glory of opera
With a new law on organ transplant, the government might have finally signalled the end of commercial organ trading
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
The government of Pakistan has finally put a law in place to regulate transplantation of human organs and put an end to their illegal trade. Titled Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Ordinance 2007, and promulgated by the president of Pakistan on September 3, 2007, the law aims at stopping the heinous practice of trading in human organs, mainly the kidney trade, and bringing 'kidney mafia' to the book.
It may look strange but the fact is that it has taken around 15 years for the government to finalise this law. Efforts in this regard were made in the early 1990s when the Sindh Institute of Urology Transplantation (SIUT) proposed putting in place a regulatory mechanism to monitor human organ transplants. SIUT's proposal had the support of different bodies including those of transplant surgeons, nephrologists, NGOs, social workers and so on. The institute has always opposed the provision of compensation to donors as, according to it, this would lead to further proliferation of this trade and exploitation of the poor.
The need to come out with this law was felt the most by the government when the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry took notice of the hopeless situation early this year and asked the government to clarify why it had failed to legislate on such an important matter. Soon afterwards, a draft law was prepared hurriedly but it invited severe criticism from different quarters. The main objection was against the sub-clause that recommended payment of compensation to non-relative donors. It said: "In case of non-availability of a donor as explained under subsection (1) and there is a threat to life of an end stage renal disease failure patient, liver, heart, or lungs patients, the evaluation committee may allow donation by a non-blood relative or relative or non-relative, after satisfying itself that such donation is voluntary." "The donor under this sub-section shall be compensated as may be prescribed," it further stated.
The law in its final shape prescribes severe punishments for those guilty of commercial dealing in human organs. Dr Adib-ul-Hassan Rizvi, Director SUIT, terms the promulgation of the ordinance a great success of those lobbying for it for decades. Talking to TNS, Dr Adib says Pakistan became hub of this illegal activity in early 1980s when India was the main centre for organ trade. After the imposition of the ban on unrelated transplants, the whole trade shifted to Pakistan. He says the rate of unrelated kidney transplants has increased at an alarming pace in the last decade; from around 25 per cent in 1999 to 85 per cent in 2007.
The best part of the story is that the ordinance allows cadaver transplants under which a donor's organs can be removed once he is declared clinically or brain dead. This provision even makes transplant of heart and lung possible as no living person can donate these organs in his lifetime. Such a person's relatives will have to be contacted for approval before operating on his body. In case of unclaimed brain-dead hospitalised patients, the law says that their case shall be presented to an evaluation committee for transplantation after an intense search for their relatives within 24 hours.
A transplant surgeon tells TNS on conditions of anonymity that around 2,000 kidney transplants take place in Pakistan each year. Most of these transplants are done in Lahore and Rawalpindi where rackets comprising surgeons, agents, hospital owners etc make poor people sell their kidneys in exchange for a small sum of money. On the other hand, he says, the kidney mafia makes millions from this trade especially when they sell kidneys to foreign patients. He says it was due to involvement of these millions and billions that all measures to check this trade had gone futile in the past.
The surgeon says once there will be a ban on non-related kidney transplants and availability of dead persons' organs, this trade will die a natural death. People themselves prefer to buy a stranger's kidney rather than making any of their near and dear ones part with such a vital organ. Once other options are exhausted, they will definitely opt for organs donated by their close relatives.
Prof Dr Nawaz Chughtai, Professor of Urology at King Edward Medical University (KEMU) tells TNS that the evaluation and monitoring committees provided for in the law will go a long way in curbing malpractices in this respect. He says that under special circumstances the evaluation committee may allow donation by a non-'close blood relative,' but only after satisfying itself that such donation is voluntary.
The evaluation committee under the ordinance shall consist of a surgical specialist, a medical specialist, a transplant specialist, a nephrologist, a neurophysician and an intensivist where available and two local notables having a good record of social service. The evaluation committee shall be established for every recognised medical institution and hospital where at least 25 transplants are being carried out annually. This committee will ensure that the law is followed in its true spirit. Kidney transplants will be carried out only after they have given approval and ensured that the donor is fit enough to part with one of his/her kidneys.
Similarly, the law provides for a monitoring committee to be headed by the Federal Minister for Health, and comprising Secretary Ministry of Health, Surgeon General of Pakistan Army, President Transplantation Society of Pakistan, Executive Director Pakistan Medical Research Council, President Ophthalmological Society of Pakistan, President, Pakistan Medical Association of Pakistan, President Pakistan Society of Gastroenterology, and a Surgical Transplant Specialist, as its members. This monitoring committee will inspect hospitals; centres etc where transplants are being carried out and also ensure the quality of medical service.
Dr Chughtai says that the ordinance disallows kidney transplant of foreign patients in Pakistan so that chapter is closed. He hopes the pool of voluntary donors and registry of potential recipients will also be established, as envisaged under the law, and regulated as may be prescribed. He tells TNS that in countries like USA, Canada and Saudi Arabia the government is compensating voluntary donors and even taking responsibility of their medical needs for the rest of their lives. "We can hope our government also sets up a similar fund in the near future."
