35 million adults -- most of them young adults and women -- are feared to
lose their right to vote if they are not enrolled before the general
week, the Election Commission of Pakistan displayed the newly prepared draft
electoral rolls at the display centres across the country. For the first
time, the commission has prepared voters' lists by door-to-door enumeration
instead of updating the previous rolls, which was a standard practice
alone, there is a reduction of 4.5 million voters as compared to previous
general elections in 2002. In Lahore, 2.2 million voters have been struck off
in the draft rolls.
census projections are to be believed there are more than 88 million adults
above the age of 18 in the country whereas the election commission has
registered nearly 53 million voters in its new electoral rolls.
in contrast to nearly 71 million registered voters in the previous rolls in
2002 when the adult population was 77 million -- thus representing over 90
per cent of the adult population was registered as voters, something
unbelievable for those who keep a watch on the electoral process.
to Secretary Election Commission Kanwar Muhammad Dilshad, a computerised
system, based on the state-of-the-art technology was implemented to manage
the country-wide electoral rolls. Globally respected International Foundation
for Election Systems (IFES), working on behalf of USAID, assisted the
Election Commission in this project. Sources say foreign donors, from the
United States and the European Union, gave more than one billion rupees to
the commission to complete this task.
after the schedule for house count and preparation of electoral lists was
announced complaints of manipulation had started pouring in from different
parts of the country. The opposition and civil society organisations are
pointing fingers at the draft rolls doubting their accuracy.
Bari, director Free and Fair Election Network, a conglomerate of civil
society organisations that keeps watch on the electoral process, says initial
surveys show more than 20 per cent of the registration forms distributed by
the election commission were not returned to it, and the lists that have been
prepared have nearly half a million wrong entries because the commission did
not clean and scrutinise the application forms before the enrollment.
major flaw of the draft rolls seems to be a huge gap between the male and
female registration numbers. Bari says the number of registered women is less
than that of males by 11.1 million whereas population statistics put the
gender gap at no more than 3.36 million.
circumstances, Sarwar Bari says, there was no justification for preparing
fresh lists. Instead of preparing fresh list the previous voters' list should
have been updated and computerised as the law requires.
to the relevant laws governing the electoral rolls, the Election Commission
was supposed to update the voters list every year. He said that at present
two voters' lists were available. One was prepared in 2001 for local
government elections and the other for the 2002 general elections.
Imdad, sociologist and a consultant on the electoral rolls working for an NGO
South Asia Partnership, agrees that previous lists should have been updated
but in true sense of the word. She says that neither previous lists nor new
draft rolls are accurate. She says both the lists seem to have bogus entries.
She says in the past new entries were made in the voters' lists but the names
of the dead and migrated were not taken off.
to the PPP Sindh President Qaim Ali Shah, in Karachi's district west, voters
belonging to other areas were included in the constituencies that are
traditionally dominated by the PPP supporters. It is alleged that several
other areas and houses have been deliberately left out from the count. Apart
from Karachi similar complaints were received from Larkana, Mirpur Khas,
Nawab Shah, Khairpur, Ghotki, Sanghar, Kashmore and Hyderabad.
registration process in Sindh was also adversely affected by the untimely
action of the provincial education department to ban teachers' associations.
The decision was taken when the work had just started. The teachers'
associations boycotted electoral duties and some political groups got the
opportunity to get the registration work done by their sympathisers employed
in other government departments.
Khuro, the opposition leader in Sindh Assembly, says that in the draft lists
the number of registered voters in Sindh is less by 4.5 million as compared
to the previous lists. He says the number of registered voters has risen in
urban areas whereas in rural Sindh the number of registered voters has
to National Data and Registration Authoirty, NADRA, it has issued identity
cards to more than 60 million adults all over the country. From this
perspective, too, almost seven million adults with ID cards could not get
enrolled in voters' lists.
