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Pak-India Water Dispute Accelerates By Sajjad Shaukat

Pak-India Water Dispute Accelerates

Sajjad Shaukat


Pakistan is a grave victim of water scarcity, because of being on lower riparian in relation to the rivers emanating from the Indian-Held Kashmir (IHK). India has never missed an opportunity to harm Pakistan since its inception; it is creating deliberate water shortages for Pakistan with the aim to impair Pakistan agriculturally. Historically, India has been trying to establish her hegemony in the region by controlling water sources and damaging agricultural economies of her neighbouring states. India has water disputes with Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Indian extremist Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has given the concerned departments to continue construction of dams has ordered diverting water of Chenab River to Beas, which is a serious violation of the Indus Water Treaty of 1960. Therefore Pak-India water dispute has accelerated.






In this regard, an article By: Zofeen T. Ebrahim, Joydeep Gupta (Co-Authors) under the caption, “India resists World Bank move to resolve Indus Water Treaty dispute”, published in The Third Pole and reproduced-updated by a Pakistan’s renowned daily on January 6, 2017 is notable.


Zofeen T. Ebrahim and Joydeep Gupta wrote, “India has asked the World Bank not to rush in to resolve a dispute with Pakistan over the Kishanganga and Ratle hydropower projects. Indian officials told a World Bank representative in New Delhi on January 5 that any differences over the projects can be resolved bilaterally or through a neutral expert. Pakistan has objected to the projects–being built by India in Jammu and Kashmir–on the grounds that they violate the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) between the two countries. After India rejected the charge, Pakistan has gone to the World Bank–the designated IWT mediator.”



1 The Indus Waters Treaty was signed on September 19, 1960 by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan’s President Ayub Khan.


They indicated, “Islamabad has also asked the United States (US) government to intervene, and has added the component of water security to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) agreement. Of the rivers in the Indus basin, the Indus and the Sutlej start in China and flow through India before reaching Pakistan. The other four rivers–Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and Beas – start in India and flow to Pakistan”.


The writers pointed out, “The Kishanganga project is on a tributary of the Jhelum, while the Ratle project is on the Chenab. The State Department in Washington has already said it wants India and Pakistan to resolve all outstanding issues bilaterally, a route favoured by India.”


Zofeen T. Ebrahim and Joydeep Gupta elaborated, “As the dispute flared up, the World Bank had recently suspended all proceedings–the setting up of a court of arbitration or the appointment of a neutral expert. On January 5, World Bank representative Ian H Solomon met officials of India’s External Affairs and Water Resources ministries in New Delhi in an effort to break the deadlock.The Indian delegation, led by Gopal Baglay, Joint secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, made a detailed a presentation on the two projects to support their argument that neither project violated the IWT. After the meeting, a government official told journalists that the Indian side had described the objections raised by Pakistan as “technical”, and therefore they would be best resolved by a neutral expert.”


They wrote, “Pakistan has dismissed this suggestion earlier, and is seeking a full court of arbitration. The World Bank had agreed to a court of arbitration and then to the appointment of a neutral expert, leading to objections by both countries. That was when both processes were suspended. Explore: World Bank pauses dam arbitration to ‘protect Indus Waters Treaty.’ At the January 5 meeting, Solomon did not raise any question on the designs of the two projects, according to the Press Trust of India news agency. Instead, he explored ways to resolve the dispute. With nothing decided, the World Bank official is going from New Delhi to Islamabad to continue this effort. The official added that India is fully conscious of its international obligations and is ready to engage in further consultations to resolve the differences regarding the two projects. Under the IWT, India is allowed only non-consumptive use of water from the three western rivers in the Indus basin–Indus, Jhelum and Chenab.”


The co-authors mentioned, “The Kishanganga and Ratle projects are on the western rivers. They are run-of-the-river hydropower projects that do not hold back any water, though Pakistan’s objection is about the height of the gates in the dams from which water is allowed to flow downstream. The three eastern rivers–Ravi, Beas and Sutlej–are reserved for the use of India. Meanwhile, in Pakistan. The Pakistani government approached the World Bank last September, saying the design of the Kishanganga project was not in line with the criteria laid down under IWT, and sought the appointment of a court of arbitration. Since the Kishanganga project has been going on for years, the “inordinate” delay by Islamabad to approach the World Bank would give India more time to complete its projects, Jamait Ali Shah, former Indus Water Commissioner on behalf of the Pakistani government, told thethirdpole.net”.


