The fate of Kidney Hill Park battle shall go a long way in defining the dynamics of power relation between different sectors of the society
By Zeenia Shaukat
Karachi has always been a city the expansion of which knew no boundaries. Amid its north, east and westbound expansion, space is turning out to be a major issue. It is fast joining the league of cities with the most expensive real estate. While Karachiites would strongly argue that the civic amenities and the infrastructure does not justify at all the skyrocketing prices of the real estate, the fact remains that the artificial boom in property market has made every inch of the space in Karachi more precious than the value of life.
This is one reason why disputes over property -- public or private -- make up the bulk of court cases and have the tendency to go on for generations. Kidney Hill Park, is one such case. The case is unique in many ways. Firstly, it involves many high-profile parties including the Federal Government, the Government of Sindh, the City District Government of Karachi, Shehri Organisation, and a host of citizens and now the representatives of MQM's rival political party, the MMA.
The case claims public attention at a time when the residents of the city are actually feeling the punch of the collateral damage that is the result of the mad development taking place all around them. Finally, the sheer size of the property and the stakes involved stand to define the rules of engagement between various sectors of the society.
Kidney Hill Park is a 62 acre area of land located between Karachi's prime areas -- Shaheed-e-Millat Road and Karsaz Roads. Thanks to land encroachments it is now reduced to 55 acres. According to the details provided by Shehri, Kidney Hill was notified under Article 45 of KDA Order 1957 as Scheme 32, 'Falaknuma'. The entire 62 acres -- shown as amenity in the layout plan of the Karachi Cooperative Housing Society -- was to be developed as a recreational facility. This included a water reservoir spread across an area of 18 acres for the surrounding KCHS.
In 1979, this land was acquired by Overseas Cooperative Housing Society (OCHS), and Al Riaz Cooperative Housing Society with the blessings of the Federal Ministry of Works. A spate of public hue and cry led General Zia-ul-Haq to issue a directive in 1982. The land was then handed over to KMC for development as a park. In the year 1990, OCHS challenged the cancellation of its allotment, by filing filed CP No. 1314/2990 against the KDA, GoS, MoW and KMC. The plot was then given into the custody of the Nazir.
Nine years later, the NGO Shehri, and thirteen residents applied to become Interveners in the case. As their application was granted, the OCHS filed an appeal in the Supreme Court. In June 2006 the case took a unique turn when, OCHS, KCHSU, GoP/MoW, GoS, City District Government Karachi (CDGK) signed an 'Agreement of Settlement' dividing up Kidney Hill with approximately 66 per cent for residential plots & in-between roads, leaving 21 acres for the purpose of a park. Following the agreement, the Sindh High Court disposed off CP 1314/1990. However, it did allow Shehri and other aggrieved residents of the area to file fresh petition. Shehri and thirteen area residents responded by filing CP 160/2007 before the controversy took a shape that brought it out of the legal boundaries and right in the middle of public and media glare.
Soon after filing of the fresh petition in February 2006, the thirteen co-petitioners with Shehri sought to withdraw their case while refusing to elaborate a reason. While their application was granted, Shehri found itself the only party left to battle the case. A week later, the members of Shehri Organisation complained of receiving intimidating threats, demanding them to withdraw the petition. However, once public interest litigation is filed in the court, it cannot be withdrawn. So while Shehri found itself unable to withdraw the petition, its key member Amber Alibhai who was at the forefront of the campaign, decided to take a backseat owing to threats she has been receiving involving her family.
The bone, or rather bones, of contention that now lie between the two sides include the legality of the settlement between the Sindh Government and other parties, the position of the KDA and the threats that Shehri alleges its members have been receiving. The fate of this case also will also go a long way in defining the dynamics of power relation between different sectors of the society.
The settlement is a contentious issue. While the CDGK and the Sindh Government are clear about the legality and the validity of the settlement, the lawyers representing Shehri contest its position. Rizwana Ismail at Barrister Gilbert Naim-ur-Rahman, while talking to TNS, maintains that the settlement is illegal. "Our contention is that that the government cannot enter into a settlement agreement. The Agreement is void under Section 23 of the Contract Act 1872. It is contrary to the Master Plan of the area, lease conditions and contrary to the applicable laws that no amenity plot can be converted for any other purpose and hence the Agreement of Settlement is barred."
The matter now lies in the High Court, but the tussle is out for all to see, with all the stakeholders employing all means available to them to further their case. While five other parties have applied to co-petitioner in with Shehri in Kidney Hill Petition (CP 160/2007), the Sindh Government and the City District Government of Karachi is sure of its position with regard to the case. A court order issued on March 15, 2007 modifies the ad interim order that had earlier forbidden the undertaking of any development work on the premises. The modified interim order allows the CDGK to undertake development work "to the extent of the area handed over to the CDGK".
