My art is not for you Prime Minister Gilani

Published: June 26, 2011

My friend stood painting something abstract, holding a cigarette  in a manner that complimented her artistic persona. She probably noticed my sarcastic smile and said, ‘Hey Ammar! I know you criticize abstract art, but you see artists are free souls. We don’t believe in any rules, regulations and boundaries. We choose to be apolitical and are not disciplined folks at all. Discipline and art do not go along.”

I remained silent looking at something black lying next to her bag. She continued, “What are you looking at? The graduation gown? That’s for the convocation dress rehearsal. Everything has to be perfect for the honorable Prime Minister!”

I’ve decided that I am not going to attend the 12th convocation of the National College of Arts, from where I graduated last year. I am not going to be a part of this celebration. Despite being a distinction holder and the fact that my parents have waited for this moment I graduated – I refuse to attend. This should be taken as a small form of resistance over an event where artists rush to offer protocol to bureaucrats.

You may think that I am being ultra leftist but I cannot participate. You can either be Darbaari or Awaami.

Many consider our academic artists as some sort of rebels who oppose the bourgeoisie and bureaucracy.


A majority of them have a love affair with the establishment. I find it ironic that some ‘liberal artists’, who claim to be the intellectual vanguard of the country, are so pro-establishment. This doesn’t just include the fresh art graduates but also academics who romanticize their ‘artistic freedom’ and have illusion of being liberators. These people feel pride in the fact that  a feudal cum Prime Minister of a chaotic country would spend a few minutes in their ceremony. The “free souls” are so afraid of committing any mistake that they organize rehearsals to make sure everything remains ‘disciplined.’

Mr Gilani hasn’t played any slightest role in shaping my artistic abilities. He probably doesn’t even know what art is. He has no right to preside the convocation ceremony of an art school. I can’t pretend to have any respect when I don’t have that for him.

I don’t have any illusions regarding People’s Party being ‘comparatively a progressive party’ of Pakistan. All the main leadership come from a feudal background, something that can never be ignored. Moreover, during their regime we have witnessed the brutal killings of their senior and outspoken members like Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti. Mr Gilani , being the Prime Minister of Pakistan, has failed to punish their murderers.

He has failed to find the people responsible for the killing of Benazir Bhutto. He has failed to provide people with the basic necessities of life. And I can’t receive my graduation degree from a failure, no matter how respectable he is in the eyes of these ‘art bureaucrats’.

Lets replace him with those architects of society who have been suffering since ever in this land of the pure.

Where are those blood-spitting artists? I want them to award me the degree.

Where are those hunger-stricken poets? I want them to award me the degree.

Where are those revolutionaries who got tortured in Zia’s era? I want them to award me the degree.

My art is dedicated to the people’s cause and I don’t need any Prime Minister to prove my art.

I would rather choose what Faiz said once:

My heart, my fellow traveller

It has been decreed again

That you and I be exiled


Ammar Aziz

An independent filmmaker and political activist who teaches film theory at NCA. He blogs at and tweets at @ammar_aziz

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Tanzeel

    Good decision, Ammar. I am impressed!Recommend

  • Tanzeel

    Although its the duty of court to punish the killers of Taseer and Bhatti, so going by the same logic If ever you get a chance to receive any recognition from Mr. Chaudhry or any other LHC judge as well, refuse it. Recommend

  • aMmAr


  • Saqib

    You are entitled to have an opinion, but I must correct you on one thing, which is that the Prime Minister of Pakistan, no matter how evil he may be, is the democratically elected leader of the country and thus has the right to be presiding over the convocations of National Institutions. He is the representative of Pakistan at the higest level. So, We can hate him, but we shouldn’t disrespect the will of the majority of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Saad Durrani

    This speaks volumes. I wish that Prime Minister Gilani sees this.Recommend

  • Izza Khalid

    Great! Keep up with the attitude, thats what we all need!Recommend

  • Fahad

    Very very interesting perspectiveRecommend

  • Moon

    Really good. Appreciated Recommend

  • Arif

    I stand by your side in your this decision. Hats off to u…

  • MsMarium

    ‘Aise Dastoor Ko,Subah-e-Benoor Ko Main Nahi Maanta,Main Nahi Jaanta’ .. this poem of Habib Jalib goes with this articleRecommend

  • Jawad Bt


    Dont worry i did the same.. never attended my convocation at NCA.. but went for the dinner.. cannot leave it for anything else.. and trust me it was the best decision that i had ever made at NCA.. and especially when you drag ur parents into a convocation where they are not treated well.. So best of Luck.. it wont matter to anyone else but you would feel great ..Recommend

  • Jahman

    interestingly there r yet other people who felt the touch of inspiration outside art schools or whatever is left of those. I suppose nca and it’s satellites r performing some function after all !!Recommend

