‘A haven for free thought’: Pakistan lacks space for progressive arts to tackle creativity Human rights

D.Anil Shah turned to Sabin Mahmood for help in the first photo exhibition, when all the other organizations refused to show their work. Shah’s photographs cover political and cultural issues such as local elections and women’s rights. Some refused to work with him on political grounds, while others did not respond.

After a meeting at Mahmood’s Community Space, T2F, in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, she agreed to host her own exhibition. But, a 40-year-old human rights activist who oversees the Progressive Arts program at T2F did not get to see Shah’s first exhibition. He was assassinated just months after they met.

“Had it not been for T2F, I would not have felt confident that I could become a photographer and teach photography,” Shah said. “The program introduced me to photographers, artists and fans. There was space for everyone. I also did my first workshop there.

Sabin Mahmood's wall outside T2F. It is written in Urdu: 'You are my hero.'
Sabin Mahmood’s wall outside T2F. It is written in Urdu: ‘You are my hero.’ Photo: Shah Mir

The Pioneer Community Venue, originally known as the second floor after its location in the office building, was founded by Mahmoud in 2007. But now the board running T2F has decided to stop the move, calling it “more than a tragedy.”

At the time of his inauguration, Mahmoud wrote in the journal Innovations: “I wondered if I could build a modern postmodern hippie outpost, a safe haven for artists, musicians, writers, poets, activists and thinkers, basic Anyone who wants to escape unchecked. The oppression of the city for a while. “

There is nothing like it in Karachi. It’s more than a colorful cafe or bookstore, the walls of which are often lined with paintings or photographs. Filled with many artists, activists and writers, it has become a safe haven for liberals, as Mahmoud hoped, and survived his assassination.

Shakeel Jaffery, director of T2F, said: “Due to epidemics, T2F has not been able to raise revenue to cover its expenses, so we have decided to suspend its services. The future will be decided in a few months.

Marvi Mazhar, who led the T2F after Mahmoud’s assassination, told the Guardian: “Suspending the T2F is nothing more than a tragedy. Our society is already damaged and full of extremism and intolerance. In these difficult times, we need more places and alternatives than ever before.

After the evening of April 24, 2015 Is hosting a discussion on BalochistanIn Pakistan’s restive southwestern province, Mahmood was on his way home when he was shot dead by two men. Her mother, whom she was about to send home, was also shot but survived. Mahmood’s friends told the Guardian that he had received death threats for hosting talks on a number of issues, including the latest, which are censored elsewhere in Pakistan. Two men, Saad Aziz and Ali-ur-Rehman, were convicted of his murder and sentenced to death. Authorities have linked the men to Islamist terrorism, although many of Mahmoud’s friends believe the country’s military is responsible for the “deep state.”

Activist and author Mir Muhammad Ali Talpur, who was invited as the guest speaker for the Balochistan program, said: “Regardless of the reasons for the closure, spaces like T2F, without sound, are deaf and backward. People will be deprived of the poor and deprived. A place to list your concerns and disagreements. “

Growing restrictions on freedom of expression, increasing attacks on journalists, and closures of public and social spaces have given rise to the term. “Hybrid Regime” In Pakistan, to stop the democratic backlash that is happening in the country.

In 2019, an exhibition of Pakistani artist Adeela Suleiman at Karachi Binal, called Karachi’s Killing Fields, in which 444 unusual deaths were identified at the hands of police, was raided and forced to close by the authorities. went.

Gibran Nasir, Mahmoud’s friend, Criticized the closure of security agencies “We see censorship and free speech everywhere in Pakistan. I don’t know if this government is worse than the government of former dictator Zia, who brought Islamism and extremism to the country,” he said. But I know that the current government is trying its best to close online spaces even after eliminating most of the public and social spaces.

شما کرمانی, Who works in the performing arts and is the founder of the women’s movement – or women’s movement – said there were very few community spaces for artists and the number of venues has been declining in recent years. “Right now, I hardly see a place,” Carmini said.

Sabin Mahmood's sandals were lying on the floor of his car after he was shot dead.
Sabin Mahmood’s sandals were lying on the floor of his car after he was shot dead. Photo: Shakeel Adil / AP

The PIA Arts Academy was established by Pakistan International Airlines in 1966 and later became the National Performing Arts Group. He said: “This beautiful place was recently closed. We are losing all our space.

As public places in Pakistan are closer to artists and activists, the culture of censorship and accusations of blasphemy grow in their place.

Pakistani movie Life show Or the Circus of Life, has been nominated for an Oscar nomination, but most Pakistanis can’t see it. He was accused of containing offensive material, but the film was cleared by the censor board and a group of senators. However, it was not screened after the Tehreek-e-Lubaik Pakistan (TLP), an extremist political party, staged a protest against the film and severely injured director Sarmad Khosat by threatening to kill him. Was done

In March, Sindhi writer Amr Jalil He was charged with blasphemy And a literary festival reading a short story on the plight of political inequalities was targeted on social media with threats of violence.

The Prime Minister, Imran Khan, was criticized against Pakistan for defending blasphemy laws in order to gain support for religious rights before the 2018 elections, activists and writers said. More conservatives are creating a space for intolerance and restricting freedom of expression. And media.

Fatima Bhutto, author of the Bhutto political family, said: “Sadly, this is a moment where the country has to help its youth, encourage and patronize the arts and use soft power to give Pakistan a new face.” Fighting the arts is a devastating misunderstanding of Imran Khan’s government.


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