ISLAMABAD, Jan 3: Pakistani artists get ample doses of appreciation from around the world. But what they also really yearn for is patronage from their own government – that is not often coming, however.
Some known painters said they provided their artworks to the government to be presented as state gifts to foreign dignitaries.
However, almost a year on they are still waiting to be paid for these works that the government had purchased.
In March 2012 and in months that followed, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of National Heritage and Integration and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting purchased four important artworks from the artists worth Rs1 million.
Despite repeated reminders by the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA), the government has not yet made the payments. The artists have been blaming the PNCA for the stuck-up payments.
The tradition of gifting artworks to foreign dignitaries has become a routine as a gesture of goodwill by Pakistani officials. The National Art Gallery/PNCA has been facilitating the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other public offices by providing paintings and other works according to their requirements.
Musarrat Naheed Imam, the visual arts director of the PNCA, explained that these works were given on credit basis.
The invoices were presented after the decision/selection was finalised to process the payment to the office concerned, in this case the PNCA.
To mention some cases, the foreign affairs ministry purchased a calligraphy executed in precious stones and gold and silver leaves by Azeem Iqbal at a cost of Rs175,000 for presentation during the President’s visit to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on March 24-26, 2012. However, Iqbal is still waiting for the payment.
“There are artists who at times need money to make ends meet. Timely payments will certainly help,” said Iqbal, who is a painter of Islamic Art.
He has contributed nearly a dozen paintings to be presented as state gifts. His paintings have been gifted by Speaker National Assembly Fehmida Mirza to dignitaries in Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. His work was also presented to a king of Brunei.
Similarly, the ministry owed Rs150,000 to Shahid Toosy for his painting titled “Persian princess”. The ministry bought it for presentation during the President’s visit to India in April 2012.
“It means a lot to artists that their works are selected for gifts to foreign dignitaries. But at the same time it is frustrating when our own government does not seem to care about us,” said Toosy, whose works have been selected about six times for presentation to foreign dignitaries. His works were also purchased by former presidents Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari and Pervez Musharraf.
Similarly, artist Tariq Javed has also not received his Rs160,000 from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. And Asghar Ali, recognised for his striking and absorbing contemporary calligraphies, is waiting to be paid Rs150,000 by the Ministry of National Heritage and Integration.
The PNCA visual arts director explained how the tradition of presenting artworks started from the days of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto followed by General Ziaul Haq who particularly gifted calligraphic works to his foreign counterparts.
“We appreciate the initiative but artists need the money. The PNCA cannot pay the artists from its own kitty,” said Naheed Imam, explaining that the delay in payments affected her department’s credibility.
The spokesperson for Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not available for comments on why payments to artists were delayed when in the past it used to take a week to 10 days to clear the bills.