KARACHI: An evening of drama and poetry shed light on ethnic divides and violent chaos that have enveloped Karachi, as stated by different members of civil society.
Scores of people hummed to the tunes of Ahmed Faraz’s poetry or to the words of Faiz Ahmed Faiz on Saturday evening, at the Karachi Arts Council’s open-air theatre. The backdrop for the event by the Citizens for Democracy (CFD) was black, perhaps to highlight the somber state of the city.
Faraz’s words, “Khud ko Taqseem Na Karna”, read out beautifully by young poet Momin Khan Momin started off the event, followed by a video conference with the Lahore-based lawyer and activist, Asma Jehangir.
A group of panelists consisting activist Karamat Ali of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Pakistan Medical Association President Idrees Edhi and social rights activist Amr Sindhu spoke to Jehangir about the recent assassination attempt on her life.
“I received threats previously through pamphlets, but this time around there was a direct assassination attempt on my life,” said Jehangir. “What was the reason behind it? Did I dismember this country? Did I kill innocent people?”
When Ali asked about what steps could be taken to curb extremism and ethnic tensions rife in the country, Jehangir’s answer was point-blank. “This requires several steps. Those who are there in the government or are the government [Pakistan Peoples Party], believe that they will complete their iddat (mourning period) and things will resume as they were,” said the lawyer while pinpointing the leaders of the country. “I believe, however, that all things are inter-linked. We talk of an independent judiciary but where is it- we only see a distorted version of it now.” She mentioned the upcoming elections, saying that they would provide “reality” to the people. “Pakistan is being paralysed and these upcoming elections will suggest where we stand.”
Bringing up the recent kidnappings and killings of the medical fraternity, Edhi asked the lawyer if there was a way to control this situation. “Pakistan is not like Afghanistan where NGOs run the country. I believe here, the political parties should not fall short of playing their designated role,” said Jehangir. “How come we end up calling some militants good and the rest of them bad? A murderer is a murderer after all.”
The arts send a message
Music composer Arshad Mahmood turned the evening towards the theatrics, starting with a reading of Faiz’s poem, “Aaj Kay Naam”. This was followed by Sania Saeed’s reading of Zehra Nigah’s poetry “Suna Hay Jangalon Ka bhi Koi Dastoor Hota Hai.”
Up next was a play performed by Sheema Kermani’s Tehrik-e-Niswan, titled “Hum Rokain Gay”, which tackled issues such as rise of the feudal mindset, fatwas on non-Muslims and the blasphemy law
The show ended with Kermani’s performance on Fehmida Riaz’s poetry, “Pehli Kiran”, and on Faiz’s “Hum Dekhain Gay”.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2012.
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