KARACHI: Pillars installed at Frere Hall depict the graves of those who lost their lives in ‘extrajudicial killings’ from 2011 to 2018 in the city.
KARACHI: Pillars installed at Frere Hall depict the graves of those who lost their lives in ‘extrajudicial killings’ from 2011 to 2018 in the city.

KARACHI: An exhibition depicting “extrajudicial killings” in Karachi by artist and professor Adeela Suleman at Frere Hall as part of the Karachi Biennale was allegedly stopped forcibly by some “plain-clothes men”, triggering criticism by activists mostly on social media, said the artist and witnesses.

The exhibition was titled Killing fields of Karachi and was about the 444 killings allegedly carried out by Rao Anwar, a former Malir SSP.

“This issue has been brought to our notice and we are looking into it,” said chief of Karachi’s South Zone police. DIG Sharjeel Kharal, however, added that he and his team had yet to receive any formal or informal complaint from the artist or organisers about the episode.

Karachi’s Frere Hall, the venue of expo, was sealed

Another police officer who did not wish to be named claimed that police played no role in the “sealing off or stopping the art exhibition”.

He was of the opinion that it was “not advisable” to comment upon the matter.

Visual artist and sculptor Suleman said she was at the venue of the video exhibition — the iconic Frere Hall — when certain people were seen asking about it.

The associate professor and head of the fine arts department of the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture told Dawn that two persons in civilian dress appeared on the scene at around 10am and “pressurised” the administration of Frere Hall to stop the exhibition.

In case their instructions were not followed they would forcibly stop it, they said.

Ms Suleman said the two persons in plain clothes did not talk directly to her.

The event has been organised with the permission of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and the administration.

Ms Suleman, who is known for social and political commentary through her work, said she was merely “recalling” the story of the alleged extrajudicial killings, inclu­ding that of Naqeebullah Mehsud, that was “already available in the mainstream and social media and as reflected in court proceedings”.

She added that there was no picture of former SSP Anwar in her work.

Separately, she told the media that the lower hall/room of the historic building, where the exhibition was arranged, had now been sealed. The artist revealed that her art pieces/paintings were available outside the hall.

Asked as to who were the persons involved in the episode, Ms Suleman replied: “I really don’t know.”

Speaking at a press conference, Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research called for the de-sealing of the exhibition’s venue. Without naming anyone, he said the Karachi Biennale was projecting a positive image of Karachi and Pakistan.

Mr Ali said the authorities should keep in mind that the activity was in the interest of the country. He observed that the people’s democratic and constitution rights should be respected.

Faisal Siddiqi, the counsel for Naqeebullah Mehsud’s father, pointed out that the 444 killings were documented and part of the police record.

Naqeebullah Mehsud and three other persons were shot dead in an alleged armed encounter on the outskirts of the city on Jan 13, 2018. His killing triggered widespread anger on social media, prompting the authorities and the Supreme Court to take cognisance.

Subsequently, SSP Anwar and several other policemen were re­­moved from their posts and arraigned in the murder case of Naqeebullah Mehsud as a joint investigation team declared that the 27-year-old resident of Waziristan had been killed in a fake encounter by the police. It was revealed during the investigations that Naseemullah, better known as Naqeebullah, had no history of militancy or criminal activity.

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2019

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