Thursday June 20, 2024

‘Holding on to culture matter of pride, not shame’

By Ebad Ahmed
March 28, 2016

‘Caravanserai - Kabul in Karachi’ concludes with thorny issues being raised


With renowned academicians, journalists and political commentators as panellists, the concluding day of the “Caravanserai - Kabul in Karachi” ended on a high note. 

The first panel discussion, “Endangered Languages”, featuring speakers Zubair Torwali and Asif Farrukhi along with the moderator, Usman Shah, highlighted the growing challenges for regional languages in the region.

Kicking off the discussion by highlighting how much importance is given to the traditional culture and language by certain quarters of the world, Shah shared an anecdote of the recent speech of Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnball when he moved to tears on the demise of the indigenous language in the country.

 “The Australian prime minister also once addressed the parliament in an indigenous language and granted $20 million for its preservation,” he added. “This clearly shows how much importance Australia gives to the subject.”

Taking Shah’s point further, Dr Farrukhi said that it was unimaginable to see a Pakistani prime minister speaking in his traditional language in the parliament. “It is due to the hegemony of English established by the colonial masters by targeting the vernacular languages of the region,” he noted.

 “I wish people stop calling it regional languages, and call them national languages.”

He further said the threats indigenous languages were facing were mainly because of less recognition and appreciation of diversity not only by the state but also the society at large.

He added that when a language died, it took with it entire folk wisdom, culture and civilisation; hence it is very much important to preserve them.

“Our perception of a person being at home with one language is more of a western construct,” he said. “The state must put efforts to get rid off self-hate and inferiority complex.”

He further noted that the state’s inclination towards homogeneity was killing the natural diversity present in the country, and in view of that language had never remained a priority.   

Torwali, a political analyst, said there were over 65 regional languages spoken in Pakistan but unfortunately they were not recognised by the people.

He observed that many languages were spoken in the upper districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa.

“Though these languages are still spoken in some areas by a few hundred people, the real problem is that their younger generation is not speaking or learning them,” he added. “In this regard, the former provincial government of the Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa took certain steps to revive them, but the current government abandoned those projects.”

Torwali said one of the main hurdles in the preservation of traditional languages was that the state looked down at the people holding their culture close to them.

Highlighting the Stockholm syndrome attached to it, he said sadly the linguistic minority, which was underdeveloped and impoverished, saw that their weak socio-cultural position in the society was because of the culture they were holding to.


Borderland culture

The second session was on borderland culture, moderated by Mahvish Ahmed, with the speakers Usman Shah, Iftikhar Firdous and Safoora Arbab.

Firdous, a senior journalist, said borderland cultures had expanded because of the immigration in the last decade, and there was a need to address how these cultures would assimilate.

Sharing stage with him, Usman Shah, a doctoral researcher, said should be more discussions on similarities between cultures as they challenge the stereotypes sadly present in the society.