issue
Anatomy of self-rule
The majority of Gilgit-Baltistan's population may not be satisfied with the reforms as they expect a lot more
By Rahimullah Yusufzai
There has been more criticism than appreciation for the reforms package announced by the federal government for Pakistan's Federal Administered Northern Areas (FANA), now renamed Gilgit-Baltistan, a region of rugged mountains and spectacular scenery spread over 72,496 square kilometres and sparsely populated by 970,347 persons according to the 1998 census and estimated now at more than 1.5 million.

issue
Art broken
The ceiling painted by Sadequain in the Lahore Museum is in a constant state of disrepair
By Saleha Rauf
Not many people know that the Sadequain mural fixed on the ceiling of Gandhara Art Gallery in Lahore Museum direly needs conservation. Nor do they know that a few years back a committee was constituted for the purpose but the recommendations of the committee have been laid to rest. The work that began as part of those recommendations has been stalled as well. It may indeed come as a surprise to many that there is no expertise available for conservation of paintings in any of the art institutions or museums in Pakistan.

Making history on 9/11
The exhibition of 15 artists to be held at the Asia Society Museum in New York affirms a simple fact -- art in Pakistan is as contemporary as in any other part of the world
By Quddus Mirza
September 11 is a significant date: as Martin Amis points out, it marks the start of Islamic fundamentalism -- "it all began with the retreat of the Turkish armies from Vienna and the confirmation of Islamic decline. The year was 1683 and the day was September 11"; at home, it's Quaid's death anniversary; in Chile, the overthrow of democratically-elected socialist government of Salvadore Allande; in New York, the terrorist attacks that demolished the Twin Towers. And, this year another significant event, an exhibition of contemporary Pakistani art to be inaugurated in New York, is expected to make history on the date.

Contemplative music
Classical music has meandered and managed its own course in the last 60 years
By Sarwat Ali
In India and Pakistan the common heritage of classical music has developed or meandered along in different ways. In India where the patronage of music was given more attention it may be more appropriate to use the word development or guided change, while in Pakistan the lack of patronage coupled with hostility has left the music to wither on the vine. It has meandered and managed to make its own course in the 60 odd years since independence.

 

 

Anatomy of self-rule

The majority of Gilgit-Baltistan's population may not be satisfied with the reforms as they expect a lot more

By Rahimullah Yusufzai

There has been more criticism than appreciation for the reforms package announced by the federal government for Pakistan's Federal Administered Northern Areas (FANA), now renamed Gilgit-Baltistan, a region of rugged mountains and spectacular scenery spread over 72,496 square kilometres and sparsely populated by 970,347 persons according to the 1998 census and estimated now at more than 1.5 million.

The initiative has triggered a debate that is informative and interesting, but it remains to be seen if the PPP-led government would be willing to incorporate some of the useful and valuable proposals being made for improving the internal autonomy package made public by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on August 29. It appears unlikely, though, in view of Pakistan's self-centred political culture in which the rulers insist they know everything and have the right to take decisions in keeping with their own exalted vision.

One positive measure that has been widely hailed is renaming the Northern Areas, or Shumaili Ilaqajat as it was known in Urdu. It would now be called Gilgit-Baltistan, a name that would confer an identity on the region. Many people, including those in important positions, often confused the Northern Areas with the NWFP and thought the two distinct entities were one and the same. Failure to distinguish between the two gave the impression as if the Northern Areas too were suffering from militancy and were, therefore, dangerous to visit. This was affecting the tourism industry, which is the mainstay of the economy of Northern Areas, as even sections of the Western media erroneously and foolishly reported that militants were active there and that Osama bin Laden may be hiding somewhere near the K-2 mountain peak.

Due to its strategic location bordering China and Indian Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan is vital for Pakistan's defence, water resources and economy. It was bundled in with Jammu and Kashmir, which was designated as a disputed territory under the UN resolution after the 1948 war between India and Pakistan. Many people in Gilgit-Baltistan, however, maintain that it was liberated by them by offering sacrifices in battle and should be treated as distinct from Jammu and Kashmir.

