PAL pals

Of a shortlived bizarre move

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Pakistan Academy of Letters, a premier institute for promotion of literature in Islamabad, was lately in the news for the wrong reasons. The secretary of the relevant ministry probably upon a visit to the academy found the portraits of Ghalib and Faiz Ahmed Faiz flanking the national poet Allama Iqbal as jarring and immediately had them removed. He also is reported to have said that in naya Pakistan there was no space for people such as Ghalib and Faiz.

Although later upon uproar the move was reversed as education minister Shafqat Mehmood intervened.

This narrative of naya Pakistan coming from a pliant senior bureaucrat, ostensibly to please his boss/es, is troubling to say the least. Troubling because it does not define all things cultural and literary in a liberal, compassionate way; it rather is a skewed vision that is exclusivist in nature. It reverts to the narrow ideology of the elite clique in the country that appropriated the resources of this country at the back of a manufactured ideology that denies local colours, identities, cultures and languages. It places the Quaid and Allama on the top pedestal and none other no matter what his contributions are to country is let near them. In the same spirit, the bureaucrat ordered the removal of the two revered poets considering them not at par with the great Iqbal. The fine point he missed was that placing the portraits of the two alongside Iqbal does in no way raise the question of equality. It rather is inclusivism and about adding shades. Ghalib and Faiz in their own right were masters of what they chose to lay their hands on.  We hope this push back shall deter the secretary and others like him from imposing their screwed ideology in art and cultural spaces.