A tall order to a short one
March 9 onwards, two terms constantly discussed -- in academic debates as much as they were used as accusations -- were 'legal' and 'political'. The prosecution from day one accused the defence of politicising a legal matter. The defence did not, for a moment, concur with such a distinction. For how else can you explain the defence side led by a man like Aitzaz Ahsan -- a quintessential amalgam of the two.
He along with 'other heroes' by his side turned the chief justice's case into a political epic, fighting its battles in the streets alongside the courtrooms. And in the end won them both.

Truly classical
Alhamra organised an impressive three day concert of classical music with a promise to make it an annual feature
By Sarwat Ali
Two aspects were very commendable in the three day concert of classical music which was organised last week in Lahore. One that Alhamra had organised it with a promise that it will become an annual feature and two that a great number of younger classical vocalist/instrumentalists took part in it.

Flat in the fields
A recently published monograph on Ghulam Rasul aptly covers his life and art
By Quddus Mirza
Even though many artists do not seem too keen on books, yet books play an important part in promoting the visual arts. Especially in a country where art is not usually reproduced as posters and post cards or extensively displayed in the state galleries, books become an essential means to introduce works and their creators to a wider public.

Harry Potter hysteria
Dear all,
Harry Potter hysteria time came round again after two years with first the release of a new movie and then the publication of the latest and final book in the boy wizard series. This is the time when the media is full of hype about the new releases, and much is made of the hundreds of fans who will be queuing up to see/read the new Potter product.


Excerpts follow:


The News on Sunday: Let's go back in time to March 13. Did you foresee the decision that finally came on July 20?

Aitzaz Ahsan: It is very difficult to say what one could've predicted on that day. I thought there might be a shorter proceeding. The chief justice's refusal to resign appeared at that time a flash in the pan, a momentary glory leading to defeat and possible humiliation in the end.

The chief justice was faced with the daunting opposition of the army chief, the military establishment and the intelligence agencies. So it didn't appear to be a winning engagement to me.

I was moved by the fact that I had been asked to defend a man who had taken a courageous and correct position in the face of heavy odds -- physical threats, incarceration, physical detention of his entire family, manhandling by the police. This was an indication of how far the military top brass was prepared to go. My client was no ordinary person; he was, still is and even then was the chief justice of Pakistan. So when I was retained as his lawyer I asked the chief justice if he would stand his ground. And he said, "I'm a Rajput and I'll stand my ground. I am prepared to be in the line of fire, irrespective of the consequences it may have."

I was definitely reassured and that created no confusion in my mind. There was at least a certain peace of mind and satisfaction that what one was doing was right. One was going to see it to the end.

TNS: How and why were you picked by the CJ to be his lawyer?

AA: I really don't know. I was not one of the favourite lawyers with the chief justice. When he and Munir Malik, president SCBA, asked me to represent him (the CJ) it was a humbling experience because you don't get a CJ as a client every day nor do you get selected by none other than the CJ to be his lawyer when his life, liberty and his reputation are at stake. So I feel indeed very privileged. Particularly since his favourites, and he had his favourites, were all arrayed on the side of the prosecution including Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada, the attorney general and Malik Mohammad Qayyum.

TNS: Did you have the support of your party PPP, particularly, Benazir Bhutto, to fight the CJ's case?

AA: Well, if she had not supported me, she would've stopped me. At the moment when I agreed to be his counsel, I had no opportunity to consult with her. It was sudden, on March 13. We had to immediately appear before the Supreme Judicial Council. I had consulted her on earlier occasions like when I was asked by Begum Kulsoom Nawaz to be Nawaz Sharif's lawyer while he was in jail. But this time I had no chance.

I think on March 14, I sent her a long email and in her reply she endorsed my being retained as the CJ's lawyer. So although we didn't discuss the case thereafter for all the time that I was his counsel, but obviously I had her endorsement.

TNS: What has this decision achieved?

