Pakistan: Pakistani authorities have banned the satirical stage play "Burqavaganza" after Islamist MPs raised the issue in parliament.

The Ajoka Theatre company staged a satirical play, "Burqavaganza", in Lahore earlier this month using the image of the burqa as a metaphor for the double standards which exist in contemporary Pakistani society. Following protests from Islamist politicians, the play has now been banned.
Ajoka is an independent and non-commercial theatre group which has committed to the cause of social change since 1984. It has addressed social issues boldly and artistically. Ajoka is determined to promote a culture of peace and enlightenment. As the Government of Pakistan has failed in its duty to protect the rights of freedom of expression and paid only lip service to the concept of "enlightened moderation", we appeal to the democratic governments and international human rights and development organizations to support us in urging the Pakistan Government to fulfill its obligation to protect the rights of its citizens and take effective measures against the 'Talibanist' factions who are terrorizing the people of Pakistan.
A message from Ajoka:

Campaign to terrorize theatre group

1. The pro-Taliban elements and their political patrons have made an issue of an Ajoka play “Burqavaganza’, which was staged in Lahore in March 2007. Five MMA MNAs submitted an adjournment motion in the National Assembly, which was discussed on 26 April 2007. MMA members used extremely provocative language against the writer/director of the play and director of Ajoka, accused them of ridiculing Islamic injunctions and demanded action against them under blasphemy laws. Although several MNAs from Government and Opposition including women MNAs wanted to speak on the motion but the speaker did not allow them. The Minister for Culture Mr. G.G. Jamal announced that the Government had banned the play and further action will be taken after a report from the Punjab Government is received.

2. “Burqavaganza” is a satirical play, which uses Burqa as a metaphor for double standards and cover-ups in the society. The play shows all characters (men and women) wearing burqas, including politicians, terrorist leaders and policemen. Issues addressed include gender discrimination, religious extremism, terrorism, love marriage and media programmes promoting intolerance. It had been made very clear in the brochure of the play and before and after the play that the theme of the play was not critical of any one’s religious beliefs or dress preference, but about the hypocrisy and double standards and the feudal/tribal mindset. The audience loved the play and it got very good press reviews. The play had been staged in collaboration with the Lahore Arts Council. On great public demand the play was again staged on 18 April at the Panjpani Indo-Pak Theatre Festival at Arts Council, Lahore.

3. The capitulationist stand taken by the Government in the face of the MMA onslaught is very disappointing and disturbing. Instead of telling the fanatic MMA members not to intimidate theatre groups and the arts councils, he arbitrarily announced a ban on the play and promised further action. The speaker did not prevent the members from using defamatory language against two leading theatre practitioner Shahid Nadeem and Madeeha Gauhar. Reporting of the remarks can incite fanatics to further harass Ajoka, Arts Council and other artists in the country.

It is disturbing that the Government of President Musharraf is taking a weak-kneed and apologetic stand on the continuous challenge by the pro-Taliban elements. The Government inaction over Jamia Hafsa stand off, Islami Jamiat attacks in Punjab University and moral policing in the NWFP have not only damaged Government’s credibility and ability to establish its writ, it has also emboldened the fanatics to spread their tentacles. The Government has totally failed to punish those who are challenging its writ and intimidating students and artists. It has also miserably failed to protect those are being intimated and attacked by the pro-Taliban elements.

4. Ajoka is an independent and non-commercial theatre group committed to the cause of social change since 1984. It has addressed social issues boldly but artistically. It is determined to promote a culture of peace and enlightenment. As the Government of Pakistan has failed in its duty to protect the rights of freedom of expression and paid only lip service to the concept of “enlightened moderation’, we appeal to the democratic governments and international human rights and development organizations to support us and urge the Pakistan Government to fulfill its obligation to protect its citizens rights and take effective measures against the Talibanist who are terrorizing the people of Pakistan.

Thank you for your support,

Madeeha Gauhar/Shahid Nadeem
27 April 2007
Ajoka Theatre
المصدر: 
Ajoka