Flashback Pakistan: Reverse Gear – Saira Ansari
Two days ago, during my usual time wasting midnight activities; which always include over-dosing on food with pointless staring of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram news feeds, I came across this page called ‘Citizens archive of Pakistan‘. The page belonged to a non-profit organization operating from Karachi. What I found out while looking around on their page was that they really didn’t have any kind of historical archives which showed the long forgotten Pakistani history, photography, culture, literature or some sort of historical documentations of the 60s and 70s. Instead, all of the published content was related to recent events held at schools, orphanages and various art exhibitions.
Most of the time during classes, I hear my teachers talk about how times have changed. Sometimes they discuss and try to make us understand about the evolving of history by talking about their own personal experiences and the things that they could or could not do in the early 70s or 80s in Pakistan. Experiences like going to large rallies in support of a progressive and more democratic state, celebrating Basant, living in older parts of Lahore, the kind of liberal environment found in high class hotels and restaurants before the Zia era or even the excitement of going to a cricket stadium to watch our team play. So I began searching for other sources online where I could find old pictures of the open and Pakistani society which I always heard people talk about around me and I was able find out many interesting pictures and facts, some of which I have shared here.
I came across beautiful post card stamps and tourist cards from the 60s which showed parts of Pakistan or had Sufi miniature artwork on them. I found pictures of a bar, restaurant and ballroom in Swat from 1970. During the 80’s the ballroom became an arcade games hall with the very first coin-operated entertainment machines. There were Pakistani Tudor cigarette
commercials made especially for female smokers. I also found pictures of tourists visiting areas such as Chitral, Attock and Multan during the 80s.
What I saw in these images was a safe and pleasant country where foreigners were welcomed and treated as guests instead of being slaughtered or kidnapped. The local populace had the freedom(s) without fear of being stopped or ‘Islamized’. It was while looking at these images of Pakistan that I realized, yes, there was a time that existed. When my country was a ‘sane’ place to be; My grandparents and my parents did live their early years in better times…most of the time, what i experienced and grew up watching on television was operations, strikes and killings and now in an effort to shun monotony, we witness suicide bombings by terrorists. There is no direction to take, we are still and for a long time will be
in the reverse gear.