AA: The decision has done a lot of things. First of all it comes as the culmination of a new political compact between the bar associations and the people. This movement was entirely led, shaped and scheduled by the lawyers and their elected leaders. The political parties played an important role, they did swell the crowds, they contributed enthusiastic and vigorous cadres, they painted the landscape, red, black and green with their flags, which has an invigorating power of its own, they laid down lives in Karachi and in the Islamabad bomb blast. But they were actually supporting and following the schedules and timetables set by the lawyers.

Here a new phenomena has emerged -- the bar associations plus the people have been singularly empowered. They've been vindicated by the decision of the court. At the end of the road there had been victory, not a setback. Now that in itself is a great liberating element and force.

This impact of the judgement is revolutionary because it has broken the stranglehold and the status quo. It has brought people out of their despondency particularly the victory.

Secondly it has empowered the judiciary. I consider that effect as secondary compared to the first one. Justice Khalil Ramday and his twelve colleagues have cut a new path for the judiciary and they have cut it through a forest with thick overgrowth of acquiescence and subservience to military and executive will.

The Supreme Courts between Tameezuddin case in 1954 to Zafar Ali Shah's case in 2000 had always endorsed and legitimised executive excesses. The only other time it gave a contrary judgement was in the case of Asma Jilani in 1972 against Yahya Khan but that was after Yahya had been deposed so it was an ex post facto judgement. And it too was discarded five years later by the Supreme Court itself in the case of Begum Nusrat Bhutto in 1977.

TNS: Isn't that still a possibility, after this 2007 judgement?

AA: There is a difference and that is in what I call the first outcome of this judgement -- the compact between the bar associations and the people of Pakistan, with the political parties providing the hinges of that compact. The strength of such a broad national compact backed up by an empowering, peaceful, non-violent movement has spoken out so loud that no judges in the future can ignore it. And no military adventurer in the future can risk taking it head on.

The apologists for Chief Justice Munir have kept harping on this very reality that what could Munir do when people were not expressing their resentment on extra-constitutional measures. The present Supreme Court has the advantage and the confidence that its strident espousal of constitutional values has the full support of the street and the civilian crowds marching on the streets.

So I don't think this judgement is easily reversible and 13 judges is a very large bench, it can only be reversed by 14 judges.

TNS: What stopped this movement from becoming a mass movement?

AA: What really stopped it from becoming not just a mass movement but a violent movement was the fact that the court took cognisance of the matter at the right time. Justice Rana Bhagwandas must be complemented for appointing a thirteen member bench. There was no mass movement because Justice Khalil Ramdey was conducting the case in a very serious, nonabrasive and cool manner. The way he conducted the case brought the decible level of the street down.

Although alongside many events happened while the bench was hearing the case. The chief went all over Pakistan except Balochistan; there were mammoth crowds, huge processions, tiring and prolonged journeys, slow movements and enthusiastic people but not a flower was broken, not a leaf was damaged. The violence in Karachi on May 12 was only because of MQM.

TNS: Why did you have to tell the court towards the end that they should not seek a middle ground and give a clear cut decision?

AA: I think it is that kind of a case in which a middle ground would impede the ends of justice.

TNS: Was that a possibility?

AA: Well, obviously there was. There were only three things they could do, accept the petition, reject the petition or make it half and half trying to accommodate the government. It could be apprehended and that fear compelled me to try to block that possibility.

TNS: Is it proper for the judges to make 'good news' announcements for the nation?

AA: Justice Bhagwandas said this on March 24, the day he came back from India and again now, a few days before the judgement. I don't know what he meant when he said that but I assume that he meant to placate public sentiments and to even out the ruffled feathers of the public mind.

TNS: Whose decision it was to take the CJ onto the streets and what was the purpose?

AA: The decision was not to take the CJ to the streets. The decision was only to take the CJ to the bar associations. It were the streets that surprised us very pleasantly. The decision to take the CJ to the bar associations was a collective decision of his panel of lawyers. It was initially at the insistent pressure of the bar association of the Rawalpindi bench of Lahore High Court. The intention to activate the street was discussed and rejected.