Their article pointed out, “However, Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar wrote to the World Bank on December 23, stressing that it was not withdrawing its request to set up a court of arbitration. This was followed by a call from the outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry to Dar, saying that the US would like to see an amicable solution to the transboundary water row. Karachi-based newspaper…quoted diplomatic observers in Washington to say, “seriousness of this dispute, particularly the fear that it may harm the treaty, forced Mr. Kerry to make this call.”


The writers explained, “For a while now Pakistan has also wanted to bring China into the picture. At the sixth meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) of the CPEC which was held in Beijing on December 29, a special group on water storage was formed to pre-empt any “severe water crisis” impacting economic and food security of Pakistan, an official statement said. After a Chinese delegation visits Pakistan later this month, the JCC – the highest policy-making forum of the CPEC – may consider including the Diamer-Bhasha dam into the CPEC agreement. Planned at an estimated cost of around USD 15 billion, if Pakistan succeeds in getting the dam financed under CPEC, planning and development minister Ahsan Iqbal would consider it a “landmark achievement”. Both the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have refused to lend money to Pakistan for this hydropower project. Pakistani experts react leading lawyer and former federal law minister, Ahmer Bilal Soofi termed the inclusion of water security into CPEC essentially a |political choice for Pakistan and China” though the issue does not “squarely fall within the otherwise commercial mandate of CPEC”.


Zofeen T. Ebrahim and Joydeep Gupta wrote, “Speaking to thethirdpole.net, Soofi said Pakistan and China need to exchange notes on a “contradicting state practice of India as an upper riparian to Pakistan and a lower riparian to China, that will help both the states to confront India.” He further added that Pakistan should raise its voice at an international level that “India’s building of reservoir and fully utilising the water storage capacity under the treaty poses a serious threat to Pakistan in particular backdrop of India’s present posturing as it improves India’s capability to manipulate water flows into Pakistan.” This was echoed by former commissioner Shah who said the international community should be duly briefed about the “dilution of the violation of the provisions of the treaty” by India. At the same time, he said both countries should continue to work closely and quietly to resolve the grievances and find a middle ground”.


They added, “The recent stance by India where it “lobbied aggressively and influenced” the World Bank, he feared, had further undermined the already “fragile” treaty. “The WB needs to take the right action–which is to act as arbitrator in this matter, as it has done before,” pointed out water expert Simi Kamal.The reason why the IWT, 74 pages long with 12 articles and 8 annexures and has no expiry date, has worked so far, she said was partly because the Bank acted as a third party. “The Bank needs to maintain this role and not back off now, when its arbitration role is most required in the face of a belligerent Indian government.”


According to the writers, “Kamal further said the solution lay not in the pause by the Bank “or for hawks to call for dismantling the treaty”, but for both governments to act responsibly and for the Bank to play its role in “containing adventurism by either government–in this matter the Indian government”. Shah also felt when Pakistan plans to proceed with such cases, it never does its homework thoroughly and therefore always appears the weaker party. The same was endorsed by noted economist Kaiser Bengali when he told thethirdpole.net that he found “the intellectually deficient and politically inane manner in which Pakistan has been pursuing the matter”, criminal. Bengali had little confidence in the Pakistan IWT team. He said, “It has no strategy on dealing with water issues with India. Pakistan’s chief negotiator for more than a decade and a half had limited intellectual capacity to lead on such a strategically life and death issue,” he said”.


They indicated, “He said Pakistan keeps harping on the “spirit” of the agreement. “Four decades after a treaty is signed, what matters is the letter of the print, not the spirit of the time when the document was signed.” Bengali believed India was not violating the letter of the agreement. “India has been building power plants on western rivers, but not diverting any water”. Nor, he said, were Pakistan’s contentions on the design “substantive enough to warrant a full scale confrontation”. He also observed, like Shah, that differences can and should be resolved in a more “low key” manner. He feared that since India was not violating the treaty per se, if Pakistan does take the latter to court, it will meet the same fate as the Baglihar Dam case of 2007”.


