Tag Archives: culture

Pakistan’s Identity Battle Plays Out in Lahore

Bhagat_jpg_1225585g

The battle for Pakistan’s identity is playing out in Lahore’s streets and – oddly, on its thoroughfares and intersections. On 23rd March, this year, a group of civil society representatives gathered at Lahore’s Shadman Chowk to commemorate the 82nd death anniversary of Bhagat Singh, a Sikh freedom fighter renowned for his revolutionary struggle as part of the independence movement, and who became stuff of legend when he was hanged by the British in 1931 after a brief but eventful insurrection against colonial rule. The gathering, however, was disrupted by members of a religious group which was holding a protest aimed at denouncing the idea of renaming the chowk after Bhagat Singh, simultaneously.

The chowk and the adjacent area used to be Lahore’s central jail during the British Raj, and Bhagat Singh is believed to have been hanged at the site of what is now Shadman Chowk.

Late last year, a group of Lahoris made progress in getting local officials to rename a busy traffic circle for Bhagat Singh, a Sikh revolutionary who. They see it as a chance to honor a local hero who they feel transcends the ethnic and sectarian tensions gripping the country today — and also as an important test of the boundaries of inclusiveness here.

But in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, questions of religious identity also become issues of patriotism, and the effort has raised alarm bells among conservatives and Islamists. The circle was named in 2010 for Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, a Muslim student who coined the name Pakistan in the 1930s, and there was an outcry at the news that it might be renamed for a non-Muslim.

“If a few people decide one day that the name has to be changed, why should the voice of the majority be ignored?” asked Zahid Butt, the head of a neighborhood business association here and a leader of the effort to block the renaming.

The fight over the traffic circle — which, when they are pressed, locals usually just call Shadman Circle, after the surrounding neighborhood — has become a showcase battle in a wider ideological war over nomenclature and identity here and in other Pakistani cities.

Although many of Lahore’s prominent buildings are named for non-Muslims, there has been a growing effort to “Islamize” the city’s architecture and landmarks, critics of the trend say. In that light, the effort to rename the circle for Mr. Singh becomes a cultural counteroffensive.

“Since the ’80s, the days of the dictator Gen. Zia ul-Haq, there has been an effort that everything should be Islamized — like the Mall should be called M. A. Jinnah Road,” said Taimur Rahman, a musician and academic from Lahore, referring to one of the city’s central roads and to the country’s founder. “They do not want to acknowledge that other people, from different religions, also lived here in the past.”

A recent nationwide surge in deadly attacks against religious minorities, particularly against Ahmadi and Hazara Shiites, has again put a debate over tolerance on the national agenda. Though most Sikhs fled Pakistan soon after the partition from India in 1947, the fight over whether to honor a member of that minority publicly bears closely on the headlines for many.

A push to honor Mr. Singh has been going on here for years. But it was not until the annual remembrance of his birth in September that things came to a head. A candlelight demonstration to support renaming the traffic circle had an effect, and a senior district official agreed to start the process. As part of it, he asked the public to come forward with any objections. The complaints started pouring in.

Traders of Shadman Market, the local trade group led by Mr. Butt, threatened a strike. Chillingly, warnings against the move were issued by leaders of the Islamic aid group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, largely believed to be a front for the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Clerics voiced their opposition during Friday Prayer.

The issue quickly became a case for the city’s High Court, which said it would deliberate on a petition, initiated by Mr. Butt and a coalition of religious conservatives, to block the name change. That was in November, and the case still awaits a hearing date. The provincial government has remained in tiptoe mode ever since. “It is a very delicate matter,” said Ajaz Anwar, an art historian and painter who is the vice chairman of a civic committee that is managing the renaming process.

Mr. Anwar said some committee members had proposed a compromise: renaming the circle after Habib Jalib, a widely popular postindependence poet. That move has been rejected out of hand by pro-Singh campaigners.

Mr. Rahman and other advocates for renaming the circle paint it as a test of resistance to intolerance and extremism, and they consider the government and much of Lahore society to have failed it.

“The government’s defense in the court has been very halfhearted,” said Yasser Latif Hamdani, a lawyer representing the activists. “The government lawyer did not even present his case during earlier court proceedings.”