My own view was that we should activate the street and the route for activating the street would then have been along the Murree Road in Rawalpindi. It was seriously considered. I tried to convince my colleagues because a number of traders and their associations along the Murree Road wanted us to do that. I thought we would spend six to seven hours getting to the high court and that would be a big boost but my proposal was consciously rejected by my other colleagues and of course I accepted it.

We were a team, and we worked together, very comfortably with each other because our purpose was one. But even that bar association meeting and reception was so enthusiastic that we then decided that he should go to more bar associations.

We decided on Sukkur and Hyderabad without knowing that the judges of SHC would come out and be counted with the CJP. That was the next big milestone. That was ice-breaking so we decided to go to Peshawar.

TNS: Has the lawyers movement come to an end? What must the lawyers do now? What happened to the 'Go Musharraf Go' slogan?

AA: The lawyers must take a little respite and rest for the time being. The time for lawyers to stand up and start marching again will be the day Gen Musharraf decides to run for elections for a second term. He is not qualified to be a candidate in the next elections.

TNS: On a different note, are you in favour of PPP having a deal with president Musharraf?

AA: I am not in favour of anyone having  a deal and PPP is not going to have a deal with him.

TNS: Why was this impression of a deal allowed to be conveyed to PPP voters and workers all these months?

AA: Because there had been contacts between the government and the PPP and this was not denied. The scope and ambit of the discussion, to my understanding, has been the modalities of a free and fair elections.

TNS: And no power sharing with the military?

AA: No power sharing. That's a post election situation. The modalities of a free and fair election may actually exclude or remove the justification of Gen Musharraf continuing and presiding over the elections.

TNS: The vibes coming from PPP and Musharraf and Washington all point towards an arrangement that Musharraf must share power with a moderate force -- in this case Benazir -- to root out extremism?

AA: But Musharraf represents the army and there are elements in the military and particularly in the intelligence wings of the army which are fundamentalists to the core. After all the arsenal that the government showed on television to the media in Lal Masjid, claiming it to be Abdur Rashid Ghazi's, could not have entered Lal Masjid without collaboration with the intelligence and military authorities. And mind you this is in Islamabad which is a well-searched city. This establishes a connection between elements in intelligence establishment and the extremists.

TNS: Why did Benazir have to come out and speak in favour of Operation Lal Masjid?

AA: Because People's Party is against extremism. We are in favour of civil society and are against fundamentalist intolerance.

TNS: But the way the operation was carried out, was it the best way to go about it?

AA: That's another issue. My position is that there should be a judicial and a parliamentary inquiry into that. Then the facts will be known. Otherwise there will be destruction or fabrications of facts.

TNS: There have been many rumours about your own position within the party; that you're soon going to form your own party or you'll get a ticket from Nawaz League or head a National Government after Musharraf leaves the scene?

AA: As it is, I have submitted an application on the due form and with the requisite fee of Rs 30,000 for PPP ticket from NA 124 Lahore and I hope to get it.

TNS: No signs you won't get the ticket?

AA: I think I will because there is no other candidate who has applied for NA 124 except myself and being the incumbent MNA from that constituency I should be able to get it.

TNS: What about rumours that PPP participants of London APC threatened to boycott the conference if you were invited?

AA: I don't know why that was done. I was indeed asked to come as a delegate representing the chief justice's panel and I had declined saying that I would like to participate in my party's delegation but if I am not, it will be embarrassing both for me and my party. Before the party took a position apparently on my participation, I'd already politely declined the invitation.

TNS: So there is some tension, somewhere?

AA: Not on my side. I am relaxed about it.

TNS: People now question as to who is going to hold the Chief Justice of Pakistan accountable?

AA: It's now for the court to decide. The government has argued that it's the job of Supreme Judicial Council. I have argued that since he is an integral part of SJC, therefore the CJ's accountability is to be done by the full court of the Supreme Court. And there is a precedent in the case of Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. The CJP is not above accountability. I said that very clearly. It's a question of the forum. The constitution has a lacuna.


