WASHINGTON DC, Sept. 15, 2004 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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Coming Next: The Two Faces of Dr. Nasim Ashraf's Human Development

Publicity brochure for Musharraf's dinner-drama show in New York on Sept 21

Musharraf's Grand Music Night Hit by Pakistan High Court Restraining Order

By MT Butt & Nishat Zafar

ISLAMABAD/NEW YORK, Sept 15: General Musharraf’s $1,000 per person grand gala night of music and drama in New York on Sept 21 has been hit by accusations of fraud against the organizers in the Sindh High Court in Karachi.

The Court has issued an injunction restraining the organizers from presenting their main musical show Anarkali, a romantic tale of passion and love during the Moghul Empire. But it appears the show will go on with Musharraf and his paying guests enjoying it, in contempt of the Pakistani court.

Anarkali has been the center piece of the musical night in which the organizers, Pakistan Human Development Fund (PHDF), have asked Pakistanis in America to spend $1,000 dollars each to get a picture with Pakistan’s military dictator.

Anarkali is a Pakistani production but now the organizers have brought the show to US without even asking the owners and are arranging it with Indian actors and cast. The show will be the highlight of Musharraf’s annual mandatory ‘yatra’ of to New York, now a week away.

The controversy has already turned the General’s main community dinner and social evening with the Pakistani community into a serious embarrassment.

The Court has issued the Injunction restraining the Pakistan Human Development Fund of Dr Nasim Ashraf, its Chairman and an active member of the Pakistani-American community, who is organizing the main dinner and a side cultural show. Click for copy of Court order Page1 | Page2 | Page3

But the SHC order is not against the dinner. It is against presenting the drama Anarkali, as the young original producers and copyright owners of the play have sued Dr Nasim Ashraf’s PHDF claiming their show had been stolen by PHDF.

The SHC ordered both parties on August 24 to maintain status quo, which means under the law the drama cannot be staged.

The case against Dr Ashraf’s PHDF is just the tip of the iceberg. His organization has been targeted for criticism because General Musharraf has favored the PHDF with a generous Rs 2 billion grant with no government accounting or controls. This has led to a lot of heart burning and cries of favoritism but PHDF has stood its ground because it was supported by the Army.

But this time a young but determined Karachi couple, Shaiyanne and Sohail Malik, have taken on this huge behemoth and dragged it to court, so far successfully. The PHDF hired a heavyweight attorney, Liaqat Merchant, to intimidate the couple but they have refused to yield.

Shaiyanne of Pavilion Interactions, the company with legal rights to their drama ‘Anarkali’, told the South Asia Tribune, officials of Dr Ashraf’s PHDF had started threatening them in several ways claiming they were powerful people and they owned the rights of Anarkali.

“We, Sohail Ahmed Malik and Shaiyanne Sohail Malik, authors, actors, directors and producers of various plays are the owners of copyright in our musical play entitled “Anarkali Through The Eyes Of Noor Jahan (The Legend Of The Entombed Flower)”, the couple said in a letter to the UNDP, which has also been listed as a sponsor of the Anarkali show in Los Angeles and New York. Click for text of the Letter

“The musical play Anarkali was first performed by us along with our team in Lahore, Pakistan on October 23, 2003 on the occasion of a fund raising event for poverty alleviation hosted by Pakistan Human Development Fund and certain amounts for performance of play Anarkali were also paid to us.

“Subsequently, we also performed our play during the Asia Pacific First Ladies Conference gala night in the Presidency at Islamabad, Pakistan,” Shaiyanne and Sohail Malik said.

“We had produced this play in October 2003 and presented it in the President’s House where Musharraf and all others applauded it. We worked for months on its script and idea and groomed and trained its actors and artists. But without asking or involving us, PHDF announced they would screen the play during Musharraf’s New York visit on September 21 and we were shocked,” Shaiyanne said.

She also revealed something more devastating about Dr Ashraf’s PHDF. “Early in 2003 Dr Ashraf asked me to arrange some ‘mujras’ for Pakistani-American doctors who were to visit Lahore. I refused but offered to arrange a proper classical drama on Anarkali, the character of famous Moghul romantic story. That is how we started working on the play and got it properly copyrighted in our name in all formats, audio, video and stage.”

Shaiyanne said PHDF had also involved the Pakistan Foreign Ministry to get US visas for 14 artists who would present the play Anarkali in US. "None of these 14 people had ever worked in our play," Shaiyanne told the South Asia Tribune, hinting that some kind of a US visa racket may also be going on, on the sidelines of the big show.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, had sent us a letter on June 2, 2004, in which they had listed 14 persons who had applied for visas, claiming that they had performed the Play Anarkali at the Presidency and we had been asked to confirm this fact. We had categorically replied that this was a fraudulent claim and that none of these persons or the PHD Fund was in any way involved in our production of the Play Anarkali in the Presidency and it may be further noted that five names from those listed are not included in the list of cast members submitted to the Court,” the letter by Shaiyanne and Malik to the UNDP states.

Whatever may be the status of these visa seekers, it is already certain that the big cultural gala in Los Angeles and New York has been tainted by these allegations of fraud and wrong doing and General Musharraf is likely to promote it.

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