Saturday, April 5, 2008

PAKISTAN MONUMENT: A Thematic Museum

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
Islamabad
mahtabbashir@yahoo.com

IT has been over 40 years old dream of Federal Government of Pakistan to build a thematic Memorial in a vicinity of Islamabad since it got the status of Capital of the Country in 1961. Time and again, a number of committees studied the proposals for concept, design and location of such memorial which can illustrate the true image of Progressive, enlightened and affluent Pakistan on World’s map as the founder of Pakistan Quid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the Poet of the East, Allama Muhammad Iqbal inherited us the same hallucination and vision of being pragmatic and prosperous state.

The exact purpose behind plans to erect a Pakistan Monument, whose foundation stone was laid in Islamabad by H E President Gen. Pervez Musharraf in May 2004, is meant to provide a ceremonial focus for foreign dignitaries visiting the nation’s capital, Islamabad. The capital does not have a central point of homage and remembrance like the Quaid’s mausoleum in Karachi or Allama Iqbal’s tomb and the Minar-i-Pakistan in Lahore. But the fact that the monument will be dedicated to the people of Pakistan is nevertheless welcome. This will lend it a certain democratic and non-denominational symbolism, absent from some of the recent undertakings in building monuments like replicas of the Chaghi mountain that dot our cities or the symbolic representations of military hardware that adorns many public places. Over the years, all foreign luminaries were/are being taken to Shakarparian hills in their leisure time to plant a tree in remembrance of their visit as well as to kill time. This practice has already been done from majority of the leaders around the globe.

After the debacle of 9/11, Pakistan had to face many challenges. The country got the fabricated blames in helping Taliban’s in Afghanistan and linkages with the network of Al-Quaeda. Pakistan at the same time, justified its position as it became the front-runner ally in combating terrorism and terrorist activities alongside USA. National Memorial Museum cashes in the same scenario in highlighting the soft image of the country with no connection to criminal activities all over the world. National Memorial will also highlight a progressive, enlightened and Pragmatic state which negates the all baseless allegations on Pakistan of being called a rogue state. Last but certainly not least, National Memorial in Islamabad will link to the general need to promote the country’s art and culture, an emphasis which is also well merited.

The long-awaited decision to construct a Pakistan Monument with a clear concept and design was taken by President General Pervez Musharraf. The Ministry of Culture was given the task of planning and executing the Project. Considerable preparatory work was undertaken by the ministry over one year for planning and seeking approval. The Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners (PCATP) was tasked to organize a National Competition to transform the theme and basic framework signifying strength, unity and dedication of the people of Pakistan into an icon representing an independent and free nation. It was envisaged for the National Memorial to serve as a beacon representing the past, present and heralding a bright future for all Pakistanis to whom the Memorial will stand dedicated. A jury of experienced Architects was formed to select the best design from twenty designs submitted. Three short listed designs were presented and discussed with the President of Pakistan and the design submitted by Mr Arif Masoud was selected as the best, who pocketed a cash prize of Rs.200,000.

It was a nerve-wrecking decision for the President of Pakistan to opt for a right person to execute this mega project, not only a picture perfect finish of a highly sophisticated monument but within the stipulated time-frame. The top brass of Government’s were up against each other to clinch the honour, majority of them were not fighting for a noble cause but to sheer exploitation and it was obviously hard to distinguish right from wrong. However, after a prolong meditation, General Musharraf’s fingers just hit the right note and it was Mr. Uxi Mufti, who comes alive out of the cluster of think-tanks to be selected yet again by dint of his steep commitment, devotion and loyalty for his country. Mr. Mufti, himself had to fight against the ire of bureaucracy but actions of him always spoke highly in promotion of Country’s art and culture, then merely words uttered by others.

Uxi Mufti, a connoisseur of art, literature and folklore is, thus given the responsibility of carrying out the whole errands of National Memorial Museum. The concept-plan for the same monument is also the brain wave of this genius, as everyone in the race stumped against his innovative, creative and novel perception and inventive ideas of the same project.

In an effort to assertively present local culture from the perspective of cultural nationalism, he founded Lok Virsa in 1974, served as its first director, and has played a leading role in its activities since then. Dr. Mufti has continued to search for and reveal the foundations of Pakistani culture through his guidance of this institution over many years. He has been extremely successful in preserving, utilizing, and publicizing the significance and importance of country's folk traditions both in Pakistan and throughout the world.

