society
Moral policing -- how long?
Silent majority should not allow anyone to usurp peoples' rights of festivity and recreation
By Waqar Gillani
Lahore – the heart of Pakistan and a recognised cultural hub of the country – gradually, seems to be going in the hands of elements having barometer of religion for regulating the society on every festivity and recreational opportunity. Whether this is Basant, Valentine Day or any other festivity in the City, these people forcibly plunge with the baton of Islam in their hands for moral policing. The liberal circles believe the silent majority needs to get up and take all rights of recreation and festivity back instead of surrendering them in the name of religion or (bad) governance.

MOOD STREET
Back to Life!
By Ammara Ahmad 
Many great religions believe that one day, sooner or later, all those who have died over the centuries, will come to life and stand before the Divine Presence for Judgment. Other religions believe in reincarnation, some form of rebirth, in this physical world, but in different guises, according to one's deeds, good or bad. 

Town Talk
• Exhibition of Zulfiqar Ali Zulfi's works
at Ejaz Art Gallery
till March 3.

bookfair
Exclusivity not required
There are many reasons Lahore International Book Fair should continue
By Sarah Sikandar
If you missed the Lahore International Book Fair (LIBF) last week, to say the least, you missed an opportunity to devour some of the best books imported and local books by the country's known publishers. And if you were there you'd understand and sympathize with those who couldn't make it. As a regular visitor it was pleasant, though not surprising, to see the number of book-lovers at the fair which had definitely increased from the past years. LIBF stand true to the dictum "something for everyone." The makeshift arena overwhelms you the moment you enter – people of every age browsing through the stalls or just trying to catch their children going haywire.

The clicker makes the difference
Yasir Nisar's latest photographic exhibition at Chitrkar strikes you as a mιlange of 'feel-good' images
By Usman Ghafoor
"You can't judge a photograph on the basis of the equipment that was used by the photographer," suggests Yasir Nisar, a 28 year old successful banker turned freelance journalist and photographer whose works are currently on display in Lahore Chitrkar and collecting rave reviews.

Crumbling baradari
Sher Singh's baradari, an archeological site at Kot Khawaja Saeed is fast turning into a garbage site
By Sajid Bashir
In the east of China Scheme, at Kot Khawaja Saeed, is a baradari in ruins. The place which has a historical significance is called Sher Singh's baradari.

 

society

Moral policing -- how long?

Silent majority should not allow anyone to usurp peoples' rights of festivity and recreation

By Waqar Gillani

Lahore – the heart of Pakistan and a recognised cultural hub of the country – gradually, seems to be going in the hands of elements having barometer of religion for regulating the society on every festivity and recreational opportunity. Whether this is Basant, Valentine Day or any other festivity in the City, these people forcibly plunge with the baton of Islam in their hands for moral policing. The liberal circles believe the silent majority needs to get up and take all rights of recreation and festivity back instead of surrendering them in the name of religion or (bad) governance.

Though a festivity like Basant – taken over by the government from society – is officially banned for a couple of years, The News on Sunday (TNS) has observed that the dawn of democracy in the country since February 2008 general elections has also become a justification for such elements to flout their point of view, do moral policing in the name of Islam, which they recognise as their right. It seems that the rights of the right-wing also become a source of usurping the rights of common man.

Some recent incidents show how society is being forced to follow a certain ideology. Worsening law and order situation and bad governance further provide platforms to such people to take over the silent majority and deprive them of happiness.

Though Basant was banned last year too, this time the voices of clerics and religio-political parties were more organised and their actions seemed more aggressive and speedy as compared to last year. Similar voices were raised on Valentine Day, a day now being publicly celebrated in the City, including educational institutions, to love. IJT observed Yom-e-Haya (Day of Shame) in the Punjab University, where it has hold since decades and almost every administration has to surrender because of Jamiat's deep roots in the PU. Its different chapters held anti-Basant rallies and discussions in Government Science College Wahdat Road and Government Islamia College Civil Lines etc. Religious material, designed according to the JI ideology, was also distributed on the occasions. Many clerics publicly spoke against Basant and Valentine Day. Shababe Milli held various protests burning the kites in protest against such festivity, terming it a Hindu festival. They have also "threatened" to take action if any organisation or body tried to celebrate Basant. IJT also distributed an anti-Basant pamphlet in the PU main mosque on Friday. Some of the text in the pamphlet read: "Basant is a Hindu festival celebrated in the name of a blasphemer named Haqeeqat Raey who was hanged in 1947 in Lahore." The pamphlet further urged people to avoid this festivity. IJT also condemned Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer who has announced to celebrate Basant at Governor's House and open the door for people who want to celebrate it.