Truly classical

Two aspects were very commendable in the three day concert of classical music which was organised last week in Lahore. One that Alhamra had organised it with a promise that it will become an annual feature and two that a great number of younger classical vocalist/instrumentalists took part in it.

Nearly all the young musicians were from the families of musicians who have inherited this art. One saw the children of Amjad Amanat Ali, Asad Amanat Ali, Sharafat Ali, and Hamid Ali Khan occupy centrestage and sing bandishes in raag one has heard from their elders over the last forty odd years. Iman Ali, Shujaat Ali, Ejaz Ali, Nayab Ali, Ali Amjad did display plenty of enthusiasm, a necessary ingredient if they have to proceed any further in this arduous journey. The scions of both the families that have dominated classical music in Lahore, Patiala and Sham Chaurasi, it seems are getting involved in their family's inherited vocation. Though it might be a little premature to say so but at least they are now making an attempt to take up classical music seriously. It was feared after Hamid Ali Khan's sons formed a group that the families of musicians have finally said farewell to their traditional music switching to what is readily sold and consumed.

Most of the participants, actually nearly all, were vocalists. Sajjad Ali who is comparatively young was accompanying many on the tabla only. Akmal Qadri who rendered 'adana' in the festival played an instrument, bansuri. He is quite promising and needs more exposure to display his true abilities as a bansuri player.

The well known names in contemporary classical music were present in the festival like Ustad Ghulam Hasan Shaggan, Ustad Fateh Ali Khan Hyderabadi, Hamid Ali Khan, Mubarak Ali Khan, Sharafat Ali Khan, Shafqat Ali Khan, Badruzzaman Qamaruzzaman, Ghulam Haider, Habib Ali and Aqeel Manzoor. Ustad Fateh Ai Khan Patiala, his sons Sultan Ali Khan and Rustam Fateh Ali Khan were also invited but the last minute hospitalisation of Ustad Fateh Ali Khan in Islamabad forced a change in the programme.

Usually a very small number of raags are sung or played in concerts like malkauns, darbari, poorya dhanasari, poorya kalian, rageshree, bageshree, aimen etc or some ustad really wants to bring something out of his bag and play an achoob raag which nobody has heard before as Ustad Fateh Ali Khan Hyderabadi did so when he sang a version of kangra, probably chandar kangra. It was difficult to assess its true quality, only the command and control that Fateh Ali Khan has made it sound musically wholesome.

Ustad Ghulam Hasan Shaggan too is known for singing obscure raags and it is said that at the barsi of Alamgir Khan over a period of twenty years he never repeated a raag. Ustad Salamat Ali Khan also sang some raags which were of his own making and his sons and grandsons attempt to sing the same raags which acts as a powerful reminder of the creative abilities of the late ustad. Either raags which are commonly sung are rendered or some very obscure ones -- in the middle there are hundred of raags that have gone into the background because nobody sings them. It is time that the vast repertoire of raags be sung or played to counter the predictability that has set in classical music concerts.

The holding of such festivals does give the opportunity to the young to also display their talent. If nothing else it refreshes their desire to perform and be seen on stage. It does not put a dampener on their half desires, rather augments it and this is what is needed in today's culture where the few embers that are left smouldering should be stoked to create a spark and eventually a fire.

Such conferences though organised in the private sector had become a rarity at Alhamra. In the past live concerts were held by the Radio in their premises, and the All Pakistan Music Conference has continued with the tradition of holding live concerts. Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop has too started to organise festivals that include classical music. Some concerts were held in the early years of Alhamra and later a series of Young Musicians Festivals were organised which proved to be quite a success.

But of late not much musical activity has been witnessed at the Council. It should not be forgotten that one of the primary objectives of Alhamra was the promotion of music. This was being met with by holding music classes and making the institution a prestigious enough platform to become a preference for the performances of the most outstanding musicians of the day. The popular forms have the commercial viability to sustain them while the forms which are not popular but otherwise significant need support and patronage from institutions like the Alhamra.