Election Commissioner in Sindh says that the registered voters have declined
because duplication of votes have been fixed and that some people could not
get registered for not having national identity cards, a mandatory condition
for registration. It may be noted that almost one-third of the people in
remote areas of the province do not possess computerised identity cards.
leader Nisar Khuro asks if these are the only reasons behind a reduction in
the number of registered voters, why this has happened only in rural areas
and not in cities.
election commission says that these lists are provisional and have been
displayed precisely for seeking public feedback and fixing errors and missing
entries. Civil society representative Sarwar Bari, however, says in the
initial days there is lack of public interest at display centres because the
commission did not launch awareness campaign the way it should have done.
the non-availability of identity cards is said to be a major reason behind
the non-registration, and this issue cannot be resolved before the general
elections because NADRA, the cards' issuing authority, has a capacity of
issuing only 64,000 cards a month. Thus, in next six months it cannot issue
more than 400,000 cards much less than what is required.
moment it seems the draft electoral lists have further compounded the issue
of accurate voters' register instead of resolving it. The election commission
has not also positively responded to the demands of the political parties and
the civil society that they should be provided the draft voters lists. In
India, the commission provides CDs of electoral rolls to political parties
for their scrutiny.
situation, one possible solution could be that the Election Commission
accepts multiple identities, such as electricity bill, telephone bill,
driving licence, property documents etc, to get new voters listed as is the
practice in many other countries in the world. Although poor sections of the
population may still find it hard to produce any verifiable official
identity, it may increase the area of population covered and reduce the
number of people feared to be left out of voting process.
Hussain alias Tafu Khan gave a sterling display of his virtuosity as a tabla
player at the Alhamra last week.
Khan is primarily a soloist and plays the tabla as if the instrument was only
meant to be played solo. By using all the ten fingers he has expanded the
range of the tabla sounds and has dared to encroach on areas of sound which
otherwise do not fall strictly under the vocabulary that tradition has
endowed tabla with.
long association with film music may be one of the reasons for stretching the
sound of the tabla to make it more consonant with a situation. If tabla is
not necessarily to be played as an accompanying instrument, but as solo, it
can break the shackles that tradition has bound it in to express itself like
any other instrument.
tradition the rhythmic instruments were primarily meant to accompany
instruments. The most important place was given to a vocalist who needed the
tabla accompaniment and even when other instruments which played the melodic
line started to become more independent and asserted their significance by
being played solo, the tabla, pakhawaj, mirdang and naqqara were primarily
seen as accompanying instruments not meant to be played exclusively solo.
difficult to say when the instrumental music became as important as to be
played solo. The evidence of the last 100 years demonstrates that most of the
instruments like the sitar, shahnai, sarod, santoor, clarinet and violin can
trace their ascendance from being either accompaniments or as minor
instruments to dominating the world of classical music. According to some
musicologist this was primarily due to the colonial influence because
following western music where instrumental music played a dominant role, the
instruments here too started being played solo. The instrumental music also
liberated the sur from the word. The understanding of the bols and the
strangeness of a foreign language could also be avoided.
the basic instrument of rhythm has been an organic part of our music but not
many tabla players have either been written about or eulogised. Their
contributions likewise have not really been recorded. In any case, since
music had more to do with listening, not enough attention was paid to its
documentation, the living tradition was considered sufficient and a reason
unto itself. While the living tradition has travelled down to us, the
documented forms and the analyses have lagged far behind.
It is a
considered assumption that the evolution of the Punjab baaj owes a lot to the
method in which pakhawaj was played. To some the basic peculiarity of the
Punjab baaj is the direct consequence of its organic relationship with the
pakhawaj. Most of the famous tabla players of the Punjab take pride in
establishing some kind of link with Mian Qadir Buksh Pakhawaji. Bhai Naseera
from a Rababi family too was a shagird of the family of Qadir Buksh. Bhai
Santo Pakhawaji from the Rababi clan was the shagird of the Bhai Bagh, who
was related to Qadir Buksh. Ustad Allah Rakha and Ustad Shaukat Hussain were
also shagirds of the famous Ustad. Tafu's father Faqir Buksh Doomagaliwale
was the shagird of Mian Qadir Buksh. Tafu initially learnt the art of playing
the tabla from his father and in the 1960s formally became the shagird of
Mian Qadir Buksh.
became an object of interest and then fascination with the popularity of the
duo of Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Allah Rakha. As they became popular and
more than curiosities in the West, the emphasis gradually shifted from tabla
merely being an accompanying instrument to that which had a greater role
within the equation. It became a norm that Ustad Allah Rakha created, within
the rhythmic span, many variations which were at one time seen only as the
preserve of a soloist. Gradually it so happened that he was also allowed time
to display his virtuosity while Ravi Shankar merely provided the
accompaniment on the sitar.
