Artist Honored in Washington
By Jonathan Hayden
The gorgeous Embassy
of Pakistan in Washington, DC provided the appropriate backdrop
for a dinner and commemoration in honor of acclaimed Pakistani
artist and social activist Jimmy Engineer on the evening
of March 22. His Excellency Ambassador Jehangir Karamat
welcomed a distinguished list of guests to the Embassy to
witness speeches by Ambassador Akbar Ahmed PhD and Mr. Engineer
and a question and answer session following dinner.
After the discourse, the guests were treated to a viewing
of the works of Mr. Engineer. The Master of Ceremonies for
the event, entitled ‘Life and Works of Jimmy Engineer’,
was DCM Mohammad Sadiq. Among the notable attendees were
Colonel Chris Allen, Professor Newton Howard of George Washington
University, and many dignified diplomats.
to R): Dr Akbar Ahmed, Jimmy Engineer and Ambassador
Ambassador Karamat began
the speaking session by welcoming the enthusiastic crowd,
subsequently thanking the two speakers. “I am grateful
for Jimmy to be here. He is an outstanding artist and has
had astounding achievements on the social side”, said
Karamat. He went on to speak of some of the achievements
of Engineer adding, “He has shared his good fortune
without reservations with a large number of Pakistanis and
people from all walks of life.”
Mr. Sadiq then introduced Dr. Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of
Islamic Studies at American University, to the considerable
crowd. Sadiq was short with his introduction but did label
Dr. Ahmed as “the most well-know Pakistani living
in the United States”.
Dr. Ahmed began by thanking the Ambassador and the guests
and took the opportunity to “throw light on Jimmy
the person”. He spoke of the creation of Pakistan
in 1947 changing the world. Over two million people sacrificed
their lives and fifteen million were displaced. “Jimmy’s
works remind us of this,” Dr. Ahmed said, referring
to the artwork of Engineer that depicts the violence and
bloodshed that came along with the creation of Pakistan
in 1947. Ahmed explained what they were fighting for: Jinnah’s
vision of a modern Muslim state, a “balance of Islam
and modernity.” He added, “Jimmy’s challenge
to us is being renewed through his work.”
Continuing his address, Dr. Ahmed told the crowd about who
Mr. Engineer is as a human being and about his contribution
to not only Pakistanis but also people from all over the
world. “Jimmy represents the finest of Pakistan. “He
does not believe in violence. He reaches out to the people
through his art”, said Ahmed.
Dr. Ahmed spoke of some of the initiatives that Mr. Engineer
has taken to spread peace and compassion. Engineer has been
a peaceful activist for handicapped children, oppressed
peoples, and impoverished throughout Pakistan. He has spread
almost all of his wealth to charitable work. “Jimmy
challenges us to look deep into our culture. Compassion,
acceptance, reaching out; this is the Islam that spread
A section of the audience
Asia. Jimmy challenges
us to get back to this”, explained Ahmed.
Dr. Ahmed gave way to Mr. Engineer, a charming and fascinating
man, who shared some of the advances that have been made
through his desire to reach out to the underprivileged.
Accepting of all religions, he has been able to bridge gaps
through his artwork, explaining that God inspires him. “When
people call me a great Muslim, I say ‘Thank you’.
When someone says that I am a Hindu, I say ‘Thank
you’. Same with Buddhism”, said Mr. Engineer.
He asserts that the inspiration for ‘The Partition’,
perhaps the most famous of the over 3,000 works of art that
he has composed, came from God through dreams. The immaculate
8’ x 13’ detailed piece depicts the struggle
for the conception of Pakistan.
Engineer commented on the endeavors that he has taken to
connect with the oppressed people of Pakistan. He spoke
of some of the infamous ‘walks’ that he has
taken to bring awareness to an issue. In 1994, he walked
from Karachi to the border of Afghanistan visiting villages
along the way to reach out to the poor. “We cannot
expect the poor people to come to us,” said Engineer.
In 2001, he initiated a ‘Peace Walk’ from Pakistan
to India in which he walked for twelve days to the Indian
border where he was denied entry. The walk received media
attention and “woke up a nation that was sleeping”
said Engineer. “Relations started improving.”
He has been able to get the attention of politicians through
his peaceful actions and makes a difference.
One of the nobler of his acts has been his effort to help
the handicapped. He has been engaged with disadvantaged
people face to face. “All of this talk will not change
a life. We call these people special but never give them
anything special”, he said. Being a man of action,
he has taken hundreds of handicapped children to five-star
hotels and restaurants.
Following Mr. Engineer’s inspiring speech, the jovial
attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions of
the panelists. One of the highlights included Mr. Engineer
being asked what message he would have for people of Pakistan
and America. To this he replied, “Pakistanis should
be proud to be Pakistanis.” He added in jest, “America
should be nice to Pakistan.” Dr. Ahmed then jokingly
exclaimed “He’s talking to you” to Col.
Allen who is on his way to Pakistan.
After the interactive session, Mr. Engineer most graciously
treated the attendees to an exhibition showcasing many of
his magnificent works of art. The congregation was delighted
to mingle with the guests of honor and have their prints
signed by Mr. Engineer.
For everyone is attendance, the night was a privilege to
be witness to. The three Pakistanis that took the stage
at the Embassy reminded everyone in attendance of all that
Pakistan has given to the world and will continue to give.