Iqbal Bano – Mother of Death Row Prisoner Khizar Hayat

I have no money. I can’t even afford to pay for a rickshaw to go see him. So I collect money from relatives and friends and go see him every two weeks.

Every time I go I do not know what state I will find him in. He is no longer aware or present. When I visit him he speaks about strange things – at times he hits his head against the wall, and says that the walls are mocking him. Sometimes he appears in torn clothes, other times with no clothes at all. I often have to force him to eat, for otherwise he will not eat anything. I don’t think he even knows that I am his mother. He often denies that I am his mother, sometimes abusing me in front of everyone, saying that I am some mad woman who has come to visit him. His condition now is an extreme form of what I could see happening to him when he was under the influence of a mystic at a local shrine. Everything about him changed during those years – his habits, his appearance, his language. He drifted away from his home and from his own family – he stopped coming home, stopped speaking to his wife and children. He became an addict, spent most of his time asleep on pavements outside the shrine, or wandering the streets of the city.

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Short Documentary Film – #1 – Death Row Prisoner Khizar Hayat

The first of four short documentary films I shot last Fall are finally being released for public viewing. You can read more about Khizar Kayat and his case here. Produced in collaboration with the researchers at Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), and the editors and designers at New Media Advocacy Project (N-MAP) in New York, these films highlight the miscarriages of justice that continue to plague the Pakistani capital punishment processes. I am also working on a longer feature documentary on the same subject, which I hope to complete in the next couple of months.

These short documentary films add to my ongoing project Law & Disorder: A People’s History of the Law In Pakistan. I am working on two new essays, both of which are ready as drafts but need some serious editing. The first discusses the history of capital punishment in Pakistan, and its connections to the introduction and experimentation with capital punishment during the British colonial administration in India. Pakistan’s penal code still retains many of the core tenets of the (British) India Penal Code first introduced in the mid-19th century. The second essay looks at the ways in which the pre-colonial Sharia systems of jurisprudence were re-interpreted and modified to serve the interests of the modern colonial and post-colonial nation-state.

As always, each essay has me working with material far beyond my current knowledge, requiring extensive research and what can only be described as many re-readings of texts. But, I plow ahead and so does this vast project.  

The other three videos will be released in the coming days. 

Like Cowards They Act In The Dark Of Night And Law

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Parons MFA Series: #4


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Parsons MFA Series: #3


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The Parsons MFA Series: #2


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The Parsons MFA Series: #1


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Podcast: Hassan Abbas on militancy and the pause in Pakistan drone strikes | The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Podcast: Hassan Abbas on militancy and the pause in Pakistan drone strikes | The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Hassan Abbas offers us further evidence of his idiocy. Its remarkable the glee with which these clowns love to contort language, mutilate history and most hideous, veil State violence and interests that are principally responsible for bringing us to the mess that we are in. The so-called ‘militancy’ Mr Abbas is a result if State sanctioned violence, double-cross and lies. It is aimed not at drones, which are rightfully seen as an aspect of a broader campaign of war and domestic-occupation, but at the State, its civilian institutions, its military and its policies of repression, murder, disappearances, displacement, racism and indifference. The Pakistani State uses violence indiscriminately and hence tells the people that it only understands violence.

College Student In Hunger Strike To Protest Pakistani Enforced Disappearances

College Student In Hunger Strike To Protest Pakistani Enforced Disappearances.


How forgettable is this act of this young man?

How erasable is Pakistan’s continued brutality, and dehumanising policies in Baluchistan? It is shocking to me that there are so many journalists who will speak about how ‘terrorism’ (whatever that is!), is on the rise in Pakistan, and how its a problem that is simply out of control and that the State has the right to do something about it. And yet they will do this without even a nod towards the fact that all ‘terrorism’ has a political context, and all ‘terrorism’ is in fact politics by other means.

They cannot seem to get their head around a narrative that is about connections, inter-relationships and context. Its as if ‘terrorism’ can only be discussed as a phenomenon in and of itself, with no material history from which it emerges. They cannot comprehend that that if a State labels acts of violence ‘terrorism’, it is doing so to erase the political context and sensibilities, ones that the more often than not, the State has created, to distract them from this context itself.

There is no such thing as ‘terrorism’ in Pakistan. There is a large amount of reactionary political violence aimed against a State that has subjected the citizens of the country to massive State violence and closed off all avenues of political discussion, debate, negotiation and voice. Today, in the face of overwhelming evidence of State machination and political venality, it is simply irresponsible, immoral and anti-intellectual to call any act of violence ‘terrorism’. It is politics.

And as this young man lies dying, we would do well to remember that it is also this closure of political hope and participation, that has lead to his desperate need to use ‘asymmetrical warfare’ techniques i.e hunger strikes, much like those used by prisons in Guantanamo and Bagram, the occupied people of Palestine, the brualized communities in India’s East provinces, the people of occupied Tibet and so many more, to simply have a say, to be heard, to be allowed a place on the table of society and humanity.

The State will refuse. It will subject the people to more violence and murder, censor the media, and then claim that it is ‘terrorism’ i.e a political voice that then emerges, that is the issue.

The Bagram Prisoner Campaign & The Parsons School Of Design – A Exhibition May 14th – 23rd 2014

Some months ago I was approached by the designer Ammar Belal who wanted to see if I would be open to a collaboration with him. Ammar had attended a panel discussion with me, Saadia Toor, and Sarah Belal (his sister), at the Open Society in New York and seen the portraits I had made of the families of the prisoners being held at Bagram Detention Center in Bagram. Ammar was moved by the arguments we made, and affected by the stories of the families themselves. In a discussion we had soon afterwards it was clear that he had been shaken out of his world of high fashion and design and compelled to turn his attention to an injustice that he had been aware of, thanks to his sister’s work, but until then had remained unconcerned about. Details »

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