In another recent development, on February 18, the Punjab Culture and Youth Affairs department announced to form "governing bodies" at district level to monitor the stage shows and cultural activities to check if there are "immoral" activities going on in such shows and theatrical performances. The Culture Minister Dr Tanveerul Islam of Pakistan Peoples Party took the step in a meeting held at Alhamra Arts Council.

"It is our right to tell people about Islamic history and culture instead of accepting the rising popularity of un-Islamic events like Basant and Valentine Day," the PU IJT Nazim Qaisar Sharif told TNS. "We are clearly against such festivals including the days like April fool," he said, adding, "We disseminated Islamic material on Valentine Day in the PU." He said they do not force others but it is their right to preach their ideology. He said they were against this Western culture being popularised through non-government organisations. He said religion was like the backbone of their ideology and they would continue their mission.

On the other side, Ahmad Rafay Alam, columnist and advocate, says no doubt such people have gained strength and festivities which are popular with the masses. He said Basant has a long history as purely a cultural festivity. It is a celebration of the spring season. He said, gradually, the government took over this purely social festivity in late 1990s. He said certain elements having a particular religious approach wrongly confuse this festivity with Hindu culture. He said later the issues of electricity tripping and use of metallic wire and string made throat-cuts an issue providing such people an opportunity to exploit these issues by managing a successful anti-Basant campaign. He said similar moral policing was happening on occasions like Valentine Day etc. He also showed dislike for the "moral policing" of theatrical performances etc. He said people's rights must be recognised and they should get up to celebrate such occasions freely.

Yousaf Salahuddin alias Mian Sally, another noted citizen having history of celebrating Basant, talking to TNS, said it seems this is not Quaid-e-Azam's Pakistan. He termed injustice of the society one of the basic reasons for this whole mess. He said injustice and bad governance has led the country to this point. He also held the ruling elite and corrupt elements of the society directly responsible for this lawlessness in the society which has widened the gap between the poor and the rich. "Basant will be banned when the rich people start using expensive metallic wire just to enjoy bo kata against the poor who can't afford such chemicals," he said. Resultantly, there will be throat-slitting and opportunities for certain elements to exploit the situation."

He urged the society to get up and take back the rights of such festivities as people have done in Multan last week. "People have violated ban on Basant in Multan," he said. However, he said instead of taking law into our hand there is need to lift ban on Basant. He also blamed poor governance for hampering such festivities. "If there is any aerial firing in wedding ceremony, will police or government arrest the violators or ban weddings?" he questioned. He said Lahoris are unhappy with the ban on such festivities. He further said that the elite have also taken over such festivities which, originally, are of common man.

Punjab Culture Minister Dr Tanveerul Islam, however, still believes that PPP, which he claimed as a liberal party, would ensure freedom to all. He maintained that the governing bodies announced to check "morality" were just a formality to have representation of culture department in such bodies at district level. Earlier, the DCO (District Coordination Officer) handled such issues. He said the government would not permit any unlawful thing to run on stage and theatrical performances. He also hoped the decisions on basant celebrations would also be taken soon.

[email protected]

 

MOOD STREET

Back to Life!

 

By Ammara Ahmad 

Many great religions believe that one day, sooner or later, all those who have died over the centuries, will come to life and stand before the Divine Presence for Judgment. Other religions believe in reincarnation, some form of rebirth, in this physical world, but in different guises, according to one's deeds, good or bad. 

Who knows what the ultimate reality beyond death is? But all this speculation does make one wonder what might conceivably happen if, by some chance, some of the world's famous folk of the past might 'come back' to today's world. What would they think, what would they feel, how would (or might) they react to many things?  