Zofeen T. Ebrahim and Joydeep Gupta maintained, “While Indian officials maintain that they are sticking to the IWT, the government has hardened its stand in recent months after attacks on Indian Army camps in Kashmir by suspected militants. (Read: South Kashmir’s role in anti-India struggle) New Delhi had earlier said it was setting up a task force to examine what projects it could undertake in the three western rivers of the Indus basin under the ambit of the IWT. In the last week of 2016, the government announced that the task force would be headed by Nripendra Mishra, principal secretary to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”


Nevertheless in light of the above article, it is mentionable that since the 9/11 tragedy, international community has been taking war against terrorism seriously, while there are also other forms of bloodless wars, being waged in the world and the same are like terrorism. Political experts opine that modern terrorism has many meanings like violent acts, economic terrorism etc., but its main aim is to achieve political, economic and social ends. Judging in these terms, Pak-India water dispute which has become serious needs special attention of the US and other major powers, as India remains stern on her illegitimate stand in this respect.


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Punj Piyare: Birds of a feather



The culture that took root nearly 50 centuries ago in the Indus Valley of the present day Pakistan came to be known as the oldest urban ethos of the region. The eventual infusion of Islam not only enhanced the cultural identification of Pakistan but also advanced the development of art over the years. During the pre-Partition days, poetry and literature were the primary means of expression and highly respected forms of art. On the contrary, artists were considered as languishing craftsmen who simply replicated traditional art. After independence, modernism was chosen as a popular approach by Pakistani artists like Shakir Ali and Zubeida Agha for emancipation and free enterprise, contrary to the restrained demeanour of the old school.

Shakir Ali did his masters from the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy (JJ) School of Arts, Bombay, and left for England and France. On his return in 1952, Ali, after a short stint as a drawing master in Karachi, joined the Mayo School, Lahore as a lecturer. In 1958, the Mayo School was upgraded to National College of Arts (NCA) where Professor Mark Sponenburgh, an ex-JJ School sculptor, continued as the Principal and introduced major changes in the curriculum for necessary upgrading of the art disciplines. Ali succeeded Sponenburgh as Principal in 1961, where he served till 1969.

Ali’s presence in Lahore acted as a catalyst to the liberal art community for his overwhelming interest in the works of Cézanne and Cubism, which he introduced in the 1950s. He was also inspired by Muslim calligraphy and exploited its use in his paintings. A stranger to the city of Lahore, he took refuge in the tea and coffee houses on the Mall, where artists and poets frequently congregated to exercise creative intelligence. These individuals were frustrated with the events of the recent past and were anxious for a change. The addition of Ali amidst a perturbed set of like-minded artists was timely to impart the requisite impetus. He never forced anyone to paint like he did; instead, he inculcated the desire to be original.

Amongst his closest associates who rejuvenated the post-Partition modern art were Sheikh Safdar, Raheel Akbar Javed, Anwar Jalal Shemza, Moeen Najmi and Ali Imam. Dr Akbar Naqvi, a distinguished art critic, in his book, Image and Identity, gave them the title of Shakir Ali’s Panj Piyare (meaning ‘the five beloved ones’ in Punjabi).

Seated Nude in Blue, 1970
ShakircAli (Pakistani, 1916–1975)
Oil on canvas; 35 x 54 in.
Image courtesy of ShakircAli Museum, Lahore
ShakircAli Museum

Sheikh Safdar, the first piyara, painted in the style of a cubist and drew subjects that were Ali’s favourite; however, he could not achieve the sensitivity of the mentor. Safdar’s painting of ‘Mother and child’ was ornamental and carried liberal signs of modern art. His style bore some semblance to the work of Zubeida Agha. Influence of the renowned painter Jamini Roy was also incipient in his paintings. Safdar made use of the multipoint view of an object but in a primitive manner. Although Cubism had become quite popular, but somehow, his work remained reluctant and wanting. With a limited creative acumen, he painted for pleasure to attempt anything that was different and spellbinding.

Raheel Akbar was a remarkably versatile painter who could express utilising a variety of subjects with equal ease. His paintings are composed of abstract forms which are defined with vivid fluorescent colours. The basic shapes of the rectangles, cubes and squares are arranged in a pleasant picturesque format. Unlike the characteristics of cubism, he searched for attractiveness and a particular impression of light and texture. He was Ali’s second piyara, who left the country in the ’70s.