  • Le Mystique

    Good decision Ammar. I hope you continue being a rebel always!Recommend

  • Asad

    Why does a leftist like yourself need to attend an establishment run institution which is a relic of colonialism?Recommend

  • Usman

    Good work. Its people like you who i call, people like me. Wish we have more people among us. Recommend

  • B Ali

    I hope all artists do the same at the convocation.Recommend

  • Mohammad Usama Rehman

    Does the PM knows you??
    What is going to happen…..your name being called out, you dont come, the next person comes and takes his, thats it!!!
    The PM walks out happily, never knowing that someone didnt come!!
    what difference does it make to the indifferent PM??
    Absolutely Nothing!!!
    U got guts??
    U brave enough??
    Go there and then reject taking it from his hands, mister!!!!Recommend

  • Asad

    Mere Dil Mere Musafir…Recommend

  • sid

    It was the cigarrate that got her High! Recommend

  • mohsin

    well said Mohammad Usman Rehman Sahab that is exactly what i was thinkingRecommend

  • mohsin

    Well said Mohammad Usman Rehman

    That is exactly what i was thinking….Recommend

  • Ahmad

    Reminded me of Jean Paul Sartre who rejected the NOBEL PRIZE for Literature! Followed this blogger on twitter @ammar_aziz which shows he is a leftist too :D
    These leftists are alike in every era :pRecommend


    Good Decision..
    i think its duty of the head of institution to change this, because they invite these personalities for presiding convocations. unfortunately most of our scholars help this system, in past most of play their role in Ayub’s marshal law…
    Our intellectual class also are power hunger, they pretend liberalism..Recommend

  • khurram

    cheetah hai meri jan tu ………..

    we are evolving as a nation Recommend

  • Natasha Suleman

    Well. NCA authorities are responsible for ignoring those much deserving and ‘relevent’ people as cheif guests. What does that suggest? What kind of mindset do your college authorities have? The very people awarding you the degree?

    Like that rebel side of yours but Id still say go for it. Not because Mr. PM is awarding you the degree but because it is YOUR degree. You wouldve received it graciously had it been awarded by any other person. It shouldnt make much difference to you because he’s not doing you a favour.

    Your degree is surely not for Gillani.Recommend

  • Tooba

    @ Usman Rehman:
    I truly admire your ability to tear people down. Is this an acquired skill or are you naturally gifted?Recommend

  • Sehr A

    This sets a good example. The fact that Gilani is democratically elected means jack. Respect is earned. Izzat mazaaq nahin jo power politics jaisi filthy game say mil jaaye. I repeat, it is EARNED. I am yet to come across an act of Gilani which would earn him respect.

    And I agree. The PM has no business handing out degrees in an arts college. What does he know about the arts? This isn’t even symbolic, let alone meaningful. Mixing something as vile as politics with something so pure, spiritual and APOLITICAL as art is a crime to say the least. And it is a slap on the face of artists.

    Getting your degree from someone like Gilani is like ruining what you worked for all those years.

    The bigger message this sends out is that corrupt people should not be socially acceptable. In the days of integrity, corrupt people were social outcasts. It was taboo for all of respectable society to mix with them and their entire families. THIS is the kind of consequence that makes people think twice before engaging in corruption.

    Well done Ammar Aziz. True resistance lives on in art.Recommend

  • waqas habib

    Man i agree with every word u hv written n Allah may bless u. Really appreciate tht!Recommend

  • Umais

    In the rise or fall of any civilization/ country/society the first resistance or reactions comes from its visionaries, writers, artists, poets or from its scholars. There is nothing more polluted, corrupt, pseudo and directionless than Pakistan’s academic artists. In Bano Qudsia’s words “The damaged artist of contradiction will seed the contradiction…Recommend

  • SR

    Good going young man.Recommend

  • http://Lahore Talha

    now its your duty to bring your art for the nation and people. do something for the poverty, education and health. we all need to give shut up call to senseless leadership.

    lets join hand with like minded people, from other institutions, from various parts of life. we need a change within next three years.

    keep it up, i am with uRecommend

  • Confused

    It’s your choice, but what has the prime minister got to do with your degree? It’s your achievement because of the years of work you put in, and it’s your triumph. Not going is your own loss and nobody’s benefit.
    If you want to promote him, you would go there and thank him openly.
    If you want to be indifferent, you go and take it or you don’t go.
    If you want to show him your art is not for him, or disagree with him, you would go there and say this openly. like so

    Just my opinion though.Recommend

  • Tanzeel

    To be precise, No Degrees are distributed at the Convocation venue on the day of the Convocation. Usually students get their degrees from the admin office later. So when you say its YOUR DEGREE or whatever, he will get HIS degree anyway. What counts is “A distinction holder” has refused to be a part of ceremony where incompetent man was supposed to ‘honor’ him.Recommend

  • Analyzer

    Bravo. Rather have distinguished artists at such occasions than these corrupt parasites who have no concern whatsoever for the future generations of this country.Recommend

  • Ben

    salute to you bro!Recommend

  • BP

    He wouldn’t care less if you lost that toothbrush on your head, or were raped, or crushed under an overspeeding lorry.Recommend

  • Samia Awan.