For the Sindh Government, the stakes are high. The massive development drive that the Sindh Government and the CDGK have embarked on in Karachi, makes land dispute an unaffordable proposition. Therefore, an agreement between different stakeholders sounds a viable option as it at least settles the matter. Anwar Mansoor, representing the Sindh Government in the High Court insists that the settlement was legal and correct. "We would stand by the agreement. This property originally belonged to the Federal Government, and they had the right to give it to anybody. It was allotted for a housing scheme. Despite the fact that it was a private property, and did not belong to the Sindh Government, the Sindh Government, through this agreement, managed to acquire a peace of land to develop a park," maintains Mansoor, while talking to TNS and insisting that the KDA had no authority over the property in the first place.
The City Government feels its stake in the park does not extend beyond its aim to beautify the city. "Our main concern is the development of the park," says one of the representatives of the CDGK who does not wish to be named. "Whether the land available for the park is 20 acres or more, we don't care. If the court orders, and if the government wants to convert the whole area into a park, we don't mind that. Our aim is just to develop a park as a part of our beautification plan for Karachi."
The issue is now crossing the legal boundaries and entering into a political terrain. With the entry of Al-Khidmat Group in the fray, the decades old rivalry between the MQM and the religious party may take the dispute to a new level. Just recently, the Al-Khidmat Group, led by the Former City Nazim of Karachi, filed a petition with the Sindh High Court (SHC) against the sale of Kidney Hill land praying to the court to take immediate action to stop the misuse of land allocated for a park.
On his part, Barrister Naeem-ur-Rehman, representing Shehri sees the latest development as a positive step. "If the issue is politicised, I will be glad. This shall actually neutralise the threat against us. They (the opposite party) are now using strong arm tactics (against our clients). Remember, law prevails when forces are equally matched. If you want to compromise with a crocodile, you would have to be a crocodile yourself."
Rizwana Ismail asserts that more than anything else, it's a matter of money. "There is an amount of around Rs. 130 billion involved here. If they are going to be constructing a housing society there, with 200 Sq feet and 500 sq feet plots, with each plot selling for 4-5 crores, you can do the calculation yourself."
On its part, Shehri has no intention of backing out. "We would continue. It would be stupid of them to extend threats to us given that the public interest litigation cannot be withdrawn," says Roland De Souza of Shehri adding that the now is the time for the citizens to stand up to save the open spaces of the city. "The mafia can issue threats to 10 people, but not to 15 million people."
The allegation of violent threats against Shehri's member may end up turning this case into becoming yet another reason why the common man should stay away from taking up public interest litigations. According to reports, FIR has been lodged and an inquiry is being carried out on the allegations of threats to Amber Alibhai of Shehri. However, Alibhai's withdrawal from the case shows that women continue to find themselves at a disadvantaged position when it comes to such high-profile cases.
Cooperative or not
The stakeholders have also extended their case to the media too. While Mr Ardeshir Cowasjee has regularly been writing on the issue in his weekly column in Dawn, one Captain Aijaz Haroon, Hon. Secretary, Overseas Coop Housing Society, Karachi too has stated in a letter addressed to the same newspaper (dated March 3, 2007) asserting that Kidney Hill "lies in an area commonly known as the Karachi Cooperative Housing Society Union Area. The letter also claims that the owner of the land is the federal and not the provincial government. The letter declares the 1966 notification issued by the defunct KDA as only "a notice and not an approval of a scheme."
"In 1973, KCHSU allotted this land to one of its members, the Overseas Cooperative Housing Society. OCHS paid the premium of Rs100,000 to the federal government and submitted a layout plan, which was duly approved by the ministry of works, Islamabad, and sub-licence between KCHSU and OCHS was registered in 1979. Subsequently, OCHS allotted plots to its individual members and handed over possession to them."
Shehri's lawyers vehemently dispute the claim. "Under Article 45 of KDA, once a notification is issued, it becomes a legal document. The Kidney Hill area comprising 62 acres has been notified by virtue of Gazette Notification d/t 7.11.66 published in the Gazette of West Pakistan. The scheme was named Scheme 32 Falaknuma. There is also a transfer document that transfer order that notifies the transfer of the property from the government of Pakistan to the KMC. In this regard on 4.2.84 the Kidney Hill area (62 acres) was handed over to the defunct KMC for development of Park and Water supply reservation. The same is now in the possession of the Nazir of High Court due to the litigation."
