I have always wanted to share my observation and experience of Pakistan’s cultural evolution and trajectory, but due to certain life events and hectic nature of my routines, it took me a lot of time to narrate it. In 1947, the only issue was of physical survival. Those who to survived the bloody migration, needed settlement in their new land. The creation of Pakistan had come with its own setup and innate ingredients that all post-colonial and newly independent nations have in common. There was another segment which ran after claims, right or wrong, and grabbed the leftover of the migrating rich. This was the second segment of the mix. Then there were those who claimed that only they have a right to religious authority and must obtain positions of influence irrespective of what Mohammad Ali Jinnah was saying. These three mixes dominated the society of the earlier part of the seventy years and from this mix was to emerge from the ‘Culture’. Culture is not created in a vacuum; it emerges from a society. The culture, in turn, gives birth to a ‘civilisation’, as the scientists on the subject have determined. The other major and extremely influential element in the development of ‘culture’ is heritage. The new nation had the distinction of having the heritage of the humanity’s first civilisation, the ‘Harappa Civilisation’ also known as the ‘Indus Valley Civilisation’ which developed in continuity from 8000 BC Whatever emerged later on, and what we are talking about, developed on the historic bed of Indus Valley, Arian waves, Buddhism, European/British, and the Islamic background. I have explained all these factors for us all, to understand what could have taken place in the field of the culture of this land if left on its own. But it is for the leaders and government to encourage development and give it a direction. As for the Pakistan Government participation is concerned, I will try to narrate all the steps taken as far as I know. Then it is for you to evaluate as to where the nation and society stand. The first ever initiative to develop the expression of culture was made in 1948 in Lahore. The expression of a people’s culture is made through its arts i.e. the visual arts, performing arts, crafts, folklore and language. Two persons must be remembered for this initiative. These were Mr Abdul Rahman Chughtai a man of international fame in visual arts and his friend Syed Imtiaz Ali Taj, a man of international fame in performing arts. They thought of setting up an institution dedicated to the promotion of the Arts in the new nation to give it an identity. They met likeminded persons, like Justice SA Rahman, Mian Mumtaz Daultana, Mr Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Mr Zafarul Ahsan and some educationists and civil servants and resolved to form ‘Pakistan Arts Council’ at Lahore. They were allotted premises at 68 The Mall Lahore. A building, which most likely, belonged to Rai Bahadur Saran Das was named ‘Alhamra’. It is said that before independence, this building had been dedicated by the owner to run a school for teaching dance. The Alhamra was inaugurated by the then Governor General, Khawaja Nazimuddin, on 10th December 1949. This was the beginning of governmental support. It was followed by the Pakistan Arts Council at Dhaka and Karachi and Peshawar on similar names. These organisations had a token of financial support from the Pakistan Government. More organisations grew later on. Soon a commission was appointed by the Government, in Gen Ayub Khan’s times, which included men of distinction and vision, like Justice SA Rahman and Syed Imtiaz Ali Taj, and representatives from all provinces of Pakistan to give recommendations on how to develop arts in Pakistan. The subject of ‘culture’ at that time was part of the Ministry of Education, and it was headed by Mr SM Sharif. The recommendations were accepted and a countrywide network of art organisation came into existence. They continued to work as best as possible. It is not in the scope of this article to evaluate their achievements. At this time the Pakistan Government also took a major decision to build up cultural relations with friendly countries. These organisations contributed in this program of cultural exchanges while it was in a nascent stage. I was appointed to be the Secretary of Alhamra after Mr Faiz Ahmed Faiz had left due to health problems and I had returned from the USA after my graduation in Theatre Arts. While I was concentrating on the development of local programs and planning the new building for Alhamra, a very major decision regarding international cultural relations was taken. Pakistan decided to build people to people friendship with China. This was a very major assignment. I was given the challenge to build up, and train a troupe truly representative of all parts of the country. I found it also necessary to understand the Chinese revolution and the post-revolution nation. After appropriate research and lot of training in creative themes and compositions, and a great deal of cooperation from East Pakistan, and particular help