Anwar Jalal Shemza, the third piyara, obtained his diploma from the Mayo School of Art and did his graduation from the Slade School of Art, UK. He was modest about the choice of canvas size like his mentor Paul Klee. The small-sized paintings drew the viewer closer to observe the detailed

handling of the medium. Shemza carried out numerous delicately executed paintings based on the alphabets B and D, before his death in 1985 in England. His paintings of ‘Roots’ series based on arabesque carry nostalgic nuances of his homeland and people.

The fourth piyara, Moeen Najmi was a founding member of the Lahore Art Circle and taught at the Aitchison College, Lahore.
Initially he painted trivial landscapes but gradually transformed his style to modern painting. He utilised scenes from rural Punjab and the Shalimar Gardens, Lahore, in his paintings of abstract genre. While keeping architectural monuments in focus, he painted the gardens depicting the entwining of nature and culture. He painted buildings and monuments with a superior sense of ornamental architecture which reflects his yearning for intricate detail. To express the values of Muslim art and culture of the sub-continent was the objective of Najmi’s paintings.

Ali Imam, the fifth pyara of Ali, had a major impact on the art of Pakistan through his students, his acumen for entrepreneurship, the Indus Art Gallery, the journalists, collectors and admirers he created. He had a fair understanding of modern painting and had a wealth of knowledge about art. He appointed himself as an authority on Pakistani art to make a living when he returned from abroad. His painting, before he switched to modern art, comprised of watercolour in a form similar to the Bengal School. He made his early modern paintings in the ’50s, while he became a member of the Lahore Art Circle. Later he moved to Karachi and taught art, while painting whenever possible. During the ’70s, his painting went into decline, but his white paintings turned out to be worthwhile for their unique texture and movement.

The culture of interaction within friends, associates and contemporaries during the ’50s was an effective means of exchanging intellectual information. The tea and coffee houses served as crucial rendezvous points for the brimming prodigies’ talents, who desperately needed to redeem their minds from creative blocks. The combination of ideas and conjecture from diverse origins has an amazing potential to resolve numerous misunderstood concepts of art. Incidentally, in the present day local art scenario, the need for a similar culture of frequent interaction is strongly felt.

Reference: DAWN, Pakistan

Decolonizing the Spirit – Pakistani Art from 1947-79

Understanding Pakistan Project Team July 19th, 2007

By: Niilofur Farrukh

The DNA code of Pakistani painting is a complex one. The early experiment with the stem cells of modern art movements to further a nationalist agenda birthed a Pakistani modernity. The artist not content to be on the fringe turned into the protagonist of the ‘other story’- a saga of three decades that chronicles the trauma of a heterogeneous people learning to be a nation and an agenda of conscience that defied the colonization of the spirit. writes Niilofur Farrukh, The Editor of NuktaArt, a contemporary art history magazine in Pakistan, and the research director of Project Art History Pakistan

The maelstrom unleashed by the cartographer’s pen, circa 1947, deepened political fault lines in South Asia. The resulting volatility, fractured a people that were once united in a freedom struggle again colonial fetters. What followed, was the largest displacement of people in history and the birth of two nations.

Like ‘midnights children’ poised on the cusp of loss and gain, the nations struggled to gain a sense of self. The itinerary of the artists could not escape new ideologies. The dynamics of disconnect and displacement opened unexplored territory and a different imperative.To the Indian artist a continuum of the aesthetics of land and religion held no contradiction. The Pakistani artist faced with the aftermath of a three way divorce between land, religion and cultural history had yet to determine philosophical moorings.

Fully aware of their place in history, the manifesto of the artists of nascent Pakistan could not escape the spirit of the time. The political and social leadership that had its roots in the Western educated Muslim elite of undivided India had begun to seriously question the relevance of orthodoxy in a progressive modern future. Contemporary values of the industrialized nations based on reason and science were considered the engine of advancement. Their primary concern became a robust intellectual, economic and social participation in the modern age.

