Sindh Festival 2014

The Sindh Festival 2014 conceptualised by the Pakistan Peoples Party’s Patron in Chief Bilawal Bhutto – a manifesto of our legacy – is an enduring struggle that was showcased in February this year. 
Like a caged bird straining against an iron clad shield; the voice of a resilient culture stood up, cried in anguish, screamed for attention and howled for action. 
The reflections and intentions behind such a magnum opus event had concrete objectives – to preserve, protect and promote the diverse offerings and artistic expressions of Sindh’s Cultural Heritage and to provide a broader perspective on the arts, beliefs, customs, practices, values, and social behaviors found in our community.
Although the reverberating applause of the success of Sindh Festival 2014 still lingers across many platforms; the undue criticism by few that followed is contrary. Like all brave attempts that are scorned, appraised and discouraged, Sindh Festival 2014 also had to bear the flak of those bent upon point scoring on a very noble mission.
Touching the hearts of countless Pakistanis, applauded for its unique execution and amplifying the image of Sindh’s culture, amusingly it also drew skepticism and undue accusations that only soulless civilizations voice.
We, however, are undaunted by disheartening interpretations, for the sphere of our vision is far greater. It encompasses the rich, diverse and ancient remnants of Sindh. 
Far more, it fuses with the delicate threads of Rally, the splinters of the wooden Kashi work, the mud splattered hands of Hala pottery, the mesmerizing  words of Shah-Jo-Risalo, the murmur of our historical sites long forgotten, the mystical world of Sufism, the etymology of the Sindhi language and the lyrics and rhythms  of Jhulay lal. 
We stand committed to invigorate, fortify and enlighten the rich cultural significance of Sindh as it is not just a provincial legacy, it is a national heritage. It is beyond the borders of Indus River as it flows all the way to the Punjab and yes many times against the currant. 
To be indicted for this effort is in itself a positive element as we now take the opportunity to address these ambiguities and clear them once and for all. 
Destruction to Mohenjo-Daro: 
The most apt site chosen for the inaugural of the Sindh Festival 2014 was the world Heritage site of Mohenjo-Daro, primarily to revisit and bring in the limelight the treasured relics of Mohenjo-Daro to augment awareness in general public – why not be proud of the fact that our map dots one of the world’s oldest civilizations?
The glitzy, stellar opening ceremony night showcased an immaculate arrangement featuring display of fireworks and lights. Distinctive, structured and aesthetically managed, we worked against the odds, weighed various pros and cons and did a thorough risk analysis to ensure no damage is done to the site of Mohenjo-Daro and after days and nights of hard work and meticulous planning by the directorate of archaeology dept of culture that involved visiting the MJD site by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari himself, we rightfully succeeded. Reports issued by Provincial Coordinator Sindh - UNESCO and ICOMOS expert, Dr. Michael Jansen is a testimony to this. 
Excerpts from the letter follow: 
“Reference our joint visit to world heritage site of Mohenjo-Daro on 19th February, 2014 which included UNESCO/ICOMOS expert, Dr. Michael Jansen, myself, Director Archaeology and other team members, I wish to express that no signs of visible damage or harm were witnessed on the site. The site seemed intact and clean. Even Dr. Jansen, who has a very long experience and expertise on the site, expressed that no damage has been done and that site is intact.”
Kazi Ayaz Mahessar
Provincial Coordinator, Sindh 
“In the turn of a site visit on 19th February 2014 the undersigned visited the site along with the director Archaeology and the site staff. Besides inspections of the conservation condition of the SD area, also the place where the Sindh festival was performed was visited.
Careful inspection proved:
1. That the compacted silt- clay surface of the approx 400 sqm where the festival took place has not suffered from surface actions. 
2. The burnt brick structures, not original and not older than max 60 years, south of the concrete paved path leading to Central Street and to the Great Bath have not been suffering from the event clearly proved by the mud brick topping still in situ.
3. The staircase leading up to the stupa platform, being a recent construction for tourists, did not show any damage.
4. There is no indication by destruction through sound. The sound waves and noise of air planes starting and landing on the too close by airport may be more dangerous (see UNESCO reports 1976)
Summary: This is to state that the site where the performance ´Sind Festival 2014´ had been taking place shows no indication of destruction through this action.
Prof. Dr. M. Jansen
RWTH Aachen University
German University of Technology Muscat
Chair Conservation and Heritage Management
Director Research Center Indian Ocean, Muscat Oman

