love and other demons
A testimony of
the slim, short, veteran businessman-cum-banker, Yunus Habib, may come in
handy when the Supreme Court starts hearing the almost decade-old petition
of Air Marshal Asghar Khan on Feb 29, 2012. Habib hit the headlines in the
1990s for his key role in the release of Rs14 million (or maybe more) from
his own Mehran Bank to defeat the Benazir Bhutto’s PPP in the next
The affidavit submitted
by the then ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani, is the first ever confession
by any official of Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency of the role it
played in pre-poll rigging and its direct involvement in political
matters. But there is much more to it and all facts must come to the
Though there was an
unusual delay in the case being taken up for hearing, one hopes it will
proceed as fast as other petitions like the ones dealing with NRO, NICL,
the infamous Memo Case or the Haj scam.
Durrani’s affidavit is
undoubtedly the most blatant admission of corruption and attempts to rig
the polls through direct support of the country’s powerful troika
comprising the president, the army chief and the interim president. It is
a comment on one of the darkest chapters of our political history and yet
another proof of how intelligence agencies have damaged the political
process in this country.
In fact, two years
before this scandal, the first election in eleven years in 1988 was also
manipulated as confessed by the former ISI chief General (retd) Hameed Gul.
Gul had the temerity to claim that the anti-PPP alliance Islami Jamoohri
Ittehad (IJI) was his brainchild and defend his decision in the name of
‘national interest’ and ‘security’ of Pakistan.
Habib, now in his 70s,
is the only person in the scandal who has been punished, though for
reasons other than this. His Mehran Bank was closed during Benazir
Bhutto’s second government and he was convicted for 10 years but got
released in five years because of jail remission. “He has already
suffered a lot. He is the only character in this case who has suffered,
though he had only paid the money on instructions from powerful quarters.
Can a businessman in his position dare to refuse such people?” asks a
close friend of Habib.
A key figure in the
case, Yonus Habib is the man on whose request money was deposited in the
“cover accounts” of politicians and some media-persons too as
mentioned in the affidavit of the then ISI chief Lt. General Asad Durrani.
But will he tell the truth and nothing but the whole truth before the
court as to why he gave the money and on whose directives? Habib is a
businessman and still has lots of business interests at stake. It is
difficult to expect him to take a position in this case.
It is important to
recall that when Habib decided to launch his Mehran Bank during the
government of late Chief Minister Jam Sadiq Ali, many politicians were
present in the opening ceremony. Even in those days, a number of stories
appeared in the newspapers about the way the bank’s permission was
granted, but at no stage did anyone raise this possibility that the move
might be a cover for the use of funds in the general elections.
statement of former army chief General Aslam Beg, the only person alive
from the troika, would be the most important as the money was distributed
among the politicians and media persons on his directives. His statement
may unearth the plan to rig the elections. There are some important people
still alive who are witness to this shady business and it is important
that the scope of this petition is expanded to at least four general
elections after 1988.
Former Prime Minister
Benazir Bhutto’s government was sacked on charges of corruption by the
then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan on August 6, 1990, and the same
presidency in connivance with the relevant quarters used corruption as a
weapon for getting the desired results in the next election. Ironic may
seem like an understatement.
So, what a turn around
as the case will be heard afresh by the Supreme Court; it was never
reopened since the forced retirement of former chief justice of Pakistan
Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui. “The case was reserved for judgment when there
was enough evidence to confirm the money was distributed by the ISI and
the authorities were fully involved,” he had told me in one of his tv
As in the case of
formation of the IJI in 1988, the premier agency appeared to have been
behind the making of the alliance
Combined Opposition Parties (COP). The alleged plan was to make late G.M.
Jatoi the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif would retain Punjab and would also
be given a major share at the centre, Jam Sadiq would lead the anti-PPP
forces and the MQM will share Sindh. Besides, the MQM will also be given
more representation at the centre. The major understanding as per the plan
was that Gen. Beg would be the next president, after relaxation of rules.
