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New Freedoms for Civil Society Heighten Political Tensions in Pakistan

Journalists, artists and judicial activists have found voices in new freedoms in Pakistani culture, but clashes also have arisen. Margaret Warner reports from Pakistan on cultural tensions between the traditional and more modern ideologies.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    It's taken near two decades, but Pakistan finally has a National Gallery of Art. At a gala reception 10 days ago, Islamabad high society mingled with the artists and lauded the man who brought it about, architect Naeem Pasha. He designed this striking brick building to showcase some of the country's finest artists and some edgy artwork that does not always fit a strict Islamic sensibility. Pasha says it's about time.

  • NAEEM PASHA, Architect:

    The last 30, 40 years, we have been self-censoring ourselves, and especially in art and culture and literature, that, you know, what would be palatable and what would not be palatable, with, you know, the people or general public.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Pasha said the gallery's construction was due to the personal intervention of a very powerful benefactor, President Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan's military ruler opened the museum himself. He told the story of driving past the abandoned half-built site, asking what it was, and once Pasha was summoned to explain it, ordering it funded and built.

    PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, President of Pakistan (through translator): It has taken 50 long years to create this one art gallery. Well, they say, it's better late than never.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    The irony that it took a military ruler, not a civilian one, to finish this gallery wasn't lost on the artists and celebrities at the gathering. Pakistani supermodel Natasha Hussain covered the event for one of Pakistan's new private TV channels.

    NATASHA HUSSAIN, Model and Actress: I was really, really happily surprised, and I've been feeling very emotional about this whole building and that it's been made and that it's been done and that our president, General Pervez Musharraf, has not only financially, but otherwise also really helped all of us out, you know, by doing this.