Need we say more to the unrelenting denunciations by self proclaimed ‘archaeologists’ hurled at us for destroying the “the mound of the dead”?
Funds allocated for the Festival
The Sindh Festival 2014 unveiled a massive cultural spectacle spanning two full weeks that touched music, history, literature, dance, arts, film, sports, environment etc. The itinerary necessitated immense promotion and campaigning all leading to elaborate budgets that were not in hand. Strategically managing the event through sponsorships and partnerships, we projected a show that indicated use of huge funds, unlike the reality. 
Incorrectly alleged for overspending huge funds, the Sindh Festival 2014 on the contrary was well-within budget and spent the budgeted 250 mn much to the amazement of all. 

Thar and Sindh Festival 2014
The condition in Thar, Sindh reaches its severity due to droughts every two to three years. It is a phenomenon that cannot be ignored and should not be overlooked.  Unfortunate deaths are a grave concern – one that should and is being addressed by the food, health relief and rehabilitation departments respectively. 
Similar misfortunes, unfortunately also surface in other parts of our country including rural Punjab and Baluchistan.  Floods, bloodsheds and ethnic wars have resulted in an increasing death toll. However, even the gravest of the situations do not dampen the fervor and zeal of the planners of events including the Punjab Youth Festival 2014 and the Baluchistan Sports Festival 2014. If these festivals are considered vital for cultural uplift of our youth despite any calamity uproar in the region, why shun the Sind Festival 2014? If we were to resolve all the critical concerns before we embark on any cultural programme, then our souls would surely perish before our bodies. 
Culture is a crosscutting theme in the development work of any nation. Cultural Festivals are not celebrated to undermine the acute situations in a state; they only transcend optimism and tone down negativity. The Sindh Festival 2014 did more than that, it instilled a feeling of belonging, strengthened our identity and gave us all hope, confidence and a fraternity to belong to. 
From the deep sea fishing escapades, colourful donkey derby, gaiety basant and horse and cattle grand prix, the Sindh Festival 2014 was all about relishing the true flavor of Pakistan. The mushaira recitals, Sufi and ghazal nights, art displays and fashion shows infused food for the soul. Thus it cannot be alienated from Pakistan as the heritage of Sindh is all inclusive.
Unfortunately, it is our inherent characteristic to nitpick every noble act while completely ignoring the positive facets of it. Sindh Festival 2014 got the similar reaction. So let’s just do what we are supposed to do; let’s criticize the fact that for the first time rural skilled artisans – majority of them women from deepest corners of Sindh and Thar were invited to the metropolis city of Karachi, given free stay, food and pavilions to display their work, open trade opportunities and get empowered. 
Let’s just ignore the spectacular show of Festival City at Bagh–e-Ibn- Qasim that opened gates for the masses free of cost. Desirous for a breath of fresh air, non-stop for 15 days the crowd poured in and enjoyed the display of Sindhi wares, the food, music, dance, replicas of Sindhi villages and the ambiance of fun and festivity. The fact that Sindh and the entire Pakistan glowed cheered and outshined for 15 consecutive days across extremely diversified platforms. And not forgetting the Beach Basant festivity that became the talk of the town. 
And more importantly let’s not forget to disapprove, ridicule and reject the fact that distinguished guests from within Pakistan and across the globe came forward to applaud the effort and that a multitude of celebrities joined hands to uplift the soft  image of Sindh albeit Pakistan.  
For the sake of our heritage that needs ownership and urgent preventive intervention for once, be proud of our own talent; names that make waves across the world and who were brought together to be part of Sindh Festival 2014. From Abida Parveen to Rahat Fateh Ali, from  Sanam Marvi to Shaman Mirani, Ali Gul Pir,  Mohan Bhagat to Shehzad Roy  , Faheem Fakir the list goes on... Our eminent designers from the iconic  Bunto Kazmi, Amir Adnan, Fnk Asia, Zaheer Abbas, Nauman Arfeen, and Umar Sayeed, Faiza Samee, Muneeb Nawaz, Nomi Ansari, and Sana Safinaz exhibited proudly of what we have to offer on the platform of fashion. 
The Sindh Festival 2014 has concluded on a note of buoyancy and optimism leaving trails of millions who now chant “Apni saqafat pe naaz karo, Pakistan se piyar karo,”
The decay and disintegration of any culture is a sign of death. Reviving it is like returning the nation its own identity – a character that never perishes. 
Need I say more...

The writer is the Sindh minister for culture and tourism

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