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Another Open Letter to Baby Bilawal Bhutto Zardari

Those who haven’t read the first open letter, please click on the link below:

Dear BBZ,

We wish you all the very best with the Sindh Festival. You are doing a great service to the culture of Sindh (at least you feel so).

After the first letter, I had not intended to write another letter, but some people practiced flattery and insisted that I write a post festival analysis. But since I’ll be immensely busy over the next couple of weeks, this letter comes in as an early bird.

Analysing how the festival has gone so far, reminds me of an incident, during my time in London. At a restaurant, after having finished my dinner, I asked the waiter if there was any dance club nearby. He guided me to a place at the end of the street. Much to my disappointment, the place turned out to be a strip club (something I disliked and felt disgusted about). To term this festival as promoting the culture of Sindh, reminds me of that waiter’s understanding of the term dance club and how I felt upon being misguided.

God knows how much I wish I am wrong, but it seems unlikely that things will change much for the remaining half of the festival. I, therefore, as a Son of Sindh, again have few innocent questions for you.

1. Starting from the opening ceremony, I myself was amongst the many thousands, if not millions, who opposed the idea of holding the ceremony at the Mohen-jo-Daro. But, I felt a sigh of relief, after the Minsiter for Culture gave the assurance that the archaeological site would not be damaged, explaining and I quote “that Mr Bhutto-Zardari was himself a student of history, and that he was monitoring the event” (Dawn News, Dec 31). History? Archaeology? Same thing? Are you serious? Later, I said to myself, what difference does it make? After all, if you exclude Karachi, and take a look at the rest of the province, it all appears as ruins. So let the event take place at any of the ruins.  

2. Secondly, it was great to see your sister perform a song at the opening ceremony. She was very enthusiastic and you must feel very proud for her support. But bad, it was in a language which the masses don’t understand. Worse, it was a genre of music that has nothing to do with Sindh or its culture. Unfortunately, there needs to be a distinction between public and private life. You and your siblings intend to lead this nation one day; your actions are closely watched upon (For a second, imagine Haseena Wajid – Dj’ing at a Rave-party besides DJ Magda). Also, sadly, this was not a school annual function, where every kid is allowed to show their skills and gets appreciation no matter how they perform. (You need to know, no one would blame you if you missed to play musical chairs when you were young, but it’s bad to play it when you are old and it’s late).

3.  Thirdly, Can you justify the lavish spending done from poor taxpayer’s money? Flying your Oxford friends and the elites of this country on Chartered 737’s to an event that had nothing Sindhi about it (Telegraph, UK, 2nd Feb). At the very least, inclusions of Abida parveen or Faqirs of Bhit Shah would have justified the event with its theme. (Will there be any accountability of how public’s money was used?)

4. Fourthly, the events that have taken place so far, have failed to attract any attention or participation from general public. Apart, from the opening event which was exclusively for the elite, the rest of the events have failed to pull crowds.

To quote:

Sindh Festival’s donkey derby competition … the security officials outnumbered the number of spectators that turned up to see the race. Those who did turn up around noon were either reporters or volunteers working for the Sindh Festival….” (Dawn News, 5th Feb.)

And then:

“Deep-sea fishing contest — a part of the ongoing Sindh Festival …. Seven of the 15 registered contesting teams turned up as the others stayed away….” (Dawn News, 7th Feb.)

In addition, there are some other events which are far beyond the reach of the poor (such as the Sufi Night or the Ghazal Night). When you could hold a free concert for your privileged guests out of taxpayer’s money, why could you not hold a free event for the very same people from whose money the event is being held (Someone who can easily afford to pay is not asked to pay, and, on the other hand someone who cannot afford is made to pay… Common sense atop K2 peaks).

There are many more questions that boggle my mind, but due to space constraints, I must stop. But before I finish I must clarify the misconception that I am opposed to you or your Sindh Festival.

I am appreciative of your anti-Taliban stance and as far as cultural festivals are concerned, I strongly believe, such events are the need of the time and must be held. But such events must be carefully planned by “Cultural experts, intellectuals and not by your not-at-all-culturally versed loyalists”. Academic Sessions or Conferences on Sindh could have been held inviting intellectuals to promote the message of peace and love, highlighting teachings of local heroes: Shah Latif, Sachal, Ibrahim Joyo and others. The popularity and public interest in Karachi Literature Festival or Urdu Conference are good examples. Also, cheap tourist trips or short school trips to Sindh’s museums or historical sites might have been organised to increase awareness and promote Sindh’s culture. Free concerts, would have given the underprivileged, a chance to attend events they are normally not welcomed to.  But, I myself am not a cultural expert so I wouldn’t comment more on what could have been done.    

Unfortunately, the way this Sindh Festival was organised has attracted criticism of the highest kind. Seeing, 20 year olds behave like 12 year olds, is not a delightful sight. You are probably alien to the culture of Sindh, and the conception that your loyalist advisors have about it, is very different from reality. Indeed, reality is just a breeze to it, if not a letdown. In addition, you don’t really need to pull out such publicity stunts (You are expected to be a good general, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be good foot soldier).  

But we are humans, and all humans make mistakes. But it’s best to realise and learn from your mistakes before one finds himself on the top of a mountain of mistakes. Imagine yourself in the bestest amusement park, you have ever been to, and now find yourself here, and you’ll find it more amusing. The challenges facing this province and this country are grievous and a million eyes are watching you.

Welcome to Sindh, Welcome to Pakistan, Jiye Bhutto.

Best of Luck.

A Mango Sindhi

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