“Falsehoods not only disagree with truths, but usually quarrel among

themselves.”

–Daniel Webster

“Art hath an enemy called ignorance.”

–Ben Johnson

A controversy has erupted in Pakistan and amongst the international community of art lovers after Chief Minister of the Punjab province inaugurated a function in honor of Allama Iqbal and Mr Sadequain in a Lahore hotel where three paintings of the artist were displayed with the claim that they were genuine art pieces of the Pakistani gem. One of the murals on display in the hotel is in the possession of the former inspector general of police, Mr Khalid Latif and this scribe has seen that mural at his residence.

Mr Latif pointed out the fakes that ignited the debate. According to Mr Salman Ahmed, a close relative of Sadequain, who runs the Sadequain foundation in San Diego in United States, claimed that there were only five murals that were painted. One was in the possession of Haji Habib ur Rehman, the second in the possession of Mr Salman Khaliq and the third is in the possession of Mr Khalid Latif, all police officers. According to him, the other two murals that were painted by Mr Sadequain have not been traced so far. The originals according to him are 6X9 feet approximately, while the fakes on display are 3X4 feet only. After going through several emails between different persons on this subject it can be safely assumed that many fakes have been painted which has resulted that the three leading auction houses of the world Southey, Christie and Bonhams have refused to entertain any paintings that originate from this country. They have even refused to accept paintings which have been authenticated by someone in Pakistan creating confusion and dismay amongst a large number of followers of Mr Sadequain. The owner of the hotel where these paintings are on display has claimed that he was duped by some dishonest people and that he had no part in the fakes that were on display at his hotel or were taking rounds elsewhere in several countries.

Mr Hashwani may be right in his contention but then after this controversy arose, he should have removed the painting that were on display at his hotel and sent them to the Sadequain foundation in the United States for authentication. Unfortunately this was not done. Investigations carried out by this scribe have revealed that Mr Naghman Rafique, a talented painter in his own right was being used by different unscrupulous people to paint fakes belonging to great artists that were then claimed to be the real ones which has created a mess for the entire art collectors in the world. The emails that are in possession of this scribe reveal the name of Syed Abid Ali who died as being the source of some of the fakes that have appeared in the market. There is no doubt that Syed Abid Ali former Director Public Relations was indeed a very close friend of Mr Sadequain and they enjoyed a very cozy and cordial relationship. It can also be safely established that Mr Sadiquain gifted several items of art painted by him to Syed Abid Ali and his family. How far this relationship is being exploited would require a proper investigation by the government of this country.

Mr Sadequain was a simple but lively figure and once he was confronted by this scribe as to why he was doing a painting job at the residence of late dictator Zia ul Haq. Sadequain replied, “I went there to expose the hypocrisy of Mr Zia ul Haq.” I asked him how, Sadiquain replied, “My condition to paint at his house was that he would make drinks for me with his own hands till the time I was painting there and Zia agreed.” On another occasion Mr Sadiquain very proudly spoke about his lineage with Mughal prince Dara Shikoh and remembered everything that was relevant to that prince.

Coming back to the fakes that have tarnished not only the image of this country but has also damaged the great pieces of art that originated from the hands of the great Pakistani artist. It would be in the fitness of things if the relevant authorities initiated a proper investigation into this sad saga that has enveloped one of Pakistan’s greatest sons so that the con men who are responsible to damage not only Mr Sadequain but also tarnished the image of this country are brought to book. Even Mr Shahbaz Sharif who inaugurated the function that triggered this controversy has a burden on him and that is to clear the controversy surrounding the paintings of Mr Sadequain but also to initiate measures that will put an end to this faking of Sadequain’s art and restore the image of Pakistan.

Even the Sadiquain foundation run by Mr Salman Ahmed should catalogue what is real and where it is at present so that the crooks who were trying to earn a quick buck exploiting the name of Mr Sadiquain do not succeed in their nefarious designs. One hopes that Sadiquain who preached love, harmony and tolerance should be used to help create a soft image of this country through his art because that will help not only to restore Sadiquain’s work to his rightful place but also become an effective instrument against extremism.

 The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist.

Email:zarnatta@hotmail.com