Category Archives: Culture and the Arts

TV then and now

guest-contributor

by Rifaat Hamid Ghani

TV started out in Pakistan as a government monopoly dressed up as a semi-autonomous corporation. There was every reason for PTV to be a disaster, yet it was an enviable success.

President Field Marshal Ayub loved it for its power as a propaganda tool that dispensed with literacy requirements and had more magnetism than the radio. Aslam Azhar, PTV’s defining and trail-blazing station-manager, loved it for what it could do to educate and inform. That was the idealist in him. The actor in him loved it because it was a creative medium. The PTV he nurtured with a board of imaginative mandarins to back him, had an egalitarian working environment and it changed norms and mores.

All within the parameters of the Ministry of Information’s most stringent rules the new medium empowered women, dignified the artiste, and changed social conventions. PTV gave the artistes and creators of drama, music, dance, a place to go and be and earn. It gave the entertainment industry a respectability which assured parents their young could participate despite the amazingly irregular working hours and rather low grade recognition granted the programme producer, bureaucratically speaking. Of course the outreach of PTV’s state propaganda was soul-deadening – but even so programmes like Alif Noon redeemed much. And in terms of professionalism and entertainment value the quality of PTV programming and production and technical transmission dominated the region and was an exemplar.

Cut to now. Continue reading

4 Comments | Posted in Culture and the Arts, Education, Guest Contributor, History, Human Rights, Media |

Education myths

Coins_Money_Funds

By Zubeida Mustafa

IT is budget time in Pakistan and one issue of special concern to the people is the attention that the education sector will receive from those who hold the purse strings. In the federal budget for 2014-15 Finance Minister Ishaq Dar announced an allocation of Rs63bn for higher education. The true picture will emerge only when the provincial budgets are presented, as they address the bulk of the education sector.

There are, however, a number of myths that surround this vital area of national life. One that has been perpetuated for long is that the more funds poured into education the more the latter will improve. For long the size of the education budget has been used as a yardstick to measure the government’s commitment to this sector. Hence the boast generally in budget speeches about the size of the education expenditure. Continue reading

4 Comments | Posted in Constitution, Culture and the Arts, Economy, Education, History, Human Rights, New, Social Issues |

A life journey or a travelogue?

pearl-from-the-ocean

By Zubeida Mustafa

A question very often asked of writers is why do they write. Khushwant Singh, India’s best known author and journalist, said he wrote to inform, amuse and provoke. The author of Pearls from the Ocean , Parvin Shere, quotes the American writer and poet, Maya Angelou to answer this  question.  “There is no agony greater than bearing an untold story inside you,.” Says Angelou.

For Shere this untold story has to find expression and it does in three forms, prose, poetry and painting. She could not have been more articulate in giving expression to the discovery she made when she submitted to her  urge to penetrate the barriers of faiths, languages and cultures: the Earth  is home to all humans and their  oneness binds them together, but…

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Leave a comment | Posted in Book Reviews, Culture and the Arts, View from Abroad |

Dance away the war

Suhaee Abro (Picture: soundcloud.com/suhaee-abro)

By Zubeida Mustafa

HOW does one get one’s message across to a large audience when a cacophony of sounds drowns out one’s voice before it is heard? Politicians scream into microphones making aggressive gestures before a captive audience that has been assembled for their benefit by their minions. Extremists and militants hire killers and suicide bombers to drive home their point. Television talk show hosts broadcast their inanities.

At the other end, artists draw pictures to tell their story, while authors and poets play with words. In fact, there is another medium that can be employed to win the hearts and minds of people. Last week, Suhaee Abro demonstrated effectively that dance can be used to convey the message of love and peace.

Having seen this talented child blossom into a charming dancer-cum-choreographer, I was fascinated by the ease with which Suhaee and the 44 dancers she brought together captivated a crowd of more than 2,000 people with their message of harmony and beauty blended with a lot of colourful cheer. Continue reading

6 Comments | Posted in Balochistan, Culture and the Arts, Human Rights, Law & Order, New, War and Peace |

Language Discrimination in Pakistan Harms Women and Indigenous Culture

Sharing to Learn. Photograph by Flickr user Mustafa Mohsin and used under a Creative Commons license.

