“Pakistan pledges firmly that those nations, which deny the essence of their heritage and past, witness a disastrous fate, as true development and growth cannot be achieved without taking cognizance of the heritage of a region or the people residing therein”.
Dr Mohammad Faisal, Director General, South Asia, SAARC and Spokesperson at Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized upon examining the causes that have led to the rampant polarization and extremist tendencies, particularly that have been developed in country’s society. He was speaking at a seminar titled “Heritage Diplomacy: A Gadget for Regional Peace” organized by Islamabad based international think tank, Regional Rapport in collaboration with Indusian Research Cell and National Library of Pakistan.
Dr Faisal expressed that Pakistan takes pride in the Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Parsi and other traditions that have flourished in this region and have had an impact on the overall cultural identity of its peoples. The Sufi tradition of Sub-Continent is deeply embedded in the belief system, customs, and general attitude of the people of Pakistan.
He maintained that Pakistan is blessed with civilizations like Mehrgarh, Harappa, Mohenjo Daro, Taxila and Makli to the religiously consecrated sites such as Katas Raj, Nankana Sahib, Takht Bhai and various Sufi shrines such as in Sehwan, Uch, Odero Lal, to a rich poetic and linguistic tradition in the form of Bulleh Shah, Mian Mohammad Bakhsh, Allama Iqbal, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Fehmida Riaz to eminent writers such as Manto, Ashfaq Ahmed, Bano Qudisa and so forth; Pakistan has been blessed with unique diversity, which must be cherished and protected.
“Every province of Pakistan has a distinct cultural identity, resembling petals of a flower stacked together as a marvel of nature. Pakistan truly appreciates and owns the heritage bestowed upon it by history” Dr Faisal added.
“However, It must also be noted that various governments have undertaken a number of steps, whereby heritage diplomacy and cultural tourism have been promoted.” DG south Asia further explained that “Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the Prime Minister’s decision to open up Kartarpur Sahab Corridor is a manifestation of Pakistan’s unflinching belief in this philosophy. This is the single most important milestone, which is unprecedented in the history of South Asia”.
Dr Mohammad Faisal hopes and expects that “(Kartarpur Corridor) project materializes soon and (Sikh) pilgrims from across the border are able to visit their revered holy site”. And that, “Kartarpur Sahab Corridor will allow the Nanak believers from across the border to perform pilgrimage of the sacred complex at Kartarpur Sahab, where the founder of Sikhism, Baba Guru Nanak spent the last 17 years of his life”.
Renowned folklorist, scholar and founder of Lok Virsa Museum, Dr Uxi Mufti proudly expressed that Pakistan is a cradle of civilizations, religions and heritage. He said Peace in the region through heritage diplomacy will bring a vast difference.
He described that India has first focused on culture, traditions and heritage while Pakistan has taken a wrong direction by begging for economy first and still unable to get financial autonomy but left the promotion of its own pivotal base of art, culture, traditions as a part of its immense heritage. “It’s always great ideas produces great institutions and nations, unfortunately, our governments always seek to create structures never stressed upon functions of the institutions and thoughts to promote ideas.” Dr Uxi stressed.
Actor, art practitioner, and Director General, Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA), Syed Jamal Shah during his thought-provoking speech said that Pakistan’s cultural narrative dismantled systematically, traditional cinema died, artists either murdered or they are living in most miserable conditions, there were Mailaas (local festivals), traditional dances at marriage ceremonies – all vanished, Lok music diminishes and lot more disappeared.
Jamal Shah expressed hope that heritage and art give life – a real life, develops dialogue and plays a major role to self-aware, it makes brains enlightened, intellectually brightened, brave, pious and charity oriented, create awareness and ultimately help nations to progress. “Those brains which take decisions with awareness and healthy minds take nations forward and get strengthened while sick minds always destroy nations.” DG PNCA elaborated.
Jamal Shah said that state has to decide finally, whether without art and culture, can we move forward? Can we progress, without preserving our heritage and promoting it as a tool of diplomacy? Fact is, we have to do it, otherwise, we have no survival. Heritage has great potential to promote Pakistan and take the state towards ultimate success while all sectors including economy, defence, education, health will get the benefit when Heritage will be the core priority.
Famous anthropologist, Executive Director – Centre for Culture and Development, Dr Nadeem Omer emphasized that Pakistan desperately needs a dedicated centre for cultural diplomacy. “Centre for Cultural Diplomacy (and heritage) should be established, existing institutions of art and culture must be strengthened while individual artists should be promoted as institutions” Dr Omer further suggested.
Director General National Library, Syed Ghayur Hussain, during his remarks, stressed upon imparting awareness of Pakistan’s culture, traditions, heritage through effective curriculum and teachings to a new generation. “We have promoted only, what Britishers had done, but losing our Lok wisdom, sports, cuisines, culture and traditions as an accumulative heritage”, Syed Ghayur added. He has pitched a strong voice to revive country’s traditional cuisines like Lassi (Lok drink), Makhadi, Sohan Halwa (Punjab Sweets), Chakwal Raiwri (traditional candy like sweet), Maki ki roti (Maize Bread) and all other cultural cuisines.
Chairman Indusian Research Cell, Dr Rauf Azad Kakepoto openly describes heritage diplomacy as a great tool to promote regional peace. Dr Rauf expressed that Pakistan is a bunch of flowers, colours, cultures and traditions. There is a dire need to connect inward and outwards and to bring out things from our common heritage to link region and promote peace.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.