After security-related hiatus of over a decade, the National Horse and Cattle Show made a spectacular comeback. The Show was discontinued in 2004 due to the security conditions that hover heavily like dark clouds all over the country. The show has been described as an eloquent expression of Pakistan’s heritage and an authentic account of its agricultural and industrial achievements. Indeed, it was a laudable effort of Punjab Government, which made the National Horse and Cattle Show a thumping success, despite the fact that it was put together in a short period of time. The Show traditionally consists of a variety of exhibitions and competitions among all breeds of livestock. This year, it also included demonstrations and displays of, among other things, a human Pakistani flag, performances by several folk music bands and dance groups, tent-pegging, horse dancing, dog races and motorcycle stunts. The Show hosted a parade of various floats representing the country’s agricultural, industrial, commercial and livestock sectors and various other development activities. No doubt, the revival of the Horse and Cattle Show has reinvigorated the true colors of Pakistan’s culture with the onset of spring, although the rain gods had been less than kind this year.
But even the drizzly weather could not dampen the spirit during the Horse and Cattle Show 2015, as it blossomed in an absolute frenzy of colors, dance, music and the rich flavor of diverse cultures associated with Pakistan. Despite stringent security that would deter most, a large number of people showed up on all days of the festival. It was almost as if the Lahorites, known for their love for cultural activity, had been waiting to pounce on this opportunity. They had been made to wait 11 long years to witness the cultural legacy associated with the Horse and Cattle Show. Vibrant hues and enchanting parade of floats representing the lifestyles’ geography and culture of the all four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, had set the mood upfront for the events to follow. Dancers and children, mostly students, wearing beautiful cultural dresses performed cultural dances of all provinces to an atmosphere abuzz with folk tunes. The performance was rightly titled ‘Unity Folk Dances’ as a symbol of diversity and unity at the same time. Horse riders amused the crowd with beautiful gaits of their horses marching past the stage. The tent-pegging had always been a main attraction event at the Horse & Cattle Show before they had to be stopped. On all days, tent-pegging was by far the most thrilling and most popular of all the performances which engaged and absorbed the crowd to the point that it brought them to the edge of their seats. Riders dressed in crisp traditional attire and the trademark headgear held high, to which much honor and pride is associated dashed towards the peg, rejuvenating the glory of the past. The thud of the hoofs of horses added to the captivating environment as the riders competed for glory. The stuntmen of the Military Police were not far behind on the act as they entertained the crowd to some jaw-dropping motorbike riding stunts. There were times when one feared that they might hurt themselves but their skill and valor was a treat. The hound race, though was a short-burst kind of event, yet coupled with the dog-jumping, was no less entertaining and the audience enjoyed it thoroughly. The wonderful discipline and pristine oozing from the Special Drill Parade by the Pakistan Rangers was a refreshing exhibit. The immaculate and unmistakable performance by Pakistan Army Band Squad and Pak Rangers Camel Band Squad was thoroughly appreciated by everyone.
I believe, this is what the people of Pakistan and especially the Punjab stand for, the very happening of this event and the large attendance of people and children here defeated every extremist ideology which denies them any space in this country. The occasion rekindled fond memories and, as is customary these days, spurs relevant theories about the value of cultural spectacles as a means of painting a positive image of Pakistani nation in the eyes of the wider world. Reminiscences and international reputation aside, this was one mela like all others that the people here should be allowed to have regularly and without hindrance. The livestock competition did create plenty of excitement as did the light show in the evenings and various other offerings such as tent-pegging, dog shows and daredevil stunts. It will now take a few editions to re-establish the old link but this is a good beginning. The fair has to be fully revived. In fact, it has to be expanded upon. It is a cultural expression tied to tradition and evolution right at the grass roots.
No doubt, the people of Pakistan have been living in limbo between joy and fear for many years now. Any type of public gathering — whether joyful or sad —haunts the people of Pakistan with the fear of misfortune. Amid such circumstances, the revival of the Horse and Cattle Show by Punjab Government is undoubtedly a welcome step. It has mitigated the depression that loomed large in the hearts of the Pakistani people. It has shrunk the horror and brought happiness to the general public. Culture is an invisible bond that connects people of different communities together. Such shows ought to be arranged on regular basis as they not only express eloquently Pakistan’s culture but also offer a platform for healthy competition, recreation and celebration, and represent a considered defiance of the terrorists’ attempt to deny us the public space. At the same time, it is, of course, a reminder of the true Pakistan in the face of all those prone to using violent methods to establish an alien order.