Poet Iqbal, the mentor of this generation with his message of khudi (self) had already reinforced the awakening of individuality and personal ambition and this chipped away at the edifice of fatalistic beliefs, as his verses became the new mantra

Khudi ko kar buland itna kay ha taqdeer say pehlay
Khuda panday say khud poochay, bata tayree raza hia hai

(elevate yourself to such heights of achievement that god is compelled
to consult you before he decides your fate)

This paradigm shift manifested itself in art and experiments with the modern idiom provided a framework to re-examine a familiar cultural terrain.

pk7-zubeida agha 58.jpgThe upheaval of the last years of the Freedom Movement had created an awareness for the need of ‘a vital new expression, as Raza’s explained ‘ the revivalist movement of the Bengal school despite laudable effort it made to instill an awareness of our cultural heritage, seemed literary works, sentimental, delicate and unresponsive to the pace and anguish of our time’These views found resonance among the aspiring modernists of Pakistan. Ahmed Pervaz, Sheikh Safdar, Shemza, Moyene Najmi and Ali Imam founded the Lahore Art Circle in the early 1950’s. Once again, Lahore, home to Emperor Akbar royal atelier, became the site of a bold new experiment in the visual arts.

A similar movement led by Zainul Abedin was initiated in the Eastern wing of Pakistan.Zubeida Agha (Figure: “Karachi by Night” by Zubeida Agha, painted in 1956), also a Lahorite, had the honor to be the first modernist to hold a solo show as early as 1949 in Karachi. Social taboos separated her from her peers of the Lahore Art Circle as it was unacceptable for a young woman to be seen in the company of male artists and poets at their nocturnal meetings at Lahore’s coffee houses where debates usually raged well into the night. Her gender however did not stop her from making a seminal contribution even if it dictated a separate, often lonely path.

[Editor’s Note: Next Page Contains Some Fascinating, yet heavy bite-sized graphic files that might take, depending upon your computer speed, a while to download. Please be patient as they download – Ed.]


Privileged by her family’s support, the missed interaction was compensated by a formal education in artist Sanyal’s studio and later by Mario Perlingieri, a prisoner of war who has received some training from Picasso. Zubaida, a life long admirer of the passionate oeuvre of Amrita Sher Gill, herself sought inspiration from philosophical introspection and painted intangible ideas with an emotional distance.

In the words of Mussarat Hasan, the author of Zubeida Agha’s recent biography “She was one of the great colourist of Pakistani painting. She employed colour not only for itself, but to lend veracity and meaning to her images, culled from life and restructured by her amazing imagination to provoke the viewer into thought.”

Zubeida discussed the partition with Marjorie Hussain in an interview shortly before her death in 1997. ‘Speaking of the turmoil that accompanied partition in 1947, Zubeida recalled the confusion and uncertainty …aware and compassionate, she employed her energies to the need of the time, gradually becoming suffused with the desire to create from chaos…’ Zubeida’s years at St Martins School of Art and Ecole de Beaux in Paris prepared her for the role beyond that of an artist. She was an influential figure on the art scene for half a century both as a strong advocate of Modern Art as the director of The Contemporary Art Gallery in Rawalpindi, which she founded and ran and an activist in the campaign for the National Gallery.

This early exploration of the new idiom was a purely visual response to what the pioneers had been exposed to through colour plates and black and white printed reproductions in magazines and art books. None of them were fully cognizant with the philosophies that energized the Schools of Paris; by default their lack of formal education led to an eclecticism that opened a new space for inventive work.

Akbar Naqvi, Pakistan’s eminent art critic explains ‘Modern art in Pakistan was seen as Cubist and Abstract, and it became the catalyst of freedom for painters. Zubeida Agha and Shakir Ali took the academic version of modern art forms from Paris and rejuvenated them. It was this, and the feeling that they too could rove and ravage the West, as Picasso, Matisse and Klee had done with non-European cultures before, which made this enterprise.’

This was a multicultural interface that did not anticipate that colonial mindset often survives territorial loss and the initiative to dehegemonize art was not going to be without a challenge. The Eurocentric art scholars could not appreciate the work outside the fixed notion of one way appropriation and that all non-European dialogue had to fit into a fixed pre conceived space of the exotic or the derivative. The canons of modernism were simply not open to multiple modernities.

The advent of Modernism also must not be seen as a continuation of the politics of cultural intervention in South Asia. The systematic interference through overt and covert means during the British Raj had eroded the craft base and mutated Miniature Painting into the Company School of Painting. Marginalized and mis-represented, the cultural legacy was being erased from the Indian mind. C R Das in 1917 voiced his concerns “We had made aliens of our own people, we had forgotten the ideals of our heart….”

