Martial law at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts

Published: July 27, 2011

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.

Fouzia Saeed

Dr Fouzia Saeed

A social scientist with a PhD from the University of Minnesota and the author of "Taboo! The Hidden Culture of a Red Light Area."

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

  • Musalman Rashed

    Firest of all, the author is misled and doesnt have the information that Army works more meticulously than the civilians; the only difference is order and discipline. I can give a 1000 examples to prove that the civilian sector, especially places like PNCA, have multiple no of resources and funds, yet the civilians are more interested in pocketting OUR shares rather than spend them for what they were granted. Second, there is no concept of normal maintenance, whatever it is, it has to be a contract, which includes, normal servicing of ACs, and cleaning of their air filters, a mere process of a couple of minutes, required to be done every alternate week… Not that hectic, is it? This all leads to deteriorating structures and environments so that all the investment after sometime is a waste… So my dear author, the point is that civilians should also learn how to maintain things, not only build and use them…
    The point of Army taking over the parking lot, well, ISPR aintt that a powerful agency, and its the PM protocol that requires sealing and cordoning of the areas expected of his visit, 72 hrs in advance. The Army itself comes under the PM and President, unfortunately, we have never had a strong ruler that was just and morally upright enough to really takeover the Army… Whereas the strict accountability in Army ensures that everyone has to be upright in the process of being elated to higher ranks… And mind, not all fingers are alike, so a couple of dirty people does not give you the right to malign the whole of Army, just like a few of the immoral, unethical and characterless Top brass of civilians does not mean that they represent and are responsible for the image of whole nation…. The dilemma we face outside Pakistan…
    From the whole of your article, the blame seems to be falling onm Army, whereas it is the PM who should have been targetted… Obviously, his acceptance of the place for honoring it as a Chief Guest must be somehow linked to selection of the venue as RV… who know?…
    So my dear author is requested to kindly braodenn the horizon of his/her thoughts and perhaps become more aware of the realities of this world and this country… No offence intended please, just clarification of the theme…Recommend

  • D

    Rashed sahab, you meant ‘bloody civilians’ right?Recommend

  • zack

    whats ur problem doctor sahiba???…let them do what they want.Recommend

  • zia

    Pakistan Army has a country, they have every right to do whatever they want. How “bloody civilians” can dare to interfere in their affairs!Recommend

  • khurram mansoor

    Well when I read the article I was furiated by the sheer exaguration and the picture taken for the article looked as grima as the situation described in the article. but later I realised this is whats happening in Pakistan we all have just started to disregard our institutions and see what so ever no remorse in criticising malligning whom so ever ti may be. Be it the army our neighbors or even now a days the elderly. Just to pen down something on our blogs.Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    Quit whining on trivial issues. Of course … Its all about the money..The PNAC admin would cave to that only. How come “human rights” come into play when someone is skipping the line. Its the celebrity status of an institution. What if it was some layers congregation you would have dreamed about a write up then.Recommend

  • Vaqas Asghar

    @ Musalman Rashed
    there is not supposed to be any “Our share” for the army in a real country.
    The army works on tax revenue, making it the ‘bloody civilians’ share.
    And as far as army discipline goes, how many military chiefs have been court-martialed for overthrowing the constitution and committing the treasonous act of conducting a coup?
    How many corruption investigations have been carried out against serving officers?
    Why is it that a bureaucrat gets investigated for having one or two plots allotted in their careers while military men are given dozens without any from of questioning.
    Why does the army own its own businesses which compete with the private sector unfairly and have played their own unique role in undermining the development of the economy?
    The military has long forgotten that like the politicians, they work for the people of Pakistan, using money paid by the people of Pakistan.
    Unfortunately, we cant vote them out when they overthrow the government, or even prosecute them when they break the law.
    If you want to defend the army, do it using an example of them performing their real job (defending this country) instead of trying to justify their disregard for for that limited scope mandate.Recommend

  • Moderate

    Mam, you have no idea that such things are done everyday in Universities administered by Military. Heck, students are sometimes even forced to sit in such events by imposing fines, attendance :D and even locking down the college so no one can go out.Recommend

  • pert

    dear author see you during floods … Army BootsRecommend

  • Vaqas Asghar

    @ pert, disaster assistance, when called for by the government, is part of any military’s mandate, it isn’t them doing the people a favour, ITS THEIR JOB.
    While i have great respect for those involved in flood relief, please don’t paint a false picture through sarcasm of them going above and beyond. They did their jobs well during that disaster, but it was their job to do that.
    If you want to single out someone for praise for their work in the floods, praise the volunteers who did it for free, not people who were getting paid for their work (salaries).Recommend

  • http://none Bangash

    What we saw during floods was American helicopters bringing aid.Recommend

  • dr sarosh tusi

    @Vaqas Asghar:
    wow! coolyou rite forr the express newsRecommend

  • Imran

    all as well, all as well Recommend

  • pert

    @vaqas @ Bangash . oh i see its their job.. ya i guess bhal sfai is their job, mardam shumari is their job, wapda is their job, earthquake is their job, internal security is their job, nala lai is their job, floods is their job, operations in swat and fata is their job, borders are their job, siachen is their job, rescue operations id their job, SAF games is their job, development in balochistan and fata is their job, negotiating with tribal intrigue jirgas is their job, taking care of afghanistan and india is their job, law and order is their job, IDPs handling is their job, sacrificing their daily issue ration for the disaster affected is their job, taking responsibility and controlling punjab/sind rangers is their job, FC KPK and Baluchistan is their job, developing gwadar is their job, protecting Sui gas pipe line is their job, sacrificing their portion of pays for the affected is their job, sacrifing lives for meager pay is their job … n all we need to do is sit here and write these MIGHTY TRENDY BLOGS, coz thats wot it is in fashion on media today,” writing against army” .. HAIL author and every1 supporting her here … mil guys standing for the security of MOST DEMOCRATIC PM of the country at an Arts council attracts a PRESTIGIOUS writer to write a blog and it and yes we are ready to laugh at our defenders any moment now,,,, keep that up, we sure need no enemies ! Recommend

