sher.khan

Sher Khan

A Lahore based reporter for The Express Tribune

Ayub Khan and the Pakistani film industry

A leading film-maker once asserted to me that Pakistani cinema had actually thrived through the advent of Ayub Khan’s military rule. This thought is part of the broader belief amongst some quarters that the dictatorship eras have provided a certain amount of socio-economic growth and development for Pakistan. Interestingly, for film, this has never been the case. In fact, Pakistani cinema has always been built through the efforts of dedicated individuals who, despite the lack of structured support and resources, developed methods through which some sort of a film culture could develop. This culture was, in fact, undermined by the ...

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The underlying consensus and elections

French philosopher Alain Badiou opens his essay, the Communist Hypothesis: “If we posit a definition of politics as ‘collective action, organised by certain principles, that aims to unfold the consequences of a new possibility which is currently repressed by the dominant order’, then we would have to conclude that the electoral mechanism is an essentially apolitical procedure.” In 2007, Badiou was critical of the French presidential elections due to the emptiness that it represented. Despite a loud and often bitter campaign between Nicholas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal, there seemed to be a consensus on all critical issues faced in the ...

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Major Ishaq and mass politics

During a time when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had managed to capture the hearts and minds of the people in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Major Ishaq Muhammad was one progressive who chose to pave a different political path. Ishaq, who had been Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s cellmate during the 1950s, was known for his militant stance against crony capitalism and entrenched landlordism. Following the split of the National Awami Party in 1965, Ishaq left his flourishing legal practice to create a rural-based movement in the form of the Mazdoor Kissan Party (MKP) in 1967. He was also a prolific author ...

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No stupid, banning Indian films will not help Pakistani films

Ayub Khan first banned Indian films in Pakistan in 1965. While it was a developing industry, the protectionist policy had a nationalist undertone rather than a solid economic rationale that would benefit filmmakers. Obscured by a political and nationalistic dimension, the long-term health of Pakistani cinema was ultimately hindered. Today, the debate regarding the ban on Indian films is prevalent amongst the film community. The idea is that through a protectionist policy one can adequately control competition, thus giving an edge to Pakistani films at the box office. The debate has been dominated by hardline filmmakers who insist that they can not only protect the ...

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The story of Baba Jan Hunzai

About a month ago, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told the world that there are no political prisoners in Pakistan. But allow me to bring to notice the case of a political prisoner who is close to me and one whom our government repeatedly tries to silence. His name is Baba Jan Hunzai. He is an activist for the Labour Party Pakistan and a leader of the Progressive Youth Front. Baba Jan, along with four fellow activists, spent the greater part of last year languishing inside various jails throughout Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B). His story is not told in mainstream media but ...

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Corruption farce?

The present era is being called the age of corruption by many in Pakistan. Ranging from the National Reconciliation Ordinance to the growing allegations of corruption within state institutions, the perception of the current regime being highly corrupt has solidified. Despite its dominance in popular discourse, there has been little effort made to understand the global political context in which the anti-corruption rhetoric has developed. It is essential for Pakistanis to understand where the anti-corruption slogan is coming from. Ivan Krastev in his 2004 book titled Shifting obsessions: three essays on the politics of anti-corruption, writes: “It was the new anti-corruption rhetoric ...

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Bhagat Singh the intellectual

A lesser appreciated aspect about Bhagat Singh, who was executed on March 23, 1931, was his intellectual prowess. In the greater context of subcontinent politics and history, Singh’s socio-political understanding showed a very nuanced and detailed insight into the future of India and the importance to transform society. The tragedy, in the context of a Pakistan that lacks an academic culture, is that Singh’s legacy has been used to reaffirm the state narratives set in place. For some reason or another, history before 1947 has been studied in limited scope within Pakistan. In reality, Singh’s writings should be seen as ...

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Political moralization is not the way

A politician will stand on the pulpit and thousands of people will watch, as he or she weaves a story about the past. For some, it will be Ayub Khan’s decade of development, for others it may be an issue or a cause like Kashmir or Balochistan. Regardless, the gestures and punches that will be emphasized will all constitute an act of moralization. For democratic societies, political moralization, in its greater sense, undermines democratic political culture because it discourages debate and discourse. Democratic systems are based on the concept of competing ideas and institutions against a moral framework that allows for a system ...

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Cinema and class

Film as a revolutionary art form has for some time been at direct odds with the commercialisation of cinema, because it has put those on the margins in popular discourse. The decline of Pakistan’s local film industry has also coincided with changing economic structures in which the industry used to operate. Cinema has since long been associated with projection of national identity. With the advent of globalisation, film has been used to project various group identities and has also changed the paradigm in which culture functions. In the 1970s, Indian actor Amitabh Bachan had come to represent the quintessential anti-hero in ...

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Judicial activism and democracy

Recently in the backdrop of the ‘memogate’ controversy, the honourable apex court hearing a petition regarding the possible removal of the ISI chief and the army chief sought “assurances” from the government that the two would not be removed. Some would think that this is an example of one pillar of state, the judiciary, overstepping its boundaries and encroaching on the mandate of the executive. In Yale Law Professor Owen M Fiss’s essay The Right Degree of Independence, which deals with the idea of political insularity for the judiciary, an independent judiciary acts as a “countervailing force within a larger ...

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