Myths about Pakistani Punjab

The first thing the visitors from abroad notice is the absence of violence in Punjab that everyone talks about if he/she is not a Pakistani Punjabi. The first thing that comes out from the mouth of non-Pakistanis is that you must be crazy to visit such a violence-ridden country. They seriously believe that they were seeing you the last time in the US and they will soon hear the news about your untimely death. You tell them that violence unleashed by the Taliban-jihadis is limited to areas around the Pak-Afghan border; in the rest of the country it is random and rare. Each day more people die in road accidents, both in Pakistan and the US, than those who are killed by religious extremists. Since the US is obsessed by the Afghan war, the western media stretch the Pak-Afghan border to the entire Pakistan.
·

MYTHS ABOUT PAKISTANI PUNJAB

·

by Dr. Manzur Ejaz

·

In the 60s, there was more liberal space for women in Pakistani Punjab than now; instead of progression Pakistani Punjab has regressed under the heavy pressure of religious fanaticism

My dear friend, Sucha Deepak Singh, a Punjabi-Canadian, visited Pakistan, spent most of his time in Lahore and Sahiwal, but he also took a tour of my village. He found most things, contrary to his own anticipation and friends’ advice, to be untrue. He still has some confusion created by his personal limited data.

The first thing he noticed was the absence of violence in Punjab that everyone talks about if he/she is not a Pakistani Punjabi. The first thing that comes out from the mouth of non-Pakistanis is that you must be crazy to visit such a violence-ridden country. They seriously believe that they were seeing you the last time in the US and they will soon hear the news about your untimely death. You tell them that violence unleashed by the Taliban-jihadis is limited to areas around the Pak-Afghan border; in the rest of the country it is random and rare. Each day more people die in road accidents, both in Pakistan and the US, than those who are killed by religious extremists. Since the US is obsessed by the Afghan war, the western media stretch the Pak-Afghan border to the entire Pakistan.

Based on his observation, he was of the opinion that many negative aspects of Pakistan are overblown by the media. For example, he said that the problem of electricity load shedding is overstated because he stayed in Bahria Colony, Lahore, where power is guaranteed 24/7 and it was not as bad as reported by the media during his stay in early July in Sahiwal. He thought Pakistani Punjab was a bit more prosperous than its Indian counterpart. I had the same feeling during my half a dozen trips to East Punjab; West Punjab is much more industrialised and commercialised than its counterpart.

Another myth in his mind was that most Punjabis speak Urdu. When he was there he observed that everyone spoke Punjabi, not only with him but with each other. I had similar experiences: a young man surprised me by choosing to talk in Punjabi though he has been educated in top English medium schools of Lahore and has not been exposed to Punjabi. As matter of fact, Mr Singh thought that Pakistani activists promoting Punjabi are more serious than in the Indian part of Punjab. Maybe both of us have a limited experience because I have seen and been told by many that the new generation of Punjab is Urdu-speaking. But my guess is that the parents, even if they are pure villagers, try to speak Urdu to their children from early childhood but when the young ones go out in the street, somehow, they learn Punjabi.

He was extremely surprised to see that Muslim Punjabis are also divided into castes. He thought — since we claim to be an ummah — there should be no caste division like there is in Hindus or Sikhs. One can see how such a misconception has been created. For this generation of Indian Punjabis who were unable to interact with their counterparts across the border, Muslim is a generic universal term. Such an impression is created by Pakistanis as well by presenting themselves as a universal community. The reality is that Pakistani Punjabis are so much divided into castes that intra-caste marriages are rare. This tells us that most of Pakistani Punjabi Muslims are converts from Hindu lower castes. They have continued the old practices but hypocritically give a misleading misconception to outsiders.

However, he was convinced that most Muslim Punjabis have more than one wife because one of his friends has two or three wives. I told him that in central Punjab most married people have to contend with one wife because besides the cultural pressure, most cannot afford more than one wife. I do not know a single living person in my village or elsewhere in Punjab who has multiple wives. He still does not believe it yet. Probably, the Muslims of India have been demanding of the government that they should have the legal provision to marry up to four wives. Whether Muslims can afford to indulge in multiple wives is a different thing but having multiple wives is very rare in central Punjab.

In general, he is right that women in Pakistan are not treated the way they are in East Punjab. I had the same view when I visited East Punjab the first time when I saw the number of women using bicycles and scooters for daily work and chores. In the 60s, there was more liberal space for women in Pakistani Punjab than now; instead of progression Pakistani Punjab has regressed under the heavy pressure of religious fanaticism.

Pakistani Punjab has not done as bad as the media stories portray. Much has to be done but let me end with an episode. I ran into an aged philosophy professor of Punjab University Chandigarh (it is a campus of PU Lahore) who first told me that he is ‘jaangli’ (Jatka) from Kamalia, a town on river Ravi in Faisalabad District. He said when he visited Pakistani Punjab he was not keen to see anything else but how the Muslim Punjabis conduct business. Before the partition of 1947 there was no business class of Muslims — in every town, businesses were conducted by Hindus. After walking through Anarkali — there was hardly one Muslim shop in this always busy bazaar before partition — he said, “Oye Muslio, tusin te Laalayaan noon vi pichhe chhad gaey” (O Muslim [shopkeepers], you have even surpassed the seasoned Hindu business class).

The writer can be reached at manzurejaz@yahoo.com

Source, Title Image
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ‘Wonders of Pakistan’. The contents of this article too are the sole responsibility of the author(s). WoP will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this post.

YOUR COMMENT IS IMPORTANT

DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF YOUR COMMENT

Wonders of Pakistan supports freedom of expression and this commitment extends to our readers as well. Constraints however, apply in case of a violation of WoP Comments Policy. We also moderate hate speech, libel and gratuitous insults. 
We at Wonders of Pakistan use copyrighted material the use of which may not have always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” only. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.
Advertisements

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://wondersofpakistan.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/myths-about-pakistani-punjab/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: