A Moment of Silence for a Nation Without Conscience

Source: Sky News

The final verdict has finally been delivered on Asia Bibi case, or so we think. It has finally been established by the highest court of the land that the poor Christian woman accused of blasphemy around 8 years ago in an obscure Punjab village was innocent of any of the allegations. Interestingly enough, it was not Asia Bibi but the moral conscience of the entire nation which was on trial. All I can have is just a moment of silence for those who would have done anything to see her hang and are now silent in retreat. Just imagine if they would have been successful in hanging her.

We have seen some of the most disgusting and vile displays of brutality with which certain circles of the society have reacted to her case. While this case was far from the only instance where this trend has been observed, the case has effectively established how the cult of the Prophet in Pakistan has gone totally out of control. This case resulted in the murder of Governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer, who was the only politician in the country who had the courage to defend her publicly. He was gunned down by his Barelvi guard Mumtaz Qadri, who was widely celebrated by the followers of the cult of the Prophet. It was partially this case that actually became the basis of the rise of arguably one of the craziest political movements in the country. The extremist Barelvi party called Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah or Tehreek Labaik Pakistan.

Fully backed by the Pakistani deep state to put the then popular PML-N of Nawaz Sharif out of power, the recent law enforcement operation against it could lead you to believe that they are a fringe group. This catchy yet vile anthem of the political party offers an insight into the mindset of a Tehreek Labaik Pakistan voter. There are dozens of fan uploads in which you can see the noose next to Asia Bibi’s photograph.

As a matter of fact, the line in this song about hanging Asia Bibi was covered by dozens of young boys and girls for a mobile video sharing platform. These indeed are no extremist clerics but regular, fun-loving, otherwise peaceful Pakistani Muslims whose conscience bears no guilt over this vulgar display of religious righteousness.

Today, many liberal optimists in Pakistan are saying that justice has been served by the eventual Supreme Court ruling by Justice Khosa. But before making such rosy statements, it must be appreciated how Asia Bibi had been ordered to hang to death even by the high court and the lower courts and how the entire nation had been out of her blood on the streets. Even the expression mass hysteria does not capture the violence and evil in this case. But perhaps they are right, even this ruling by the Supreme Court is nothing short of a miracle.

These are shocking realities that the Pakistani people are not willing to face. Until they address the darkness in their hearts which is at the center of their religious beliefs, until they abolish the atrocious blasphemy law, and until they are not willing to adopt a Secular Constitution, cases like Asia Bibi will keep on surfacing.

All we can hope is for them to surface instead of swept under the carpet.

Feature Documentary Indus Blues Wins Two Major Awards at Jaipur International Film Festival

Source: JIFF

My team’s feature documentary Indus Blues has won arguably its biggest honor yet. The film won “Best Documentary Feature” and “Best Cinematography Award” at the 11th Jaipur International Film Festival earlier this January. The film was screened in the festival on the evening of January 21 at Golcha Cinema in Jaipur, Rajasthan.

The screening of the film was particularly important because of the rich cultural ties of the Merwari musical tradition across the border of India and Pakistan, which the film celebrates in its unique manner. Even though unfortunately none of us could attend the festival but we strongly believed that it would strike a chord with the audience of the festival.

Other than the Best Documentary Feature Award, the film also managed to make a mark in the cinematography category. Usually, documentaries are not really noticed for their cinematography but the brilliant work in this film by Director of Photography Asmat Bashir has turned each frame into a work of art. And of course, the imagery of the film would be incomplete without the aerial cinematography by Muhammad Qadeer.

Source: Bipolar Films/Indus Blues

It was the moment the entire Indus Blues team was anticipating. When the awards for the 11th edition of the festival were finally announced, we knew that it was a big deal. We had won a few other awards as well, but this one was really special not only because it was coming from a great regional festival but especially because it came from across the border. This is truly a recognition of the difference the film has made to independent cinema in Pakistan.

Indus Blues is a 76-minute documentary that narrates the state and plight of the folk musicians and craftsmen of cultures across the Indus in their own voice. Shot in all major geographical and ethnic regions of Pakistan, the film covers 9 musical instruments with an ensemble of both folk musicians and craftsmen. The film is different in the sense that it also features musical craftsmen, a community that has been hardly ever covered by news media, let alone by documentary filmmakers. The film makes you realize that we are about to lose a cultural treasure by showcasing some of its memorable performances featuring fol

Source: Jawad Sharif

I am very glad that the film has received a very positive response and that people appear to have an appetite to enjoy a film about folk music. I strongly believe that the film even has commercial distribution potential but it is unfortunate that film producers in Pakistan usually do not have that kind of leaning. I only hope that Indus Blues finds an avenue where it is able to make a greater impact and becomes reachable to more and more people around the world.

I would like to thank Director and Producer Jawad Sharif and Creative Producer Arieb Azhar, without whose vision the film would not be possible, for giving me the opportunity to contribute to this project. I, along with the entire team, sincerely hope that the project goes a long way in promoting awareness about the folk musicians and craftsmen across Pakistan.

The Pakistan premiere of the film is expected very soon too.