How weak or paranoid can a state be, if it is threatened by art?

The Pakistani state has always felt threatened by intellectuals and artists demonstrated in latest incident on Sunday October 27 in Karachi when an art exhibit taking place in a public park was shut down forcefully by plains clothes men belonging to the V Corps of Pakistan’s army.

The installation, “The Killing Fields of Karachi,” by artist Adeela Suleman illustrates the story of Naqeebullah Mehsud, a 27-year-old aspiring model from Pakistan’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, who was killed in a police encounter in January 2018. The exhibit features symbolic gravestones representing the 444 people allegedly targeted in extrajudicial killings under the supervision of senior police official Rao Anwar.

When the artist and human rights activists like Jibran Nasir, held a press conference to condemn the closure, Afaq Mirza Director General of parks, Karachi, barged in, asserted that “the installation was not what the city administration signed up for” and removed all the microphones from various media outlets.

When pressed by journalists on who ordered the closure of the exhibition Afaq Mirza, asserted that it was not the city administration but rather the Fifth (V) corps. Ironically, the fifth corps of Pakistan’s military is responsible for defending Karachi and most of Sindh province in case of war, but it appears that even art exhibits are now considered the same as fighting a war.

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