Unlike previous attempts the post partition artistic synthesis was not an outcome of social engineering but the intellectually motivated decision of free citizens. To the artists modernism symbolized many different things, progress, freedom, search for identity, nationalistic zeal, the excitement of discovery of the immense possibilities within an aesthetics not bound by moribund tradition. To them it was the genesis of a hybrid articulation that would be reflective of the radical change in their social and political environment. An art capable of the resilience and flexibility to cross cultural lines and this became increasingly visible in the oeuvre of the Pakistani Modernist.

For each of these artists Modernism did not mean a denial of their legacy, experiences and affinities but an engagement with them. Shemza, who belonged to a family that traded hand-woven carpets, his reference was design. On this matrix he sought new asymmetrical configurations of the perfected balance of the woven rectangle. What sprang on his canvas in jeweled colors was the distilled and contemporarized vision of an heir to centuries of skilled crafts. This imaginative leap and unity could only be the product of a transformed spirit, as despite the intensive craft- based training at Lahore’s Mayo School of Art, the subaltern was not empowered to script his narrative. Moeen Najmi canvas reflected the architectonic complexities softened by ornamental details of Lahore’s regal and humble, built spaces.

Ahmed Pervaz, the most prolific of the group achieved prominence at home and abroad, was an inspirational figure. His visual dialogue via colour at a purely intuitive plane was a mind map of emotions. It was an inner compulsion that drove him to repeat a dynamic movement energized by exploding small abstract forms. A closer look shows that his forms were not identical, nor static but continuously evolving in the changing amorphous space, constantly challenging the eye to find a focus in the chaos. Maybe it is an affirmation of his tremendous talent that he could create endless variations to rescue his art from the commonplace.

It was the vision of three artists Shakir Ali, Ali Imam and Anna Molka Ahmad, whose pedagogic intervention that took the movement from musings of a few to a mainstream art movement.

pk7-anna molka.jpgAnna Molka Ahmed (figure) who came to Lahore before 1947 with her husband Sheikh Ahmad, established the Fine Arts Dept. of the Punjab University. Open only to women, the partition was a setback when many students joined the exodus to India. Undeterred, she went knocking on the door of Muslim homes to send their daughters and her passionate appeals were not ignored.

Pragmatic Anna Molka emphasized teaching as a way to sustain art practice. With her students in institutions all over Pakistan, modernism was able to make inroads in smaller towns. According to the artist “… I practice colouristic painting, using colours of different light values for each shade of light and dark.” Her energetic impasto paintings were inspired by the physical geography of her adopted land.

A devoted member of the Lahore Art Circle, Ali Imam’s focused on building a support system for the arts in Karachi. As the head of one of the city’s oldest art academies, in the 1960’s he gave The Central Institute of Arts and Crafts (CIAC) a modern curriculum with theoretical studies integrated with skills to build the intellectual resources of the next generation of artists. When he left it in 1970 to establish the Indus Gallery, today, the longest running commercial gallery of the country and a cultural institution in its own right, he successfully cultivated a group of discerning art buyers in the country’s financial center. The artist, in Ali Imam, always took a back seat, maybe his brother Raza’s genius always made him feel that he could never step out of his shadow. Imam Sahib, as he was known to the generations he influenced, was not a prolific painter. In his art he referenced the figurative tradition in painting and used textural techniques to create visually nigmatic effects under a veil of white to create a signature canvas.

To his students, Shakir Ali despite his anglophile demeanor, was the bridge between the dynamism of Modern European painting and the resilience of the indigenous artistic legacy. Years at Slade School of Art in the UK and School of Industrial Design in Prague provided him with aesthetic strategies to frame his personal experiences and traditional references into a contemporary philosophy. The artist’s oeuvre can be distinctly divided into two groups, one of formalistic innovation with a preoccupation with ‘the significant form’ and an emotive body of work that interprets the vibrant Rajput miniature in a modernist’s tribute.

