindh has witnessed the rise and fall of many civilisations among which the Indus Valley Civilisation was most important which existed between the year 2500 BC and 1500 BC in the Indus valley sites of Moen Jo Daro and Harrapa. Great nations always move forward to the desired destinations of its future in the light of their glorious past. He also stressed to study regional history and culture to properly comprehend the dynamics of Pakistani culture.

It is evident from the archaeological, historical and cultural remains that since pre-historic times the people of this land remained cordially involved in diminishing poverty and they had hatred for violence and domination. Pakistani culture is composed of love, non-violence, self-determination and co-existence. It is need of the time to promote and propagate these cultural characteristics amongst the society so as to create unity and peace amongst the people of different regions. The neglected areas of the history must be revisited through debates and dialogues.


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