-- Z Shaukat
The new National Gallery in Islamabad is bound to bring changes in the way we understand, create and display art
By Quddus Mirza
'The world changed after 9/11' may sound like a cliche. But a new national art gallery may have a similar impact on Pakistani art. Though in contrast to 9/11's destructive dimension, it is likely to play a positive role in our cultural lives.
After the long wait of a decade and half, the new building of National Art Gallery in Islamabad will soon be be open for public with a number of exhibitions, curated by different professionals. Some of these shows deal with the history of Pakistani art, while other are related to various techniques, mediums, genres and trends in our art. These include exhibitions about individual artists, surveys of art teachers' works, documentation of history and other group shows conceived on diverse themes. On the whole, the inaugural show, divided into separate exhibitions, will present a comprehensive view of art of this time and place.
The huge space of the National Art Gallery overwhelms the visitor, excites the curator and welcomes the artist. Besides the nature, scope and success of planned exhibitions, the scale, dimension and possibility of this space will have a tremendous effect on the future of our art, as it is bound to bring changes in the way we understand, create and display art objects. The availability of such a large space for art in the capital of their own country will be a challenging task for the organisers of the gallery, curators and artists.
It is envisioned that once functional, the new gallery will transform the art of this country. One can sense a change that is round the corner -- a move similar to people leaving their humble abodes to occupy big and posh houses. They try to act different, rich, sophisticated and content. Or maybe they actually feel so.
There are strong indications that an identical process will begin after the activity of art is going to be centred in the new building of National Art Gallery. By its look, design and function, it requires art of a different kind, not usually seen in our midst. We are used to preparing works of art -- paintings and sculptures -- suited for smaller spaces. This has conditioned the quality and nature of our works of art that are usually conceived with a commercial utility and therefore produced in smaller sizes. Due to the taste and spatial requirements of the collectors, artists have been occupied with subjects that can suit the wall of drawing rooms. Thus we see our private galleries, artists' studios and public collections crowded with works that can be classified as 'easy items'.
Actually the term 'easy' is used for art that deviates from its primal and pivotal purpose. Art, by its nature is a means to redefine, recreate -- and sometimes reject -- the existing notions of beauty, aesthetics and value. It indicates new ideas, innovative practices and fresh possibilities, and in that sense, all art in its essence is avant-garde. So if the art -- actually the artists, continue the old order, it is unable to lead the society, and serve as mere entertainment.
For years the art scene in our country has been is about recreating and refurbishing the tried out imagery and acceptable themes. It is only with the construction of National Art Gallery, that the art may enjoy a sense of newness in our midst. The physical space will require the artists to alter their old approach and to start fabricating art of the museum. Art of museum can be understood as a work made for a public audience, without being restricted to the taste of private collectors or shaped in accordance with the dimension of a house.
In comparison to other kinds, the works for museum are distinct in technique, approach and subject matter. The vast spaces of the gallery and the possibility of showing a work along with other pieces made by several artists compel the artist to modify his/her way of thinking. So there can be an increase in the large scale paintings, installations and video works in our art. Similarly the availability of various galleries in one building may lead to the habit of accepting diverse and often conflicting views and opinions in art, since it is not practical that only one type of art (or works from a particular school of thought) is displayed in the entire space. So the Chinese dictum "Let the hundred flowers Bloom" can be revived and experienced in the corridors of National Art Gallery.
All of this is possible only if the building is exclusively utilised for visual arts, and not turned into a centre of creative arts. It is often observed that a project devoted to a particular art practice usually ends up being wasted because people connected to different fields of art and culture wish to use the space for multiple functions. This defeats the initial purpose; of concentrating on one area of art and taking to a level of excellence. An example of this is the Alhamra Art Centre in Lahore where the lack of focus has led to events such as political gatherings of unknown parties, prize distributions of primary schools, inauguration ceremonies of obscure publications, along with a display of diaries, calendars and kites as well as book fairs and cloth sales.
One hopes that such banal activities will not be repeated at the National Art Gallery in Islamabad, primarily because the gallery is designed and constructed for visual arts only. It is a long-awaited gift from the state to the visual artists of the country, something they rightfully deserve after sixty years!
(National Art Gallery, Islamabad will be inaugurated on March 26, 2007)
Here, there and everywhere
"The Arab slave trade refers to the practice of slavery in West Asia, North Africa and East Africa. The trade mostly involved East Africans and Middle Eastern peoples (Arabs, Berbers, Persians, etc.), while others such as Indians played a relatively minor role in comparison. Also, the Arab slave trade was not limited to people of a certain colour, ethnicity, or religion. In the early days of the Islamic state --during the 8th and 9th centuries -- most of the slaves were Slavic Eastern Europeans, people from surrounding Mediterranean areas, Persians, Turks, other neighbouring Middle Eastern peoples, and peoples from the Caucasus Mountain regions (such as Georgia and Armenia) and parts of Central Asia, and various other peoples of often predominantly Caucasoid origins. Later, toward the 18th and 19th centuries, slaves were increasingly mainly coming from East Africa."
