The Feminist Times
Purana Pakistan: Preserving the Glorious Legacy of a Nation that Persevered
1. Can you please introduce yourself and the work you’re doing through Purana Pakistan.
Hello, my name is Laraib Asdaf, an avid history enthusiast and forever student. I completed my undergrad in History, Political Science, and South Asian Studies from the University of Toronto in 2021. I founded Purana Pakistan, Pakistan’s first public archive, to preserve the memories of the people and the aspects that helped construct the legacy of Pakistan.
2. Why did you feel the need to start Purana Pakistan? How’s the journey been so far?
To be honest, Purana Pakistan started as an amalgamation of multiple factors. Pakistan is a country that has always been subjected to a lot of scrutiny from the media, whether domestic or international. The result of this was that most Pakistanis, despite believing themselves to be proud and dignified citizens, soured to their own national identity. I believed that this feeling stemmed from stories in the mainstream media, our lack of insight regarding our own past and from our lack of appreciation for our own heroes, which eventually trickled into our personal lives.
As a historian myself, I was exploring our (joint) history and the process was overwhelming for me every step of the way. Purana Pakistan began as a passion project and I did not anticipate the response I got from it, but it made me realize that I needed to stay committed to sharing information with all those curious about the Pakistani society and culture.
The journey has been incredible and the response that I have received from all over the subcontinent has inspired me to keep at it. It has also reinstated my faith in humanity in a way that is indescribable. For a region so turbulent, we all bond in a sense of relatability that no other place in the world can truly fathom.
3. Can you cite an instance which reassured you that it was worth creating Purana Pakistan?
Witnessing the implicit positive impact that Purana Pakistan has made upon Pakistani society, and the positive response that I have received from countries like India has reassured me that it was well worth creating Purana Pakistan. I see people engage with the posts with a yearning to unpack our history- this itself is so motivating and reassuring that it just keeps me going.
4. What’s the message you would like to give people as we mark 75 years of independence of India, Pakistan, and the Partition.
I think it is about time that we resolve the extent of our misunderstandings about each other. We, throughout history, have complemented each other on the basis of humanity, well before the borders divided us. If anything, our cultures were more diverse before 1947, when we lived together as opposed to now, in this new, "globalized" world. I think it is about time that we exchange dialogue and unpack trauma. It is about time that we heal together. The partition was a sacrifice that people from both sides of the border made for their families, for their better future.
However, I do not see a better future that is plagued by distrust, paranoia, and hate. Pakistan and India will always stand as separate countries- this is a result of the partition that is not worth trying to reverse. However, this does not mean that we cannot explore ways through which we can connect with one another. I think in this post-covid era, with virtual connections becoming more of a reality, we can make this possible.
- In conversation with Laraib Asdaf, Founder - Purana Pakistan