LAHORE, Pakistan — Weeks after the journal “Sohbat,” published by Pakistan’s National College of Arts (NCA), was accused of publishing content in favor of homosexuality and ridiculing Islamic values, protests by extremists have triggered major reprecusions for the school, the PTI reported yesterday. “I have dissolved the editorial board, closed down the research and publication and architecture wings and suspended the director for research and publication,” Sajjad Kausar, head of the NCA, told reporters.
Located in Lahore, NCA is Pakistan’s oldest and most prestigious arts institution. Among its alumni are some of the country’s most celebrated artists, a lineage that includes master painter Jamil Naqsh, critic and artist Quddus Mirza, and, more recently, the rising international art star Rashid Rana.
The move to dissolve the editorial board of “Sohbat” was sparked by protests by pressure on several fronts, including from extremist religious parties, including the Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), which called for harsh action against those responsible for publishing “blasphemous materials.” Senior JuD leader Amir Hamza issued a statement seeking legal sanction against those responsible for allowing the content to be published. A group of college students also organized a protest against the writers and publishers of the magazine, while lawyer Mumtaz Ahmad, filed a petition in a local court arguing that the college’s principal and other members of its administration were liable for prosecution, triggering threatened police action.
According to Kausar, a four-member committee has been constituted to thoroughly investigate the matter and submit its report to the board of directors of the college. Furthermore, he assured the press that strict punitive action would be taken against those responsible for “such gross negligence.” Meanwhile, Kausar himself and other members of the staff are facing charges of blasphemy, official sources said.