Sunday July 14, 2024

Ajoka joins hands with JPP to highlight death penalty issue

By Mobarik A Virk
April 11, 2017


The performance was very strong. The artists were deeply involved and played their parts superbly. The presentation was to highlight the situations faced by the juvenile, mentally ill or schizophrenic death row prisoners. The characters selected for the drama have already been executed! Or, at least most of them have been.

Ajoka Theatre in collaboration with Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) prepared and presented this play, ‘Intezaar’ at the National College of Arts (NCA) Rawalpindi Campus at Liaquat Bagh Monday afternoon.

The script, written by renowned drama writer, Shahid Nadeem, was very moving, one must say. And it would be unfair not to appreciate the artists who played their role with utmost passion. So moving were some scenes that a few in audience couldn’t help but shed tears!

The story of a juvenile prisoners, who spent over 30 years in jail before he was ultimately executed was heart wrenching.

“I received ‘black warrants’ 22 times while I was in prison. I was only 14 (years old) at the time of the case was registered against me. And every time I felt death crawling towards me. I spent sleepless nights every time I was told that the ‘black warrant’ has arrived while other prisoners around me slept. Over all those more than 30 years I kept telling them that I am innocent. I have not committed a murder,” he narrated before he was eventually taken to the gallows and hanged!

The stories of other prisoners were also presented as strongly as the one of juvenile prisoner. Particularly that of the two brothers who were hanged in Bahawalpur jail and after one year of their hanging the Supreme Court dismissed the case against them and acquitted them honourably!

The focus of ‘Intezaar’ was on the juvenile, mentally ill or disabled and schizophrenic prisoners on death row. And Shahid Nadeem has indeed done a superb job!

It was a big occasion, but confined to a selected audience only, when Ajoka Theatre came to Rawalpindi to stage this single performance of this new stage play, portraying the lives and plights of those convicted with capital punishment and pain and miseries of their loved ones.

The absence of both, Madeeha Gohar and Shahid Nadeem, the mind, body and soul behind ‘Ajoka’ was felt a great deal. Or at least by those who know the couple and were hoping to see them in town after a long time. Shahid Nadeem had scripted ‘Intezaar’. 

However, worrisome fact was that the two were unable to be with their team because Madeeha Gohar is indisposed and Shahid stayed back to take care of her. May Allah Almighty grant her quick and full recovery!

Ryan Van Winkle of ‘Highlight Arts’, who flew down from Edinburgh, Scotland, was the producer of the play. “I believe this is a good initiative to trigger a thought in the society about this most sensitive issue. I know the conditions here (in Pakistan) are not like the ones in other countries but still if this matter is highlighted at appropriate forums, particularly targeting the youth, this can bring about a change of thought in the society,” Ryan said.

He conceded that it would be tough to induce a change very soon in a society where most people think of justice on ‘eye for an eye’ basis. “But what we need to do is to keep hammering and highlighting the issue and the flaws in the judicial system and its impact on society through all forms of media, the social media, radio, electronic and print media and theatre. It would be a slow process but the objectives could be achieved in the long run,” Ryan Van Winkle said.

Ms Dina Mousawi, a young British lady of Iraqi origin, directed the play. “I am very excited about this play,” she said. “This is my second visit to Pakistan for research and preparations. I first came in November 2016 and stayed for 10 days. During that period we did a lot of research work, met and interacted with the families of victims, listened to their stories and observed their feelings and behaviour,” Ms Dina Mousawi said.

“Now I am here since third week of March, 2017 and now we are all set to present the play for audience. The target is youth and the policy makers. It is great to work with these young people who are performing in the play. It will make a great impact,” Ms Mousawi said.

This was the second presentation of the play. The first one was held in FC College Lahore and tomorrow it was be presented in GC Faisalabad. The audience was mostly the NCA Rawalpindi Campus students but the Netherlands and Austrian envoys were also invited and they did turned up.