November 26, 2011

Writers and poets are founders of globalization

By Habib R. Sulemani

Writers, poets and other creative people are actually founders of the concept of globalization not business tycoons of recent times. Thus William Shakespeare, Mir Taqi Mir, Khwaja Ghulam Farid, Emily Dickinson and many other creative geniuses are part of the total intellectual asset of the human race on planet earth. With this vision, how to promote art and literature in our militarized and terrorized Pakistan? The answer to this question can guarantee peace and prosperity.

DO art and literature still matter? Do we really need a local-intellectual perspective of national and international affairs? What are our national institutions/organizations doing for the development and promotion of art and literature? These are some of the burning questions for those who are anxious about the future of art and literature in Pakistan.

Art and literature are facing great challenges globally and serious efforts are being made to counter them in the developed world. But looking at the state of affairs in the developing countries, it seems that art and literature are “clinically dead” and the intelligentsia is no more capable of guiding society in keeping with the needs of the 21st century. To be a writer or a painter in Pakistan today means to be prepared to undertake financial and social hardship.

There are few writers and painters in this country who write or paint as full-time professionals and make a living out of it. For the majority, art and literature is a labour of love. They have to undertake other jobs to make both ends meet.

Unfortunately, the education system in the country is not meeting the social and cultural needs of the people. Illiteracy is the root cause of all evils. In this state of ignorance and lack of creativity how will we ever meet the challenges of the new century?

No government can't reform society and bring about progress and prosperity without the intellectual development of the people. It is a matter of fact that most of our national institutions/organizations concerned with the promotion of art and literature are virtually dormant. They are scattered, in a state of decay and are inefficient. Millions of rupees are drained out by these organizations every year without their producing any output.

The managements of these organizations consist mostly of non-professionals who are paid substantial salaries but are unable to do justice to their jobs. Many of these positions are filled by people who the government wants to reward for political services. Many of them would be a big burden on the taxpayer while the standard publications being produced in the country are in the private sector.

There are said to be more than a dozen government-run organizations said to be working for the development and promotion of art and literature in the country. Many others are sponsored directly or indirectly by the federal, provincial and local governments. Some of the most prominent ones are: Pakistan Academy of Letters, National Language Authority (Muqtadira Qaumi Zaban), National Book Foundation, Urdu Science Board, Writer’s Guild, Majlis-i-Tarraqi-i-Adab, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Institute of Islamic Culture, Urdu Dictionary Board, Jinnah Papers Project, Alhamra Arts Council, Lok Virsa, Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA), Punjab Arts Council.

Additionally, the Federal Ministry of Information publishes a monthly literary magazine Mah-i-Nau and a weekly Pak Jamhooriat from Lahore. The Punjab Civil Secretariat in Lahore also publishes a magazine Urdu Akhbar while the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation’s (PBC) monthly magazine Aahang is also known as a semi-literary magazine. Anjuman-i-Tarraqi-i-Urdu Adab, Maghrabi Pakistan Urdu Academy, Centre for Persian Research, Pashto Academy, Urdu Academy, Sindh Adabi Board, Pashto Adabi Board, Punjabi Adabi Board and Balochi Adabi Board are also intended for the promotion of art and literature. Paradoxically, the Gilgit-Baltistan region which is the “anthropological garden” of Pakistan has no government-owned or sponsored organization for the promotion of art and literature.

This bird’s eye view of the literary scene in the country makes it clear that the process of “right-sizing” in the public sector must benefit art and literature as well. For this purpose our national organizations need serious reform. I would suggest the merger of many of the government-run organizations which are scattered and superfluous into an autonomous Academy of Arts and Letters which should be run professionally. Its goal should be to promote art and literature in the country and project it abroad.

A professional chief executive officer should run the academy under the guidelines of a board of governors consisting of intellectuals, academics, writers, poets, painters, journalists, scientists, sociologists, businessmen and people from the performing arts. The academy should not be under the control or influence of the government even though it is funded from the treasury. Thus alone can the literary talent in the country be scouted and given an opportunity to find expression. 

(Note: This article was published in daily Dawn's Books & Authors section with the headline How to promote art and literature on March 30, 2003) 

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