Is it merely skin-deep?
[By Mayank Austen Soofi; picture by Juan Blazquez]
The St. Valentine's Special Series Dating Scene in Pakistan has ended. This feature was launched on February 14th to investigate how it is like to be a young person in today's Pakistan. There were many queries in the begining. Doesn't Islam come in the way of lovers? Isn't this country deeply conservative and its people intolerant? Is not Pakistan a place where a rape victim could be lashed for being raped? Is not having sex before marriage a punishable crime?
Pakistan Paindabad was privileged to have eloquent Pakistanis agreeing to share their views with it. Mr. Raza Rumi, a Lahore native working in South East Asia, said that "platonic interaction and meeting (between boys and girls) is not un-Islamic." Mr. Usman, a young man from Karachi, observed how Indian films with their "song-and-dance spectacles of love, dating, and longing leaves a deep impression on youngsters." Mr. Tehman Lall, a Lahore-based MBA student, talked of "complete strangers getting to know each other in music stores."
Certainly, these are interesting times. But how was it twenty years back? A gentleman, who does not wish to disclose his name, recalled his young days when it was difficult to be friendly with "good girls supposed to be modest and chaste." The Karachi native now lives in North America. If he returns, he will not recognize his country. Ask Ms. Maryam Arif, a young woman in Boston, who decided to retain her cultural identity by wearing dupattas and parandas. However, on a visit back home in Lahore, she discovered "the locals were bold in their fashion statements."
Just how "bold" is the society? Acclaimed photographer Mr. Usman Ahmed described the phenomenon of couples driving in "cars with black mirrors" all around Lahore – so "no one can see inside."
Indeed, reading Dating in Pakistan tempts one to believe we may be a conservative society but transition is in progress. But such a conclusion would be misleading. Pakistan is more than Lahore-Karachi and our six participants from these two cities belong to a miniscule 6.3 percent of the country's population that has access to internet. Of course, their perspectives have helped in understanding the nation better but it cannot present a complete picture.
We must remember there is another Pakistan too. Not far from Lahore's glitter lies a village called Donga Bonga. In January this year two people, in their 40s, were stoned to death. Their crime – they were having an affair.