He is of the opinion that everybody, except the unscrupulous elements hurt by it, would respect the law. For those who don't, there's severe punishment under the ordinance. He says punishment for unauthorised removal of human organs or tissues or commercial dealings in human organs is imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years or with fine which may extend to one million rupees or with both.
Similarly, those violating other provisions of the law for which there are no clear-cut instructions shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine which may extend to three hundred thousand rupees or with both.
He says there is dire need to create awareness among masses about cadaver transplants. Many people think that operating on a deceased person's body is tantamount to dis-respecting it. Whereas, he says, there are others also who believe that a dead body should be buried intact. Their point is that every organ of the body will give testimony on the Day of Judgement. These people will have to be told that saving life of a fellow human being is the noblest of all acts, he says..
In his recent exhibition, Mohammad Ali Talpur has used and extended the image and idea of line to move away from established truths and norms
By Quddus Mirza
Probably the first minimalist artist was the child who was asked by his teacher to draw the picture of a cow grazing in a field, and submitted a blank paper. When the tutor asked, where is the grass? He replied, the cow finished it. "And the cow?" was the next question. "It left after eating the grass," answered the child.
Going by the same minimalist logic, Mohammad Ali Talpur is concentrating only on one element -- the line. In his recent paintings and prints, the image and idea of line is extended to create visually engaging art pieces. These works are constructed with multiple layers of lines, often placed on different angles and in a diverse consistency.
Like the first step of every upward journey, all the marks in the latest works of Talpur (currently on display at Canvas Gallery in Karachi) starts with one line. That line can be traced back to the time when Mohammad Ali was working in the studio of another artist in Lahore. During the unbearably hot afternoons, he used to sit in the window and watched the sky with birds circling over the city. Talpur observed how a solitary bird, in search of its prey, flew high and moved in different directions -- almost following imaginary routes.
Flight of the bird generated a new idea and altered the art of Mohammad Ali Talpur. Today a large part of his aesthetics is shaped by the flight of that bird. The bird must have been seen by hundreds, if not thousands, on that afternoon. But it needed the eye of an artist of some worth to cull out the pictorial potential from this usual phenomenon.
The solitary bird created a combination of invisible lines -- basically the path it made in the sky. These tracks turn into minimal, but not simplistic, imagery in the work of Mohammad Ali Talpur. Initially the lines are irregular, keeping a record of the abrupt movement of the bird on a blank surface, recalling the vastness of the sky; but later these lines form patterns of straights, parallel and occasionally overlapped marks.
Actually it is the mark or line, which (repeating the words of Paul Klee) takes the eyes of a viewer to a walk in the recent works of Talpur. These walks are complex, difficult and uneven, but exciting nonetheless. The eye is entangled in a mesh or web created with several layers of fine lines. Talpur opts for a language that is purely optical. He shuns the baggage of immediately recognisable imagery and easily conveyed content and operates on the level of senses only. For an artist, living in this age and this particular society, it is a bold step, considering that people expect that the artist must reflect on his time and surroundings. His art, they think, should be a comment upon social conditions, if not offering some solution to political problems. A number of artists do assume that role, and try to serve politics through their art but in so doing, according to Intizar Hussain, neither serve politics nor art.
The work of Mohammad Ali Talpur, in the form of paintings, drawings and offset prints, leads to a visual tension, that in its course may suggest other ideas and images. These can be read as simplified versions of landscape, sea waves, curtains, metal wire mesh etc, but every such association is merely an assumption and personal interpretation, because the work is primarily devoid of any clue to the readable content or identifiable imagery. The lines in his works are more like sounds that may be experienced, instead of words, which can be understood.
Straight and delicate lines appear in his books too. These books, of diverse size and thickness, are made in the same pattern as an ordinary exercise book is printed and bound for school use. However Talpur's books are different from ordinary notebooks, because when you open them you don't see text or space for writing, but only lines clustered on every page. These lines are not composed in the usual order (the horizontal lines with equal gaps). Often these cross each other, break in the middle, alter their shade, modify their width and make new formation on each page. Thus, unlike the normal notebooks, none of the pages of Talpur's books resemble each other.
This kind of treatment to a page, through a simple means, the line, is a significant aspect of Mohammad Ali's art. His focus on the exercise book is a form of critique on the system of knowledge (based on truth) that is being practiced in educational institutes. Actually looking at his work -- especially registering the notebooks of all shapes and scales -- one realises that the text books and exercise books have become such standard objects that one hardly imagines a change in these. Not only in their size but in their content as well; the text and exercise books represent some kind of universal truth.
