Punjab: Bullets in Bansri – Guest post by Bahadar Ali Khan

The rural Punjab has gone through a subtle but certainly very conspicuous change during the last two decades. The ‘new’ Punjab doesn’t resonate with its traditional and historical composition, as it used to be known for its friendliness, easy going, open mindedness and secular attitudes of life. The emerging trends reflect the geo-political developments taking place around its periphery. These trends encompass the rigid attitudes, intolerance of dissention and cynicism. Though change is a compulsory human trait but the problem with this change is its unnatural progression and non-indiginousness. The new ways of life almost entirely are caused by the outside factors and alien forces whose thoughts remained foreign to the local mind set.

Another unfortunate factor is the complicity of the State to permit and encourage the new values which are placed under the banner of puritinzation of faith or indoctrination of the belief-set to the extent of dragging it towards orthodoxy. Though this change was primarily designed for urban areas of Pakistan in general and Punjab in particular. However, as time and events proved later, its pervasiveness remained limited in urban centers and city-dwellers couldn’t appreciate the new and vigorously disseminated ideals. But the case of rural Punjab against this onslaught turned out otherwise. It proved more fertile in this regard and subscribed to the new ideals more easily. This change wasn’t difficult to feel but as most of the intellectuals mainly stayed focused on the developments in the urban areas, they ignored this mini-revolution that turned the existing ways of life in Punjabi villages and the inhabitants of small towns.

To cater to nostalgia I must say that the Punjab we find in the pictures of Usataad Allah Bakhsh and the Punjabi movies of the 1970’s decade, is there no more. (Please don’t mix the films of 70s with the ‘gandasa’ style movies of 80s). The new culture and its values have completely replaced the old ones. It has overshadowed Punjab’s traditional softness, its folklore and the message of the great Sufi poets. Now, the imaginative visualization of the new Punjab doesn’t hold any more traditional sweet melodies of the pipe (bansri not fiddle), rather it has been replaced with the echoes of boom and sensation caused by the passing Klashinkov bullets. The sweet ‘mahia and tappa’ culture is switched with the loud sectarian and jihadi sermons blasting from the powerful loud speakers of the newly and rapidly constructed mosques and madrassas.

These new realities are pointing towards the similar dangerous and emerging trends as the ones already set in motion in the tribal and settled areas of NWFP, whereby life has been confined to my way or highway hypothesis. The state of Pakistan seems powerless to undo new and painful realities of tribal mindset blended with religious orthodoxy despite its change of heart towards its erstwhile so-called ’strategic assets’.




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