This rejoinder is being produced in response to a spurious communication, dated May 15th, 2021, sent to the office of Naya Daur Media by Mr. Salman Ahmad, who is the Founder and President of Sadequain Foundation USA, San Diego, California. Quoting my column, “Sadequain and the Conundrum of Surah-E-Rahman”, dated January 16th, 2021, published in Naya Daur, he has leveled certain incoherent allegations against me which are not expected from a self-professed Ph.D. scholar who claims to have authored about twenty-two books on the eminent painter. At least, he should have carried out fundamental research before transmitting a legal notice to the esteemed media house. His slipshod approach is visible in the shoddily–drafted notification, the way it appears in his books.
To begin with, it is well-known to everyone that I reside in India, and have had no occasion until now to visit Pakistan, and still, Mr. Salman Ahmad inscribes unverified facts which transpire, among others, that I maneuver from Karachi and am involved in deceitful proceedings there. However, it is an established verity that the gentleman is composed of discrepancies and he writes contents that are subjective in nature and tone.
And, I affirm that I have no collaboration whatsoever with Mr. Sultan Ahmad who has also been irrelevantly assaulted in the memorandum. In reality, I got to appreciate the legendary artist through Sadequain Foundation USA only, but its dubious activities induced me to excavate further about its methods of malevolent execution and the consequent investigative report came out as the previous essay.
What is further astounding is that Mr. Salman Ahmad has deliberately ignored to counter the questions that were addressed to him in the preceding treatise by saying he doesn’t “want to stoop to gutter level”. But, the truth is, that he has no answers at all, and he is applying rhetoric for skin-saving. The last piece dealt with the flawed creation and documentation of thirty-two panels of Surah-E-Rahman by the Sadequain Foundation USA about which he has not engraved a word in his intimation letter. What’s more, he refuses to comprehend that such a strategy of ducking the questions doesn’t work when he is held accountable for grave mismanagement that includes supplying forged sketches globally and earning financial gains by doing so.
In contrast, he alleges that the said online news agency has violated the cardinal rules of journalism by not providing him an opportunity to respond, but he deplorably declines to perceive that the article carried a disclaimer at the top that read, “The views expressed here are those of the author. Naya Daur does not take any responsibility for the opinions expressed. However, we welcome any counter-argument and offer our platform for a civilized debate”. In this setup, the broadcasting company can’t be held responsible for defying the said rules, as it provided him ample chance and time to defend himself. And, despite that, he has been incompetent to publish a response in a newspaper.
Furthermore, Mr. Salman Ahmad asserts that the news portal should have verified the following details ahead of printing a “pack of lies”. I advise him to observe that whatever had been published in the foregoing piece was backed with compelling evidence. For his expediency, I am furnishing blow-by-blow answers to all the queries that he has raised in the legal notice.
Question 01: Who is Faizan Raza and where has he been since Sadequain passed away 34 years ago?
Answer o1: I am a freelancer, and I was barely five years old when the legend died.
Question 02: What has Faizan Raza done for Sadequain since Sadequain passed away 34 years ago?
Answer 01: I am engaged in unearthing the global racket that is being operated in the painter’s name, and the previous exposition was one of the several planned investigative reports in this direction. Also, I had contributed two letters to The Dawn regarding the opus of the colorist about which he seems ignorant.
Question 03: Why is Faizan Raza suddenly fixated on Sadequain Foundation USA?
Answer 03: I am not fixated on a person or particular firm. Rather, I aim to expose the malpractice that is widespread in the art domain irrespective of the fact of who operates it. I assure him that he would see the incisive literary output in the future also.
In addition, I don’t identify how the above queries expose my “identity” and connect me with Mr. Sultan Ahmad who, as per Mr. Salman Ahmad, is allegedly a “hardened criminal”. It is quite astonishing to note that he falters in supplying convincing documents that challenge my individuality. He merely applies the disjointed statements to cast me as a fraud. On the contrary, my article was replete with examples and drawings proving that he has been involved in professional transgressions for a long time. And, I regurgitate that I am yet to receive a rejoinder to the essay that has put his commercial concern in a circle of suspicions.
Going forward, he states eight unsubstantiated crimes/charges about me which are enumerated below with their befitting replies:
Crime #01: The night Sadequain passed away on February 10, 1987, Faizan Raza/Sultan Naqvi was not present by Sadequain’s bedside, but instead was robbing Sadequain’s paintings in storage at Frere Hall. The robbery was reported by the media.