As a Creative Director, he organized the First International Artisans-at-Work Festival under the auspices of UNESCO in 1994 wherein 70 countries participated, Festival of D-8 Countries in 1997 and International Silk Route Festival in 2000 & 2002. Mufti is serving as a Vice president of World Crafts Council. Mufti has also contributed as Creative Consultant for the Baltit Heritage Fort Museum in Hunza for Agha Khan Foundation and UNESCO Cultural Consultant to the Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan for MANAS 1000 Celebrations and become known as the leader in the activities for folk and cultural preservation in the Islamic countries of Central Asia.

Dr. Mufti, an aplomb thinker and a cultural anthropologist, continues his practical work in preserving the cultural legacy of Pakistan. He served as the primary force for building the National Museum of Ethnology/ Heritage Museum, completed in 2004, and is serving a similar role in a project to build this National Memorial in Islamabad.

Mr. Mufti has been awarded Presidential award for Pride of Performance and received 17th Asian-Pacific International Culture and Arts Fukuoka Award 2006 from Japan for rendering meritorious services in perpetuation of art, culture and folklore. He is only a next person to Nusrat Fateh Ali khan to receive this coveted award from Pakistan. Recently he is studded with Sitara-e-Imtiaz from Government of Pakistan.

Pakistan Monument is comprise of four blossoming flower petals representing the People of Pakistan standing united, shoulder to shoulder, shielding the crescent and star in the space below. The design concept is imbued with simplicity and strength, relaying the vision of standing guard over the Motherland. The inner walls of the petals will be decorated with murals and artwork.

The high ground at west viewpoint of the Shakarparian Hills selected by a deputed team for this memorial was approved. The area spread over seven acres (2.8 hectares) is about a hundred feet (30 metres) above Zero Point with ideal location, accessibility, visibility and prominence. The Monument will be visible from all vantage points of the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

A metallic crescent will be inscribed with sayings of Quaid-i-Azam and poetry of Allama Iqbal. The shining star in the centre will have a water body around it, glistening with submerged lights adding to the beauty of the structure especially at night when the whole Monument will be lit. Spaces around the Monument will be linked with a garden walk interspersed with beautiful plants.

Opposite to the Monument’s main plaza is the building of the National Memorial Museum designed in a manner that its architectural form and height of the building does not overpower the Memorial’s main structure. The theme of the National Memorial revolves around creation and development of Pakistan, making it different from other two Museums in the close vicinity i.e. the Heritage and Natural History Museums.

It will house exhibits highlighting Iqbal’s Concept of a Muslim State in South Asia, Quaid-i-Azam’s efforts and struggle for the independence of Pakistan and how Pakistan stands today as a forward looking developing state in Asia and the world. The exhibits coupled with audio-visual effects are aimed at creating serenity and a deep love for the nation. Space for future developments has also been reserved.

This Museum has a distinct and well-defined identity located, as it is, next to a National Memorial dedicated to the people of Pakistan who sacrificed their today for a better tomorrow. Considering that a National Art Gallery, National Archaeological Museum, Museum of Natural History and an Ethnological Museum are existed within one kilometres of this memorial, it is imperative that this Museum neither duplicates nor overlaps, hence this must be a unique museum with a distinct identity of its own to justify its existence and placement next to the Memorial.

The prime objective of this Museum is to explain Pakistan in historical perspective not only to the visiting foreigners but also to the Pakistani nationals and its future progeny. The overriding purpose of the multi-dimensional displays in the museum is to make clear in uncomplicated and simple terms, the birth, history, identity, society and advancement and achievements of Pakistan as a modern and progressive nation. Hence, this is a Thematic Museum that explains and projects Pakistan in all its dimensions of thought and action, dream and materialization of the dream without raising controversies or complex issues. Therefore, it may be called ‘Pakistan Museum’.

This is a Modern Museum that employs state of the art technology and display techniques for presentation. This Museum also features a prime educational facility for children of all ages where visitors can take interact with three dimensional exhibits, virtual constructs and cyber innovations.

National Memorial has the layout and Exhibit Themes to re-enforce the main theme of the Museum, which is the birth of Pakistan and dream and realisation about the nation. There is a gallery dedicated to the duo of Allama Iqbal and Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The philosopher’s stone and the Occum’s razor, together these great founders of Pakistan provided the idea based on Islamic vision and the accomplishment to materialize this great vision of Pakistan into reality.

The other section deals with the history and continuity that will portray how the Arab conquest followed by successive migrations of Muslims from Central Asia had deep cultural impacts on the ancient Vedic civilization of the Indus Valley that once flourished here. The Muslims emerged in time as a distinct cultural pattern and distinctive people.