Sources said that
several meetings were held in two different places in Defense Housing
Society in Karachi. An election cell was established in the Presidency,
which was allegedly looked after by none other than the country’s most
seasoned but controversial bureaucrat Roedad Khan.
However, as the then
interim premier G.M. Jatoi had disclosed in his last interview, weeks
before his death, “there was an understanding that I will be the prime
minister but because of some intrigues it was sabotaged.” Elaborating,
he had said: “I was informed that I have to lead the COP rally from
Peshawar to Karachi. When the procession reached Punjab, people started
raising slogan Wazir-e-Azam Nawaz Sharif in one of the public meetings. I
immediately told my ADC that I will be going to Karachi by plane. I left
the rally which was then led by Nawaz Sharif.”
some of the audio tapes, containing conversations regarding money
distribution were also leaked, which resulted in the major “Breaking
News.” When Mehran Bank scam was unearthed, questions were also raised
about some of the reported corruption cases in the media which were made
part of the charge-sheet against the PPP government; these cases were now
seen as part of the same conspiracy.
Two days after her
government was dismissed on August 6, 1990, former premier Benazir Bhutto
had accused the intelligence agencies. “My government was dismissed
through a conspiracy by the intelligence agencies after cases were cooked
and stories were planted,” she had said.
The outcome of Asghar
Khan’s case could vindicate BB’s accusation which, to some extent, has
already been done after the submission of Gen. Durrani’s affidavit.
Mehran Bank scam was
just a crude form of NRO to please the politicians in order to get the
desired results. In both the cases, the central figure was the
‘Sipah-Salar’ of one of the world’s most disciplined armies — both
Beg and Musharraf were out to fulfil their hidden ambitions.
Ishaq Khan is now dead
but veteran bureaucrat Roedad Khan who is now over 90 can be asked to tell
the whole truth in what looks like genuine ‘national interest’.
General Aslam Beg’s reported statement that the ISI did it on
instructions from the chief executive (by which he means Ishaq Khan) is an
eye wash. He stated that the ISI provided the funds to the candidates but
in the affidavit it was clearly mentioned that the fund was meant only for
candidates belonging to the IJI. Secondly, if the directives did indeed
come from the Election Cell of the presidency, the act itself was illegal
as president is not the chief executive but the head of the State.
Incharge of the so-called “Media Cell” should also be called to the
court to explain why such a cell existed in the presidency in the first
place. If Gen. Beg had filed such a statement in the Supreme Court, it
would be a confession, a violation of the army code, an unconstitutional
act that was committed without any lawful authority.
Former ISI chief Durrani
should also be summoned and asked about the remaining amount of money
which, he had stated in the affidavit, was “transferred to a special
fund”. He should also inform the court about the money given to the
media, while the journalists who are said to be involved should be called
to the court to confirm or clear their names from the affidavit.
What is unfortunate is
that this was not an isolated incident. All subsequent elections, with the
exception of one in 2008, were manipulated in similar way — conspiracies
were hatched to either block the PPP victory or a split was created in the
party. Retd Maj. Gen. Ehtesham Zameer, who was the head of ISI’s
political cell in the 2002 election and is currently a newspaper
columnist, should also write about how the PPP-Patriot was created in 2002
and some elections results of Punjab were delayed. It was the PPP’s
greatest blunder to agree on an NRO with Gen. Musharraf even if it was a
move to force Musharraf to quit as army chief and hold elections.
the Leader of the Opposition and PML-N legislator Chaudhry Nisar is
sincere in his demand, and there is no reason to believe he is not, he
should file an application in the Supreme Court with the plea to
constitute a powerful judicial commission to fix the responsibility of how
the intelligence agencies were used in the manipulation of elections,
using corrupt practice to bribe the politicians and the media. The guilty
politicians and generals should be punished. The commission should also
set rules for the ISI and other agencies to keep away from politics.
