Ajoka Theatre presented a new play titled Intezaar in collaboration with the Justice Project Pakistan, performed at Forman Christian College, Lahore. The play was written by Shahid Nadeem, produced by Ryan Van Winkle and directed by UK-based theatre director Dina Mousawi, while the light design was handled by Jules Deering. The play highlighted the true stories of various death row prisoners from Pakistan – stories of suffering, of injustice and of waiting. The play was performed in an open theatre and received a most enthusiastic response, which included standing ovations from the students of FC College.
A team from the UK conducted a week-long workshop with Ajoka artists at the end of March in Lahore in which characters and production design were finalized. Earlier they had also conducted a 15-day workshop in November 2016 with Ajoka, in which the emphasis was on script reading and developing the outlook of the characters.
Intezaar was performed in two more leading educational institutes, firstly on the 10th of April at the National College of Arts, Rawalpindi, and a special show at Government College University, Faisalabad, on the 11th of April. A six-episode radio feature series was also in the pipeline, in which every episode will share the story and perspective of a new death row prisoner.
Intezaar (The Wait) is based on true stories from Pakistani prisons. The wait, in the context of our judicial and prison system, means waiting for when (or if) your loved one will come home, when the judicial system will give justice to someone falsely accused, when a verdict on the right to life of a human being will finally come out and of course: the long wait after the black warrants – for fixing a date of execution. On average a death convict has to wait for 10 years or more in prison before the state can take their life.
The death penalty is regarded as an inhuman and degrading punishment in most countries. It becomes even more unjust and cruel in countries where the police and judicial system is corrupt and flawed. Very little is known about the life of prisoners in Pakistani prisons, even less about those on the death row. One appalling aspect, as highlighted in the play, is the never-ending uncertainty and the interminable wait.
There is a prisoner who can paint, another who can compose and sing and yet another who spends all his time studying and teaching others
The characters of Intezaar are death row inmates of a Pakistani prison. Their miserable existence and their resilience and courage to make their meaningless lives somewhat meaningful are a central theme. There is a prisoner who can paint, another who can compose and sing and yet another who spends all his time studying and teaching others. But there are other inmates who are there in violation of Pakistani and international laws: the juveniles, the physically handicapped and the mentally ill. There are other characters whose lives are connected with the convicts: the families who are asked to collect the dead bodies of their relatives. One character who gives hope in this depressing situation is the lawyer who is devoted to working to seek relief and justice for the unfortunate victims of social and institutional injustice. The stories from the play are based on true stories. However their names have been changed for reasons of privacy and legal concerns.
Intezaar is a unique project which has brought together four organisations committed to the cause of human rights and socially meaningful art – the Justice Project Pakistan; Highlight Arts, London; Ajoka Theatre Pakistan and Complicite, London.
The team behind Intezaar:
Superintendent / Judge
Lawyer / Lady Warden
Prisoner’s Family 1/ Executioner
Prisoner’s Faily 2:Family member
Nadeem Mir, Shakeel Siddiqui
Ryan Van Winkle