Uniformity of any kind, in a way, indicates the truth. Since truth is identical (actually similarity is a way to confirm truth -- like the answers of different students in a mathematics class can be judged right, if these are identical). And, in contrast to this, the false versions happen to be dissimilar and different from the rest (such as the contradictory accounts of an incident in front of audiences, court or police). Hence the standardised shape and size of exercise books, in a way, lead to the idea of truth associated with education.
Talpur questions that code of respect and element of truth, one commonly connects with books and education. In his books, marks replace the written material, and the uneven distribution of lines challenges the convention of books. Hence the notion of truth. Thus, he is not much different from the child who drew (or did not draw) the cow and the grass on a white sheet; because to move away from established truths and norms is the only truth of art.
exhibition is being held from September 11-21, 2007 at Canvas Gallery
But for Luciano Pavarotti, opera and classical singing would still be considered a preserve of the initiated
By Sarwat Ali
Luciano Pavarotti, who died last week, extended his presence far beyond the limits of Italian opera. Others like Enrico Caruso and Jwenny Lind had broken the ice before him but he became an icon of pop culture by appearing on television and making his musical form accessible to a larger audience who only had a glancing familiarity with it.
There may be some similarities between him and in some of our classical vocalists as he strove to retain the balance between popularity and high standards of music. Many of our leading classical vocalists have had to switch to more popular forms of music but have not really been able to maintain the high standards usually expected of them. The more sophisticated, well wrought and stylised the form, more difficult was the switching over. Actually it was easier for the second rate musicians to be more successful in the switching over and there have been more examples of that than a leading musician successfully achieving this change. In Europe on the surface, Pavarotti was able to switch over successfully too but he too had his skeptics.
Second World War seems to be a valid benchmark because it was the final turning point for the ascendancy of the United States and the decline of Europe. The European art forms were Americanised so to say and with the mixture of Jazz and Country Music rose the new tradition of singing with the accompaniment of the guitar. And this music was to dominate the world of music through the Hollywood. The European art forms on the decline were considered specialised and increasingly meant for the more initiated. They finally narrowed down to a niche audience that scoffed at the rising tide of popular culture best expressed in the newer polyglot forms of pop culture.
The Mozarts and the Beethovens retained their prestige but lost their audiences. Or, to put it more correctly, their audiences did not increase at the same rate as the audiences which comprised a middle class. The mobilisation of the working classes and their economic prosperity had placed them in the category of the middle classes. This music besides other reasons and causes reflected this societal transformation. The opera houses stayed glorious and symbols of the cultural finesse of the nation state but the general people though impressed did not share the exclusivity of the high arts. The division between the high art and high culture viz a viz low culture and low art had been minimised or driven into the margins as the low culture was now popular culture -- high culture sat secure in its ivory tower of exclusivity.
Opera was the only vocal based art form to have been made part of the otherwise instrument laden world of European classical music. It became a high brow form gradually, as initially it must have been a style of singing peculiar to a certain area in Italy. As this form of singing was adopted by the mighty European classical traditions and operas were written and composed by the likes of Mozart, Beethoven and Wagner controversy raged within Europe of its national trappings and many thought that it was too Italian to be chosen as a form by the Germans, while the Germans insisted it could be performed in German as well. And indeed it was.
Beethoven wrote only one opera and its glorious days were in the late Romantic period when Verdi, Vivaldi followed Wagner. Pavarotti matured when the heydays of the opera were over. He showed great promise where he was already recognised as the 'King of the High Cs' and he expanded his franchise exponentially with the 'Three Tenor Project' where he shared the stage with Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras. In the 1990s he staged charity programmes with rock stars like Elton John, Sting and Bono.
Domingo began his musical career as a baritone and later manufactured a tenor range above it through hard work and scrupulous intelligence. Pavoratti could find the heart of a character but was not an intelligent presence. His ability to read music was in the true sense of the word in question with Domingo who in contrast was an excellent pianist with an analytical mind having an ability to learn and retain scores by quiet readings.
As it happens stadium concerts and pop collaboration made him accept pedestrian musical standards. He showed the dominant gift for soliciting adoration from a large number of people as he joked on talk shows, rode horses on parade and also played, improbably, a sex symbol in the movie Yes Giorio.
Pavarotti more in the manner of traditional culture was from a family of musicians. His father was an amateur tenor. He listened to opera recordings of stars like Beniamino Gigli and Tito Schipa. His first teachers were Arrigo Pola and Ettore Campogalliani. In 1961 he won an international competition and began his career in 1963. In 1965 he associated with soprano Joan Sutherlands. In 1966 he appeared at La Scala in Milan and went to the Metropolitan Opera a year later singing with Mirella Freni La Boheme. He then began his 'London Records' and these remain his lasting contribution to his generation.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan too was criticised for letting in instruments totally alien to the music of the qawwali and tampering with the native hue of a specific art form. He too had to perform in odd places and also lent his talent as a composer and singer to the films both in India and the United States. Like Pavarotti he too was overworked and stressed out.