The erstwhile Northern Areas had seven districts -- Gilgit, Diamer, Astore, Skardu, Ghizer, Ghanche, Hunza-Nagar. Areas-wise the mountain region is equal to the NWFP, with which it shared border. The population, estimated to have risen to 1,000,000 now, is sparse with a density of only eight persons per square kilometre living in 650 small villages. Eight ethnic groups including Balti, Yashkun, Moghal, Kashmiri, Pakhtuns, Ladakhi and Turk inhabit Gilgit-Baltistan. The languages spoken there are Shina, Balti, Brushiski, Khowar, Wakhi, Pashto, Farsi and Urdu. Majority of the population is Shia, including the Ismailis, while a sizeable number of Sunnis and Noorbakhshis also live there. Gilgit-Baltistan has some of the tallest mountains in the world including the 8611 metres K-2 in Skardu district, the Nanga Parbat (8.138 metres) in Diamer and the Rakaposhi (7788 metres) in Gilgit.

In the case of the Gilgit-Baltistan reforms package, the government has been arguing that it was based on the recommendations of a high-powered committee headed by federal minister for Kashmir and Northern Areas, Qamar Zaman Kaira. Kaira, a PPP leader and also information minister, would now also acquire the post of governor for Gilgit-Baltistan as proposed in the reforms agenda. The decision to appoint a governor for Gilgit-Baltistan is controversial as the region hasn't been upgraded into a province and is instead being given some sort of self-rule on the pattern of Pakistan-administered Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). In fact, critics are arguing that with Kaira as the governor, the control of his ministry over the affairs of Gilgit-Baltistan would become even stronger. This has been the major complaint of the people of both AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan that they were governed more by the Islamabad-based ministry of Kashmir and Northern Areas than their own weak administrative set-up operating out of Muzaffarabad and Gilgit, respectively.

Under the 1973 Constitution, only the President of Pakistan is empowered to take decisions regarding both FANA and FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), where another set of reforms are being undertaken by extending the Political Parties Act to the tribal region and amending the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) to make this tough punitive-style law a bit people-friendly.

The internal autonomy reforms package for the Northern Areas was issued through an executive order. Major political parties including the PML-N and PML-Q have complained that they weren't consulted while finalising the package. The government insisted it took all stakeholders into confidence and mentioned the approval of the package by the federal cabinet as an evidence of this consultation. The PML-N and other political parties criticised the practice of issuing ordinances and executive orders while taking major decisions instead of debating such important issues in parliament and involving lawmakers in carrying out proper legislation for the purpose. The PML-Q, the former ruling party, quickly issued a white paper rejecting the Gilgit-Baltistan reforms package and insisted that most of the things mentioned in it were initiated by its government. It noted that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan would continue to feel enslaved as their demand was for a province of their own or, as the second best option, a government set-up like the one in place in AJK.

More importantly, most of the Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) and the Gilgitis and Baltits who would be affected by the Pakistan government's internal autonomy package weren't satisfied with the reforms. In fact, Kashmiris to a great extent criticised it as they believe it was a step by Islamabad to integrate the strategically important but disputed Gilgit-Baltistan region into Pakistan and, as a consequence, undermine their cause for independence. The Kashmiris living in both India and Pakistan consider Gilgit-Baltistan as part of Jammu and Kashmir and are, therefore, against any measures that would take away its possession from them.

It was, hardly surprising that pro-Pakistan politicians like AJK President Raja Zulqarnain Khan and former Prime Minister Sardar Attique Ahmad Khan and pro-independence ones like Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Yasin Malik, head of a faction of JKLF in Pakistan, Amanullah Khan, and chairman of Kashmir National Party, Abbas Butt expressed reservations over the government's decision and termed it unilateral and arbitrary. They lamented that neither the Kashmiris nor the people of Gilgit-Baltistan were consulted and that the move was aimed at dividing Jammu and Kashmir and causing harm to the struggle of their people for winning the right of self-determination. Only the PPP workers and supporters in Gilgit-Baltistan spoke in support of the reforms package but the majority wasn't impressed and the critical voices seem to have drowned those hailing the Pakistan government initiative.

