Celebrating colonial connections

The British High Commission in Islamabad has been running a short film competition as part of its Celebrating Connections thing. The idea was for budding filmmakers to submit a piece on the things that connect the UK and Pakistan. The awards ceremony was last night and Our Jacob, above, was selected as the winner.

It tells the story of John Jacob, a British East India Company officer who after fighting in the First Anglo-Afghan war was sent in 1847 to take political charge of the north-west frontier, setting up shop in Khangurh, Sindh, which soon grew into the bustling city of Jacobabad. Today, his tomb is something of a shrine. The film tells the tale beautifully. Please do watch the video.

In second place was a film about how Faisalabad was constructed along the lines of a Union Flag. (Thankfully, the producers didn’t make a short about how it was built by one Sir James Lyall – once a decidedly awkward subject for British diplomats.)

Now, I’m sure that the other entries must have included some films about how contemporary Pakistan and Britain share countless links, but I can’t help but think these days the main connection in the eyes of many – including the British High Commission – is that of colonial history. It is easy to see why.

The Americans are the main diplomatic power here now, pumping in billions of dollars to support the military. While the Chinese build nuclear power stations, the Turks run the buses and the Saudis have a special place in the prime minister’s heart. Affluent young Pakistanis want to go to Canadian universities (where once their parents might have picked Oxford or Cambridge). Dubai is the place for shopping.

What are we left with? Cricket and colonialism.

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