PESHAWAR: The artists, literati and cultural activists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the erstwhile Fata have attached high hopes with different political parties to do something significant for ameliorating their plight.

Most of the artists, especially those affiliated with music and performing arts, feared a crackdown on them if once again Mutahidda-i-Majli-i-Amal, an alliance of religious parties, came into power in the province in the upcoming general elections.

But a few optimists related to art and music industry hoped that the comeback of MMA wouldn’t harm art and artists in the province, once plagued by militants and terrorists. ANP claimed that its government in its tenure reopened Nishtar Hall, the city’s lone theatre, after five years of MMA rule. Also cultural activities were restored and condition of artists, singers, performers and writers was improved by compensating them.

Hope comeback of MMA will not harm art in province

Whatever, ANP failed to do for the artists was to approve a comprehensive cultural policy the well-prepared draft of which remained dormant. The party couldn’t get enough time to approve the cultural policy draft and then get it implemented. Senior artists and writers looked upon the upcoming government following general elections with suspicions that it might not take steps to promote art in the province.

The previous government of PTI and its coalition partner JI took several commendable steps for improving the situation regarding art and cultural activities.

It initiated a plan of awarding monthly stipends to 500 artists and writers though the move caused more anger and unrest among artists than arousing a good feeling. However, those artists, who were either ignored or deprived due to one reason or other, were selected for the award of monthly stipend in the next round.

The much awaited provincial cultural policy draft was approved by PTI government on the end of its rule but again it was left to be implemented by the next government.

A senior artist, on the condition of anonymity, told this scribe that successive governments had ignored art and artists and brought about only cosmetic changes just to deceive them in the name of revival of art and culture.

He said that every government in power built buildings, released monetary compensations and awarded certificates just to amass funds from foreign donors.

“Political governments, whether liberal or religious, never set up institutions for strengthening artistic and cultural foundations. I strongly believe that monetary assistance alone cannot solve problems of artists in a society where philistinism prevails at every level,” he said.

Tariq Jamal, chief of Awaaz, said that so far no political party had approached his organisation to include the demands of artists in its manifesto. He said that giving monetary compensation to artists and writers was tantamount to further divisions in their ranks. He said that governments failed to resolve issues of artists and literati.

Mr Jamal said that artists needed institutions like performing arts academies, art galleries and writer clubs that could provide opportunities to them to shine their art and feed their families.

Rashid Khan, a young artist and chief of Hunari Tolana, told this scribe that his organisation would approach all the so-called liberal parties to ask what had been planned by them to ameliorate the plight of artists.

He said that he was busy in contacting artists and performers to sensitise cultural wings of the political parties to incorporate their demands in their agenda.

It is pertinent to mention that PTI government had set up in 2016 about five different units at culture directorate and hired services of around 11 specialists on various aspects of arts and literature but soon after completion of its tenure all the units were closed down.

Pashto entrainment industry has already been in throes as most cinema houses in the province have been razed to the ground.

However, artists, performers and writers with a positive thinking still look up to political parties to consider their condition in case they come into power.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2018