This wasn't the first time that reforms were announced for the region. Since 1970, when Gilgit Agency, Baltistan district of the Ladakh Wazarat and the small states of Hunza and Nagar were grouped together into a single administrative unit called Northern Areas, attempts have been made to respond to the aspirations of the people for an identity of their own. But Pakistan's efforts to do were hampered by the concern that altering the status of the Northern Areas and giving its people a constitutional right as subjects of the federation of Pakistan could dilute its demand for implementation of the UN resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan hasn't officially given up its demand for UN-mandated plebiscite to enable the Kashmiri people to determine their future. In the latest reforms package also, care has been taken not to make Gilgit-Baltistan a province, even though certain political, legislative and legal institutions of a provincial nature were being set up or upgraded in the region. Without undermining Pakistan's principled position on the final status of Jammu and Kashmir, an attempt has been made to strike a balance by granting certain rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. It is another matter that majority of the population may not be satisfied with the reforms as they expected a lot more. The urge to have a provincial status and representation in Pakistan's parliament has been strong among the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. None of the reforms package to date for the region has answered this urge.

(Also see related story inside)

 

issue

Art broken

The ceiling painted by Sadequain in the Lahore Museum is in a constant state of disrepair

 

By Saleha Rauf

Not many people know that the Sadequain mural fixed on the ceiling of Gandhara Art Gallery in Lahore Museum direly needs conservation. Nor do they know that a few years back a committee was constituted for the purpose but the recommendations of the committee have been laid to rest. The work that began as part of those recommendations has been stalled as well. It may indeed come as a surprise to many that there is no expertise available for conservation of paintings in any of the art institutions or museums in Pakistan.

It all began in 2005 when the Lahore Museum underwent tremendous changes -- from mopping of the floor to digitalisation of the library. During this time the director of the museum, Nahid Rizvi, noticed that the Sadequain mural was deteriorating and needed immediate attention. The director put forth this issue before noted artist Salima Hashmi. In February 2005, a committee comprising six members was constituted for the restoration of mural. It included Director Lahore Museum Nahid Rizvi, then Chairman Fine Arts Department Punjab University, Lahore, Hassan Shahnawaz Zaidi, then faculty member of Fine Arts Department, National College of Arts, Prof. Muhammad Asif, Ex-Chairman Fine Arts Department Punjab University, Prof. Zulqarnain Haider, Senior Chemist, Lahore Museum, Waseem Ahmed and Keeper Paintings, Lahore Museum Nusrat Ali.

Indian conservationists, Sri Kumar Menon and Manindra Singh Gill, were invited for an assessment of the mural and to conduct a workshop on "Oil Painting Restoration". They came and conducted a week-long workshop from Nov 13-19, 2006, and submitted the report on the Sadequain mural. The technical committee and the Director Lahore Museum then put forth the issue before the provincial government where it stayed for quite some time.

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif sanctioned Rs15 million and constituted a technical committee for proper supervision on Dec 6, 2008. The committee was chaired by Salima Hashmi while the director of the museum was appointed secretary of the committee. The members included architect Nayyar Ali Dada, Head of the Architecture Department NCA, Fauzia Qureshi, Executive Director Punjab Arts Council, Ghulam Mustafa, and Hassan Shahnawaz Zaidi.

After this decision, the technical committee started the work of conservation with the fund of museum, as it was important to conserve the mural immediately. The committee decided to restore the mural in three phases. First phase was about photography, documentation and fixing the replica of the mural. The second phase was about preservation and restoration by Indian experts and local conservationists. The third phase was about re-fixing of the mural after restoration.

The committee decided to start its work on the first step of the restoration in its second meeting on Feb 9, 2009. It was not an easy task since the mural comprising 48 individual panels is 25˘26ft wide and the height is 24ft. Sami ur Rehman, a photographer of national acclaim, was appointed for the task. Indian experts were invited again from April 22-25, 2009, and they used a mobile scaffold to re-examine the mural in detail. They reported to the technical committee that termite attack had damaged the edges of the panels. Paint and canvas along the edges was friable and prone to fall off with a little force.