And finally the
commission should also recommend measures to do away with the secret funds
of Ministry of Information and intelligence agencies for the media or at
least they should be made transparent and submitted at least to the Public
The writer is a senior
journalist and former secretary general of the PFUJ.
all over the world become cinephiles (with a passionate interest in
cinema, film theory and film criticism) for various reasons, it is
important to remember that the French went through this — an intense
phase of cinephilia — sixty years ago.
Social and political
conditions conspired to inject in post-war French youth a new
consciousness, a raw restlessness that a French magazine L’Express
termed as La Nouvelle Vague (New Wave). Out of this wave arrived on the
shores of film-criticism and filmmaking what in film history are referred
to as the French New Wave’s young Turks: Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc
Godard, Claud Chabrol, Eric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette. Before turning to
filmmaking, they all wrote serious film criticism for perhaps the most
influential film magazine, Cahiers du Cinema, which was founded by Andre
Bazin and Jacques Doniol-Valcroze who, like the young Turks, wrote
criticism and made films.
Most historians fix the
high period of the wave from 1959-1962 and, in those four years, over 160
first-time directors made their films, leaving an indelible mark on the
future of filmmaking.
Truffaut’s 400 Blows
often gets credited as the beginning of the Wave as he took the film world
by storm by winning the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival,
which had banned him a year earlier for denouncing the festival and the
general film culture of France in the 1950s. These
critics-turned-filmmakers had referred to the French cinema of the 50s as
le cinema du papa (the cinema’s father).
May 1957 at a roundtable discussion, the critics at Cahiers likened the
state of French cinema to that of British cinema devoid of intellectual
integrity, artistic innovation and irrelevant to issues of the time. They
titled the discussion as “Six character in search of auteurs.”
Truffaut had said, in 1957, that “there are no works, there are only
authors.” This particular way of thinking about cinema, privileging a
filmmaker’s special relationship with his/her social and imaginative
reality found a highly sophisticated expression in Bazin’s important
essay, Ontology of the Photographic Image, written in 1945. Naomi Greene
writes that the “essay revolves around an issue at the philosophical
heart of the movement: the relationship of cinema to reality. Bazin was
influenced, among other things, by Sartre’s concern with regards to how
art captures and projects reality, and Andre Malraux, who said, “Cinema
is nothing other than the most developed aspect of plastic realism that
first appeared in the Renaissance.”
married Alain Resnais, the director of another important film, Hiroshima
Mon Amore that shook the Cannes festival along with 400 Blows in 1959.
Though Alain Resnais, along with a few others, especially Agnes Warda who
is sometimes addressed as the godmother of the New French Wave, and Chris
Marker, is seen as a part of the wave, the trio is also seen as a distinct
sub-group of the wave
known as the Left Bank Group. While some consider this group to be a
political, literary and avant-garde flank of the wave, a noted critic
Clouzot, points out that the Left Bank Group “directors are to be seen
as authors more than auteurs, as they were more concerned with responding
to the traditions of literature and the nouveau roman (new novel), than
with responding to the history of cinema: whereas the Right Bank-Cahiers
directors are well-known for being primarily critics and cinéphiles, and
for their work being a response to the prevailing tradition of French
cinema…” This distinction between author and auteur is crucial to
savouring the beauty that is French New Wave films.
Although it was Bazin
who, in 1946, while reviewing Orson Welles’ film, introduced the idea of
cinema of authors, according the American filmmaker the status of an
author, it was in fact Alexandre Astruc who likened the camera to a pen in
his quintessential article two years later: The Birth of a New Avant-Garde:
La Camera Stylo. This essay is often treated as the manifesto of the New
Wave. He was a founding member of an important film club, Objectif 49 and
helped with the Cahiers du Cinema. He believes that film has a specific
language and disagrees with the belief that the language is predominantly
visual and reliant on montage. It is thanks to Astruc that the director
became the real author of the film, instead of the screenwriter.