The controversy threatens to become violent. On March 23, the anniversary of Mr. Singh’s death, police officers had to break up a heated exchange between opposing groups at the circle.

Mr. Rahman and the other supporters have vowed to continue fighting, saying it has become a war over who gets to own Pakistan’s history.

“There is a complete historical amnesia and black hole regarding the independence struggle from the British,” Mr. Rahman said, adding of the Islamists, “They want all memories to evaporate.”

 {Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/world/asia/plan-to-rename-traffic-circle-provokes-outcry-in-lahore-pakistan.html?ref=global-home&_r=1&}

Dus Sharabiya: ‘The Song Of Lahore’

 

Artist: Faisal Rana ft. Deep Singh
Song: Dus Sharabiya

Dus Sharabiya is international collaboration between Pakistani artist Faisal Rana and Indian artist Deep Singh. Dus Sharabiya is about Lahore, even we would call Dus Sharabiya, ‘The Song Of Lahore’

Download from here

Samadhi Maharaja Ranjit Singh


Photograph of the Samadhi of Ranjit Singh at Lahore, Pakistan, taken by George Craddock in the 1880s, part of the Bellew Collection of Architectural Views.  Lahore is the capital of Punjab province, is considered the cultural centre of Pakistan.

Posted by:  Shiraz Hassan

Pakistan’s Heartland Under Threat

West meets East in prosperous, populous Punjab. But the Taliban wants to change the status quo.
By John Lancaster

The Taliban would not be amused. On a sunny winter afternoon in Lahore, the local culturati have turned out in force for the annual show at the National College of Arts. In the main courtyard young men and women mingle easily, smoking and sipping from cans of Red Bull. Some of the men sport ponytails, and one has a pierced eyebrow.

Nearby is a life-size sculpture of a couple hold­ing hands on a swing. Inside, the image of a male torso, viewed from one angle, morphs into a female breast. Yet there is no mistaking the stamp of the subcontinent. Women wear tra­ditional thigh-length tunics over their jeans, and some cover their hair. There are also miniature paintings, which traditionally might capture a hunting scene; here they portray other scenes, as in one bold depiction of a bearded cleric reclining on a couch in front of a bombed-out school.

The jumble of styles and influences—the stew of peoples and faiths Rudyard Kipling captured so vividly in his novel Kim—is a hallmark of Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city and capital of Punjab Province. The wealthiest and most populous of the country’s four provinces, Punjab is where East meets West and everything in between. Even the brutal and bloody partition of British India in the mid-20th century could not destroy Punjab’s cosmopolitan brio. Continue reading

Lahore: the motif of art and culture

Hazoori Bagh: A place where people would gather to listen to the best of literature.

By Sher Ali Khan

During the time of the British rule in India, Lahore was known as the “Paris of India”. The reasons are quite clear. To begin with, romance in the east can be defined as the individualistic struggle of the heart. Romantics provide inspiration to a society in their daily lives. The romance of ones city is judged by the general ambience created within the realm of that society. A romantic culture is sustained through literature and arts. Writers, poets, and artists would frequent teahouses where they would orate and document the experiences of the city.

To start out, the Mughals instilled a romantic quality into Lahore by developing monuments such as the elegant Badshahi Masjid and the Lahore Fort and then the British gave to the city one of the most beautiful green spaces known as Lawrence Gardens. Furthermore, the Mughals created a proud and close people culture that would inspire literature and art for many years.

One of the stories from the Mughal era is regarding the wealthy emperor Shah Jahan who constructed a palace in the imposing confines of the Lahore Fort to honour his wife Mumtaz Mahal. As the mother of his sixteen children, Mumtaz Mahal was the love of his life. The general assumption is that she passed without ever seeing the Shish Mahal. Continue reading

Sad news: Kite-flying to stay banned

Raza Rumi

I know that Lahore Nama has been visited in the recent days by hundreds and thousands of Basant enthusiasts. This is unfortunate that an age-old fetival is being banned and denied to people only because the government cannot regulate malpractices by a few business people and the bankrupt, failed WAPDA.

Hope that this festival will come back to Lahore. We strongly protest against this policy decision. Pakistan cannot be made a afe haven for roaming terrorists and suicide bombers while the peaceful citizens are denied the opportunity to celebrate a festival that is so deeply a part of our culture.