The patronage of music by Alhamra has been a long and an inconsistent one. Very prominent ustads have been associated for the last fifty years -- the pioneer of Alhamra music classes was Feroze Nizami and Ustad Sharif Khan followed by Ustad Chote Ghulam Ali, who taught vocal music for years, while Muhammed Alam gave lessons on the sitar. Ustad Shaukat Hussain Khan and Tufail Narowali took charge of the tabla. Later Saleem Hussain took over the vocal classes and after his untimely death by Mubarak Ali and Zafar Iqbal. Now Abdur Rauf who is a shagird of Saleem Hussain is taking classes at the Alhamra and he with some of his students did perform in this festival.

The real worth of such festival rests on their regularity. If Alhamra is prepared to continue with such a festival on an annual basis then very positive results will follow but an occasional festival does not go beyond a headline to establish a tradition. It is the regularity that will be the litmus test of the success of this initiative and it is expected that Alhamra will not let down the musicians and cause of music by not being able to ensure this.

Flat in the fields
A recently published monograph on Ghulam Rasul aptly covers his life and art

By Quddus Mirza

Even though many artists do not seem too keen on books, yet books play an important part in promoting the visual arts. Especially in a country where art is not usually reproduced as posters and post cards or extensively displayed in the state galleries, books become an essential means to introduce works and their creators to a wider public.

In the last few years a substantial number of monographs have been published on Pakistani artists. Along with the series initiated by FOMMA, several other books on artists have been published which document the past and present of Pakistani art. The diversity one observes in art is witnessed in these volumes as well, which range from catalogue-like publications to in-depth analyses.

'Ghulam Rasul: Another Migration', is the latest in the line of these monographs. Published by 'Money', a fortnightly magazine, the book includes text by Muniza Agha-Fawad, pictures of the artist and a large number of his art works.

It is not the text, mainly confined to his biographical details, but Ghulam Rasul's works from different periods that delineate the progress of the painter. At places, the writer does provide a background to some paintings and discusses the reasons for the change in his style. However, if one surveys the works of the artist from his earliest phase -- from 1961 to the most recent, 2007 -- a certain pattern emerges in his images, technique and ideas.

This unifying element, which is evident in his content and form, is the focus on his environment. Whether these are people, plants, fields, houses and lanes, imagery for Rasul is a way of identifying with his surroundings. The author highlights this preference, and connects it to the painter's childhood -- his early years spent in a village environment and near the fields were instrumental as he conceived his later paintings in which buffalos occupy the landscape.

But the link with a rural past is not peculiar to Ghulam Rasul. A number of other painters also had identical experiences. In fact the association with village life has produced a sufficient number of landscape painters in our midst. However the case of Ghulam Rasul is different from most of his contemporaries.

It is not the love for his land or infatuation for the people and their chores, but the special way of rendering nature and visible reality that makes him distinct from numerous other landscape painters. Since the 1970s, Rasul has evolved a specific scheme -- to paint with flat areas of colours (something which is coined as 'Flat Art' by the author of this book). Intriguingly that manner of working did not continue, or developed into further simplification, but was later abandoned for a much detailed depiction of the landscape and scenes of small towns and villages.

Yet the flat art style, which became a signature for Ghulam Rasul, spanned almost a decade (its beginning can be traced to a canvas 'Buffalos in Green Fields' painted as early as 1966, but according to the book, it all started with his 'Ladder Series', the painting of Anarkali in 1974). The use of flat colours was not a method that was discovered by him, but it was a logical progress from the Punjab University's once favoured applications of warm and cool colours -- or splitting the composition into strong hues of orange, blue, green, yellow and red. Ghulam Rasul, developed this colour palette (much used by Anna Molka Ahmad) to its refined stage, and blended the aesthetic features from Miniature paintings in his art. So if his work, on the one hand, was a sophisticated interplay of warm and cool colours, at the same time it was a modern interpretation of miniature paintings, especially with its division of pictorial space.

