Dr. Mubarak Ali is an eminent historian, scholar and activist from Pakistan, who has written over 60 books and needs no introduction. One could rightly give him credit for fearlessly depicting the true facts of our history. This week, Bol News spoke to him exclusively about preserving historic landmarks, learning about our history, and other important topics.
Has Pakistan succeeded in preserving its historical monuments?
Unfortunately, Pakistan is not very interested in the preservation of historical monuments. This is the reason why today most of the historical monuments in Pakistan are not in good condition. These include most of the historical sites and monuments present in cities like Lahore, Karachi and Hyderabad which are in a dilapidated state. No serious effort is made to protect and preserve these monuments.
I would like to underline the poor state of the fort of [Rannikot, Sindh] which is a very important and special historical monument in Pakistan. I visited the fort and was shocked to see it in a state of complete disrepair due to Sindh government neglect.
I think the preservation of monuments is very important because it is a question of our history. These monuments are not concrete buildings, so it is very important to take care of them to protect them from destruction. These monuments represent the past achievements of the people, so these monuments must be preserved at all costs.
What are the main reasons why the Indus Valley script has not yet been deciphered?
Scholars have tried to decipher the script but they could not find enough written material from these monuments; and without the written material it is very difficult to decipher the script. In Egypt, the discovery of the Rosetta Stone which was covered with scriptures in three different languages like Hieroglyphic, Demotic and Ancient Greek played a vital role and helped researchers to decipher the scripts.
The same goes for the cuneiform script, the tablet discovered by the archaeologists was also in three different languages like Persian, Sumerian and Akkadian. The mentioned discoveries played a vital role in the preservation and understanding of the culture of these civilizations. In Pakistan, despite all the hard work and effort, scholars could not find any detailed written text about the Indus Valley Civilization.
The “Arabization” of Pakistani culture and history is often criticized. But isn’t it true that Pakistan is a mixture of many cultures, with Persian, Arabic and Islamic culture being the dominant culture?
There is no doubt that Pakistani society is a multicultural society which has been influenced by the invasions of different ethnicities like Arabs, Iranians and Afghans over the centuries.
Due to several attacks, invasions and rule by different ethnic groups in the Indian subcontinent, the culture has been heavily influenced and has become very diverse in nature. Apart from this, it should not be forgotten that the four provinces of Pakistan have their own domestic culture which is very different in nature from each other.
Each of these provinces has its own cultural norms and values, for example the culture of Balochistan is mainly based on the tribal system and traditional values. Likewise, Sindh has a long cultural history which was also influenced by Arab invasion and Buddhist ideology. Punjab and KP have their own unique norms and values when it comes to culture.
Some people say we should embrace our sub-continental roots, acknowledging Hindu and Buddhist influences. But doesn’t this argument have similarities with what RSS and Sangh Parivar – “Ghar wapsi” for Indian Muslims – want?
This is very unfortunate because before partition there was a composite culture in India. Hindus and Muslims lived together in harmony and peace, and Urdu was a common language for both communities.
They used to treat each other on the basis of equality and respect, there was no existence of religious hatred in the society. In my view, the colonial powers divided Muslims and Hindus based on norms and values which later led to the partitioning of the subcontinent into two parts. Now you can see that there is a Hindu story and there is a Muslim story.
Regarding the second part of your question regarding Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Sangh Parivar, I would like to tell you that BJP is quite a modern phenomenon. It has no historical roots as in medieval times there were no Hindu-Muslim clashes in India. These clashes began to occur during the colonial period as it was in the interests of the colonial powers to create a divide between Hindus and Muslims. So, the BJP-RSS phenomenon is the result of partition and Savarkar who is considered the leader of Hindutva political ideology is also the product of partition.
This has created a great divide in the minds of Hindus and Muslims and now at present it is very sad to see the relations between the two countries so bitter. There is almost no communication between the people and the public intellectuals of the two countries. It’s very sad to live because I still remember that every time I visited India, no one could tell the difference if I was an Indian or a Pakistani.
Do you think we as a nation appreciate history? Are we learning from it?
No, in fact history is still neglected in our society. We have learned nothing from history; and the history that is taught in schools, colleges and universities these days is manipulated and state-oriented, not critical. People lose interest in history with each passing day and remember that when you don’t learn a lesson from history, you repeat the same mistakes over and over again.