Hands on experiences like cataloging of the Lahore Museum’s Miniature collection and excursions to mountain villages were common for students while he headedNational College of the Arts, At the country’s largest art school, he encouraged new ways of seeing and enhanced their ability to view things through the prism of a modern thinker. This cultural interface is best seen in his house turned museum in Lahore, where the minimalist interior showcases a collection of vibrant crafts, meticulously collected for their enduring aesthetic appeal.

pk7-chughtai.jpgPakistan’s enterprise of modern art faced resistance when it tried to enter the mainstream cultural discourse and challenge established principles of ‘jamaliati zouk’ or aesthetic conventions. Chuqhtai (Figure) and Allah Baksh were two masters with popular following and their art found a resonance with the artistic preferences of a majority of the population. The art in the urban centers of Pakistan developed a dual personality and was divided along economic and linguistic barriers. Social polarization was exacerbated by the system of education that was divided between Urdu and English as a medium of instruction. The national sensibility was clearly tiered. The large rural population who were on the periphery of industrial change continued to respond to folk art, classical realism, Islamic design elements and calligraphy unlike their urban counterparts. This sharp division was gradually blurred with the advent of terrestrial television in the late 60’s.

The formalist emphasis on the development of the new visual syntax to investigate the personal and psychological space in the 50’s and early 60’s was gradually expanded to include political and social commentary. Bashir Mirza in the Black Sun series spoke of the anguish of a nation at war and Sadequain’s satire with his bleeding fingers and truncated head with a crow nest became emblematic of an impotent intelligentsia.

Innovations with calligraphy points to two distinct streams of thought, artists like Hanif Ramay, Gulgee and Sadequainpreferred to retain the integrity of the word. For Hanif Ramay, one of the first modern artists to discover possibilities within calligraphy and in his art the curvilinear script became a way to organize space with stylized letters.

pk7-gulgee.jpgFor Gulgee (figure) who began his career as a portraitist in the expressionist mode discovered action painting in a collaborative experiment with a visiting American artist. For the monumental calligraphic painting that followed he made gesture painting his point of departure. A deeper exploration of this new genre reconnected took him to the Islamic art of the book.

It was Sadequain’s calligraphic works that broke class barriers as people thronged the gallery. As an heir to the strong calligraphic tradition of Amroha, Sadequain was perhaps the most comfortable with his inherited tradition and modernity. After a brief flirtation with Cubism during his stay in Paris in the 1950’s he developed a figurative iconography suited to his content of social satire.

Sadequain’s calligraphic paintings looked to the meaning of the text and created calligrams informed by a constructivist vocabulary. His canvas was encyclopedic and he looked at universal themes from classical literature. He became Pakistan’s most prolific painter of murals ceilings that presented an epic view of man’s destiny as envisaged in the poetry of poet Iqbal.

Shemza and Zahoor looked beyond the meaning and transform texts into spatial and rhythmic patterns well beyond their function of communication.

Partially eclipsed Miniature Painting by modern art it was kept from disappearing by two traditional miniaturists Haji Mohammad Sharif and Ustad Shujaullah in Lahore.

The 1970’s presented the challenges of a new political reality. The loss of East Pakistan had bewildering repercussions for the populace and after the turmoil in the first two years of the decade; the National Exhibition of 1973 reflected both the rejuvenation of the cultural institutions under Prime Minister Bhutto’s government. Himself a serious collector he took personal interest in culture and the artists responded to his optimism with a will to construct a better future.

Held in Karachi, the 1973 National Show saw the emergence of new trajectories in Pakistani art. The generation that came of age was the true ‘midnights children’ as they had arrived in the new homeland, sometimes as infants.

Bashir Mirza remembered crossing over from Amritsar on his father’s shoulders. The images of violence that haunted his childhood often found their way in his art particularly his drawings. The ‘Lonely Girl’ series that caused a stir on the art scene announced the modern woman of Pakistan that hoped to banish forever the timid damsels from the canvas. He continued to dominate the time with his brash innovations.

Zahoorul Akhlaq return from UK to interface with the world as a global citizen. His oeuvre did not appropriate but question as he expressed a preference for the conceptual. The nuclear mushroom within the format of the ‘farman ‘ or the royal decree suggests a subtext beyond the cross pollination of visual symbols.

pk7-khalid iqbal.jpgWith a commitment to root his art in the terra firma, Khalid Iqbal (figure)became the moving spirit behindThe Lahore School of Landscape. His interpretation of the fertile plains bordered on the spiritual. In keeping with the spirit of an agrarian society linked to the land and its productive soil, both nature and culture were intertwined in this genre of Pakistani painting. Kaleem Khan in Quetta and Imtiaz Hussain in Peshawar continued to capture the ageless mountain spirit. This decade will also be remembered for Jamil Naqsh’s visual thesis on ‘Woman and Pigeon’, which propelled him to the forefront of art history.

