Think of [Pakistan] as an exotic country with its own sense and style of living.
Pakistan has been around for more than 60 years. From the valleys of Azad Kashmir, the sand dunes of Thar, the Saji of Quetta all the way to the breezy beaches of Karachi.
But what is it like now compared to how it used to be in the young days after Partition?
Despite its visible flaws, Pakistani people have worked hard to try to break the stereotype of a repressed and backward nation.
Anyone who gets a chance to view this one-on-one can see the distinct fashion, art and culture that Pakistanis have grown used to, without even realising it!
So what is Pakistan like? Think of it as an exotic country with its own sense and style of living. There is the literary side to Pakistan, where people are being encouraged to speak out and create awareness about societal issues. Think Lahore-born Mohsin Hamid, author of Moth Smoke (2000) and The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007).
Classic Urdu literature from the Mughal era remains a pivotal part of Pakistani literature, which she shares with her neighbour India.
But as well as a strong literary pedigree, people are learning to be more accepting towards ideas presented through different forms of media. Young people seem to be the quickest to adopt these new ideas. Freedom of speech is being encouraged.
There are many festivals being held to promote the growing book reading culture, by which young literary enthusiasts are getting a taste of South-Asian literature. These literary festivals have been attended by thousands of young and elderly Pakistanis and have shown great success so far, of course there is definitely room for improvement!
Back in the early days, Pakistan’s only television channel was PTV, now there are numerous channels that cater to a diverse range of needs, such as current events, entertainment and sports.
A lot of the popular ones have managed to create a good name outside of the country as well, such as in Western countries and the Middle East. Some note-worthy examples are Hum TV and ARY Digital.
Television and media also has a lot of influence. Domestic programs have helped many expatriates feel connected to their roots. There has been a definite improvement in the quality of services and content being provided.
Furthermore, Pakistanis are respecting and promoting their own culture. People are watching more television programs that are made in Pakistan. The rapid growth in popularity of Pakistani television dramas is a clear example of this. TV actors are treated like Bollywood stars in Pakistan.
Pakistan has also always been a very musical country. People will find music in every corner, whether it be in villages or metropolitan areas. The genres range from classical music all the way to Pakistani pop and rock.
Projects such as Coke Studio have immensely supported musicians like Hadiqa Kiani, Ali Zafar and Atif Aslam. They have helped to develop and reinvent the image of Pakistani music. There have been drastic changes in the quality of music being produced. Moreover, it has further helped people to embrace their own culture.
While on the topic of media it should not be forgotten how there has been a considerable improvement in the art of film making. Pakistani movies such as Bol (2011) and Khuda Kay Liye (2007) have grabbed the hearts and attention of many citizens.
Pakistan is also beginning to create a better lifestyle for women and for people living in poverty through the introduction of education. Its progress might be slow, but it is there.
Statistics show the number of female knowledge workers working in Pakistan today is higher than they have ever been. Many families are giving importance to education before marriage. Women are getting more say in decisions made regarding their own lives.
Due to the acceptance of the importance of education; patriotic and wealthy citizens are contributing in the shape of financial aid, education, medical and social services. Some examples of organisations include TCF (The Citizens Foundation), Edhi Foundation, SIUT (Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation) and the Indus Hospital.
There has also been a clear increase in the love for fashion. Especially for Pakistani women who immediately devour new trends in fashion. Indeed, even a lot of foreign brands have taken advantage of this. In cities there are larger shopping malls being made. Brands such as Ego, Generation and Khaadi are just a few of the favorites.
Pakistan’s fashion has been fusing western and eastern styles together, like never seen before. Women’s styles range from bright to earth colors and from simple to complex styles. People going towards the textile and fashion industries have bright futures ahead of them.
The number of young designers like Sana Safinaz, Maria B and Zaheer Abbas have helped revolutionise Pakistani fashion to be contenders on an international scale, and this can be seen in the number of Pakistan Fashion Week’s taking place across the globe.
Pakistan is also going through the age of the internet. Many new businesses have used websites such as Facebook as a stepping-stone. People are finding easier ways to connect with each other; relatives from different parts of the world can converse like they are sitting right next to each other! Many young people have access to information that helps them with all aspects of their education.
This is also helping the youth understand and learn about different cultures. People who are exposing themselves to such knowledge are steadily able to think in a broader perspective.
Interestingly, the internet has also opened up new anxieties within the socio-political sphere. In some cases the likes of YouTube, Facebook and other interactive social networking sites have been banned periodically across the country.
That being said, 2013 has also shown how the internet and media can have a positive effect on the youth, by promoting patriotism. Young people are learning to take part in problems related to the country. Many people are realising the importance of the power to vote.
Pakistan has been through a lot of turmoil. In the face of it all, it is still here today, learning from its mistakes. The progress may be slow, but people are doing the best they can.
Pakistani culture is evolving into something beautiful; many Pakistanis do not realise it until they’ve spent time away from it – but it should be something more Pakistanis should be proud of.