Here is the Daily Times story on this:

* District administration warns violators of stern action
* DCO says ‘Governor’s House’ no exception to kite-flying ban
* Police crack down on kite makers

Daily Times Monitor/Staff Report

LAHORE: The district administration has decided to maintain the ban on kite-flying in the provincial capital as per the orders of the Lahore High Court (LHC), warning that those violating the law would be dealt with sternly, a private TV channel reported on Friday.

According to the channel, a meeting presided over by Lahore District Coordination Officer (DCO) Sajjad Bhutta, decided that those found violating the court orders would be dealt with strictly under the law.

The DCO said the LHC had declared that permission to celebrate Basant could be given if a Continue reading

Basant: Only festival where people come together

by Sher Ali Khan and Aoun Sahi

The News on Sunday: How can we make basant safe?

Yousuf Salahuddin: To start with, you have to ban motorcycles from Saturday night to Sunday evening because a majority of accidental deaths have been of motorcyclists.

Secondly, there are two companies manufacturing these dangerous strings. The issue is not kite-flying or celebrating the festival; it’s about the deadly string. Children are buying these strings regardless of the danger these put their lives in. So, the manufacturers should be held accountable.

Thirdly, aerial firing has to be stopped. This was done during Shabhaz Sharif’s last term. If he gives the stick to the police, this can be regulated.
Continue reading

IPL bid has made my film ‘Lahore’ a soft target: Director

Calcutta News.Net – Monday 25th January, 2010 (IANS)

The snubbing of Paksitani players in the recent Indian Premier League (IPL) bid has not gone down well in the neighbouring nation whose people are now venting their anger on the Internet at Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan’s upcoming sports film ‘Lahore’.

‘My film has become the soft target because of the IPL bid boycotting the Pakistani players. The timing has been unfortunate and a mere coincidence that our promo came out at this time and we are being targeted for that with hate mails in reaction,’ an upset Chauhan told IANS on phone from Mumbai.

‘Pakistani people are thinking that it is a negative trailer. But ours is a very balanced promo and I don’t think it should raise so many negative remarks from them,’ he added.

Pakistanis are slamming the film promo and predicting the film will be a ‘super duper flop’.

‘I’ve just tried showing the sports rivalry and the condition of the players as in what they go through at that time. I hope their (Pakistanis’) perception changes after they see the film,’ said Chauhan.

Set against the backdrop of competitive sports (kick-boxing) in the international arena, it stars Nafisa Ali, Farouque Shaikh, Ashish Vidyarthi, Nirmal Pandey, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Saurabh Shukla, Sushant Singh, Kelly Dorji, Shraddha Das, Shraddha Nigam and Mukesh Rishi. Actor Aanaahad makes his debut with the film.

Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures India, ‘Lahore’ has been produced by Sai Om Films Pvt Ltd.

Releasing commercially March 19, it has already an international award — the jury award for the Best Feature Film at the 42nd WorldFest International Film Festival, Houston, Texas, where the world premiere was held on April 20 last year.

Chauhan puts forth another reason for receiving the hate mails.

‘It’s been a tradition that we’ve made Pakistan bashing films and we completely set to ignore that they are very fond of our films and watch it very passionately.’

Despite the negative reaction, the director is looking forward to a Lahore premiere for his film.

‘We want to have the premiere of the film in Lahore because it is the title of the film and plays a crucial part in the movie. It shows India and Pakistan in a new light. Though the cast and crew are a bit concerned about security measures but we are still trying to get the visas etc,’ he said.