Within one week, a detailed report was documented which included details about the required human resource, materials to be used, and schedule of restoration work. The tasks were spread over three phases and were scheduled to finish by May 2010. According to Indian experts, the restoration work should have been spread over five years but due to limitations they tightened the schedule.

The committee prepared a project document including the TORs for people engaged for the task. According to the order of Secretary Information, Culture and Youth Affairs Department, Chief Secretary and Minister, the funds were transferred to the Lahore Museum in June 2009. The government in December 2008 had considered the issue pointed out in February 2005. It was supposed that the work on the mural will proceed but there was no progress after the transfer of fund.

The new director Lahore Museum Kamran Cheema appeared clueless after one month of taking charge. "I've just taken charge. I don't know much about the issue. What I know is that we should utilise our local talent for conservation."

He referred to his assistant Rana Khalid Mehmood who, he said, knew about the issue. "The technical team has decided what to do. This is not the way to go about it. We will advertise for the conservation of the mural and people will come in through a process. We will bid for the conservators," said Mehmood. "We have conservators like Uzma Usmani who had attended the workshop conducted by the Indian team." It turned out that Uzma Usmani had conserved only one painting on display in the Assembly Hall in emergency within four hours because the next day the President of Iran was coming to Pakistan.

Asma Ibrahim, who established the museum of State Bank in Karachi and had worked for Department of Archaeology for 20 years, told TNS that there was no expertise available for conservation. "Only NED University of Engineering and Technology offers a course of conservation of monuments, but not of paintings."

Hassan Shahnawaz Zaidi, member technical committee, said, "We should have hired the world's best team for this purpose. However, the technical team made the best decisions within its limitations. If they are ignored, the mural will go down the drain."

Salima Hashmi said, "Those who don't even know the meaning of the mural are deciding the fate of Sadequain's work. Some greedy, corrupt officials are eyeing the funds meant for museum's ceiling. They cannot appreciate the work. Experts are trying to save the ceiling and those who don't know anything are out to stop the technical team."

Hashmi believed this is not an ordinary project and requires handling by experts trained in the field of oil painting. No such expertise is available here. "That is why a team of experts was invited from India. They were affordable and familiar with the climatic conditions of this region. Because of this and other limitations, they were preferred and hired with the permission of the Chief Secretary, Chief Minister and Secretary Information Culture and Youth Affairs Department. Assistant director attended the meetings and the technical committee asked about the legal process on every step."

"Museums all over the world have their own conservationists but in Pakistan we don't have any; so it is important to train people in this field," said Executive Director Punjab Arts Council Ghulam Mustafa.

Museum's assistant director explained why he wanted the work to stop. "The bill of the hotel where the Indian team stayed remains unpaid till date. No competitive procedure was adopted for restoration. All decisions were made on the recommendation of a technical committee."

More and more meetings are being held on the subject but the sensitivity of the work demands immediate action as flakes of painting are already seen falling on the floor.

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Making history on 9/11

The exhibition of 15 artists to be held at the Asia Society Museum in New York affirms a simple fact -- art in Pakistan is as contemporary as in any other part of the world

By Quddus Mirza

September 11 is a significant date: as Martin Amis points out, it marks the start of Islamic fundamentalism -- "it all began with the retreat of the Turkish armies from Vienna and the confirmation of Islamic decline. The year was 1683 and the day was September 11"; at home, it's Quaid's death anniversary; in Chile, the overthrow of democratically-elected socialist government of Salvadore Allande; in New York, the terrorist attacks that demolished the Twin Towers. And, this year another significant event, an exhibition of contemporary Pakistani art to be inaugurated in New York, is expected to make history on the date.

Organised by the Asia Society, New York, and curated by Salima Hashmi, Hanging Fire includes works of 15 artists. Ranging from Zahoor ul Akhlaq to Mahreen Zuberi, they represent diversity within a single entity called the contemporary Pakistani art. Other participants of the show are Naiza Khan, Anwar Saeed, Rashid Rana, Hamra Abbas, Bani Abidi, Imran Qureshi, Arif Mahmood, Asma Mundrawala, Huma Mulji, Faiza Butt, Adeela Suleman, Ayaz Jokhio and Ali Raza.

