KARACHI: Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi on Saturday regretted the decision of veteran Indian actress Shabana Azmi and her lyricist-writer husband, Javed Akhtar, to cancel their visit to the metropolis to mark the centenary celebrations of her father Kaifi Azmi’s birth following the Pulwama attack.

Speaking at a press conference here, Arts Council president Ahmed Shah condemned Mr Akhtar saying the way he attacked Pakistan and “crossed the line” did not seem appropriate for a literary person.

“I feel sorry for Shabana Azmi that she has lost hope,” he said. “I don’t criticise her but we deeply feel saddened the way she had expressed disappointment after Pulwama attack. We firmly believe that artists and people who are regarded for their literary and art contribution are the ones who give hope to people. They never disappoint them. But this time Shabana Azmi sounds extremely disappointed.”

The Arts Council is organising a conference to mark 100th birth anniversary of poet Kaifi Azmi on Feb 23 and 24. Many celebrated poets and literary personalities from Pakistan and other parts of the world have been invited for the event, including Ms Azmi and Mr Akhtar who earlier this month confirmed their visit to the city to attend the two-day event.

However on Friday, the couple in their separate tweets announced their decision to cancel their planned visit following the Pulwama attack.

“For the 1st time in all these years I feel weakened in my belief that people to people contact can force the Establishment to do the right thing. We will need to call halt to cultural exchange,” said Ms Azmi in one of her tweets.

The reaction from her husband was even harsher.

The Arts Council office-bearers not only condemned his stance but also questioned him on other episodes of brutalities in India-held Kashmir.

“Javed Akhtar should have courage to denounce his prime minister Modi’s atrocities in held Kashmir where every day innocent people are killed by security forces,” said Mr Shah. “We respect everyone’s thoughts and regard his or her right to express them. But I refuse to take this [thoughts shared by Mr Akhtar over Indian media] on my country or any country. You cannot attack the land of over 200 million people who love peace. You cannot link any individual’s act with the ideology of majority of peace-loving people.”

He said the Arts Council respected the wish of Ms Azmi and had started a project to launch an album consisting of progressive poetry work of Kaifi Azmi. For that, six of total nine compositions had been prepared by musician Arshad Mehmud, which reflected unbiased and art-loving attitude of the Pakistani people, he added.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2019