-- Source Wikipedia
The drama festival held at Government College University was unique in the sense that it included theatre societies of three colleges from India
By Sarwat Ali
The Pakistan India Inter Collegiate Drama Festival held by the Government College University Dramatic Club recently at the Bokhari Auditorium was special because theatre societies of three colleges from India also took part.
One does not remember that in the last few decades any theatre group from a college had visited or staged plays in Pakistan, or any college group from Pakistan has mounted productions in India. Many groups, though, from across the border have performed in Pakistan and many Pakistani groups have performed in India in the last fifteen years or so, mostly on invitation from the festivals that are held here and there. The visits of college groups still remains a rarity.
The three colleges that took part in the Pakistan India Inter Collegiate Drama Festival, 2007 were from Lady Shri Ram College Delhi University, Kamla Nehru College Delhi University and Hans Raj College, Delhi University and the plays performed were Toba Tek Singh by Kamla Nehru College while Rans Raj College mounted the production of Macbeth. The play staged by Lady Shri Ram College, Eight written by Kriti Gupta, Tanvi Srivastav and Shilpi Gulati seemed to be based on the script developed by them.
There is always a great deal of interest in Pakistan as to what happens in India and in India too, especially in northern India, there is much curiosity as to what takes place in Pakistan. Probably since both were one country, it provides an opportunity to assess the growth, development or progress in comparative terms. Before 1947 the intercollegiate festivals or such competitions must have been routine affairs, especially in the northern part of India with the two cities Delhi and Lahore becoming the focus of general attention.
In the last few years what has been happening in India has become far more accessible to Pakistani audience because of government's policies and the technical breakthrough which has enlarged the scope particularly of the media. In the 1960s and 70s many Pakistanis travelled to Kabul just to see Indian films and on their visits to England made it a point to see an Indian films exhibited in London. All this changed with the commissioning of Amritsar television and the cheap availability of the video, and later with the phenomenal growth of satellite channels, but still there is much more that does not get covered by these channels. The activities in universities, both academic and extra curricular, are still largely unknown in Pakistan and the visit of the drama groups from the three colleges is thus the beginning of a healthy trend.
As it happens the groups that travel are constrained to carry minimal baggage. All three productions were without any sets and whatever little figured on stage had more suggestive implications than physical ones. This constraint can also result in greater innovation and more imaginative manner of production. The play Macbeth stood out as the better of the three productions primarily because being a classic it did not have to face the challenge of the other two productions -- of dramatic adaptation and original script.
It is always very difficult to dramatically adapt a short story least of all Manto despite the great inherent drama in his writings. Manto has yearned for a suitable adaptation on stage. The play Toba Tek Singh was staged in English and the emphasis shifted to song and dance. It was a kind of a dance drama adaptation that did bring forward the spirit of inscrutability of the whole situation that the short story created rather than muzzle it with verbosity.
Eight seemed to be an effort by a beginner -- the script was more statemental -- evolving round the problems which women face particularly in terms of abuse. The play did not involve a dramatic buildup but was more in the manner of narration where various incidents of abuse were recounted.
The theatre groups that took part from Pakistan were from Punjab University Lahore, Lahore College for Women University Lahore, University of Engineering and Technology Lahore, Government College University, Lahore, Fatima Jinnah Women University Rawalpindi, Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute Topi, Indus Valley School of Arts and Design Karachi, Balochistan University of Information Technology Quetta and National College of Arts Lahore.
Most of the play by these groups had been staged before and nearly all suffered from being too abstract with airy fairy mouthing of ideas without actually locating them and giving them a local habitation and a name. It may be a great idea to write an original play but it has to be treated with care. It is perhaps not such a bad idea to learn the craft by mounting the productions of well known and recognised plays.
Now many more plays are staged and there are many more opportunities to perform. Most of the schools and colleges have theatre societies and youth theatre festivals are held by Alhamra and Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop. This frequency should lend to review and self-criticism.
The Government College University Dramatic Club was able to hold this festival with the collaboration of the Pakistan National Council of the Arts. This collaborative effort between a very reputable institution and the apex cultural body hopefully will continue and more such exchanges of student plays will be facilitated in future. Other related activity like holding of workshops and seminar lectures can help in a greater understanding of theatre and its current practices in both India and Pakistan.
