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Intersections, crossroads and statues

Published Jul 26, 2012 07:04am


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You can get a fair idea of the mood and aesthetic tastes of a country’s citizens through their buildings, their manner of living, their statues affixed on traffic intersections or crossroads. It’s perhaps better if we don’t mention our traffic, and move straight on to the emblems which mirror our moods and aesthetic tastes. Although idol making and statue sculpturing was practised on our land centuries ago, but ever since we curtained the place with Islam and named it Pakistan, it slowly started disappearing.

The small number of statues which were present became adornments for large mansions and museums. A few broken pieces were also found in some barber’s bath. As I grew up, I saw a plane somewhere or a cannon, there was either a submarine or a tanker; wherever you’d pass you’d see some violence-induced object and we’d look at them with pride in our eyes and consider them a memorabilia of our victory. Then came Mr. Bhutto’s time, who in accordance with his name, erected two swords and three swords on the way to his home.

When Zia-ul-Haq came to power, these intersections were once again in for progress as they became ‘Allah wali chowrangi’ or ‘Kalma chowk’. All our aesthetic values were represented by religious symbols; minarets were erected in one place and domes were constructed in the other – similar symbols were used to create monuments. Allah wali chowrangi gained so much popularity that its copies were constructed in smaller sizes and were to be seen in other cities as well. Last time I saw a small copy of the three swords in Mir Pur Khas, my friend also used to live somewhere close to the three swords.

Our neighbor country which too is engulfed by poverty and paucity is still unable to solve their citizen’s basic problems, much like us. They did a nuclear blast and our integrity awakened; finally Mian sahib did it too at Chagi and informed the world that we are no less. And then every city, village, or park was affixed with the mountains of Chagi. Wherever you looked crowds of people with their families were out to witness the Chagi Mountains.

Once we were over Chagi, those who followed started erecting horses everywhere; some with soldiers on top, others with the horse passionately neighing or dancing. Other animals were also seen alongside our roads. And when we progressed a bit further, we built the Schon Circle which was still somewhat better. An underpass was built at the same place and for the first time someone depicted our past recollections and asthetic values in an excellent way by decorating a wall which upon sight makes us proud of our cultural and historical assets.

-Photo by Khuda Bux Abro.

But what can be done for this nation which is adamant on influencing people with faith already to keep faith? A nation that knows ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness’ and yet causing pollution is its favorite activity, and if there is a clean, decorated wall, it considers its salient aspiration to blacken it. So many times has that beautiful wall been murdered that its creator would have left the city by now. Every morning new slogans, new demands and then one day illicit language was written across it. Now when you pass the wall, the open gutters and excessive over writing and erasing has ruined its beauty.

-Photo by Khuda Bux Abro.

My friend and statue sculptor Anjum Ayaz, for the first time, gathered all his courage to erect statues on sea view and also sculpted some Quranic verses on stones to revive people’s faith. But what was done to these statues is not worth seeing; some were broken or simply disappeared, whereas others held sacred papers or were recipient of pan spits, while still some had a green sheet hanging from them. Anjum, our country’s famous artist and sculptor didn’t lose hope and erected an even more beautiful figurine in place of the one that disappeared but now that exists no more either.

Our brother country Iran is perhaps more motivated by Islam than we are. If you’ve ever been there, you must have noticed that every crossroad has an effigy. Not just cities, even if you pass villages and small dwellings, you’ll see statues at every intersection. There’s a poet standing somewhere or a writer, a philosopher or a physician, an artist or a sculptor; they are all their heroes. Wherever you go, whether it is some museum or someone’s mausoleum or a park, you’ll see figurines. And indeed, Islam is not threatened by them either.

We have such a significant historical asset but our statues are either placed in museums or we are smuggling a truck full of them abroad. And if by mistake they reach our police, they lie broken in our police stations. Now the decision once again rests with the judiciary and only the court can decide what is to be done with them. And whilst the court reaches a decision, these statues have gradually started disappearing altogether.


The author has dabbled in every form of the visual arts. An activist to the core, Abro’s work deals with social themes and issues ranging from human rights to dictatorial regimes. He is currently working for DAWN as an illustrator.


