By Waleed Tariq
KARACHI, Pakistan – Pakistani actors, academics, politicians and others discussed the role and influence of media on society – and how it’s used by one culture to dominate another – at a recent colloquium in Karachi.
Social sciences students at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) organized the event, ‘In Conversation with the Icons of Pakistan’: A Colloquium on Culture, Media and Society.’
It took a critical look at the past, present and future of television, music and its interrelations with commercialization and colonization on Pakistan’s contemporary culture and society.
In her opening remarks, parliamentarian Fouzia Wahab, a prominent Pakistani politician elaborated on the connection between media and culture.
Wahab praised SZABIST students who dared to take on the challenge of finding out what culture, media and society is, and for their spirit of inquiry, will and determination in doing so.
People do not talk about it, she said. In her view, society is continuously in a state of transition be it communication, lifestyle or approach towards career. “Change is coming and I hope with this talk, we can find out what this change is in terms of evolution of culture, media and society in Pakistan,” said Wahab.
In the session, ‘Pakistani Drama: Kal Aur Aaj (Today and Tomorrow) panelists drew comparisons of contemporary work with those of yesteryear. Beginning from his journey from Radio Pakistan up to television, Kazim Pasha contended that passion has given way to commercialization.
In earlier times, he said, people were passionate about work.
“They were not after fame or money, but talent,” Pasha said. In this context, he criticized current private media for its excessive push for ratings and the constant exposure of vulgarity on screen.
The celebrated actor Shakeel backed up Pasha’s point of view.
“From bus they (artists) have moved to cars but screen has not benefited from this change,” he said.
But in the end Shakeel was hopeful for the better. It is his belief, Shakeel said, that Pakistan is a volcano of composers, writers and actors who need government support and promotion to take performing arts in the country forward.
They were not the only ones to enlighten the audience.
|Kazim Pasha in panel|
A session on colonization featuring academics Abbas Hussain, Salman Abedin and Durrya Qazi focused on the elements of how one dominant culture takes over a weaker one, with a special emphasis on Pakistan. Hussain pointed out how colonization has contributed to the prevalent language divide in the country between Urdu and English.
For cultural domination, he said, language is the easiest of all.
“Literature is an expression of culture and the easiest to export. You can’t bring the guardians of Buckingham Palace but surely Shakespeare can come to India,” Hussain said.
While Durrya gave a balanced overview of colonization, Abedin talked about the essentials which form national identity.
Qazi said that colonization by Europeans began in the 15th century partly with good intentions, and in her view, she said, merely anything we use today is not owed to the West, be it the table, microphone or anything.
“I think today’s time is globalization,” said Qazi. “Instead of dividing, we have far more in common in humanity than differences.”
Abedin, an academic at SZABIST, Karachi, highlighted how an amalgamation of economics and advertising has played a significant role in the formation of a post-colonial Pakistani identity.
|Salman Abedi, Abbas Hussain, Durrya Qaz|
Abedin also termed film as the easiest ‘export’ for cultural domination rather than literature.
“For domination, economics is at play. It’s not only about race,” Abedin said. “Economics cannot be ruled out in the construction of post-colonial identity.”
Next in line was the team of Banana News Network; a popular comedy satire show at Geo TV which brought the audience into a lighter mood with their constant influx of one-liners, jokes and humor.
Other participants included Danish Ali, Omran Shafique and Gumby.
The four sessions were ‘Pakistani Drama: Aaj aur Kal, ‘Colonization and its Impact on Culture,’ ‘Humour: New Horizons’ and ‘Essence of Pakistani Music.’
Each session was followed by a question and answer period where students had an opportunity to interact with the panelists. Students, SZABIST staff and faculty attended.