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October 23, 2019

‘Saira Aur Maira’ — a tribute to Asma Jahangir from daughters

Lahore

October 23, 2019

LAHORE:Ajoka Theatre’s play “Saira Aur Maira” which enthralled the audience this weekend was in fact a tribute from Asma’s daughters to their mother, an iconic figure in Pakistan’s human rights movement.

Sulema and Munizae, Asma’s daughters, approached Ajoka’s Shahid Nadeem with a request to write a play on the occasion of Asma Jahangir International Conference. Shahid and Ajoka’s late founder Madeeha Gauhar were good friends and comrades of Asma. The play involved extensive research about Asma’s life and the landmark cases which she fought in and outside the courts.

The play was premiered on 19 October. Asma’s family, including husband Tahir Jahangir, son Jilani Jahangir and Sulema attended the performance with participants of the conference and were visibly moved by the play. At the end of the play, Tahir Jahangir and Sulema congratulated the Ajoka team, which included a majority of first time actors, trained by Ajoka Institute, and remembered the friendship between Madeeha and Asma. Tahir embraced his double actor Omar Bhatty and Sulema hugged Elsa and Akifa, young Ajoka actors who played the roles of Munizae and Sulema. Ajoka Institute Director Nirvaan Nadeem highlighted the role of the institute in training and grooming young talent.

On Saturday, Government College University Vice-Chancellor Professor Hassan Shah and Government College Dramatic Club (GCDC) President Mirza Athar Baig announced that the University Syndicate had unanimously approved institution Madeeha Gauhar Medal for Best Actress. They paid tributes to Madeeha, an ex-Secretary of GCDC and said she is role model for young women who want to change society through performing arts. Ajoka’s Executive Director Shahid Nadeem thanked GCU and Professor Hassan Shah for acknowledging Madeeha’s contribution to theatre and women’s rights.

The play presents the story of “Saira”,(played by Erum Navai), a woman from Peshawar, who wants a divorce from her abusive husband against her parents’ consent and Maira, (played by Shizza Khan), who has married without the parental consent. The two women seek shelter in Seema’s shelter home “Aghosh” and become good friends. Saira’s parents consider her escape an ultimate blot on the family honour and plan to kill her. They request a meeting between the mother (played by Ayesha Khan) and daughter, to which Saira reluctantly agrees. But the mother takes along the killer by deception who shoots Saira dead. Seema fights on every front to expose Saira’s killers and to have Maira’s right to marry of her own freewill. A troika of a newspaper owner, Talqeen (played by Naseem Abbas), Maira’s father Mian Moeen (played by Zubair Sajid) and Saira’s uncle, Qaiser Khan (played by Qaiser Khan) run a campaign of vilification against Seema. Her house and shelter home are attacked but her husband and teen-aged daughters are steadfast in their support for Seema. Eventually Seema is vindicated by her election as President Supreme Court Bar Association and receives international accolades. Finally the courts give landmark verdicts against honour killing and reject the plea of Maira’s parents that a daughter cannot marry without Wali’s consent. The play will also be performed on 15 and 17 November at Alhamra as a part of the Faiz International Festival.

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