It has long been said that people are able to survive in the face of depression or morbidity by employing humour. The same is true for those who live in Pakistan and its ever-present problems. We crack jokes at our own plight and this process somewhat eases the angst we face. But it seems that we might be losing this trait as well. Have we become so intolerant and dour that we are no longer able to laugh at ourselves, or accept a joke? Certainly, there is evidence that this is indeed the case.
A caricature of JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman, drawn by fine arts students in an exhibition at the Nishtar Hall in Peshawar, was pulled off the wall and removed from display. It showed the leader stepping out from a lamp and this was apparently offensive to some political leaders. At least, one other caricature was removed for similar reasons. The young artists involved, including the girls, who projected the Maulana the way they saw him have expressed disappointment and said they are upset by the removal of their canvases. The action taken hardly goes to encourage artistic expression. Indeed, curbing expression amounts to a form of unacceptable censorship of opinion and goes against the basic grain of human rights as protected in our land.
More seriously, it exhibits a diminishing sense of tolerance. A nation that is not able to laugh at its flaws cannot be expected to progress. Satirical shows which have depicted figures ranging from the Queen of England to prime ministers have been popular television hits in many nations. The fact that we cannot accept a drawing of a political figure shows the kind of intolerance that is breeding in our country. Somehow, we need to rediscover this lost sense of humour and use it to our advantage in these difficult times. Caricatures, cartoons and drawings can often say more than words. They create awareness of the realities and highlight the perception of the people. Those concerned should draw on the positives instead of curbing the right to expression.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2012.
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