Remembering Naheed Saleem, a committed painter and a great human being (1957-2002)
The interests of an artist are manifold. Yet, the love of nature that he once can still is still present and it is for this that he seeks the companionship of hills and dales which instill in him a sense of new forms and colours. Naheed Saleem was one such artist whose idea of 'Art School' in Abbotabad was appreciated by artists and persons who wanted to explore artistic opportunities presented by nature.
A pronounced impressionist, her shift to the valley was a dream come true. She painted landscapes that vibrated with fresh colours, played with light and shapes with masterful thick, bold impasto strokes.
An honest and simple girl Naheed stood out because of her kindness and love. Her life followed a pleasant, foreseeable pattern. Marriage and painting were the two most important things in her life but painting was her first passion. Once she said,"It is not essential that everybody become an artist, but when you draw a straight line it creates discipline in your life."
After painting portraits and figures, Naheed took to painting old buildings; the reason being perhaps their ability to brave countless storms and stress over the centuries. Mansur Rahi, her teacher, could make her break the forms and figure into bits, all full of life. In her work, one can easily witness an increasing involvement with modern art made unforgettable by using layers of colours to capture light. Her works speak of a free spirit who was able to make use of the useful and discard the unnecessary with an element of mystery to her work.
From March 2001- 2002, Naheed fought cancer. She was not the kind to give up easily and she did not. In October 2001, she went to Skardu with a group of artists and spent it as if she were the happiest person on earth. Throughout the tough year, she continued to paint, have fun and shop for her new home in Abbotabad. But it was all done in a rush. I think she knew it was her last trip. Her health seemed to improve when death put an end to a life that was too good to loose.
We must bow to God's will but the tears mark a tragic loss for those who knew her and to those who didn't. She bid adieu on 20th march 2002. We will always miss her.
-- By Zia Zaidi
The story of the life and work of the Indian painter Amrita Sher Gill has finally reached London.
The Tate Modern gallery has quite a comprehensive show of her work on display until April 22, and the impressive thing about the exhibit is that not only does it display 31 of her paintings, it does so in the way that allows you to see how her work changed and developed over the years. A film made by Amrita Sher Gill's niece Navina Sundaram is part of the exhibition and it takes you right into the work by showing the locales depicted, the places referred to and the flavour of the lives of Indian women that Sher Gill has tried to capture in her work.
Born in Budapest in 1913 to a Hungarian mother and a Sikh father, Amrita trained in Paris where she was influenced by realism and where an early painting won her a prestigious salon award. She married a Hungarian cousin, but the couple settled in India, where her family was already living by then. She then set about developing her European training into a distinctive aesthetic which tried to depict the land around her in a slightly different painterly expression. Influenced by the aesthetic of the wall painting of Ajanta and Alora, she modified both her palette and her compositions.
We tend to remember Amrita Sher Gill for many reasons -- as much for her intense, slightly gloomy paintings with all their sense of foreboding, as for the fact that in such a short life she was able to produce so much (she died in Lahore before even reaching the age of 30). Another factor is that she was a beautiful young woman passionate about her work and life. She lived in an interesting period of history (world wars, and the independence of India), associated with many famous people and was part of an age that documented their thoughts and experiences meticulously in both diaries and letters.
To give a sense of this life and its legacy, photo montages by Sher Gill's nephew, the artist Vivan Sundaram also supplement the exhibition.These images mirror the many conflicts that Sher Gill struggled to resolve -- aesthetic, parental, sexual and those of identity are the most obvious.
It is good to see that Amrita Sher Gill's work is being put in an international context and that so many of her works are available on display together in one space. I had previously only seen reproductions and being able to see the originals is an altogether difference experience. It is amazing how art works have their own physical energy and can actually speak to you and send out a sort of vibe of their own. I suppose, the energy or the emotion put into them does somehow remain within the work and it is transmitted back to us, even after decades or centuries.
Well, talking of vibes, let me just say that this was the first time I have visited the Tate Modern, and I have to say that although architecturally it is a great building, hosting terrific displays and managing to pull in hundreds of people, I felt that that space definitely has 'bad karma'. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I insist that I got a really 'bad vibe' being there. It is a nice spot facing the river, with a great view of St Paul's Cathedral and linked to the old city area by the Millenium Bridge which is for pedestrians only, yet the place made me uncomfortable.
But don't let that stop anybody from visiting! The Amrita Sher Gill show is just one of the many shows there worth visiting. However if anybody eles gets a 'bad vibe' from the Tate Modern, I (the irrational being that I am) would certainly be interested in hearing about it.