Answer #01: As I have inscribed earlier, I was scarcely five years old in 1987, and was residing in India. I wonder how a toddler could have traveled from India to Pakistan and robbed the paintings that were accommodated in the reputed Frere Hall. Also, I would like to see which newspaper reported the concocted narrative of the theft incriminating me.
What is more, I would like to question him if Mr. Sultan Ahmad had been absent from the hospital then who had performed the final rites of Sadequain. In his absence, Mr. Salman Ahmad should have reached Karachi and performed his duties, but he declined.
Though, he falls short on all counts but still wishes to be recognized as a lawful heir to the deceased illustrator.
And, he must realize that all the letters and condolence messages from the government officials including Prime Minister, President, and other dignitaries were addressed to Mr. Sultan Ahmad only, which cemented his position as the bona fide successor to the muralist. Besides, as a true descendant of the painter, he has been religiously looking after the grave of his uncle in the Sakhi Hassan graveyard of Karachi [Fig. 1].
Crime #02: Faizan Raza/Sultan Naqvi embezzled Sadequain’s art-works after Sadequain passed away and deprived all other legal heirs.
Answer #02: This indictment reminds me of an axiom, “the pot calling the kettle black”. In place of replying about the thirty-two dodgy prints of Surah-E-Rahman (the subject of the former monograph) that his organization has been producing with impunity, he has fired a barrage of inconsistent accusations towards me. As I had provided enough substantiation in the preceding critique, it is now his turn to defend the specific charges cited therein.
Crime #03: Faizan Raza/Sultan Naqvi embezzled Sadequain’s bank account immediately after Sadequain passed away.
Answer #03: Where is the money trail of the said embezzlement? Unless he produces documents implicating my name in the misappropriation, his blames are unfounded.
Additionally, the admirers of the painter desire to understand why a judicial inquest hasn’t been initiated until now by the plaintiff to frame the supposed culprits.
Crime #04: Faizan Raza/Sultan Naqvi embezzled Sadequain’s amenity plot for an art institute in Gulshan-E-Iqbal and instead built an illegal Shadi Hall.
Answer #04: Where are the transaction papers that explicitly incriminate me?
Crime #05: Faizan Raza/Sultan Naqvi embezzled Sadequain’s home, Sibtain Manzil, which should have been a museum, but instead, it was illegally sold by Faizan Raza/Sultan Naqvi.
Answer #05: Where are the files suggesting I was involved in selling Sibtain Manzil?
Crime #06: Faizan Raza/Sultan Naqvi conned the media into printing his fraudulent claim that he was Sadequain’s sole heir. He implicated two other innocent and unsuspecting individuals in his web of deceit.
Answer #06: I wonder why Mr. Salman Ahmad, being a self-styled Ph.D. scholar, has been ineffectual so far to organize the press against the assumed offenders. Rather, the media has been highlighting the decadence of his organization with credible specifics. And, he should learn that the report of Surah-E-Rahman would be followed by similar treatises as the Pandora’s Box has been unbolted.
Crime #07: Faizan Raza/Sultan Naqvi operated Sadequain Fake Factory for over 25 years as the primary supplier of Sadequain’s fake art to the market.
Answer #07: I would be happy to know when I stopped operating the abovementioned alleged business of forged paintings. And, I would be further appreciative of him if he can furnish pieces of evidence that corroborate my involvement in it.
Crime #08: Faizan Raza/Sultan Naqvi has been committing cyber crimes against Sadequain Foundation USA because the Foundation has shut down his Sadequain Fake Factory.
Answer #08: On August 8th, 2017, Mr. Salman Ahmad had emailed the Pakistani Federal Investigation Agency about the fabricated stories of cybercrimes, but no one in the agency took cognizance of his trash claims. It has been almost four years since the complaint was made and so far no inquiry has been instituted to investigate the speculative accusations. This all proves that he harbors a proclivity of indulging in unwarranted issues and, therefore, the ensuing maxim suits him well, “old habits die hard”.
Now, let me conclude this piece with an appalling incident (though, I do identify several that would open a can of worms) about five illustrations of Sadequain called the “House of Cards”. Concerning these, Mr. Amjad Ali, a renowned art critic, wrote in a magazine, Artist Pakistan (June 1969), “The series titled House of Cards was painted in the summer of 1968. The faces of the characters on the playing cards bore expressions to match their assigned roles by the artist. Typically, a face was painted above and sometimes repeated below, like a playing card pattern, and a spade or other card’s symbol was shown at one corner along with other symbolic patterns completing the painting. The king was portrayed as a tragic figure, his face looked haggard and he wore a crown of thorns. The queen was portrayed as a conniving and manipulative fox, plotting behind the back of the king. The knave was a cunning creature, who would plant the seeds of dissension between the king and the queen. In addition to these figurative compositions, Sadequain painted abstract forms in the playing cards style comprised of what can be termed as calligraphic strokes”. So, in nutshell, these images could be entitled as the apparatus of civil criticism.