  • A Bloody Civilian

    @ pert:

    The highest achievement of the “boots” has been “taking over” all those jobs, and you are complaining :)
    Please never forget that each and every morsel of bread the boots and their families eat is paid by the tax payer by not just sacrificing their lives, but by sacrificing their generations by giving up on education, food and health so the boots can fill their tummies and talk back with that haughtiness !!! Recommend

  • http://none Bangash

    The Army has done none of the jobs you have mentioned, it has only conquered Pakistan and built a business empireRecommend

  • Rashid Khan

    @Vaqas Asghar:
    i’m not a fan of the army but here are a few fact for your consumption.
    Yes, you’re right the army works on tax revenue….but has it ever struck you that it is the tax dodgers who are most fond of shouting this refrain. Also, I would also like to remind you that individuals paid from the defence budget are regular taxpayers.
    The action of military chiefs is not a barometer for judging the disciple of the army. The unchecked acts of military chiefs are indicators of the hollowness of civil society which provides manpower to the army.
    I agree that the army has its share of black sheep and a system of accountability that some manage to evade it, but you’ll agree that corruption in the army is a miniscule of that prevalent in other sectors. Can you quote an instance wherein the army turned a blind eye to incidents of blatant corruption as being witnessed elsewhere today – please enlighten us.
    When you talk about plots of land well there is a system of allotting plots but again there are a few individuals who use ranks and position to make rules suiting their self interest but you cannot make a general statement for the whole army. At least, the army is successfully managing the DHA’s, ask someone the fate of civilian managed housing societies of the past, and please don’t mention Baharia, it’s a later period enterprise.
    If the army own businesses, at least they are viable and paying revenue. It is most likely that if these would have been in civilian control they’d have been bankrupted and the money stashed away in some Swiss accounts.
    In the present times, be grateful for the small mercies, by this I mean the few institutions still functioning. Recommend

  • A J Khan

    A useless article and a waste of time. Personal matters are being discussed as public concern.Recommend

  • I Khan

    @pert, Well said. Dr. Fauzia Saeed surely needs to put her thoughts in prospective. Sensationalizing everything to gain some kind of importance seems to be the name of the game nowadays. Recommend

  • The Critique

    almost every country has an army but only one army has a country…..Recommend

  • parvez

    The British were not stupid. They deliberately kept the army way, way outside cities in cantonment areas for a reason. Due to our stupid ineptness we allowed the two to mingle and now we blame them for the result ?Recommend

  • CitiZen

    For my media friends: it will make an interesting photo if you pay PNCA a visit tomorrow.

    all in all you totally skipped the purpose of the exhibition during you entire ranting… the exhibition is being held to celebrate the tremendous role of Pakistan Army in UN PEACEKEEPING FORCES missions the world over! this is something your media friends should be covering instead of counting the boots— Recommend

  • Musalman RAshed

    I wish people with some stats would come here and talk about maligning institutions… I agree with Mr pert who has given some insight into the dilemma of this nation. Whenever something goes wrong, Army is called, we stagger, and then stabilise, and then start doing all this over and over again…
    Yes, Army eats and flourishes on tax payers money, but they are the only ones in this entire nation that are regular taxpayers, as an organization and institution, not individual persons, facing a fool proof tax recovery process……
    We talk of dozen plots, can Mr Vaqas please give me an example to quote, or a reference??? Yes i have heard they are given a house at the end of the service, for which 50 % amount they still have to pay at the time of taking over, the remaining amount deducted over their entire service of something like 25 yrs. And a plot on the same lines… But dont all strong institutions over the country do that? We have all sort of government and semi-government organizations pursuing such like welfare projects for their employess… Why?? Coz they are not paid in hundres of thousands of rupees over a month for just being an executive, of a 3rd World country, on the brink of economical, social, and most probably moral collapse.. And yet we dont care, we just worry over our pocket…
    Again I ask you all, do we judge ourselves and let others judge us by the mere personality of a few that make it to the media? People are tried in Army for serious charges, from generals to sepoys, but it is not made public for the media to make fun of…. And how sincere is our media, has anyone ever asked this question??? We talk of Raymond Davis, and then we switch to PNS Mehran, may be Osama Bin Laden in abbotabad and then the judiciary??? Has anyone ever thought of pursuing any of these issues to the extent of satisfaction of our conscience??
    No, we are more concerned for the disturbance caused to an entertainment function that we were so much looking forward to….
    And if Pa Army was such a misery, UN would not be proud to have the World’s largest contribution of Peace keeping Missions all over the world from this pathetic infra-structure…
    And these are facts I am talking about…

    And im Sorry worthy author, i still would not call the civilians ” bloody civilians”, cause afterall, we are one nation, and pin-pointing each other isnt going to helpRecommend