A singing Romanian gypsy falls in love with Lahore

European artist fears terrorism will shatter her dreams

* Jina Rubik says Pakistan cultural heart of subcontinent, suffering because of insecurity

By Afnan Khan

LAHORE: A European artist has found herself trapped between her passion to learn and promote music and performing arts of the subcontinent, and the current downfall of arts and culture due to terrorism in Pakistan. Continue reading

Destruction of Lahore’s famous food street

A Gul’s article for The Friday Times published this week. Credits, copyrights for photos and text remain with TFT

Gawalmandi food street at night

The ruins of an entrance to the Gawalmandi food street

The flow of traffic through the demolished gates of food street

Banners proclaiming an alternative perspective

Food street offered outdoor desi cuisine amidst the elegant colonial architecture

Once standing, these mini-towers quickly became one of the cultural symbols of Lahore

I recalled the evenings that I spent ordering mouth watering kababs, tikkas, fried fish and other desi delights at night. Also rampant were the thoughts of halwa-puri, til wale naan and murgh chanay that are cherished by Lahoris. But then I saw the damaged entrance to the food street and while I was entering, my hunger temporarily vanished

Although the issue of Gawalmandi food street is local, it does lead to broader questions. In the greater scheme of things, we must think about where we are headed in terms of our cultural identity

The decline and ruination of heritage in Pakistan by the callous state is a well known story. This is a common ailment that afflicts the planners and developers across South Asia where architectural legacy of a thousand years is being decimated and commercialization has a free reign in urban contexts. A departure from this trend occurred when a well known, controversial yet engaged civil servant turned around Lahore’s cultural life by introducing the concept of pedestrian food streets and adorning the vibrant canal that runs across Lahore with a green lifeline. We witnessed the endearingly kitschy floats representing the various sub-cultures of Pakistan and in the late-nineties a busy street was turned into a pedestrian space where the legendary cuisine of Lahore was showcased for its urban residence and the tourists alike.

The adjoining old buildings mostly dating from the colonial era were restored with tasteful facelifts. Art students and designers were duly involved in this process. This was perhaps the saving grace of an otherwise vulgar promotion of the khaba culture. For years this became a modern landmark of sorts. Tales of the first Gawalmandi food street spread across the globe and every visitor wanted to be there. It brought a glimpse of the erstwhile, pedestrian pre-partition city with choicest Lahori food delicacies.

Other cities were green of such a popular entertainment enclave. People from Karachi would often cite this as a model to follow. Islamabad emulated this at the Melody Market.

And all of a sudden in an oppressively hot summer of 2009, we discovered that Gawalmandi food street has been undone for a mix of political pressure, administrative negligence and sheer indifference to culture. Why are we so eager to destroy what adds to cultural value of our fledgling society. If anything, we ought to preserve these little signs of renewal and regeneration.

The apparent excuse for altering the pedestrian nature of the food street was to lay sewer pipeline. It seems like a typical bureaucratic shenanigan whereby some sort of ‘development’ is cited as reason good enough to damage environment or heritage. If a public utility had to be extended to this area, there must have been multiple other ways to manage this process. The lock stock and barrel razing of the place belies this claim.

The heart of the matter pertains to the local politics and wrangling that goes on unabated in Pakistan. Yet the mainstream media has not even bothered to report this matter in its full light save a few newspapers and may be one television channel. On a side note, what does this imply regarding the purported freedom of the media? Is it the case that media in unconcerned about civic issues and only focused on palace intrigues and glorification of unelected arms of the state? A trivial issue like a cultural emblem of subcontinent’s most talk about city is nothing but a footnote of the corporate media interests. I asked to myself, why shouldn’t a pedestrian culture get any attention? With these thoughts and others, I entered the Gawalmandi food street on a humid morning of Lahore’s stifling August. There was a traffic flow that could easily drive you nuts with loud glaring horns, usual feature of old Lahore’s environment. Amidst such loud horns, I was about to enter into the food street.

I recalled the evenings that I spent ordering mouth watering kababs, tikke, fried fish and other desi delights at night. Also rampant were the thoughts of halwa-puri, til wale naan and murgh chanay that are cherished by Lahoris. But then I saw the damaged entrance to the food street and while I was entering, my hunger temporarily vanished.

Before it was virtually halted, one would go to the food street, find a proper place to sit, chit chat with one’s companions, order desi delights, enjoy the meal under the grandeur of old colonial architecture and have a full fledged Lahori evening.

But recently the food street has been dogged by a controversy. The food street can be properly functional only when the eateries can provide outdoor seating so as to attract people who want to enjoy desi food under a starry sky. But presently the street has been opened up for traffic round the clock and people can only have their food within the premises of the dhabas. This has two major ramifications. One, the people whose livelihood depended on the sale of food will suffer since the pre-partition, old world setting has been a major attraction for people to visit food street in the first place. Secondly, within the larger picture, this step will lead to the destruction of an important cultural symbol of Lahore.

