No culture anywhere is immutable. Aspects of all cultures are changing over time. Some aspects of all cultures fade away and are replaced. Pakistan is no different, and the culture of the country is no less subject to change than anywhere else in the world — but change is not always easy or acceptable to one and all. Indeed some changes, especially in a culture that is regarded as conservative and male dominated– are resisted, occasionally forcefully, by powerful elements that see their preferred version of the prevailing culture as in some way threatened. Change is rarely a top-down process, and it is more often than not the younger generation(s) that are the sparks of social change, with music being a universal catalyst; and if there is one thing that is going to get the traditionalists foaming at the mouth it is the sight of several thousand young people having a good time, listening to music and quite possibly dancing as well.
Just how much the country is in thrall to those that oppose social change was exemplified by the closing down of a ‘dance party’ in Lahore last weekend. The party organisers had applied for and received the appropriate permits from the deputy commissioner and was in full swing when the police intervened. The reason for their intervention was that the head of the Sunni Tehreek in Lahore had circulated a recorded message among senior police saying that either the police stopped the party at the Sozo Water Park immediately or they would ‘face the music’. The police immediately complied. The Maulana later said ‘I will not let any such party take place, at least in Lahore.’
He may not have the right to close down a legal activity, but he clearly has the power. Moreover those in authority do his bidding in an instant. Teenagers are still not going away. They are going to enjoy themselves as they do elsewhere in the world. Pakistan is not going to come crashing down as a result. Dance on.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2017.
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