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Monday, April 15, 2024

Uproar as art exhibition of Rao Anwar killings Forcibly shutdown

The forceful shutdown of art exhibition featuring the bloodbath in Karachi from 2011 to 2018 did not go well with the civil society. The social media expressed agitation on a deliberate move to silence the dissent? Who will be hurt the exhibition, asked the social media users.

An art exhibition titled ‘Killing Fields of Karachi’ featuring the massive extrajudicial killings by notorious former SSP Malir Rao Anwar was forcibly shut down after a group of men stormed the premises. The event was organised with the permission of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and the administration.

Following the shutdown, social activist and lawyer Jibran Nasir along with members of civil society convened a press conference protesting the taking down of the art exhibition purportedly by law enforcement agencies. The lower hall of the building was sealed where the exhibition was on display. They briefed the journalists about the incident at the press conference.

The exhibition also included a video installation featuring the grim father of Naqeebullah Mehsud- an aspiring model and a shopkeeper, and the scene where he was killed. He was killed in an alleged police encounter by SSP Rao Anwar in Karachi in 2018.

Jibran Nasir’s Press Conference

“You all must have seen pillars installed here which symbolise Karachi’s bloody history — the 444 murders which were committed between 2011 and 2018 by Rao Anwar. This is not a matter of dispute. This is a fact which is part of police record,” said Nasir at Sunday’s press conference.

“There are graves here marking the deaths and there was a video projection which contained visuals of Naqeebullah’s father, and visuals of the place where Naqeebullah and three others were murdered.

Read more: Fake encounter by arm of the law: Rao Anwar released on bail

He informed that at 11 am a few men dressed up in plainclothes approached the venue, warned the exhibitors to shut down the exhibition immediately, calling for the room to be locked immediately. They threatened that in case of failure their belongings including laptops, projectors, and paintings will be destroyed. Even the Frere Hall staff was ‘pressurized’ to stop the exhibition and the security guard was sent away.

Adeela Suleman also made similar assertions, claiming that the lower hall of the building where the video was displayed has been sealed. Suleman, who is an associate professor and head of the Fine Art Department at Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, expressed her angst over the forceful shut down of her exhibition on Sunday.


Adding that “It [the display] contained no such thing which was not already part of general public knowledge. If artists cannot express themselves in their way, then I really can’t say how we will ever have any creation of art and who we will have to take permission from.” She asserted that her exhibition had no picture of Rao Anwar.

Naqeebullah Mehsud, a 27-year old resident of Waziristan, was 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.

Not only in press conference but Jibran Nasir recorded his protest on social media as well. He urged people to visit Frere Hall and force the authorities to unseal the Frere Hall and resume the exhibition.

Social Media Outcry

The forced shut down of the art exhibition on Sunday triggered an outcry from prominent activists and journalists on social media. Social media expressing ire and accused the law enforcement agencies of silencing the dissent in the society.

Read more: Rao Anwar has the right to a transparent investigation: Bilawal

Meanwhile, DIG South Sharjeel Kharal informed the media that the investigation has been started though they have not received any formal complaint from the artist or organizers of the exhibition. Sindh Police, however, has distanced itself from the incident claiming that they have no role in shutting down the art exhibition by Karachi Biennale.

Where social media users expressed solidarity with the artist Adeela Suleman, they also questioned as to who will be harmed with the art exhibition.