Obviously, one's first thought runs to our own great leaders and founders, of Pakistan. What would, for example, the Quaid e Azam think and how would he feel when he beholds the total mess we have made of his achievement, his Pakistan? Of course, by the time of his tragic death in 1948, the Quaid already had a small inkling of what lay in store, since he was already disillusioned with many of our early politicians, immediately after Independence/Partition. But could he even in his wildest imaginings, have thought that one day this nation-state would be thus hijacked by extremists, with a twisted view of Islam, far removed from his sane, rational conceptions? "Unity, Faith, Discipline": would he find that these words have relevance here, anymore? The state of our unity, precarious; our lack of discipline visible every day in Lahore's traffic; our faith a mere hypocrisy. Maybe, the Quaid would go off to Britain again, after seeing Pakistan -- this time never to return? But no, the courageous warrior that he was, who defied fate to follow his principles, he might once again assume the reins of government and defeat the corrupt 'Pakistanis', too, as he defeated Congress and the British Raj. 

What of Allama Iqbal -- who sleeps peacefully near the Badshahi Mosque? For one thing, he would certainly find his beloved Lahore changed beyond all recognition, especially the Old/Walled City, his dear old Bhaati area and environs, where he spent so many fine years. His dear Government College would definitely confuse him, a 'college' and a 'university' at the same time, yet lacking many of the basic intellectual and academic standards of his time. He would certainly be impressed to see how famous and widespread his name and works are, in today's Pakistan, although he will see, too, that it is mostly lip-service and not a practical application of his ideals. Not by a long shot. 

Some other visitors from the past to today's world might include a number of other interesting people -- the list is endless, depending on one's own choices and interests. For example, I would very much like to sit down and have a chat with the late Lee Harvey Oswald (JFK's supposed assassin) and get the low-down on this particular 'American conspiracy to end all conspiracies'; or, to meet Shakespeare face to face and sit down and discuss literature with him -- although one doubts he would be able to find much kinship with the larger part of so-called 'authors' who spring to overnight fame these days, thanks to big marketing budgets and publicity. For that matter, it might even be fascinating having Akbar the Great Mughal about, even though hosting royalty is always a pain. Would he be saddened by Partition, by the destruction of his sulh-i-qul? Would he enjoy seeing Jodha-Akbar at a Cineplex? And what would he think of Hrithik Roshan enacting his persona? And of Aishwariya Rai-Bachchan, in the role of his Rajput Queen? Would he compare her favorably with the real inmates of his harem?  

One person I would really like to see at this time, is Mahatma Gandhi. He would be invaluable today, at a time when Indo-Pak relations have achieved a new low. He would, no doubt, be quite saddened too, to see the situation in South Asia and in particular, in his beloved India, with its thriving, growing army and its multiplying, deprived and hungry masses. Could his ahinsa triumph once again, over all the forces of intolerance and negativity? Bring lasting peace and security to the entire region, once and for all? 

My dear friends, for those of us who are still alive in this corporeal form, death is something of an absolute. These people will never breathe again, at least within our world, in our terms of perception. Let's learn to live with this fact. New people are here, today, and hopefully, some will emerge who will improve the world we live in. 

 

 

Town Talk

• Exhibition of Zulfiqar Ali Zulfi's works

at Ejaz Art Gallery

till March 3.

• Exhibition: Seasons of Mist by Zulfiqar Ali Zulfi at Ejaz Art Gallery

till Sat, Feb 28 at 5pm.

• Divine-i Gig night every Saturday from 9pm to 11pm at Al Hafeez Tower opposite Pizza hut MM Alam Road.

• Panjabi Sangat every Friday at 49 Jail Road Lahore at 7pm. Punjabi Sangat is weekly gathering at Najam Hussain Sayed's (Punjabi poet, playwright, critic) house, where Punjabi classical poetry is read, interpreted and sung. The Sangat has been going on for the last 30-40 years. Any person who chooses to visit the Sangat can freely and actively participate in the above mentioned activities.

• Spring Theatre Festival at Alhamra Arts Council, The Mall from Mon Feb 23 to Sat, Feb 28. Play will start everyday at 7pm. Schedule: Bulha (Feb 23, Hall-I), Toba Tek Singh (Feb 24, Hall-II), Bala King (Feb 25, Hall-II), Hotel Moenjodaro (Feb 26, Hall-II), Chalk Chakkar (Feb 27-8, Hall-II).

• Seminar on 'How do robots become hyper(bolic)?' Dr. Abubakr will speak at LUMS, 4th Floor,SSE

on Wed, Feb 25 at 3pm.