    Good luck Ammar for such positive n bold decision..Recommend

  • Samia Awan.

    Goodluck Ammar for such positive n bold decision..Recommend

  • Sabahat Naseem

    I too agree with Mohammad Usama Rehman. Go and and say it all on his face whatever you have blurted out here. I really appreciate your thoughts. Don’t let them go in vein. Go and BOL. :) Recommend

  • Shahid Khan

    None of politicians is a NCA graduate. How to find a PM worth your intellectual status?

    I still have to know a Prime Minister of any country who is expert of arts or rocket sciences but they do preside as PM, you are not leftist but another urban praise hungry middle class youth. Living in world of delusion, away from real world and people!Recommend

  • Iftikhar-ur-Rehman

    Way to go Ammar !!!Recommend

  • Pir Ali Raza

    It is important to respect your country hence respect the people who are in ‘honourable’ positions. I see the rebelious streak in you but one needs to respect the norm. Thats what makes us different from barbarians – civilized behaviour. Just enjoy your day, dont waste it on whos the chief guest. I guess its too late now.Recommend

  • Farhan Faiz

    I don’t know if I am not getting it right or something else. Since when its court to “punish the killers of Taseer and Bhatti”. As far i remember, its the duty of the court to provide justice. Its the duty of the government to investigate, catch and present it before court.
    In case of Taseer, govt. has done above mentioned and court is in the process of providing justice. In case of Bhatti, as per my knowledge, govt. has done nothing and court is waiting. Lastly, I know that justice delayed is justice denied and this is the thing that court should look after. If someone is not receiving any recognition based on above mentioned, I agree but asking court to punish is a bit hard to digest.Recommend

  • mayaiesh

    you are right in doing that. the conscience does not allow such hypocricies. and artists are supposed to be the sensitive souls, the mirrors for the society..Recommend

  • Raza

    It’s a good start. You are young and you will feel great about it. I mean that is why you wrote such a long blog……..but eventually you will come to know that real world is not what you think it is and not at all what you would want it to be. Mark my words, you will give it up and if you don’t do write to me how many more have you been able to avoid down the road…:). I am not implying right or wrong here, just wanted to guide a sweet and thinking soul like you. Only advice do learn to focus on what is the desired outcome of what ever you do or choose doing. Good Luck.Recommend

  • zeeshan

    indeed its a blessing for our country that someone has supported his words through a practical step & stepping out at the time when you are in the lime light of your career & college life.
    indeed your step is the writing on the wall for those reining the power.Recommend

  • Sehr A

    @Pir Ali Raza:

    ” I see the rebelious streak in you but one needs to respect the norm. Thats what makes us different from barbarians…”

    Hohohahahahahaha good one Pir Saab!

    Sarcasm, right?Recommend

  • Friedrich

    Let Anarchy rise.
    I mean, why do we always seek perfection into everything?
    We shouldn’t be bound to rules.
    I second that!Recommend

  • Najeeb

    You had better been there and not take the degree (or whatever he was handing out there), that would have made a lot more impact. Not going there, you not only deprived your parents of their dream to see you on that convocation stage, but also made no impact on Gillani (not that doing anything else would make any).

    Not accepting the degree from him on stage would have been a slap on his face like no other. People here are praising you, but usually decisions taken in a hurry being fed-up are not always right!Recommend

  • Arslan

    bold decisionRecommend

  • Yasir Hasan

    Good stance against these good for nothing politicians Ammar… I support you fully..Recommend

  • Ali Umair khan

    OMG over 25 million votes out of some 8 crore eligible votes are fake, and when only 40 pc people voted what remains for the credibility of govt, just use some mind b4 advocating zooradi and gillani.Recommend

  • zubair raja

    good amarRecommend

  • Ahmad

    This shows that we still have people who dare to stand in front of anyone for their ideas! It has given us strength and inspired us to resist!Recommend