Soon after Astruc’s
essay, one of the young Turks of the wave, Eric Rohmer, further expanded
on the nature of cinematic language, which he elaborated in his essay
titled: Cinema: the art of space. He too rejected the notion that editing
or montage was central. Rohmer believed that cinema used space in unique
ways. According to him, “The expressive value of the relationship of
spatial dimensions or the movement of lines within the area of the screen
can be the object of rigorous attention.”
Instead of narrative and
editing, the New Wave directors were drawn to “a precise complex of
people and decors, a network of relations, a moving architecture of
relationships somehow suspended in space.” That’s how the last member
of the quintet, Jacques Rivette described the most important element of
the French New Wave filmmaking: Mise-en-scene. What sets these film
critics apart, led by the young Turks, from other critics either in film
or other fields of art, such as those associated with New Criticism, was
that they considered film criticism as a form of filmmaking, and then they
showed France and the world how to make them their way, the better way.
Godard once said that he and his friends already saw themselves as future
filmmakers. They were thinking cinema and thinking about cinema. To the
enfant terrible of the French New Wave, between writing and filmmaking,
there’s only quantitative, not a qualitative, difference.
But let’s not get
ahead of the story. At least not too soon, not so fast. How did these
first-time filmmakers got to make their films? Who financed them? What
made it possible? Who’s more central to the New Wave? Brigette
Bardot’s carefree sexuality or Jeanne Moreau’s stunning talent? Also,
what relevance this article has to the history of Pakistani cinema? Did we
ever produce an auteur? Was our filmmaking ever so slightly touched by the
Wave? Can we think of Rangeela as an auteur? Part II will try to bring
some of the remaining pieces of the puzzle closer, if not together.
(to be continued)
Reflections of a new
Islamic calendars coincide when it comes to matters of love. The
converging point for the two systems of dividing Time is number 14. In the
lunar year, on the 14th of every month, the full moon apparently entices
lovers and turns them ecstatic; whereas according to the Roman calendar,
Feb 14 is observed as the date of love commonly known as the Valentine’s
changing trends in our society, one realises that Feb 14 is celebrated
more fervently than Aug 14 or some other religious festivals. The
abundance of signs of love put up for purchase at shops that sell cards,
gifts and toys makes your head swirl. This is unusual in an environment
where people are reluctant to reveal their desire for the opposite sex.
There is no exact equivalent in our language to express one’s love
except the phrase in English “I love you”.
A clear announcement of
love is considered unsophisticated or banal in a society where nothing is
said directly. Even in daily newspapers, you have to decode the terms —
the ‘law enforcing agencies’ mean police and rangers, ‘sensitive
institutions’ signify the army or its intelligence agencies, and the
‘neighbouring country’ is always meant for India.
This habit of hiding our
feelings is a baggage that we carry from our imperial past. The region has
been ruled by rulers from outside, so the attitude of people must have
been shaped by reasons of state and safety; hence their use of loaded
language. This structure or style must have been necessary in an
autocratic rule or court, and was later picked by our religious leaders,
satire writers and stage-performers. This does come in handy to avoid the
unpleasant reaction from the state or hostile opponents.
A feat that is performed
in art, too, since it is a means of transforming the immediate substance
into a remote ‘message’. Often, that metamorphosis serves as a
therapeutic process for artists who deal with their personal and private
demons through art. Examples such as Vincent Van Gogh, Henri de
Toulouse-Lautrec and Ahmed Pervaiz signify how artists transmuted their
passions for women or unrequited love into canvases of great merit.
Perhaps, poetry is also a vehicle to vent one’s sentiments for the lover
which could not be communicated otherwise (Interestingly the generic name
for poetry in our language was reekhta, which literally means talking to
Hence, art becomes an
instrument of transmitting an individual’s emotions of all sorts but
mainly of amorous nature. One is not sure what the artists do when they
fall in love but, even when not in love, they do select love as their
aesthetic concern. A popular theme, it is both simple and challenging and
therefore keeps inspiring creative people.
