I couldn’t believe my eyes when on Saturday afternoon (January 7, 2017) I saw the restored murals of notable women activists of Karachi on the outer walls of the heritage building of Karachi Press Club. Particularly because until Friday evening, for the past couple of days, the club was abuzz with the expressions like: ‘Too bad,’ ‘Was that the same religious group who attacked us last year?’ ‘We should do something about it,’ ‘An FIR?’ ‘No, let’s not intimidate them, they’re dangerous…’ And, after an awkward silence the conversation would move to the regular trivial things. Can you blame them for being scared?
Saturday was also the day when the I Am Karachi team led by Ghazi Salahuddin who’s also a member and a former president of the club visited to discuss the restoration and reaction to the vandalism. They too were as surprised as I was to see the cleaned up images.
Who did the job amid the atmosphere of fear? Let me share the chronology of events first.
On Wednesday January 4, on the occasion of the sixth death anniversary of the former governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer (who was assassinated by his own bodyguard Mumaz Qadri because he criticised blasphemy laws) civil society members carried a peaceful candlelight vigil outside Karachi Press Club. Few hours later, (presumably as a reaction to the vigil) over two hundred members of some religious group(s) reached the club and protested against the media, pretty much on the same grounds as they (or others) did on March 27 last year, except they didn’t attack the club this time. According to some club members, they remained there blocking the street and the gate of the club for at least 2-3 hours.
Thursday morning, the murals were seen defaced by thick black spray paint. The skillfully painted faces of Zubeida Mustafa, Yasmeen Lari, late Perween Rehman and Fatima Surraya Bajia were all scarred.
Feica who is a renowned artist and a veteran cartoonist distressed by the sight of the defaced images took it upon himself to fix them. “On Friday evening, I examined the spray paint used to destroy the paintings, went to the market, bought some chemicals and paints, came back with my two daughters and began the work while my elder one was taking pictures and the younger one Fakeha sat in the car to keep a watch on us,” Feica smiled while going over the story, “She said she didn’t want to be shot at.” A club guard offered his chair to Feica so he can use it in the process. A couple of other club members also joined hands with him by first learning the method and then applying it. “I couldn’t bear to see those faces of great personalities smeared in black paint. And, when I saw Feica fixing them all alone, I had no choice except assisting him and doing my part,” said Farhan Sharif, another club member.
Lamha Kausar, Feica’s elder daughter, posted the heartwarming pictures on Facebook with even more touching words: “A can or two of cheap old spray paints can’t stop us. The vandalism on murals outside Karachi Press Club has been taken care of”.