 

bookfair

Exclusivity not required

There are many reasons Lahore International Book Fair should continue

By Sarah Sikandar

If you missed the Lahore International Book Fair (LIBF) last week, to say the least, you missed an opportunity to devour some of the best books imported and local books by the country's known publishers. And if you were there you'd understand and sympathize with those who couldn't make it. As a regular visitor it was pleasant, though not surprising, to see the number of book-lovers at the fair which had definitely increased from the past years. LIBF stand true to the dictum "something for everyone." The makeshift arena overwhelms you the moment you enter – people of every age browsing through the stalls or just trying to catch their children going haywire.

"It was good not just because there were mainstream publishers but niche publishers who have special areas. I am not just talking about religious books but publishers from other provinces with books in their respective languages. For me the best thing was the price. Some of the books were really cheap. But big publishers and bookstores like Reading and Liberty were a little expensive even after the discount."

Ayesha, a mother of three, observes that last time Vanguard's was the biggest stall at the event. This time around Readings seems to have taken it by storm. It was certainly the biggest attraction with, of course, the biggest stall." The major reason for this, Ayesha thinks, is the price. "At Readings books are far more reasonably priced. It also shows that though variety is good people want books that are affordable."

Almost 80 percent of the stalls were that of the distributors and importers. Publishers, it seems, were not able to avail this opportunity. Imported books thronged even the stalls of the local publishers. Events like these favour the distributors and importers more than the local publishers because a large number of buyers come here for imported books. Mazhar Salim Majoka – the incharge of Lahore chapter of Beacon Books, a local publisher – agrees. He said the local publisher is not concerned with sales at events like LIBF. "People prefer to buy English books because that is something they will not find in Urdu Bazaar. I think even this is a service to literature." Salim admits that local publishers want publicity and sales is not their first priority. "We want people to know that we are here and we are publishing this kind of books. I think that is the basic aim of every publisher."

Zubair Saeed, one of the organizers of LIBF, says this time the response was even better than previous years. This assertion sounds surprising looking at the economic recessions and security concerns. Zubair, however, thinks this is their biggest achievement. "To bring so many people together in the middle of such crisis, both economic and security-related, is very encouraging." He claims that this time the structure was a lot better than previous years although a lot of people were heard complaining about the wet grass and the stench.

Among the major attractions of LIBF are Indian publishers whose number increased during the last few years. This time around India was nowhere to be seen. Zubair says that Indian publishers were invited but they didn't come because of "obvious reasons." But despite their absence Indian books were imported and there were a few stalls of Indian books.

And while your wallet is getting lighter and lighter the children are busy with colouring and games. My three years old niece was so engrossed in her colouring books (provided by one of the books stores) she didn't even realize I wasn't around for half an hour. What pleased me most was the activities for kids aged three to eleven – colouring books, puzzles, mind games, essay and singing competitions – something to do outside the school for a change. Zahra, a mother of two little girls, comes to the fair twice. "My first visit is for my daughters. They enjoy books and activities. The second trip is for me only. I get everything I want. I am not sure about students, teachers or people related to education but for a book-lover like me this place is a haven."

Zubair Saleem, while talking about the future plans of LIBF, said that next time universities and educational institutions would be directly involved. "Most of the people who come to the fair are from the education sector whether they are book-lovers, students or teachers. So we thought we'd give a chance to universities to come and represent themselves." This city has given up a lot in the name of security or religion. One hopes it is not made to give up LIBF. This is one place that requires no invites or tickets. What could be more awami?

 

The clicker makes the difference

Yasir Nisar's latest photographic exhibition at Chitrkar strikes you as a mιlange of 'feel-good' images

 

By Usman Ghafoor

"You can't judge a photograph on the basis of the equipment that was used by the photographer," suggests Yasir Nisar, a 28 year old successful banker turned freelance journalist and photographer whose works are currently on display in Lahore Chitrkar and collecting rave reviews.

"It is not important to bank on camera too much in order to achieve a desired result," he goes on to elaborate.

In Yasir's case, a simple, 10-megapixel Canon has done him the kind of wonders he says others might be able to create with a high-end gadget only.

He is a lens-freak, though, and admits to have spent a fortune on them.

Portraits, landscape, sporting activity, street photography - Yasir does them all, and he likes to shoot from every interesting angle possible. The one constant in his works is that he never uses flash or other kinds of artificial bulbs. Yasir confesses to his obsession with "natural light". The current exhibit, which closes on February 26, is enough proof of that.