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The author has dabbled in every form of the visual arts. An activist to the core, Abro’s work deals with social themes and issues ranging from human rights to dictatorial regimes. He is currently working for DAWN as an illustrator.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (15) Closed

Capt Mansur Jul 26, 2012 09:33am
Such a correct and captivating article. People making the faithful faithful. So true, I migrated to a new and small country Namibia years ago and saw Jaamats after Jaamats from all over invading the only mosque in this small town and for what????...amazingly for making the faithful faithful again. What a waste of resource and energy. Same has been happening in Pakistan. So Sad.
Faisal Jul 26, 2012 02:56pm
Most of the marketing companies are selling the same thing to the same people using it over and over again. Its called reminding not converting. Unfortunately, we can chit chat about the same stuff everyday and not get worried or offended. But if it any how relates to religion then all the hawks wake up and admonish the ones who talk about it. I have also studied in a small town university in USA and I also avoided the jamaats when they had came but later on when I have seen what is happening to the youth of this nation, I admire those people who invest their time and money to worry about others and come to remind. I agree there are many problems in our society but its not necessary to blame the ones who are trying to follow religion. They are not responsible for it. To fix the problems around me is equally my responsibility. Its ironic that some people doing some effort and I am blaming them that they are not doing what I like or everything. We should all be part of solution and work for it.
Karachi Wala Jul 26, 2012 01:00pm
So True! Years ago while I, with other Pakistani students was attending a university in a very small town in the USA. There were also"Jaamats after Jaamats" visiting us each year. They would go to apartment after apartment (as there were a large number of Pakistani students who were residing in the same complex) preaching the "faithfuls to be faithful". I remember most of the young students would run away avoiding “Jamaat” invasion as some had to go for classes and others had to go to work and some needed some sleep. One day one of us found the courage and asked a "Jamaat" (who was able to invade his apartment,) you have traveled thousands of miles and spent thousands of dollars to come here for what? To convert us Muslims to Islam? He asked them where they get the finances from. As most of them belonged to very small towns with not very healthy businesses or jobs. Why don’t' you help the poor and old people or help build hospital or make schools. None of them had any ANSWER.
Raoul Ciao Jul 26, 2012 09:27am
unfortunately the only allowed faith in Pakistan is the one expressed in terms of the faith in the main religion......not in other forms of human expression. As it has become emblematic of a young nation trying to define oitself, the turmoil of killing, hate, narrow faith interpretation and the vandalism it unleashes in the name of purifying society and thought, is unleashed. Sad, but that is where it is.
@numansheikh Jul 28, 2012 01:38pm
Sorry, i would disagree, The Raiwind clan has been able to convince (read brainwash if you would like) on the importance of tableegh that people have no problem in saving money and spending on their tableegh tours. So its probably needless rather incorrect to tie it to a conspiracy theory.
Imran Hussain Jul 26, 2012 09:45pm
Were you going school in Durant, OK - SOSU now SE
Danish Rajper Jul 27, 2012 01:42am
I like the way he try to induce people regarding all monuments & statues around us but unfortunately we lived in that country who claimed we are atomic power but we don’t even have power for our traffic signals so how come you expect from govt to issue a abundant budget for city beautification .
Razzaq Jul 26, 2012 07:41pm
Pakistan was handed to us in unfractured and perfect running condition by the British and Hindus. Look what the excessive religiocity have done to it. And shamefully,we are not yet prepared to review our disgracefull follies.
Agha Ata Jul 26, 2012 02:22pm
I am just wondering what could possibly be their honest answer?
Captain Mansur Jul 26, 2012 02:29pm
Karachi Wala amazing I gave them the same reply. Same response No Answer. Needless to say they stopped invading my house incidently which was the only Muslim house in a town of 60 thousand.
Karachi Wala Jul 27, 2012 09:41am
Agha Ata, years later I found out that their Funding Tunnel starts in Saudi Arab. They were also supported by Zia era Born Again Muslims. Ironically, since that time, Pakistani society has seen nothing but doom.
ali Jul 27, 2012 06:16am
Religious brainwashing at its best.
Naseema Perveen Jul 26, 2012 08:04am
nice collection and perfectly expressed,,,,but i like to read with more interest if and only if is free from politics!
nyla Jul 26, 2012 08:57am
Beautiful and very artistic, i guess u might as will be interested in the following
Amna Aug 02, 2012 08:22am
nice pic actually !