Pakistani arts community disappointed over Shabana Azmi, Javed Akhtar cancelling Karachi visit

After the attack, Azmi said she feels weakened in her belief that people-to-people contact can force the establishment to do the right thing.

Pakistani arts community disappointed over Shabana Azmi, Javed Akhtar cancelling Karachi visit

Karachi: The literary and arts community of Pakistan has expressed disappointment over veteran Indian actress Shabana Azmi and her lyricist-writer husband Javed Akhtar cancelling, in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack, their Karachi visit to attend Kaifi Azmi's birth centenary celebrations.

"Shabana and Javed sahab have always been seen as progressive people who have spoken out in favour of bettering Indo-Pak relations. So their reaction to the Pulwama incident has come as a surprise to the arts and literary community in Karachi," Omair Alavi, a well-known film critic, said.

On Saturday, the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi, regretted the two artistes' decision. Arts Council president Ahmed Shah also expressed regrets over Akhtar's comments. "His comments do not seem appropriate for a literary person."

In one of the deadliest terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir's three decades of militancy, a Jaish suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a CRPF bus in Pulwama district, killing at least 40 personnel and leaving many critically wounded.

Azmi on Friday said she and her husband Javed Akhtar have decided not to attend Kaifi Azmi's birth centenary celebrations in Karachi. The couple was invited to Pakistan by the Karachi Arts Council for a two-day event.

After the attack, Azmi said she feels weakened in her belief that people-to-people contact can force the establishment to do the right thing.

The Arts Council president said he felt sorry that Azmi has lost hope. "I don't criticise her but we deeply feel saddened the way she had expressed disappointment after the Pulwama attack," he said. 

"We firmly believe that artistes and people who are regarded for their literary and artistic contribution are the ones who give hope to people. They never disappoint them. But this time, Shabana Azmi sounds extremely disappointed."

The Arts Council is organising a conference on Feb 23 and 24 to mark the 100th birth anniversary of poet Kaifi Azmi. Many celebrated poets and literary personalities from Pakistan and other parts of the world have been invited for the event. Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar had earlier this month confirmed their visit to the city to attend the two-day event.

Veteran actor, Shakeel also expressed sadness that the husband and wife were not coming.

"The sadder part is that after always having spoken up against extremism and in favour of people-to-people contact, they have now given up hope," he said.

Meanwhile, Pakistani cinema theatre owners, distributors and exhibitors fear their business would take a hit as they expect a strong reaction from the Indian cinema industry.

Nadeem Mandiwalla, a a well-known importer, distributor and exhibitor of Indian films, who also owns cinepax in Karachi and other cities, said he feared for the worse.

"The way things are going, I fear very soon we will be seeing the Indian film industry also stop export of their films to Pakistani distributors like it happened few years back," he said.

Nadeem said if Indian films were not made available, it would badly hit the Pakistani entertainment industry, especially the cinema owners and related businesses.