In this age of computer generated effects, a lot of professional as well as amateur photographers could be accused of using the various Photoshop programmes to enhance the quality of their images. Mercifully, Yasir does not tamper with his works when he transfers them on to desktop, beyond occasionally "gray-scaling" them or "filtering out noise". For one of his standout photographs, where he captures the star trails above the majestic Raka Poshi heights, the lighting is so perfectly balanced and the snow-capped mountains far out in the distance are so vividly obvious that it is impossible to tell the photo was taken at night time. Here, again, he declares that no help was got from Adobe.

It is interesting to note that the images displayed have a certain feel-good element to all of them - whether it's the sepia-hued portrait of an old village man with a wrinkled face but not necessarily a hint of pain or distress; or the picture of a lone boat at the bank of the (Ravi) river not against the setting sun but the rising sun in the wee hours.

Having traveled widely and extensively across the country, Yasir is able to discover for us common people an entire gamut of places not yet photographed but also radiant in Nature's bountiful beauty. For a pleasant change, you aren't shown the morose side of life, something that seems to have become a fixture with most photographers of today.

Yasir is due next with a traveling exhibition in South Africa and, later, in Australia and UK. Earlier, his works have been a part of a show in New York (2006) and Washington ('06). Within Pakistan, he has been displayed variously at Nairang, Lahore, in Quetta and Islamabad.

 

Crumbling baradari

Sher Singh's baradari, an archeological site at Kot Khawaja Saeed is fast turning into a garbage site

 

By Sajid Bashir

In the east of China Scheme, at Kot Khawaja Saeed, is a baradari in ruins. The place which has a historical significance is called Sher Singh's baradari.

The Solid Waste Management (SWM) department has constructed a waste enclosure here after demolishing one corner of the Baradari, in violation of the laws. According to the World Heritage rules no one can construct any thing in such premises within 200 yards of that building.

There are twelve arches in its three walls due to which it is called baradari. A wall around the baradari was demolished earlier by the Nawaz Sharif Hospital, Kot Khawja Saeed and SWM department. Maharaja Sher Singh was born in 1805 in Gujranwala into a Sikh family of Sukerchakia misldars. At the time, much of the Punjab was ruled by the Sikhs under a confederate Sarbat Khalsa system and Afghans, who had divided the territory among factions known as misls. Sher Singh's father Ranjit Singh was the first Maharaja of the Punjab. He succeeded his father at the young ageof 12.

After several campaigns, his rivals accepted him as their leader, and he united the Sikh factions into one large country. Sher Singh was known as a persom who did good works for the betterment of his people. He ruled for two and a half years only but is remembered for improving the existing system of governance. Sher Singh and his young son were brutally murdered by the Sardaran-e-Sindha Walia. After his death Rani Randhawi Singh and her family constructed their Samadhi in this baradari. These 'Samadhis' have domes where the cremated ashes of the dead were kept. This baradari was meant to be the new resting place of Sher Singh and his son.

The arches are also in very bad shape and may collapse any time. The Auqaf department which is responsible for its maintenance, has constructed the only two pillars to save the baradari from collapsing.

The roof of the building has been demolished and its debris lies as such. The boundary wall is already gone. It is becoming a garbage dumping ground as the locals of the area throw garbage inside the baradari.

When contacted, District Officer SWM Rafique Jatoi said the SWM has not constructed the waste enclosure against the World Heritage Laws. "The law that does not allow construction within 200 feet is only applicable to those historical buildings which are on the list of World Heritage and the baradari of Sher Singh is not on its list. The department could not construct the waste encloure without the permission of Archeology and Auqaf department," he added. He said the department can construct waste enclosure besides the baradari otherwise the Auqaf department could have stopped the SWM from constructing the waste enclosure.

On the other hand the Auqaf department officials said the department is doing its best for the repair of the baradari but work on it has been delayed due to insufficient funds. They said the department is already working on a number of different sites and soon repair work on the baradari would also start. There is also a shrine of famous Sufi Saint Allama Mirza Syed Shah Bilawal Qadri in the premises of the baradari which used to host a Muslim festival in Lahore. Writers like Kannahiya Lal Hindi and Justice Abdul Latif have mentioned this festival in detail in their researches. This festival used to take place in the month of December.

[email protected]

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