The easiest way to understand a society's culture is to study its artists and writers. In Karachi, a city burdened by lawlessness and constant conflict, even its artists are not spared of the chaos.
This emotion of conflict and aggression came out in an outburst as the Karachi commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui addressed a press conference on Wednesday, regarding the elections for the governing body of the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi.
As the commissioner read out the dates and schedule for the elections, rival groups who sat opposite each other raised a ruckus, shouting allegations against each other's candidates. The commissioner was starkly interrupted on at least three occasions by the members of these disgruntled groups during the course of his press briefing.
When Siddiqui announced that the polls will be conducted on December 21, one enthusiastic member interrupted him to suggest he must set a meeting to set the code of conduct for the elections as the candidates had not reached a consensus on the issue thus far. Subsequently, the commissioner was forced to announce that a meeting to decide the code of conduct will be held after the press conference.
The commissioner, who is also the chief election commissioner of the arts council's briefed about the procedure and code of conduct for the elections day on December 21. The Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi, currently has 6,850 registered members, out of which 5,716 are eligible to vote. They will elect the president, vice president, joint-secretary, treasurer and 12-member governing body for the year, 2015.
On Monday, some members belonging to Shehr-e-Quaid panel accused the sitting office bearers and the governing body of financial irregularities and corruption.
Now led by Khalil Ahmed Nanitalwala, these members claimed that successive meetings of the annual general council had decided that the accounts of the Arts Council should be audited by AF Ferguson & Co. But these decisions were never implemented in the last five years.
Ahmed Shah, the current secretary of the Arts Council, however, denied these allegations and said that these were baseless charges aimed at defaming him. "If they had so many problems, why did they not bring them up six months or a year ago? Why now?" he questioned. According to him, it was never decided to hire AF Ferguson & Co. as auditors.
With regards to claims of financial misappropriation, the members referred to the under-construction six-story building at the Arts Council's premises. More money has been spent on the unfinished basement and two floors than what was the estimated cost for the entire six-storey building. Ahmed Shah denied these allegations and said that cost went up due to escalation in the prices of all materials.
The Arts Council auditorium has been out-sourced to a company, Vision Beyond, which is allegedly owned by Ahmad Shah, claimed Khalil Ahmed Nanitalwala, based on documents from the Income Tax and Federal Board of Revenue. Accounts show that the Arts Council earned much less in six months from this auditorium than it went into the coffers of Vision Beyond, he said. Ahmad Shah, again, denied these allegations. He, however, shirked away from the questions regarding the ownership of Vision Beyond.
Quite interestingly, the figures given by both the parties contradict the audit reports they have provided, indicating their own confusion regarding the numbers they are using are using to accuse each other.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2014.
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