Mian Salahuddin a ceramist trained at NCA and The Cranbrook Academy in Michigan became the pioneer of clay expressionism, adding a new dimension to the ancient clay continuum.

It was the commitment of a handful of sculptors that kept this field alive in Pakistan despite lack of official and private patronage. Shahid Sajjad, the most prominent among them was largely self- taught. His life-size wooden works executed in the hill tracts near Chittagong bring into question the definition of civilization. A word denied to aboriginal people who live in harmony with their world unlike the predatory and wasteful developed nations. The 70’s saw him embrace bronze as a medium.

One of the few artists from the former East Pakistan who made Karachi their home and remained active was Zainul Abedin’s student Mansur Rahi. Married to Hajra, of the Zuberi sisters who founded the Karachi School of Art. An accomplished painter he will also be remembered as the mentor of a group that revived watercolour as a significant medium in Karachi.

Colin David and Ijaz ul Hasan diametrically opposite in their approach to art both added to creative tapestry of the 70’s.

Women artists emerged as emblems of new consciousness. Art and poetry by women in Pakistan documented their emancipated voice and served as a catalyst for alternate attitudes.

pk7-laila shahzada.jpgLaila Shahzada (figure), who came on the scene in the 1960’s by her ‘Driftmood Series’, turned her attention to the interfaith legacy of spirituality in South Asia. A group of younger women who became a major presence in the decades to come, among others, included Lubna Latif Agha, The Zuberi sisters– Hajra and Rabia, Rumana Saeed, Sumbul, Mehr Afroz and Nahid from Karachi and Salima Hashmi and Zubeida Javed from Lahore.

Lubna Latif Agha a graduate of the Karachi School of Art was recognized as an outstanding talent and honored with a solo show at Indus Gallery. Behind the veil of glacial white, molten crimson waited to flow from the fissures, Lubna’s intensely emotive works were read as the statements of ‘a body denied’ or ‘a wounded spirit’ and broke the silence of the disenfranchised.

Mehr’s a printmaker from Lucknow Arts College was motivated to introduce this discipline in Karachi. Her sophisticated language of textures won her awards at the National Exhibition and the honor to represent Pakistan internationally.

After graduating from CIAC, Nahid’s search took her to the necropolis of Chawkhandi through which she entered in a dialogue simultaneously with culture and modernity. A prolific career as a watercolourist established Sumbul as a committed exponent. In this group Hajra preferred to strike out on her own and follow the footsteps of her guru, Chughtai through oriental wash painting. A student of Shakir Ali, Salima returned to her alma mater as faculty in 1970. During this period her visual statement had begun to have a political edge, which runs through her work as a common thread.

To Zubaida Javed, the influence of Anna Molka her mentor must have been difficult to shed but her strong spatial sensibility succeeded in transforming the landscapes from the physical to the ethereal.

The DNA code of Pakistani painting is a complex one. The early experiment with the stem cells of modern art movements to further a nationalist agenda birthed a Pakistani modernity. The artist not content to be on the fringe turned into the protagonist of the ‘other story’- a saga of three decades that chronicles the trauma of a heterogeneous people learning to be a nation and an agenda of conscience that defied the colonization of the spirit.

Bol kay lab azaad hain…challenged the revolutionary, Faiz.
(speak out for your lips are no longer sealed)

With this independent spirit, the artists create an expressive contemporary mosaic. For those who can penetrate its layers the most important sub- text is the latent philosophy. Naqvi in his tome ‘Image and Identity’ locates the Pakistani artist in the malamati tradition..A group of free- thinking Muslim writers and poets that occupies the nimbus between the secular and the religious. The art of Pakistan reaffirms that the artist unlike the politics of the time, has transcended religion into the cultural domain, a timeless matrix of creativity.

 Courtesy: Understanding Pakistan Project  Please Visit this Excellent Site on Pakistani Art & Artists.

Sculpture from Pakistan




Sadiq Ali Shahzad from Multan Pakistan

Sadiq Ali Shahzad from Multan Pakistan

Introduction of Sculpture Artist from Pakistan

Sadiq Ali Shahzad from the South Punjab,  City of Multan. A Mother feeding her child & artist gave it the name of Universe's most biggest truth

A Mother feeding her child & artist gave it the name of Universe’s most biggest truth

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