The impact of Islam, religion and society is the next section that will portray how Islam came to further improve and build on a land that had been chosen to be the cradle of a great civilization and a people who were the custodian of a great legacy of the Indus Valley Civilization. Islam came to further contribute, develop and enrich this great tradition and exalt the ancient seat of civilization, the land now called, Pakistan. This section will reflect how Islam forms a day to day ritual and sentiment of the people. How Islam is a moralizing force that makes for an ethical society where peace, moderation, unity, tolerance, respect for the other and universal brotherhood are the prime motivating factors. Islam is the agent of change in a society of feudal, tribal, ethnic and clannish origins.

Population and Habitat (Language and Communication) is another section that will depict diverse abodes, habitat, languages, populations, communication and the role of Urdu as a national language of Pakistan. It will present essential data on these aspects.

The next section deals with oral tradition and literacy (tradition and change). This section will portray folklore and old tradition of Pakistan from generations to generations. The average rural Pakistani may be unlettered but not illiterate having 5000 years old culture, tradition, collective intelligence and wisdom that nurtured Pakistani culture over generations. The section will also highlight rural tradition and change within the country.

Contemporary issues on which Pakistan faces criticism are socio-cultural issues such as gender Bias, Honour killing, Civil Liberties, Child Labour, Fanaticism, Poverty, Fundamentalism, Ethnicism, Illiteracy, Human Rights, Democracy and Freedom. Pakistan must stand up to this growing onslaught and there is no better means of projecting our standpoint than the Museum of Pakistan. This gallery will address all such misrepresentations of Pakistani society and explain our point of view in a positive way without controversy. This sector will also present the major development and economic targets and achievements Pakistan met with in recent years.

Major advancement in Industrial, nuclear and defence technology will be highlighted in Science and Technology, Education, Discovery and Invention section.

The Heroes of Pakistan on their achievements in all fence including defence, culture, sports, science, education and technology will be portrayed in National Heroes of Pakistan sector.

The Museum will end on a note of hope and a desire to make Pakistan a land of peace, prosperity and productivity. A multi-screen and multi-image show entitled “The Land of Many Splendours” will end the visit to the museum to inspire and motivate all museum visitors, which will be highlighted in ‘Future Vision and Aspirations Section’.

The construction of National Memorial Museum started after the Earth Breaking Ceremony by the President on 25th of May, 2004. The construction work of memorial building is over while d├ęcor and creative work of Museum is in full swing. The Monument is intended to be inaugurated by H.E President General Pervaiz Musharruf in the month of March, 2007.

Under the guidelines of Dr. Uxi Mufti, a man having out of box thinking, one can safely hope that, this Museum will possess something for everyone to exert a pull on. Not only locals but overseas visitors who hesitate to stay here will grab and understand the true and factual soft and broader image of Pakistan.

There is an urgent need to pass on the age-old intellect and rich heritage of this region to the future generations. The entire negative image leveled against Pakistan today can also be removed through highlighting the rich socio-cultural image of the country through this Memorial. The problems related to terrorism faced by Pakistan today are all off-shoots of socio-cultural problems of stigmas and taboos. To remove these problems, Pakistan need to enrich and enhance the socio-cultural sphere, and National Monument will help in endorsing a positive delineation of the country. In a nutshell, National Memorial Museum is going to rekindle the dying tradition of old times and will help revive Pakistan’s true identity with its own ethics and values as a nation with a modern and pragmatic approach.

Published in VISTA magazine of daily THE POST on 24th September, 2006

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
House # 2026, Street # 32,
I-10/2, ISLAMABAD.
Cell: 0300 52 56 875
mahtabbashir@gmail.com


Munawar Sultana emails from Islamabad:
Wed, 28 Feb 2007 09:09:08 +0500
Good one. Quite informative as well as thought provoking.
Regards

Munawar Sultana
Project Officer, ILO, Islamabad

Misbah Azmat emails from Melbourne, Australia:
Wed, Apr 2, 2008 at 5:57 PM
wassalam mahtab
alhamdulillah i m fine...ooo life is just too busy here.. as u must b knowing MCG jaon gi jb koi paki match hoga. m nt intersted in concerts etc stuff.ap kb aey melbourne??ofcourse prayers r with u..whts happening in life? n u knw i had never seen so beautiful place as National monoument in isb in night..tk cr.
Regards
Misbah Azmat
ADS Awardee(Postgrad.)
Monash Uni
Melbourne,
Australia

1 comment:

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