The works collected for the Asia Society Museum in New York affirm a simple fact -- that art in Pakistan is as contemporary as in any other part of the world. This is commendable because art (and literature) in Pakistan is not considered mainstream -- the country has moved away from setting literary trends, artistic movements, fashion streaks and more. But, the recent years have witnessed a rising interest in Pakistani art the world over. A foreign viewer is eager to see art from a country that has been hectically involved in the world affairs.

The show at the Asia Society Museum addresses issues such as identity, gender, authenticity and political upheaval in an altered world. To reiterate the map of modernity, the works of Zahoor ul Akhlaq and Anwar Saeed that deal with their personal concerns and formal issues in a society maintaining equilibrium between tradition and modernity, are displayed. Similar ideas are evident in the works of several other participants, who (excluding Arif Mahmood) have either studied together or are connected in the capacity of teachers and students.

This linkage, a simple detail, is an important aspect. It portrays an intriguing picture of contemporary Pakistani art. For instance, Zahoor taught Anwar Saeed, Ali Raza, Rashid Rana, Bani Abdi, Faiza Butt and Imran Qureshi (last three names belong to the same class of students at NCA) and Hamra Abbas to some extent. Likewise Naiza Khan was a teacher at Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, which produced students such as Asma Mundrawala, Huma Mulji and Adeela Suleman. Then Ayaz Jokhio was a student of Rashid Rana as Mahreen Zuberi was of Imran Qureshi at NCA.

This connection has created a loosely defined character of contemporary Pakistani art. Since the balance between tradition and modernity has resulted in shaping the contemporary Pakistani art, therefore one finds traces of tradition in the works by Qureshi, Zuberi, Suleman and Mundrawala, as experiments with new media and expressions are evident in the art of Rana, Abidi, Abbas and Mulji. But these aspects are addressed in one way or other in the works of artists included in the show.

Some prominent themes apparent in the Asia Society exhibition are fascination with body (Saeed, Khan) and political content (Rana, Abidi, Raza and Butt). References to popular modes of pictorial expression are also seen in some works (Abbas, Suleman and Mundrawala). Since all these themes and concerns are associated with the art from this country, it is normal to find these issues dealt with in diverse manners.

Yet, a unifying element noticeable in the works that comprise Hanging Fire is the idea of duality. Rashid Rana, Bani Abidi, Ayaz Jokhio, Mahreen Zuberi, Faiza Butt and Ali Raza have preferred two surfaces, or double images which correspond with each other. Each approaches the two-folded vision in his or her own way or concept. The presence of this paradox is significant as it indicates an essential aspect of our existence. We have learned to live in a society that is based on and operates on the format of duality. Paradoxes and conflicts exist in our surroundings (for example our language, a blend of English and Urdu). We are conscious of our split society that is both Eastern and Western, modern and primitive, conventional and adventurous.

On the whole, most of the artists have represented this contradiction of formal and conceptual element in their work. It is a trait that brings vitality to local life and art, a reality that exists beyond the stereotypes about the place and people, and perhaps the choice for the opening day of the exhibition is a reminder to the American viewers that there are other realities than the ones fabricated through the apocalyptical media, as there are other elevens and other Septembers.

(The exhibition is being held from September 11, 2009 to January 9, 2010 at Asia Society Museum in New York)

 

Contemplative music

Classical music has meandered and managed its own course in the last 60 years

By Sarwat Ali

In India and Pakistan the common heritage of classical music has developed or meandered along in different ways. In India where the patronage of music was given more attention it may be more appropriate to use the word development or guided change, while in Pakistan the lack of patronage coupled with hostility has left the music to wither on the vine. It has meandered and managed to make its own course in the 60 odd years since independence.

According to R.C. Mehta in "Indian Classical Music and the Gharana Tradition", the changes in the gharana styles have been the result of easier communication, quick transmission through the channels of travel, press, gramophone, radio, television and the web. One characteristic of the modern age is to search for the new, the varied, the foreign and the offbeat. While the older musicians, when they wanted to be offbeat, had recourse to nearly forgotten compositions and raags, they fascinated or overwhelmed the listeners by opening the door of this treasure. But the modern trend -- on account of closer contact with the Karnatak music, lack of grooming under the past masters, carelessness towards the good in the past and being influenced by the innovative spirit of some of the present day top achievers -- has been to sing or play newly composed kheyals in raags, unheard of four decades ago.

