Images Courtesy: Michał Turczyk, Bartek Ziółkowski, Marek Gubała

Brandon Stanton’s visit to Pakistan has led to hundreds of Pakistanis thanking him for showing the  peaceful side of Pakistan to the world. Hundreds of thousands of posts have poured in all over the social media on what a tremendous job he did by visiting Pakistan and showing the world what a culturally rich and beautiful country Pakistan is. Pakistani’s, it seems, are now more eager than ever to show this side of Pakistan to the world than ever before.

Not too long ago, a group of performers from Pakistan went to Poland to be a part of the International Folk Meetings Małopolska,  held from the 1st  of July till the 13th of July, 2015, that showcased performances from ten different countries. Mishermayl Production’s Mishermayl Troupe is certified as the National Section by CIOFF, Official Partner of UNESCO and accredited to the UNESCO ICH Committee. They have participated in the Folklore Festival for the years 2013 and 2014, and is scheduled to perform in Turkey in August this year’s festival as well. For the International Folk Meetings Malapolska, Mishermayl LGS Troupe, a collaboration between Mishermayl and Lahore Grammar School represented Pakistan. It is worth mentioning that Mishermayl Troupe was the first and the only group of young folk dancers and musicians that was selected to represent Pakistan’s culture and heritage in Poland.

A group with such devoted members who are struggling to bring Pakistan a good name internationally deserves all the support it can get from the local masses as well as the government. Sadly, however, that is far from the actual case.

Speaking to The Nation, the two directors of Mishermayl Productions, Ali Aftab Saeed and Madiha Gul revealed how many obstacles they face each time an international tour is scheduled.

Ali Aftab Saeed revealed that the tragedy in the entire situation is the fact that the government, in order to extend any support, demands that they remove music and dance from their schedule. Any funding for music and dance, which are two things that happen to be a significant part of the local culture, is not approved by the government. Madiha Gul added that at times it is due to the scarcity of funds that performers cannot take part in multiple tours.

‘Not expecting a team for dance and music from Pakistan, when we visit other countries, the people are surprised,” said Madiha Gul. Ali Aftab Saeed added how immensely popular the Pakistan team was at this particular tour and that the team was often referred to as ‘the best team’ throughout the tour. The sad part, however, was the response they got from Pakistanis. While many Pakistanis appreciated the effort that these individuals were putting into the performances, many Pakistanis flooded the social media pages of the international organizations involved with the festival with derogatory remarks about Ali Aftab Saeed.

‘We get around 300 invites to such festivals each year,” said Ali Aftab Saeed while speaking to The Nation, “Out of these, we choose a few that we can attend.”

When asked about whether they ever thought of organizing such an event in Pakistan, Ali Aftab Saeed replied that there have been numerous times when his team has tried organizing such events in Pakistan to encourage people from all over the world to visit Pakistan, the lack of support from the government has made them unable to do so. Despite the fact that UNESCO is willing to cover 80% of the total cost of organizing such an event, the government refuses to cover the remaining 20%.

“The government doesn’t even have to fund us in cash, it can fund us by merely providing accommodation and meals to the guests,” Said Ali Aftab Saeed, “however, they fail to do even that.’

Despite these constraints, Mishermayl Productions continues to strive to bring Pakistan a good name. The group is going to be travelling to Turkey on the 10th for another event, with a completely new set of performers and musicians.