  • Ahmad

    You RESIST therefore You EXIST! Recommend

  • zia

    nd who says he is elected..??Recommend

  • Saqib

    @Ali Umair Khan

    Its the fault of the entire nation that we have politicians like Zardari at the top today. Its not the politicians fault that the majority of the ppl didnt vote. Those who did vote, have elected them and they r our leaders, whether v like it or not.
    The fact of the matter is that, its not Gilani, the person who is going to preside over the convocation, but the Prime Minister of Pakistan, and thats what has to be respected.
    I couldnt care less for Gilani or Zardari.Recommend

  • b*tchzilla

    i’m sorry, you just sound like an angsty adolescent trying to find a weak and stupid rationale to oppose what you call bureaucracy.

    you seem to oppose an idea, not an institution and i see no real conviction in what you say.

    it’s pretty easy to skip out on a boring graduation convocation, in fact, your excuse seems like the sort of lame, unbelievable excuse one would make to do so.

    if you really oppose the bureaucracy and have no interest in pandering to the whims of the bourgeoisie, i suggest you take some hard hitting steps to do so instead of writing an attention-seeking rant on why you don’t want to attend your graduation convocation.

    cheers. Recommend

  • b*tchzilla

    also, did i mention that you sound extremely pretentious?

    “my art is not for you prime minister gilani”

    whatever. kuch kar ke dikhao, phir baat karen ge.Recommend

  • Ali Majeed

    Your protest may have appeared as a revolutionary thing to do in your perspective but in the larger scheme of things it stands nowhere. NCA is a government institution and you really cant expect some firebrand revolutionary to dole you out your degree in the convocation.
    A commentator on this thread was right on the money when he suggested you should have been there yourself and had you really want to make a real protest would have told the PM on his face. That would have taken courage and the admiration of your peers and those who you consider to be artistic turncoats.Recommend

  • Najeeb

    who stood against?? This person just didn’t show up on the convocation, big deal, Gillani wouldnt even know who was on the guest list anyways… he wouldnt even give it a thought as to who came and who didnt.

    Had Gillani beeen the one handing over the degrees and this person had walked away, that would have been something daring.Recommend

  • http://deleted shazia khan

    Bravo! Bravo! i agree with you! where is the need for him to be giving away degrees. lets ring the academia back in our lives. proud to have you amongst us!Recommend

  • Mustafa Rashid

    I respected the fire in your heart bruv, and im sure the the PM’s PR team already knows about your decision. But then again my good sir that you set an example for a generation to come. You can either rebel and teach .. or show up and teach with humility. Soon the older generation will come to pass and it will be us that will hold the power. Hopefully you don’t stand in a position ever where some young one decides not to shake your hand because you have become a person of stature. Do give it some though.
    Although I would love it if you attend and make some silly cartoon of gilani later with your esteemed artistic talents. ;p
    Peace bruvRecommend

  • MsMarium

    Very cheap attemp to degrade the author ..very cheap NCA .. Pathetic :(Recommend

  • MsMarium


  • rana

    good decision………i am with you on this decision Recommend

  • Dabeer

    RESPECT Recommend

  • Rabia

    Congrtas on your graduation and brave decision. I sincerely hope it makes a difference. We need more people to stand upRecommend

  • Marium

    Awesome! That should be the spirit of the entire nation!!Recommend

  • Mehmood Syal

    Brave step
    Ammar for president!Recommend

  • hira nabi

    dear ammar,
    why don’t you try getting other folks to simultaneously boycott their convocation and write a press release or make some kind of collective statement about this? i’m sure there must be other folks who feel similarly. i remember some years ago, when mush was ruling, we tried to uninvite him as the chief guest for the LUMS convocation. we got a LOT of signature of the convocating batch and planned to graf over campus and were planning action around commencement when we received word that he wasn’t coming. what i learned at that time was that there’s sometimes not even a deliberate decision in the invitation, it’s just sent out to the head of state as part of decorum – that’s how the admin tried to normalize it to us. all the same, a deliberate un-invitation does send out a message, which is what we wanted at the time, and what i’m sure you’re going for.
    good luck!!
    ps. as an artist, i’m not in agreement of the generalization of what artists are like, as expressed by your friend.Recommend

  • HKQ

    Excellent perspective. They may not let us bring the revolution but they certainly cannot change our ideas either. And ideas, when lead to a positive direction, can bring miracles for nations…….Recommend

  • Phoneyspotter

    One of the most pretentious pieces i’ve ever read. First of all the PM doesn’t even know if you exist, so by not showing up you are not making any statement that would make as much as a ripple. Second, you have deprived your parents of the chance to see their child earn a degree. Be honest enough to admit that you were lazy to attend a convocation. If you had said what you are writing in the comfort of your privacy in front of the NCA students and faculty with the PM and governer then you would have made an statement.
    Try to be a true “artist” and then write as many self congratualtory essays as you like.
    BTW The Express Tribune is not the same as Express Tribune blog.Recommend