It was 28th of February. I got up early at 6.AM to watch the 83rd Oscars live on Star Movies. To honor the best pictures of 2010, the ceremony took place at Kodak Theatre, Hollywood, and was jointly hosted by actors James Franco and Ann Hathaway.
The whole event was a visual delight and truly evoked the artistic rigor and imagination of so many artistes and technicians. Motion pictures combine the creative genius of script writers, cinematographers, film editors, set designers, art directors, dress designers, sound editors, music directors, film directors, actors and so many others. Film production, which is a blend of the talent of so many, with mastery of their respective fields, not only gives pleasure to the audience but many a times is also inspiring. Films not only entertain, they also provide psychological comfort. They take you in a fantasy world where you identify with the characters; project your unfulfilled wishes and escape from the harsh realities of life.
The world at large, both developing and developed is involved in such creative endeavors, I thought. Then I reflected on the current state of our own film industry, which was flourishing in the mid seventies and was the main source of entertainment for the whole family. However, it died down with the advent of Gen. Zia and his brand of Islam. It stands devastated now and the number of cinema houses is reduced from 1585 in the 1960’s to 385 at present.
While feeling sad at the plight of performing arts in Pakistan, I left my house for office and entered the main highway close to Islamabad’s Zero Point, when I noticed banners hanging on both sides of the road. The headiness read like this “Ban the book “Blasphemy” by Pakistani Tasleema Nasreen, Tehmina Durrani who in her book insulted “Ulema & Mashikh” on behalf of Syed Ghayur Hussain of Tehrik-e-Tahaffuz-e-Ulema-o-Aulia-e karam. The book namely “Blasphemy” written by Tehmina Durrani was published in 2000. So after a lapse of more than 10 years some mullah had a brainwave to agitate the issue in line with the spirits of the time. While thinking which way this country is moving I reached my destination.
In office I logged on to the computer, checked my mailbox and found a mail where it was informed that one Agnes Bibi from Faisalabad was booked on charges of blasphemy as she was claimant of a precious piece of land whose ownership was also contested by an influential person of that area. I then switched to Facebook and found a debate going on among many if celebrating Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi was permissible in Islam or not. It all began when one Saudi mullah called it “biddah” and the video of his sermon was posted on the “Youtube.” The Facebook appeared to be the battle ground between the supporters and non-supporters of Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi .
While looking at similar ‘intellectual’ discussions on the Facebook, I heard a beep as I had received an SMS on my mobile which read as follows:
“Rahat Fatah Ali Khan is a sinner and has committed a great sacrilege in his song” ajj din chadheya” in which he says “Kaisa khuda hai tu Bas naam ka hai tu, Rabba jo teri itni si bhi na chali” We all should unite against him, boycott him and wage a war against him. Spread this message if you truly believe in Allah.
I immediately deleted the message.
While working in my office I suddenly looked outside the window and found a huge procession marching on Blue Area. The traffic was blocked and hundreds of people were chanting slogans in favor of Mr. Ahmed Saeed Kazmi, the ex-Minister of Religious Affairs. I later learned that many of the participants in the rally were brought to Islamabad from Rahim Yar Khan to show their strength and support for the Minister who is currently under investigation by the FIA for looting crores in the Haj Scam 2010. I also came to know later that while Mr. Kazmi was addressing the rally, the Special Judge Central, Rawalpindi extended his interim bail till March 14th. Perhaps institutions of criminal justice system have become irrelevant in this country and now all major decision-making would be determined by crowds chanting slogans on the roads.
Later in the day I also witnessed another rally by civil society organizations on the Blue Area against Raymond Davis, demanding an immediate capital punishment for him. The same day Islamabad Bar Association went on strike against the kidnapping of two Judges in Balochistan. On the very same day i.e.28th of February, another procession was held on Parade Avenue close to Blue Area, Islamabad, where owners of stolen vehicles staged protest against police failure in recovering their vehicles.
During the tea break, I unfolded the newspapers and found half of the news for and against the recent switch over of MPA’s in the Punjab Assembly. The other half contained news about Raymond Davis. Similarly half of the articles on the editorial page were about Raymond Davis.
After coming back home I switched on the TV. The headline news with graphic footage on a private channel was about two college students from Jhelum who were severely beaten by the chaudhary of the village, had their hair, eyebrows and moustaches shaved off with a razor and then handed them over to the police, following a minor tussle.
I switched to another channel and found Altaf Bhai telephonically addressing his supporters from London, and inviting the army to save Pakistan. He urged the army chief and generals that Pakistan was in danger, and time was too short, so they should come forward to save the country. On yet another channel Mian Nawaz Sharif was threatening a long march. This was followed by a report of another call for long march by the factory workers of Faisalabad against gas load shedding in the textile sector.
On one of the channels the participants were discussing the Supreme Court suspension of Parliamentary Committee’s recommendations which denied one year extension in service to two additional judges of Sindh High Court.
On PTV the Prime Minister was making a startling discovery “that foreign hand was involved in the deteriorating law and order situation in Balochistan”. A private business channel was revealing that the expenses on defense and debt servicing swelled to Rs.525 billion in the first half of the current fiscal year slowing down the country’s development expenditure to Rs.124.7 billion. Another channel was airing recording of a two-year old cell phone conversation between ex-PPP minister Neelum Jabbar and the PML-Q forward bloc member Arshad Jat as proof of PPP’s horse trading.
At around 11PM it was announced that petrol price was up by Rs.7.23 per litre; diesel Rs.7.76; and kerosene Rs.7 per litre, exposing the nation to a new wave of inflation.
This whole stuff which I was watching for quite some time was becoming unbearable. I wanted some psychological relief, so I switched to Star Movies where there was a repeat telecast of the Oscar ceremony. Cate Blanchett was wearing a unique and stunning dress while Nicole Kidman was looking extremely attractive. Ann Hathaway’s enthusiasm and professionalism as host was amazing. Natalie Portman danced her way to Oscar success and swanned off with Best Actress Oscar while “The Fighter” scored victory for Melissa Leo for best supporting role.
During a commercial break I switched to another channel where Raja Riaz of PPP Punjab was referring to hamari palty,hamari palty,hamari palty.On another Altaf Bhai was thundering Oye jagirdara,Oye jagirdara,Oye,jagirdara.On yet another Chaudhary Shujaat was repeatedly saying mitti pao,mitti pao,mitti pao, whereas on PTV Mr.Zardari was repeating, khappay, khappy, khappay.I switched to another channel where General Kayani, in full military uniform was ominously referring to defense of “Pakistan’s ideological frontiers”. I switched back to Oscars but it was all over.
By then it was too late and I thought it was time for me to sleep. A long dark night was ahead of me.
|Waseem Altaf is a human rights activist. .|