Shanakht was a festival of arts and performance, organized by Citizens Archive of Pakistan[website now 404] which was attacked by the workers of Pakistan People Party because they were offended by one of the images displayed here. You can read a rundown of the event here and a sobering editorial at Dawn for background.
I expected the Pakistani blogosphere to universally condemn the hooligans of the reigning party who perpetuated this violence and stand with the artists’ right of self-expression. I certainly do. But, the Pakistani blogosphere seems to be universally condemning the unknown artist, instead. It is, they say, “akin to a political blasphemy” or “ridiculously meaningless” or “monumentally stupid“. Their critiques of the artist and of the festival organizers, directly or indirectly, condone the violence that shut down the festival.
Satire, through crudely photoshopped images and cheekily assembled youtube videos, was the proverbial engine behind the ouster of Pervez Musharraf (head photoshopped over an Abu Gharib image, above). It has not stopped. Almost daily, I get emails and txt messages which poke fun at Zardari. Any yet, Lord help us if anyone puts up a roadblock to the sanctification of the martyr’d Benazir Bhutto. Puhleez.
What happened at the festival was a shameful example of a civil sphere that has neither the language, nor the space, to have dissent without violence. It isn’t “talibanization”, it is the “ghundafication” of Pakistan. And it continues with tacit support of our so-called liberal intelligentsia.