Not only did Lahoris enjoy visiting the food street, its popularity also attracted national and foreign tourists. A local shopkeeper who has now been working for over a decade in the food street mentioned this as a central recognition that food street had achieved in terms of cultural attraction.

Also important is the media coverage attracted by such places. The elegant portrayal of the pre-damage food street resulted in a non-militant peaceful outlook of mainstream Pakistan. And what is important is that unlike many other artificial attempts to glorify a peaceful ‘enlightened’ Pakistan in the past few years, the revival of the food street seemed to be very natural since it appealed to our overall lifestyle.

Although the issue of Gawalmandi food street is local, it does lead towards larger questions. In the greater scheme of things, we must think about where we are headed in terms of our cultural identity. I must make it clear that unlike many ‘cultural extremists’, I do not have a worldview that revolves almost entirely around the notion of tradition. But still, culture is universal, and it is valuable. To care for one’s own culture is indispensable. But if we start to dispense with it, then we are surely on the path towards cultural oblivion, and I say this not metaphorically but literally. A vibrant culture always connects with our history and origins. Thus if we are to undo the signs of the past and neglect heritage we will never be able to understand our present.

The value of history and the preservation of diverse, colourful traditions enable societies to progress and prosper. Pakistan is not just a sixty two year old entity. We are the inheritors of great civilizations and thousands of years of a plural, tolerant way of life. The destruction of food street and its unsung death therefore saddens many of us. The decision makers in the Punjab must revisit this decision; protect the threatened livelihoods and the ambiance of a great city that by all accounts is shehron ka shehr

A Gul lives in Lahore. This piece was prepared with contributions from Raza Rumi

The destruction of Lahore’s environment is a trend that needs to be reversed, says Raza Rumi

Moaning about Lahore’s most elitist enclave, GOR-I, is a contentious undertaking. On the one hand, it was, until recently, the best of what the British left us – lovingly p9aadorned with diverse species of trees, home to glorious specimens of ecologically-friendly architecture and an old-world-charm unparalleled for its simplicity and elegance. On the other hand, it was also a symbol of the extractive, Punjab-centric colonial state of the nineteenth century, lorded over by the agents of the Indian civil service.

But when one has lived in those sublime environs, not as the scion of a landed, aristocratic clan but rather as a member of a middle-class, professional family, what is one to do?GOR-I was a lonely plant of sorts amid the sprawl of Lahore, with trees, birds and orchards one would not have expected to find in an Asian mega-city. Continue reading

’Lahore is the true cultural capital of south Asia’

LAHORE: Provincial Minister for Tourism and Food Malik Nadeem Kamran has said that Lahore is the true ‘cultural capital of south Asia’ as our rich cultural heritage reflects the splendor of different ages which adds to the beauty of the way of life.

“Its need of the hour to attract international tourists to take pleasure in our cultural heritage in a more befitting and organized manner.” In this connection, Punjab government has finalized the arrangements to launch sightseeing tourist bus service for tourists which will be on road within few days, he disclosed. Continue reading

Population explosion bad for Lahore’s culture: Taseer

Population explosion bad for Lahore’s culture: Taseer
LAHORE: Lahore’s distinct identity as the city of twelve gates and gardens is threatened by the rapid increase in population, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer said on Saturday.
Talking to reporters at an exhibition, Taseer said Lahore enjoyed a unique status for its cultural and literary heritage among the historic cities of the world. He said the city was faced with multifarious problems because of a rapid population increase over the past two decades, adding that there was a dire need of long-term planning to provide basic amenities of life to the citizens. The governor commended the work of the students of the NCA who, he said had presented a true picture of the past, present and future condition of the historic city of Lahore. Taseer said he would ask Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif and Nazim Amer Mehmood to devise a policy for the city on the issues of population explosion and the other civic problems. app
LAHORE: Lahore’s distinct identity as the city of twelve gates and gardens is threatened by the rapid increase in population, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer said on Saturday.
Talking to reporters at an exhibition, Taseer said Lahore enjoyed a unique status for its cultural and literary heritage among the historic cities of the world. Continue reading