Ustad Shaukat Hussain, the art of accompaniment and the virtuosity of a
soloist involved different approaches. He resisted any attempt at mixing the
two. It has been seen that many soloists become oblivious to the restraint
and consistency essential for accompaniment and badly jumble up these two
different approaches. As an accompanist Shaukat Hussain had few peers and
while he performed as a soloist, he kept within the discipline which
regulates the expansion of a taal. He was well aware that the potential of
the tabla was immense but it should be not violate the essential rules that
have been laid down. The scope of improvisation lay within these methodical
understanding and restraint served him well as one has seen the potential of
the tabla been exploited to the extent where it only becomes an instrument
for creating sound effects. When the discipline is disregarded the end result
is not always innovation or experimentation but gimmickry.
vocabulary of the tabla bols, the complicated gats, parans and relas testify
to the fact that tabla had crafted a place for itself other than being an
accompanying instrument and had some kind of an independent stature. Tafu's
association with the films and his ability to play a number of instruments
like the dholak, naal, Spanish Guitar, keyboard, and harmonium has enhanced
his understanding of the tabla sound and he probably uses it now as part of
some orchestral scheme. As one of the most successful film composers he has
an acute sense of sound's dramatic impact.
this is his contribution to the art of tabla playing. It is no longer limited
to being an accompanying instrument but one which has the capacity to be
played solo for its sound effect and pure dramatic impact. Perhaps he can
take it a step ahead by making all these sounds part of the strict scheme of
tabla vocabulary while being played as an accompanying instrument so that it
does not appear to be obtrusive.
Two years ago the northern
part of Pakistan was hit by the worst earthquake in the history of the region
disrupting the lives of everyone in that area. The calamity had a deep effect
on the consciousness of our public. Playing their role the artists also
donated their works for exhibitions and auctions held to generate funds.
The recent carnage in
Karachi, too, has not only stained the city, but has also had a deep impact
on the general public. Citizens from various sections of society have
denounced the barbaric act.
Visual artists also feel
the same way, but in addition to words, they have a special means to reflect
their emotions: their art. One is not aware if an artist of considerable
merit has worked on the theme of earthquake; or more appropriately if the
earthquake has had affected the way art is practised. Yet one cannot expect
our visual artists to take this theme as a subject and start producing works
based on the theme. It will lead to a superficial and literal approach, not
much different from other efforts that have created works based on some
The killing in Karachi may
well pass unnoticed in the history of our art. Majority of artists are busy
in producing their usual stuff in which there is no space for such kind of
diversions -- as you can not ask or expect from a painter to take this event
and through the magic of art making transform it into a personal vision. They
are not eager to do this, nor are collectors prepared for that kind of
So there arise several
questions: which artists would concentrate on the carnage of Karachi and what
type of visual language may be devised and used for expressing their
responses, and how necessary is it after all? Probably in comparison to the
carnage, the quake was an easy issue to respond to, because apart from the
amount of affectees, what happened was caused by the force of nature, so
reacting to that was humane and an apolitical act.
On the other hand, response
to the Karachi carnage is a different matter and a difficult task since what
took place was the result of human intervention. So despite feeling strongly
against it, one has to be careful about the way one reacts -- without
annoying the house of power.
In this situation artists
may have a role to recognise: That of retaining the collective and unpleasant
memory of the society, by responding to it through their art practices. But
there are a couple of ways to react. One is the usual method of 'political'
art, in which the visuals from media are drawn or painted to portray the
anger and anguish of the artists. This technique, often employed by our
artists has transformed into a means of domesticating the difficult subject.
Usually the temptation of taking the political theme turns into a taming
tactic, in which the painful imagery is presented (unintentionally) in a
beautiful manner on painterly surfaces.