If analysed, the history
of art is basically a documentation of multiple forms of love that a maker
showed for various characters. Whether it is love for one’s family, the
Creator, gods, tribe, nation, faith or females, art has been about
expressing a strong desire — for an unattainable entity. Ditto for
poetry and music which is also about the beloved or lover who is away or
unreachable; the unconsummated or unsuccessful relationship is the basis
of our creative sojourns.
In a simplified way, all
art is about portraying a man’s love in an implicit manner. Explicit
references may be found in literature but, in visual arts, it is difficult
to determine the true subject or addressee of an art work. Usually,
artists get inspiration from a situation and then modify their sentiments
in an indirect content — composition of lines, colours, textures and
materials. Unlike a piece of literature that operates in a domain,
language, which is common and shared by many and can be conveyed without
much physical effort, making art is an act that requires space, tools,
materials and then a place to exhibit and communicate with the public.
Thus in art, the subject may remain love but it leads to diverse and wider
interpretation. So, no matter if it is a devotional painting or a romantic
canvas, it deviates from its original and prescribed content and survives
for other reasons —formal, technical, historical and contextual.
In that sense, Pakistani
artists have been evasive about love. Of course, there are hundreds of
canvases with frustrated (and frustrating) imagery ranging from Saeed
Akhtar to Moazzam Ali (with latter’s skimpily dressed nomadic damsels),
but it is not usual to find works explicitly referring to the idea of
love. It was not like this in the early art of Pakistan, when artist made
works on romantic themes, occasionally trespassing the domain of sexual
subjects. For instance, some paintings by Sadeqauin from the seventies
were shown and, unfortunately, burnt at the Free Mason Hall in Lahore.
In contemporary times,
it is rare to come across love as the main or the predominant subject.
There could be diverse factors for this absence. Mainly, it is the
situation of our society that engages or forces an artist to focus on more
‘serious’ issues such as war, destructions, terrorism etc. More than
that, it is the idea associated with love that does not offer anything new
to our creative personalities and has thus hindered them.
Therefore love, because
of its fathomable nature and predictable responses, ends up being a
redundant matter unless one approaches it from a new angle, as indicated
by Umberto Eco: “I think of the post modern attitude as that of a man
who loves a very cultivated woman and knows he cannot say to her, “I
love you madly”, because he knows that she knows (and that she knows
that he knows) that these words have already been written by Barbara
Cartland. Still, there is a solution. He can say, “As Barbara Cartland
would put it, I love you madly.”
countries mushairas, paper reading, scholarly discourses, book launches,
concerts, seminars and plays have been organised to celebrate the
centenary celebrations of Faiz, while many more have been held in the
various cities of the country in the past year.
But, since Lahore has
pre-emptive rights over Faiz, the events hosted here have always assumed
an air of added poignancy.
The programme organised
by Faiz Foundation and Faiz Ghar at Alhamra started with a couple of dance
numbers by the girls of the junior and senior branches of the Lahore
Grammar School based on the two poems ‘Aaeye Hath Uthain Hum’ and
‘Hum Dehkain Gay’. The private schools in the country should be
felicitated for introducing Faiz and other poets of Urdu and Punjabi to
their students whose work otherwise does not form part of the curriculum
for a variety of reasons.
Tina Sani sang Faiz as
she has being doing for many years now. To be precise, as she herself
confessed, it has been a journey that has lasted almost 24 years.
The basic problem with
singing of poetry is how to save it from becoming illustrative. The
musical structure should not land up on a collision course with the
poetical structures. On the one side, there is the effort on the part of
the singer to avoid his/her rendition from merely becoming illustrative,
and on the other, is the effort that the words should not become merely
incidental, as is the case with the higher musical forms.
Faiz has been sung
extensively by well-known singers, not-so-good singers and by the average.