To the repertoire of about 150 raags, more than 100 raags have been added. Some have been imported from Karnatak musical ascending descending scales, some are revivals from those imported earlier, and some are new combinations of the older patterns; only a few are new creations. Only very few among these have gained wider acceptance and currency among musicians of repute because the higher grade musicians of today, vocalists or instrumentalists, were tutored in the raags and compositions of yore and novelty sans creativity was sought in the unfolding of the presentation of the raag or the bandish.

Listeners' resistance could be another reason due to unfamiliarity as well as aesthetic non- satisfaction of this music. Excellence in music has never depended on the number of raags and compositions known to an artiste; there is always appreciation for a new raag having a distinct character and a new composition with a structure of its own and not just a new garb in the form of a new set of words for an old body of the tune.

Instrumentalists like Ravi Shanker, Ali Akbar Khan, Halim Jaffer Khan, however, have made richer contribution than vocalists with the lone exception of Kumar Gandharva. The innovation on the instruments have had more musical value in the last decades or so for instrumental music of the sitar and sarod, not the prototype of vocal music, has provided instrumental music an incomparable richness of pure music of sound and a beautiful imaginative architecture of tones.

In India, well-known musicians had being coping with this ever-changing situation. Ustad Faiyyaz Khan of the Agra gharana relied on his versatility -- that after an elaborate raga depiction he quickly switched over to the thumri or a ghazal. His art symbolised the evolution from the ancient dhrupad dhammar to the modern thumri, ghazal and dadra. At times even all this did not work, or so he thought and switched, to gesticulations while singing the thumri in the manner of a kathak dancer rendering a thumri number.

The unorthodox vocalisation of Barre Ghulam Ali Khan offended purists. They raised their eyebrows at the brevity and tempo of his raga compositions. No less intriguing was his penchant for sarangi-oriented patterns and variety of sargams which sometimes dominated his singing. He also created a stir in the 1930s by yet another innovation, the Punjab variety of thumri. The most significant departure from convention was the nom tom alap technique to his kheyal singing as the dhrupad technique was effectively used as a preface to kheyal. Kumar Gandharva, whose aesthetics were based on the assumption that the classical music raags have their genesis in folk music, collected 300 folk songs, cast them in notation and created Dhun Ugama (folk-based raags).

In Pakistan the classical musicians have switched to other forms of music which cannot be called classical. Ustad Salamat Khan made many innovations and stamped his individual style but resorted to singing kafi and thumri while Ustad Amanat Ali Khan switched to singing ghazal and geet. The great innovation and diversity that is found in the ghazal of Barkat Ali Khan, Ejaz Hussain Hazravi, Fareeda Khanum, Iqbal Bano, Mehdi Hasan and Ghulam Ali is due to the richness of the background of singing kheyal and thumri. Similarly the great variety of kafi singing too can be traced back to the widening of the horizons of the genre by great vocalists of kheyal.

In the last millennium classical music was being seen as a refined and standardised form of folk music but this process is now being put in the reverse gear. Previously the folk and popular musician aspired to reach the level of a classical musician in terms of virtuosity and range of musical expression. Now it seems the classical musicians are happy wanting to become popular or folk musicians.

In the greater part of the twentieth century, particularly in Pakistan, the classical musicians have been only acknowledged when they performed for popular forums. There cannot be a greater and bigger shift in critical understanding and points to the seismic changes that have taken place in our society.

The greater contact with Western music has resulted in non-raga compositions applied through pure sound of musical instruments, using some fundamental elements of European music like harmony, chords, counterpoint and dynamics. The electronic tonal spectrum with possibilities of mixing frequencies and producing unheard of tonal colours offers a great opportunity for creating musical sounds that may excite the imagination of the outward artiste but it puts at stake the inward looking contemplative quality of our music.

 

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