The other reaction is to
become oblivious to the event: one feels above such temporary happenings, and
the human calamities do not attract a painter who's more interested in the
issues of aesthetics. The artist is aware that since art is beyond ephemeral
matters, so it does not attract the maker of images. The prime example of
this attitude was observed in the comments of Shakir Ali. When asked about
the choice of his subject matter during the war in September1965, he declared
that he paints flowers, which grow on both sides of the border and moon that
shines on both nations.
That comment, a critique of
nationalist fervour and patriotic pretensions, also reflects the artist's
aloofness and distance from his society. If on one hand it rejects the
illustrative inclination, it also divorces the real and immediate issues from
the sacred temple of art. Probably the matter of time (also important in
literature) does not hold any importance for visual artists. Because, with
the passage of time, everything that happened in the past is forgotten in our
visual arts (unless it is attempted in laboriously illustrative paintings,
engineered to decorate government houses and offices).
Therefore, it seems that
our visual artists are not keen to take up themes which are significant in
the history of our country. But it does not mean that they are insensitive or
selfish beings, busy in churning beautiful art works. Probably we are still
trying to find a visual vocabulary to deal with issues of that kind.
Something, which is not sentimental, nor illustrative, or decorative, but is
a way of amalgamating what happens outside with the inner self of the
creative person, in a seamless scheme.
So unless this mode of
expression is made, found or developed, the incidents in our surroundings
will pass unnoticed in our visual arts. But probably the carnage in Karachi
is a blessing in disguise and may help in extracting some form of creative
response from our visual artists. Something that has never happened before --
like a lot of other things which are taking place for the first time in our
century Britain is now highly eco conscious. We are all 'going green' here,
as terminology like sustainable, recyclable and 'carbon footprint' is
becoming quite mainstream.
awareness of a 'carbon footprint' i.e the way something impacts on the earth
in terms of carbon dioxide emissions is something that is growing. There is
now a debate on whether or not taking cheap airline flights and embarking on
long distance travel is something that can be undertaken in good conscience.
Of course people haven't stopped taking long distance holidays but now they
have some sort of awareness of the fact that their choices will have an
impact on the globe, and the future of their environment as well.
to say, the media has finally managed to humanise the issue after years of
rather dry technical coverage of these issues. The BBC news programme 'Newsnight'
for example got one of their reporters to try living an 'ethical man'
existence for a whole year. The reporter Justin Rowlatt sold off the family
car and generally subjected his wife and children to green and energy
efficient way of life. His reports were terrifically entertaining but pretty
enlightening as well, and it wasn't a case of just preaching to the
converted, my 13-year old developed a great interest in the ethical man
reports because they were so funny!
most progressive and opinionated daily 'The Guardian' has made environmental
issues a top priority as well. But what I love about their approach is that,
they don't just address issues of emissions and energy, they link the
inefficiencies in these areas to the way we live and our attitudes.
Consumerism is discouraged, recycling is encouraged. In a recent special
supplement they published, I found out about such useful websites as
Freecycle where people post items they do not need but might not want to
discard as they might be of use to somebody else. You post the item, the
interested person emails you to say they are interested, then if you want to
get rid of the item, the person will come and collect.
supplement also suggested 'swap parties' which are not, of course anything to
do with swinging or spouse swapping, but are get-togethers in which everybody
brings along a few items for which they no longer have any use (clothes,
shoes, board games, toys, music, whatever), and trade these in for any items
they find of their own interest. I particularly liked this approach because
it curbs the extent to which we become diseased by the consumer motive and
subjected to a compulsive desire to spend money and acquire new things. It is
particularly helpful to kabarri types like me who can't bear to throw away
anything, and store it away "in case it can be useful some day".
might not like it very much when I hear that the local authorities might have
less frequent rubbish collections to discourage us from generating so much
waste, but I understand the rationale. We are now expected to sort our
rubbish: recyclable into recycling, food waste into the compost heap etc.
etc. Wastefulness is discouraged, thoughtfulness is encouraged. The whole
notion of 'new is better' and 'buy buy buy' is devalued, and the simple
message is "act responsibly, your future is on the line". I may
grumble about the totalitarianism, but truly I appreciate the idea of
collective good. It is the same thinking that has resulted in the law that
now public places will be smoke free from first July: no more smoking in
restaurants and pubs. Hurrah! Three cheers for that.
virtuous 'green' tone has caused no offence.