Civil Award for Whom?

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M.Z. Rifat
Civil Awards of Pakistan were instituted in March 1957 following the proclamation of Pakistan as an independent and sovereign Republic on March 23, 1956. Civil Awards include Nishan-e-Imtiaz, Hilal-e-Imtiaz, Sitara-e-Pakistan , Sitara-e-Shujaat, Sitara-e-Imtiaz, President’s Pride of Performance Award among others. And, National College of Arts (NCA) of Lahore , formerly Mayo School of Arts , is the oldest art education school in Pakistan and the second oldest in South Asia and has always been regarded as a prestigious art education institution. As such every young girl and boy over the years have been seeking admission into NCA for adopting art, sculpture and architecture related careers. Over the years, the NCA has seen many good moments and events and also some ugly, condemnable and deplorable incidents from time to time. Elderly persons like this scribe may be remembering the story, some glimpses at least if not fully, which this scribe is going to narrate here. Names of the civil awards prospective recipients are announced by the President of Pakistan on the auspices occasion of the Independence Day every year on August 14 and these are conferred on the recipients by the President in Islamabad on Pakistan Day on March 23 next year and the Provincial Governors at the Provincial Headquarters according to the domiciles of the awardees. The President on the Independence Day 2020 has announced conferment of Civil Awards on 184 Pakistanis and foreigners for their services and excellence in respective fields..The list of Nishan-i-Imtiaz recipients included names of Sadequain Naqvi, Prof Shakir Ali and Zahoorul Akhlaque among others. Name of Zahoorul Akhlaque has raised many eye-brows among the artists community members and knowledgeable people who are aware about the ugly sex scandal which occurred in August/September 1976 in the National College of Arts Lahore involving some art teachers including him. This sex scandal had hit headlines in English and Urdu dailies and this scribe had also reported it for couple of Karachi Urdu weeklies and bitter memories continue to echo in his mind from time to time. Names of the art related personalities have quite obviously been recommended by Part Time Culture Minister Shafqat Mahmood at the instigation/ suggestion of his Lahore-based cousin and former NCA teacher/principal Salima Hashmi. In doing so, they have , intentionally , kept the worthy President in the dark about a sex scandal involving some NCA art teachers. As mentioned above briefly, every young girl and boy has been trying to seek admission into NCA for adopting art career.Ms Salima Hashmi was among the NCA faculty in those years. According to the details, a young girl Ghazala Sana visited the NCA for seeking admission in it. After being rejected admission, she got dismayed and in sheer disappointment came across Zahoorul Akhlaque, Nayyer Ali Dada,, Ahmad Khan and Iqbal Hassan who lured her assuring her admission in the NCA. But instead of getting her admission, they sexually exploited her by taking her to different locations for days together. . The victim girl brought this tragic happening to the notice of the then Students Guild President Shehbaz Khan, who is living in Lahore, who took her to the police station and got the case registered. All the accused were arrested and kept behind the bars for more than two months before being bailed out by the courts. They were later reinstated and then retired The ugly sex scandal was also brought to the notice of then Chairman Board of Governors Mr Faiz Ahmad Faiz who did not interfere in it saying it’s a courts matter. Angry protesting students had put up posters in the NCA and outside demanding removal of Mr Faiz. Ghazala Sana did not pursue the case following her marriage, according to the sex scandal details which this scribe got from Shehbaz Khan to refresh his own memories. This is not character assassination but mere statement of bitter facts of the ugly sex scandal. Horrifying details though available have been avoided for decency sake. Multi-billion dollars question which everyone asking is as to why honour a sex maniac with a civil award ? The worthy President is requested to get Zahoorul Akhlaque’s name deleted from the awards list forthwith as this amounts to insulting the  civil awards and also reprimand Mr Shafqat Mahmood and Salima Hashmi and other officials concerned for keeping him in the dark purposely. Not only this civil award but also other honours and awards conferred on Zahoorul Akhlaque , including naming of the NCA art gallery after his name, should also be withdrawn, please.

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