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Pakistan’s Cultural Identity Crisis

According to Oxford Dictionary, culture can be defined as, ideas, customs or social behavior of a particular person or a society. It is the mixture of customary set of beliefs of a race or some ethnic or social group. Culture is therefore necessarily used to formulate an identity comprising of certain characteristic traits that can only be relative to that particular group. These traits are distinct and often contain undertones of religious practices or sometimes born out of those religious practices.

pakistan monument

In an era of mass globalization and with the rise of social media, people are getting accustomed to indulge in new experiences. They show an eagerness to learn regarding one another and their culture. Mass tourism has also aided people in their quest to discover new places, interact with the people who live there and simply to gain new perspectives. Locations have a lot to do with culture. The location, its physical climate, political landscape and environmental backdrop influence the people and their thought process.

lost-identity

Positioned in the one of the most integral locations of Asia, it would be an understatement to say that Pakistan’s unique placement has a very strong impact on its culture. Bordering with ethnically rich, multi-faceted and historically impactful countries, Pakistan has its fair share of cultural bloom. But as the saying goes, all that glitters is not gold, in this case, all this unique location leads to mere confusion. Yes, Pakistan due to its internal economic and geographic position, is in a precarious situation. To analyze the cultural dynamic of Pakistan it is important to first delve into its history, its neighbors, the federal nature of the government, the inequality present among our provinces, the effect of globalization and how these factors lead to a cultural identity crisis.

Pakistan’s history is dark, marred with the horrors of colonialization and subsequent partition. Being the former part of the sub-continent also known as Golden Sparrow, it was never cut off from the world. Rather it was the pinnacle of what world rulers desired to own the most. From Muhammad bin Qasim’s quest to defeat Raja Dahir initiating spread of Islam, to the invasion efforts of Mongols, Mughals and the colonizers, it has been a bumpy ride. With every new ruler, came new languages, new religion, breathtaking architecture, thus a new lifestyle. Then landed the cultural robbers on the shores of the Arabian Sea, the British, European colonizers. Enforcing their “disciplined” English lifestyle while dividing the masses and robbing our priceless land resources. They have played an enormous role in shaping our institutions, our heritage and our history. The love we possess for English, showcased by the recent Café Cannoli Islamabad is just a tiny glimpse of how even after 74 years of freedom, we are still hung up on their culture.

After forcing the British to leave we prepared for our independence. The price of which we paid in blood and gore. Muslims and Hindus co-existing together was just not a plausible dynamic. Unmistakably the effects of our combined situation were hard not to notice. We believe solely in one God, they believe in hundreds. We eat beef, they worship it. It would have been disastrous for all parties involved if the sub-continent had still remained in one piece.

After partition, we became neighbors to India, Iran, Afghanistan and China. Each country possesses its own rich history. Iran previously laying the foundations of The Persian Empire, India comprising of the Mughal Empire, China being ruled by the last Qing dynasty which also spread through entire Mongolia to Tibet then falling prey to British colonizers. Similarly, Afghan history is no different than rest of the colonized world. Their culture is forged in the crucible of Islam by the same monarchs that conquered the sub-continent and settled there. Hence Asia and particularly South Asian states have witnessed wars and new generals rushing towards these regions for resources and for the ultimate expansion of their empires.

With the history covered, we shall move on to the current state of affairs which has a lot to do with Pakistan’s economic circumstance. From sharing a tumultuous relationship with US, battling with its own unbridled interior political setting and unfortunately being a developing state, it has to rely on foreign funding. Here is where several foreign entities manifest themselves as prospective investors. It is hard to ignore Western funding to Pakistan during the aligned movement and Afghan war, where US invaded our neighbors and has not left since. While funding and jointly operating a mega upscale economic venture known as CPEC, China is now spreading its roots both economically and culturally. Chinese and East Asian culture is seen on the rise, K-Pop now blasting in every Pakistani teen’s headphones, Chinese inspired eateries now located on every corner of our marketplaces. Chinese language being taught in our institutes.

Pakistan’s federal mode of governance plays a hefty role in furthering our cultural divide. While we celebrate cultural day at our schools, dressing in representative clothing and dancing to cultural music, the reality cannot be anymore distorted. The amount of prejudice present among our ethnicities cannot be overcome even if we celebrate cultural day around the clock. The uneven education system and literacy rate is another factor to be considered here. With KPK’s literacy rate on the rise, the entire nation feels left out. The institutes of provincial government designing legislations are all bound by cultural and ethnic prejudices and hence do not tend to align culturally with each other.  All provinces are poles apart to one another. Baluchistan being the largest of all provinces but receiving the lowest of all funds faces huge discrimination coming from the federal capital.

To consider globalization a major driving force behind our cultural identity crisis would be an understatement. It is due to globalization we are all bound together and have complete insight in each other’s internal/external affairs. Due to globalization, the entire world bears witness to, well– the entire world. With cultural amalgamation on the rise it is quite difficult for developed countries to maintain an identity let alone the developing ones. Pakistan’s culture can be traced back to Hindu societal thought process, British indoctrinated English, Western inspired democratic values and currently Chinese enthused and powered economic projects as well as Turkish influenced instilling of Islamic values through digital media. We comply to Islamic ideals when it suits us, but when it comes to our domestic society implementing, we prefer the old traditional methods originating from the Hindu culture. We imbibed those values to a drastic level. We accept dowry, we encourage combined households, we do not allow our daughters/wives to work, we encourage domestic abuse of the wife. All these dehumanizing practices adopted from Hindu culture. Whereas Islam stands against this code of conduct. With western influence comes our love for western attire, and our entire country remains divided on that. The colonizers blessed us with English and hence it is our moral obligation to condone any effort that would make us break our promise to the British. With Turkish dramas on the rise, we become fazed by Turkish/Afghan jewelry and clothing hence tend to forget what our national dress is. With western political ideals that we have to align ourselves with, it is quite difficult to create a mixture that would satisfy our internal Islamic needs and also cater to the western demands simultaneously.

Pakistan’s identity crisis is both internal and external and this dilemma is now entrenched in the collective conscience of our nation. We have no exclusive identity. We take pride in the fact that we celebrate our diversity but in reality this diversity has only made us more confused and apart. We cannot even decide on one language and this is the reason of our downfall. With an unstable economy, drastic political divide and economic imperialism on the rise it will be a challenge to first identify our cultural truth and then implement it firmly. I believe only then we can tackle on other challenges as a united front.

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Category: Lifestyle

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