from the Bulbul Academy a troupe was put together with 46 members of the top performers and the thematic ballets created by me. We toured for 5 weeks and the reports by the Chinese Government and Gen Raza, Pakistan’s ambassador gave glowing tributes which are part of the Government records. There have been numerous other exchanges which I am aware of or have been actively associated with. The details of these programs are beyond the scope of this article. In 1970, Mr Faiz Ahmed Faiz was appointed the Chairman of a commission on culture to advise the government for the future course of action. This commission made comprehensive recommendations. It suggested an organisational chart, recommending the establishment of ‘The National Council Of the Arts’ as the top organisation and all other organisations to fit into the chart. Each province was to have a ‘Provincial Organisation’ linked to the National Council and so forth. The National Council Of the Arts Act 1973 was passed thereafter. Mr Faiz Ahmed Faiz was eased out and given a larger title and bureaucratic influence took over the National Council of The Arts. No major development took place for a long time and I presume routine matters must have continued. In 1996, Kishwar Naheed, the Director General at that time, succeeded, after great effort, in getting land allotted from Benazir Bhutto for the National Council of the Arts, where it exists today. It remained a pathetic site for a decade. In August 2007, in the times of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, I, as the Chief Executive of the Council, succeeded in completing the building of the Art Gallery and Center for Performing Arts.The architect, Naeem Pasha and Project Engineer Col Mohammad Amjad worked with full enthusiasm to achieve the target. It can be rightly called a landmark in the history and a symbol of Pakistan Government’s interest. However, it should not belittle the great effort made by the ‘Loke Virsa’ in an extremely important area. With persistent efforts by Uxi Mufti and his colleagues, the Loke Virsa Museum started to develop. There are many other government-supported organisations which should be considered. The Government in itself went through changes by setting up an independent Ministry of Culture and then making a combined Ministry of Information, Heritage and Culture. I now want to leave the Government effort alone and let us look together at the private initiatives. It is by a private initiative that Noor Jehan, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Roshan Ara Begum, Sadequain, Ami Minwala, Faran Tahir, Chinoy, and many others reached excellence. It is the continuance of Melas and Urs which represent the free spirit of the people and see them in jubilation or ecstasy. This is people’s effort which is highly productive but also very highly threatened. I said ‘threatened’ and I mean it. They are threatened and even ‘terrorised’. The segment of society engaged in creative arts, particularly the performing arts is looked down upon. The so-called ‘pious’ majority of the society finds them unacceptable. A boy or a girl from the so-called ‘good family’ is not supposed to marry any performing artists. An actor is at best enjoyed as an entertainer not really respected as a thinking person. This is social terrorism The extreme rightists in our society would declare a photograph as ‘haraam’, and sometime later, hustle to get their face into the camera range. A so-called ‘Alim’ would declare the use of loudspeaker as ‘haram’ and later on buy the most powerful speaker for his address. Hundreds of thousands of ‘Madaris’ would come into existence but one film training institute would not. The majority of madaris teach an extremist version of Islam. There is hardly any emphasis on ‘Haqooqul Ibad’. They induct millions of young radicalised individuals into society and keep influencing it. They create a bed for various levels of terrorism and sleeper cells. The soft targets are those involved in arts and culture. The decision maker is the ‘rating system’ which is flawed and influences the quality negatively. The advertiser and therefore ‘capital’ has taken over. If ‘culture’ is to be understood, respected, and a nation is to be built then the national leadership must know how to do it and decide to do so. In the past 70-years, there has been some attention to this, but much more is required Lal Masjid rules, and is built quickly. It is supported by Government but the Pakistan National Council of Arts and the National Art Gallery have to wait 21 years. The one dedicated to preserving musical treasures is called a ‘mirasi’ with contempt. This particular attitude sums up the powerful minority of conservatives in the society. ‘Miras’ means ‘heritage’. This powerful section looks down upon those who are preserving some heritage. It is not just an unhealthy but a very sick segment of society which needs to learn to respect and own the national heritage. We need to own the fact that we have the heritage of the Harappa /Indus civilisation. We are from the land that brought culture