By Zubeida Mustafa

Asifa, 12, lives in Karachi, the port city in southern Pakistan. She is a child of the lesser gods. That means that she is malnourished and falls ill frequently. Her home is a modest two-room house with no running water in which her family of eight lives. She is fortunate to go to a better school than the public sector institutions many of her friends and neighbors attend – that is, if they go to school at all. Being the first generation school-goer in her family, Asifa’s is not the carefree existence a child deserves. Her parents have invested a lot in her to provide her education, and have pinned all their hopes in her future.

Will Asifa be able to lead her family out of poverty? Most unlikely. Continue reading

2 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Culture and the Arts, Education, Language, Women |

Rethinking medium

Dr Tariq Rahman

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST week there was something to celebrate — rare in these troubled times. One of our eminent scholars, Dr Tariq Rahman, dean of the School of Education at the Beaconhouse National University, Lahore, was awarded a DLitt degree by the University of Sheffield, UK, for his work on language, art, culture and social developments that was assessed to qualify him on merit for this honour. In Europe less than 1pc of faculty gets a DLitt in the social sciences.

This achievement should do Pakistan proud. Given the state of our education, any academic whose work wins recognition, especially internationally, deserves to be acknowledged. This should be treated as an occasion for us to revisit his work and scholarship.

It is also important for our policymakers and educationists to read some of Dr Rahman’s 18 books embodying his knowledge and research. They will realise where they have gone wrong. Dr Rahman is a prolific writer and his works are eye-openers especially regarding language in the educational, social, cultural and political context in Pakistan. Continue reading

7 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Culture and the Arts, Education, Language |

Unlocking the mind

Adeel Hashmi at CLF. Picture Courtesy: CLF

By Zubeida Mustafa

AT what age does a child start thinking? Experts believe that children have a mind of their own since they are born. Some even believe that their cognitive abilities are present even when they are in their mother’s womb. That is why they are more at ease with the language they hear their mother speak.

It is a different — though sad — matter that we, as adults, suppress this creative and critical thinking power of children that nature has endowed them with. Since we are comfortable among conformists who do not pose uncomfortable questions we shape our education policies in such a way that children forget how to question. Continue reading

11 Comments | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Culture and the Arts, Education, Social Issues |

Theatre: the way out

Photo courtesy: Sheema Kirmani

By Zubeida Mustafa

THERE is despondency in the air in Karachi. The violence in the city that has resulted in almost 3,000 deaths so far this year has left the youth brutalised.

Many are desensitised and the unnatural degree of violence and terrorism has become something normal for them. Too many will imbibe the criminality they witness around them — unless, of course, something happens to pre-empt this possibility. Others are so terrorised that it is doubtful whether they will ever be able to lead a normal and well-adjusted life. Continue reading

12 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Culture and the Arts, Social Issues, Terrorism and Violence, Women |

That is how they lived

By Zubeida Mustafa

THERE has been much talk of late about the distortion of history in Pakistan. Another feature of our historiography that our eminent historian Dr Mubarak Ali has lamented is the excessive focus on rulers and not enough being written about the ruled. We need more of ‘popular history’.

In that context I have found the Citizens Archive of Pakistan an innovative and commendable enterprise that should fill this void that has been growing as the primary sources of history — the people who lived through an era — are drying up. Founded by the Oscar-winning filmmaker, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, CAP, to use its acronym, describes itself as the “first ever youth-led private initiative to collect, archive, study, disseminate and exhibit all aspects of Pakistan’s history both before and after partition”. Continue reading

12 Comments | Posted in Culture and the Arts, Education, History, Social Issues, Women |

The genesis of violence

violence-not-peace

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN his excellent keynote address at the fourth Karachi Literature Festival, Urdu fiction writer Intizar Husain, one of the 10 finalists for the Man Booker International Prize for 2013, eloquently reflected on a dilemma.

Should we be celebrating literature in the catastrophic times we live in when people are being killed by the hundreds?

Intizar Sahib said he first delved into the wealth of Urdu and Persian poetry but could not find an answer to his question. To his credit, the speaker turned to prose and the legendary One Thousand and One Nights provided him an insight into how literature could be turned to one’s advantage in adverse circumstances. Didn’t Scheherzade buy her reprieve from execution by her storytelling gift? “Literature can change human nature,” Intizar Sahib concluded in support of the literature festival. Continue reading

6 Comments | Posted in Balochistan, Culture and the Arts, Terrorism and Violence, War and Peace |