NOT all attempts at cultural revival are impossible in Pakistan. Where the government decides to intervene, these revivals are that much more likely. On Friday the Pak Tea House re-emerged on the Lahore scene after 13 years in oblivion. It has survived the tyranny of the market. The building’s possessor wanted to set up a tyre shop in place of the literary venue. The Punjab government, in this instance working through the chief minister’s son Hamza Sharif, took up the case. Once this happened, the obstacles on the way to resurrecting this cultural icon of the city were cleared smoothly, and the honour of reopening the Pak Tea House went to PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif. It was pleasing to spot the greats of literature such as Intizar Husain and Abdullah Hussain there to savour the return of the literary centre, along with other prominent literati and, inevitably, some journalists with knowledge of letters.
So much for the official role, such patronage can lead to a dilemma. The next crucial step for writers and ‘writer-types’ would be to steer the Pak Tea House out of the domain of official influence and re-establish it as a place for a free exchange of ideas. The officials in the meanwhile can build on this promise by carrying out some other urgently required restoration work. They can find plenty of opportunities to intervene in this city of contrasts, a once proud site for cultural cohesion. Just when Mr Sharif was reopening the Pak Tea House on the Mall, a few kilometres away, in Badami Bagh, Christians were being targeted by a group incensed by an individual’s alleged crime. This is a terse reminder that a more complete restoration can only be possible with prompter, non-selective and unqualified intervention in all areas.