On the “death of Pakistani culture”

Khaled Ahmed is the endangered variety of writers. A true man of letters proficient in world languages, histories and cultures, he is a journalist who does not refrain from confronting the truth. There are very few individuals like him who advance the traditions of seeking knowledge and pontificating in a classical sense. I have been an admirer of his writings since my teens when I would read the Frontier Post (yes it was a thoughtful publication and a refreshing alternative to semi-controlled media in Zia days).

In his recent article published in the The Friday Times (that he also edits), he argues that “because of the death of Pakistani culture, normalisation with India has become more crucial than most of us realise”.

After 60 years Pakistan is helplessly witnessing the destruction of its culture by elements arising from within its society. The mission of purifying society to make it a fit vehicle for Islam has passed from the state. This process has been incremental, but after Talibanisation, the culture-destroying process has accelerated. The state seems to be getting cold feet over something it did earnestly since 1947 in the name of its purifying ideology. Now worried about its global image, it is face to face with religious anarchy and wants society to become tolerant and moderate, which is the function of culture.

The concluding paragraph is pretty grim –

Before 1947, Muslims offended with the fahashi (obscenity) of Saadat Hasan Manto took him repeatedly to court, only to hear the Muslim judges under British Raj say that what Manto wrote was high culture, not obscenity. After 1947, every time he was dragged before the court for obscenity, he was convicted! The judge in Karachi gave him tea in the evening and told him he was the country’s greatest short story writer, but convicted him for obscenity in the morning. Now the state wants to stop killing culture, but it is too late.

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