Likewise, the celebrated poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz inscribed: “On the return from Paris, Sadequain reverted to direct social comment to depict a loveless and macabre world, a world of the scarecrow acting as the lord of blood-thirsty crows, of the harridan decked out as a beauty queen, a world of trapped tongues and cobwebbed hearts, of debased flesh and servile manners. And in his social community, the only living ones are those who suffer. For they are the only ones who toil the camel, the ox, the hewer of wood, the drawer of water, the famished cactus, and the root under the stone. And, to paint the figure together with its suffering obviously dictated a distortion of visual appearance”.
Thus, these drawings aimed to eradicate the societal tribulations and bring a transformation in public thoughts and transactions. But, what followed was stuffed with dismay that the accomplished illustrator would never have dreamt in his wildest imaginations. In May 2015, a supposed painting [Fig. 2] of the aforesaid series (signed and dated November 2nd, 1962) was auctioned at the TCF gala in Washington, D.C., to raise funds for schools in Pakistan. When the business deal was scrutinized, it came to light that Mr. Salman Ahmad had issued false provenance and a phony certificate of authenticity to the buyer(s). Here, the readers have the prerogative to know that the said picture was a hideous counterfeit copy that possessed detestable line-work and shabby knife strokes. The symbols and alphabets on the card were so imperfect that even an amateur could have discerned them. Moreover, it was stamped with the fraudulent signature of Sadequain.
Therefore, when Mr. Amjad Hussain, an ardent devotee of the learned muralist, who had seen his indisputable specimens at the Sadequain Art Gallery, and Lahore Museum, noticed the incident, he exclaimed, “people are blind. They must see some original works before buying one. They would be able to feel the difference”. He added that a prominent studio (name withheld) in Lahore was hand in glove with the Sadequain Foundation USA to obtain legitimacy certificates for its bogus produce. And, with a cynical remark, Mr. Akmal Hussain dubbed the illustration as “very amazing, and its date, probably also intriguing”. Whereas Ms. Azra Jamali, doubting the print, remarked, “it is just the tag, otherwise…”. Finally, Mr. Ramez Qamer, an advisor at Eye for Art, while embracing the disingenuous image, wrote, “actually this work was provided with full provenance and a certificate from Salman and the Sadequain Foundation”. Interestingly, all these statements were candidly exchanged on Facebook on June 2nd, 2015, when the critics had begun to suspect the credibility of the painting.
Previously, Ms. Aliza Khan, a representative of Mr. Salman Ahmad in Pakistan, had overtly penned on Facebook, “if people need the original work of Sadequain kindly contact to Eye for Art in Karachi and Gallery 6 in Islamabad (they have all documentations through Sadequain Foundation). If people need the records, kindly collect regarding the original work of Sadequain. Secondly, I personally know the art forgery cases pending in Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore. Those cases are still pending. Person arrested and bailed out in 4-8 hours”.
Hence, all the above pronouncements are adequate to demonstrate that our so-called scholar is closely allied with Eye for Art, Gallery 6, among others, and providing them gratuitous favors. Moreover, for the financial benefits, he is issuing deceptive certifications also to the galleries.
Now, I marvel how a masterpiece that was created in 1968 could be sold on November 2nd, 1962, and that too with documentation? The critics who are well-acquainted with the domain can effortlessly conclude that only Mr. Salman Ahmad could execute such grotesque wonders.
Lastly, for the readers, I am validating my arguments with the legitimate [Fig. 3 – 7] vis-à-vis a sham copy of the painting [Fig. 2]. These juxtapositions enable the viewers to segregate the legitimacy from fabrication. Therewithal, they assist in placing red flags at the checkpoints so that the made-up visuals don’t transcend the precincts of generations as trustworthy specimens of creativity.
Note – This piece is in continuation to the previous article published in the Heritage Times on 9th February 2022. I would wait for the answers from Mr. Salman Ahmad to this communication and the previous article, Sadequain and the Conundrum of Surah–E–Rahman, published in Naya Daur, and the Heritage Times.
Views are Personal