and civilisation to all humanity. We have failed on Government Level, as well as on private level to even have ‘Harappa’ original site properly preserved and recorded in the world conservation list. Our existence, particularly cultural existence is the target of extremists. I cannot call extremists and terrorists as Muslims because they are as far from the message of Islam as anyone can be. We must understand they are traders of fear. They do hardly mention the God who is ‘Rahim’, and He who loves HIS creation. Who is ‘Jameel’ and loves ‘Jamal’, who does not allow the killing of one, by, other, who insists on, forgiveness, and allows living according to one’s believes and, who repeatedly says that “ I have not appointed you a ‘Darogha’ over others”. I could go on, but this should be a sufficient indicator of what I mean. We need to do much more. Our politicians and leaders need to take a greater responsibility. They are lawmakers. I request them to understand that jalsas, emotional speeches, and rallies will not develop the culture that we need. Only a massive revision of the educational system and the textbooks can do it which imparts an understanding and value of heritage, and young people taught real history and not brainwashed with distorted history. They need to understand that message of Islam reached the sub-continent through Bibi Pak Daman and Data Sahib much before any warrior entered Sindh. They need to understand that all arts originated in the Indus Valley, and the whole world benefited from these. They need to know that no archaeologist has found an instrument of war or signs of conflict in the Indus Valley civilisation before the arrival of Arians. We have thousands of years of a tradition of peace, hospitality and humility. It was this peaceful nature of the people that they welcomed the message of Islam. These are some of the elements of our great heritage. If ‘culture’ is to be understood, respected, and a nation is to be built then the national leadership must know how to do it and decide to do it. In the 70 years, there has been some attention but much more is required. Finally the role of media in the development of arts and culture. Traditionally, near the time of freedom, Radio pioneered. It promoted arts and artists and took pride in high-quality content and programming. On the arrival of TV a great thing happened; which is that the artists started to have a decent means of livelihood. A career could be possible and some respectability was available. Now there is a free for all. The 100 plus channels do more damage to society than the good. The leaders behave obnoxiously sometimes and make a fool of themselves. Mostly the content of their conversation lacks solid reasoning expected of them. The decision maker is the ‘rating system’ which is flawed and influences the quality negatively. The advertiser and therefore ‘capital’ has taken over. The ‘channels’ have shown little sense of social responsibility. They continue to repeat useless ‘breaking news’ repeatedly. They pick up on the worst and sensational and repeat it a million times. The channels propagate depression in the society. They do not understand this creates anxiety, dissatisfaction, anger and disappointment in large numbers. This starts reflecting on the individual behaviour. A common example is the road rage and intolerance. Our leadership has to take cognisance. Our elected representatives must understand this responsibility and raise their voice. Their voice is not meant for just ‘Avay ee Avay … sada so and so … avay ee avay They are custodians of our trust and they must perform in supporting the real culture. Well designed, balanced education is the most important means. Currently, it is most confusing. Our national and mother tongues are fading. These form the roots of heritage and culture. There is a real threat to the script. We need to take a decision about the script whether roman or Persian/Arabic is to be promoted. We need to learn from other countries who have survived these threats. Nations are built on the quality of education and dissemination of quality information. National understandings are built by letting its scholars be present in foreign universities to create an understanding of our national character and culture. We all know that most of the seats for Pakistan in the international universities are vacant. Our national culture needs to be owned and identified in the perspective of our heritage. We all need to take the responsibility to preserve and promote. In 70 years we have done some, but much more is required to be done. Of course, the major responsibility is to the decision makers. They need to analyse with the help of experts, chart a course of action, and do what needs to be done. A well thought out basis needs to be identified and then all of us collectively should build and take pride in our culture and arts and the character of our nation. The writer is Pakistani theatre, film and television actor, scholar, public speaker, columnist, teacher and dramatist Published in Daily Times, March 17th 2018.