I will miss warmth, generosity of Lahore’s people: Hunt

* Outgoing American Consulate principal officer says visits to madrassas and orphanages etched in his memory

* Says consulate’s faculty members have imparted valuable services to Punjab University

LAHORE: Outgoing American Consulate Principal Officer Bryan D Hunt has said he was mesmerised by the grandeur of the historic city of Lahore and will miss the warmth, generosity and loving spirit of the people of Lahore Continue reading

CULTURES OF PUNJAB

The geographical entity in the north-western region of India called Punjab, the land of five rivers, has been and still is an integral part of the common pool of Indian culture. Its arts and crafts also form an important part of the deep-rooted artistic tradition of India and are equally rich and significant.

The culture of Punjab prior to the partition of 1947 was a mixture of three strains one flowing frorn Kangra hills, the second from south-western area from Multan to Lahore, and the third from Peshawar w Lahore. Continue reading

First Gurmukhi course concludes

By Ali Usman

LAHORE: The graduates of the first Gurmukhi Certificate Course were awarded certificates on Wednesday after the completion of the course at the Punjab Institute of Language, Art and Culture (PILAAC).

The Gurmukhi Learning Certificate Course – the first course of its kind in Pakistan to teach the Gurmukhi script of Punjabi commenced at the institute last month. Some 35 students were registered for the course, of which 21 qualified the final examination. Gurmukhi is the universal script used for writing Punjabi, and is quite close to the Hindi script. In Pakistan, the Shahmukhi script (also called the Persian script by some) is used for writing Punjabi. Continue reading

No change in police culture

By Arshad Dogar

 The Investigation Wing of Lahore police is using ‘conservative’ methods of interrogating ‘criminals’ despite the government’s tall claims of reforming the department.

 A weekly review of the performance of Investigation Wing of Lahore Police reveals that it has absolutely failed to provide relief to robbery victims. In a rare example, however, police recovered booty and arrested dacoits within one month. Majority of cases are pending with the investigation police for many years and victims had become tired of paying ‘fees’ to investigation officers (IOs) which sometimes exceed the victim’s actual losses. Continue reading

A tale of two cities

By Sonya Rehman & Khaver Siddiqi 

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…’ Charles Dickens’ literary masterpiece, A Tale of Two Cities, begins with these words. Though the novel has a theme of self-sacrifice and resurrection, the starting line of the novel can be applied here in Pakistan to two of its largest and most prominent cities — namely Karachi and Lahore.

 Indeed both cities have seen the best and the worst of times as far as the music industry’s concerned. But how do these cities relate to one another? How does their music combine and form the modern music scene as we know it?

 The music that originates from the Punjab is as intricate as its historic architecture. Lahore, the ‘garden of the Mughals’, has seen a myriad of melodies, genres, and vocals alongside a variety of musical instruments (both new and old) over the past few decades. Continue reading

Dancing in Lahore

‘Lahore is a city that has to fight for its cultural survival. The growing influence of the Taliban, although hundreds of kilometres to the north-west, has been mirrored by a more insidious, creeping attack on culture throughout the country. On Jan 2, the bullet-ridden body of Shabana Gul, a dancing girl, was dumped in the centre of Mingora, the north-western district of Swat’s main town.But the growing cultural conservatism has had more subtle reverberations.In December, Lahore’s High Court barred the graceful and elaborate dancing girls, who first developed in the Moghal courts 400 years ago, from performing in public, on the grounds that they were too sexually explicit.

Continue reading

Sufi ‘Mystic Music’ festival to be held from 30th

LAHORE: Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop on Tuesday announced holding its annual Mystic Music Sufi Festival 2009 from April 30 to May 2.

Talking to reporters, the Peerzada brothers said this was the 6th annual Sufi Festival organised by Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop. The festival brings with it a rich variety of Sufi music from across the country. Performers from all four provinces will take part in the festival and over 300 artists will perform. “Through the Sufi Festival, we look forward to highlighting the cultural and traditional warmth and wisdom of Sufi poetry,” said Faizan Peerzada. “We are hopeful that such festivals will bless all of us with tolerance, wisdom and a light leading to a new direction,” he added. Continue reading