Martial law at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts
I just got back from the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA). While there, I saw around 200 fauji jawans, in their camouflaged uniforms and big boots, take over the place. The big parking and most of the area in front of the facility, is totally shut down for the public as of now.
For a moment, I thought, God forbid, martial law had been imposed. However, upon investigation, I found out that the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) is holding an event on the June 28 (tomorrow) and the prime minister will be the chief guest.
Now I have seen Gilani be the chief guest at many other events and I know that the security is supposed to be tight, but I have never seen a public place shut down and the parking lots taken over three days in advance because the prime minister will be coming.
Then I wondered why the military bhais needed this particular hall. They have no dearth of auditoriums and halls of their own, which I am sure are far better equipped than what we poor civilians have. It must be mentioned that this building of the PNCA came about for us after a wait of decades.
Why are such high-security events bring organised in the very few places available to us common citizens?
I don’t want to be a miser and mean and say that the military should not have access to civilian facilitates as I fully recognise that they are citizens of this country as well, and I would be very happy if they used it for their events as citizens and not as owners of the country – restricting our access and taking over the space, breaking the rules of the PNCA and showing distasteful behaviour of putting in hundreds of their men in big boots in a highly civilised cultural institution. I am sure the PNCA would not let us close off their parking lots no matter how much we pay them. Similarly, they would not allow us to have food served inside the exhibition galleries like they have allowed now.
Unfortunately, a small group of us citizens happened to have an event there tomorrow. So this morning, first the PNCA management told us to buzz off and find another place without any remorse. Not to mention the hefty advance they had taken for one exhibition hall and the commitment in writing.
Later, we were allowed to have our program and they showed cooperation, but our participants would have to park half a kilometer away, as the parking lots are closed off.
I also wonder if those 200 jawans will continue to stay there tomorrow as well. Other than my discomfort with this distasteful take over, I wonder how many jawans it takes to arrange an event at the PNCA auditorium.
Our civilian institutions should also have a backbone and should make the military comply with their ethics and rules, but I guess they, like all of us civilians, also think that they are merely the temporary in-charges of the institutions – eventually it will be the active military or retired military people who will govern our cultural institutions.
For my media friends: it will make an interesting photo if you pay PNCA a visit tomorrow.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.