His work from that period signifies how regional subjects can be converted into poetic and lyrical entities. Thus one finds a similarity between what was painted by him in Pakistan and in USA during his stay when he earned his masters degree, studied print making and carried out a research on Persian painter, Behzad. Basically it was his vision that transformed each view into an exciting image. Hence the landscape, houses, people and kettle were treated as part of the pattern that suggested a harmony, which one could experience in nature. Hence Rasul, in these works did not opt for imitation, but sought to convey a sensation similar to being in the nature, by a sensitive interplay of shades and shapes.

However, works from his later years do not reflect that sharpness of artistic vision. Although he tries to investigate difficult subjects and capture some painterly challenging elements from nature, such as wind, sun set and fluttering leaves, but the works appear rather conventional -- and not much different from the examples of landscape paintings, one often sees in the galleries here and there.

The works from 1970s and recent years indicate a certain contradiction. When he was working in flat colours, his canvases, although portraying pastoral themes, were not overtly 'regional', because these offered a pictorial delight apart from the local details. On the other hand, the latter canvases are focused on a prominent representation of vernacular subjects: mud walls, adobe houses, historical sites, drying clothes and different crops. This demonstrates that if an artist is engaged with issues --formal or conceptual -- on a profound level, he is not concerned with local representation.

'Ghulam Rasul: Another Migration' informs about his time spent as  Director of Visual Arts at PNCA, along with pictures of various exhibitions held during that period and after. There are some interesting anecdotes from the life of the painter who comes across as a dedicated and down to earth person. One of these anecdotes relates to his student life at the Punjab University. In 1963 Ghulam Rasul was studying fine arts with another artist Zulqarnain Haider. In order to decide the question as to who was the better painter of the two, Professor Khalid Iqbal suggested a wrestling match, the result of which could settle the matter. Although the match was held, and there was no outcome -- since it ended in a tie -- this anecdote is valuable. Because it offers a useful, logical and practical way to settle such issues in our art world even today.


Harry Potter hysteria

Dear all,

Harry Potter hysteria time came round again after two years with first the release of a new movie and then the publication of the latest and final book in the boy wizard series. This is the time when the media is full of hype about the new releases, and much is made of the hundreds of fans who will be queuing up to see/read the new Potter product.

Over the years I have tried to calm down this hysteria as it rises within our home. My eldest child is a fan, in fact, I think the Harry Potter books transformed her into the avid reader she now is. Two years ago when her peer and cousin Sahar was visiting from Canada, the two tried to convince me to take them to buy the new book at midnight. Of course I refused and told them not to be so silly but just wait till the next day.

The poor girls were in an agony of torment and expectation. The first bookshop we walked into had them rushing over and grabbing a hardback copy each. The price was pretty steep so I suggested we check out the price in a nearby supermarket. The brain washed girls were afraid to let go of the books ("What if there are none left when we get back?"). I told them to calm down. We went to the supermarket and bought the book at almost half price.

This time round my child didn't bother to try and convince me, but shrewdly focused on my spouse. Spouse does not exactly spoil the children, but he is certainly not as strict as me, and somehow agreed to take her shopping after midnight this time. The girl then stayed up all night reading the book and wandered around looking rather gloomy the next day. It was nice for her to get the book the same night, but I try to discourage them from being so affected by publicity which tries to whip them into a hysterical frenzy, which results in their throwing tantrums and emotionally blackmailing parents!

It is the same sort of thing with the films. Both children try to tell me that the films must be viewed on the very first day. Rubbish, I respond, they can also be seen later. "But everyone will have seen them," they say, "they will all be talking about the film, we will be the only ones not to have seen the film." More pressure on parents.

Is it peer pressure or marketing or just a case of brats and overindulgent parents? I suppose it is a combination of all of these, but I really think parents should take a bit of a stand and calm their children down and instill a bit of common sense in them. Rushing to do or buy something just because everybody else is, means you are simply being manipulated into the rat race and being used by people who want to make money off you, and have you believe that you are what you buy, and when you buy.

Let's not let ourselves be so manipulated...


Best Wishes

Umber Khairi



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