His stature is such that for a newcomer merely singing him can be a source
of gaining popularity or seeking legitimacy, while for an established
singer it is a challenge to musical creativity. Singing Faiz would really
be an endeavour to break new ground in his or her musical quest.
A much-improved Tina
Sani sang for over an hour-and-a-half some of the compositions which she
has been singing in the past and some other compositions which have been
famous for a while, having been sung by some of the great singers of the
land. She is a now a much better singer than in the past when she had
started to sing Faiz. Her sur is more in tune and she has the confidence
to sing within oneself without stretching or wanting to do something
terribly new and creative. And she also sang the numbers which have become
very famous like ‘Mujh Say Phehli Si Mohabat Meray Mehboob Na Maang’,
‘Aa Ke Wabasta Hain Us Husn Ki Yadain Tujh Sey’, ‘Sham e Firaq Ab Na
Pooch’, ‘Dasht-e-Tanhai Main’, ‘Hum Dekhain Gay’, ‘ Gulaon
Main Rang Bhare’, ‘Aaye Kuch Abr Kuch Sharab Aye’ — and ‘Aaj
Bazaar Main Pa Bajolaan Chalo’ as a tribute to these great singers like
Noor Jehan, Mehdi Hasan, Fareeda Khanum, Iqbal Bano and Nayyara Noor which
carries with it a tinge of nostalgia about it. As if to establish a
connection of the two Urdu poets from Punjab, she also sang Iqbal’s
Shikwah interspersed with reading by Adeel Hashmi.
These musical numbers
were preceded by selected readings from the letters of Faiz Ahmed Faiz by
Adeel Hashmi. The musical accompaniment was provided on the piano by
talented Asad Anis. He learnt the art of playing in Russia in his
childhood days. He plays the compositions of the European maestros with
great proficiency and has been in search of a serious audience of piano in
his country. Asad may have had a few takers for his playing one of the
instruments in an orchestral arrangement but has found none for his solo
recitals, which is always the test of the true mantle of a musician.
During the intervals, he played the compositions of maestros like Chopin,
Beethoven and Strauss.
Ajoka too staged a play,
‘Rozan-e Zindaan Se’, based on the letters of Faiz and Alys Faiz
during the days of his imprisonment. Naeem Tahir and Yasmin Tahir read
these letters with great intensity.
Some plays have revolved
around letter readings. For example, ‘Gurney’s Love Letters’ — a
hugely successful play that was adapted in India by Javed Siddiqui and
directed by Feroz Abbas Khan as ‘Tumhari Amrita’. This play based on
epistolary readings, was performed initially by Farooq Sheikh and Shabana
Azmi to much acclaim.
There is also an
epistolary form in novel writing, which capitalises on the virtues of the
first person narrative.
In the past, probably
fifteen years ago, one can recall one particular masterly reading of
Faiz’s letters, other prose works and the poems by Zia Mohyeddin. By
combining the letters and the prose works of Faiz with selections from his
poetical works, Zia’s session was one of the best readings even by his
own high standard. There have been other attempts also of combining the
two and presenting them on stage for a more complete picture of the poet.
But, one wonders, whether there has been a better production than by Zia
Mohyeddin in Lahore. But the readings by Yasmin and Naeem Tahir were also
impressive, and sound and movement in adequate dosage backed them as well.
Nighat Chaudhry and Wahab Shah also performed on numbers choreographed on
the life and works of Faiz.
The most popular event
was the Faiz Aman Mela which retains for the people the manner and spirit
of a true mela. This year too, it was revived and participated in by a
large section of the population. It included a number of musical numbers
composed on the poetry of Faiz. Adeel Burki, Jawad Ahmed, Nida Faiz and
Lal Group added to the festive occasion.
Faiz, like Iqbal and
other the Punjabi classical poets, is forming the repertoire of the bands.
They have been composing Faiz’s poetry, singing to the accompaniment of
the guitar and drums to much younger audiences.