In a first, the Sindh government is going to introduce music, art as elective subjects in in public schools across the province to ‘counter extremist tendencies’. For this purpose, 1,500 music and art teachers would initially be hired to teach at some 750 high schools in major cities of the province as part of a pilot program, which would be extended to over 3,000 more schools gradually. Without the visible support of the state, coupled with a widespread terror threat stemming from extremist elements in society, the arts and culture in Pakistan have experienced a shrivelling public space. Nevertheless, it would be premature to read out an extravagant eulogy; recent years have witnessed an upsurge in collaborative efforts by the cultural community to not just reclaim the lost public space but also promote an alternative narrative that defies a myopic understanding of the prevailing socio-political order. Despite a revival of culture catering to a niche urban educated class, creative visions of artistic voices are blooming all over the country. In this regard, the Sindh government has taken a giant leap in making a plan to counter extremist tendency at the initial age of learning school going children.
The initiative would surely provide a much needed scope for schools to participate in the cultural revival by electing subjects in music and art in the hope of developing an understanding of societal issues depicted through aesthetics, fostering a general space for critical discussion. Truth is the art and culture are a form of liberal expression that mirrors the intellectual growth and sophistication of a society. It is perhaps the biggest weapon against growing intolerance, extremism and a terrorised public space. Moreover, there should be active promotion of a wider public involvement rather than confining this to school level. This dynamic space, lost to terrorism in recent years, can only survive with support from the government and authorities so that it has a legitimate place in the collective consciousness of our society. Pakistani art, literature, music, poetry, sports and lifestyle are all part of an all-encompassing culture, ordinary and extraordinary, and have to necessarily be an extension of our true selves. This means we should not just inculcate in ourselves the appreciation of culture, but the courage to practice it while critically appraising it.