The F.E. Choudhry Gallery: Na unki rasm nai hai, na apni reet nai

Posted on June 14, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, >Nadeem Omar, History, Law & Justice
12 Comments
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Nadeem Omar and Adil Najam

The scenes we are seeing in the current lawyers movement for democracy, including the ones seen most recently at the Long March to Islamabad, reminds one that our memories are short but are struggles for democracy are not.

Protests outside Lahore High Court where Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was being tried, 1978

Police barricades outside Lahore High Court, 1978These two news photographs from the F.E. Chaudhry of protests outside the Lahore High Court where Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was being tried in 1978 are from about another set of protest for democracy by the intelligentia, outside another court, against another military dictator, and for democracy.

These pictures are from an era when the suppression of information was stronger and technologies of liberation (like the electronic media, including blogs) were not widespread. One is not sure, therefore, if these pictures were ever actually published. But, looking at them today one is reminded of how little has changed either in the desire of ordinary Pakistanis for justice and democracy or in the response of the state to this desire. The barricades today are more sophisticated (containers have replaced barbed wire) but as the police danda is pretty much the same.

The first of the pictures above shows the chaotic scene of riot police quelling the protests on the Shahrahe-Quaid Azam, (or popularly the Mall Road) Lahore, by PPP loyalist who were trying to get to Lahore High Court, where Mr Bhutto was being tried for murder. It is strongly reminiscent of current lawyers struggle for the restoration of superior judiciary.

Presumably taken from a roof top of a building on the Mall, the long aerial shot establishes the scale of everlasting contest between oppressive organs of the state and the democratic forces of civil society, unsettling the democratic future of Pakistan. A testimony of resilience to democratic intelligentsia of the country, which has always struggled against military tyranny, but was rarely acknowledged.

A closer view of the photograph reveals the pockets of struggle within a wider frame. Brutal beating taken by the protestors at the hands of police, a cycle and a scooter abandoned in the middle of road, bare handed individuals failing to protect themselves from baton charged, while a civil officer calmly looks away as the havoc was a mundane state affair.

The second picture from FE Chaudhry shows a lone figure of a policeman on the Mall Road who stands calmly few blocks away, guarding the pillars of state. In the background are barbed wires, laid all around the Lahore High Court, with a posse of policemen trailing along the walls of the Court and their superiors blocking the entrance gate. The photograph captures the heavily guarded surroundings of the Lahore High Court, where Mr Bhutto was being tried for a murder.

These two pictures challenge the impression that Bhutto’s judicial murder was condoned by people in Pakistan. Or, the more recent argument that the current lawyers movement is something “new and unusual”, something “unnatural”, something “abnormal.”

Indeed, these two pictures validate Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s memorable lines (and also the poetic inspirations of Faraz and Jalib):

Yuhin hamesha ulajhati rahi hai zulm se khalq
Na unki rasm nai hai, na apni reet nai
Yuhin hamesha khilaye hain humne aag mein phool
Na unki haar nai hai na apni jeet nai

Click here for the evolving F.E. Choudhry Gallery at ATP.

12 responses to “The F.E. Choudhry Gallery: Na unki rasm nai hai, na apni reet nai

  1. Traitor Land says:

    the people who think little of their Sincere, Dedicated, Talented Leaders………..

    we disrespect Muhammad Ali Jinnah, by not working hard, by taking bribes, arranging marraiges to get more power and corruption, the truth is we did kill Muhammad Ali Jinnah,
    and Liaqat Ali Khan, and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto……..

    Thats why we are reduced to be ruled by the T-r-a-i-t-o-r-s-

    who corrupt and poison this Great country, but most of all its Ideals are being destroyed …………

    by continuously showing indian values and films and songs….
    rather than promoting pakistani dramas, values and songs…

    wat can you do in a country where the only language that is spoken is “corruption” and “sifarish”

    who are running Pakistan right now…….

    who knows wat might happen tommorrow……..

  2. Enough says:

    Amin Paanwalla, jao paan baicho.

    Your types were always against Pakistan and teh creation of Pakistan. Those who sacrificed for this country were the one who believed in Jiannahs vision of a liberal and modern Pakistan. Your “Shariah” types were against Pakistan then and against Pakistan now. Pakistan was NOT created for implementing Shariah. That was Talibanistan in Afghanistan. Please relocate to a cave there!

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