Many allegations have been levied against the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) for years now. However we see smoke, but not the fire. Some attempts have been made to discern the actual events, but the smoke of crafty rumours, obscures the entire picture, and every effort has failed. Former member, National Assembly, Arifa Khalid quite vigorously took up and pursued the matter of stolen paintings from the National Art Gallery (NAG), run by the PNCA, at the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting. Nothing mentionable could happen in her tenure even after a long and consistent campaign by the sitting parliamentarian. Finally, the Standing Committee referred the case to Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to find out the ‘culprits’. The slowly moving case of stolen paintings disappeared with FIA from the scene once the National Assembly was dissolved mid-year for the new elections. Since then, there has been only silence. We don’t know if the investigation has ceased, if sustainable efforts were even made, or if the FIA was incapable in rendering any results. The new National Assembly Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting shall take the matter of stolen paintings. FIA report shall be made public immediately for two reasons. Firstly to prove the capacity of the FIA to probe such kind of cases, and secondly to satisfy the citizens in general and the art circles in particular that their art treasure is in safe hands at the National Art Gallery. Though, it is not. Seven years back, I did a story on the stolen paintings for a daily and highlighted that the crafty staff of the PNCA had changed the National Art Gallery register of inventory. Commenting on it, the former Director General PNCA Dr Khalid Saeed Butt termed the act mala fide. This is extremely ironic that even seven years later, the case could not reach its logical conclusion. Connivance of the culprits with the probing authorities or the skilfully done theft leaving no traces behind, whatever it is? The national authorities need to solve the case of stolen paintings quite rationally as soon as possible to restore the shaken confidence of the nation. Some have approached the NAB for its intervention into PNCA’s financial matters which they believe to be suspicious. NAB has sought explanation on various allegations levelled against PNCA’s process of spending public funds The most important collection at the National Art Gallery (NAG) are the paintings by the old masters including Ustad Allah Bakhsh, Abdur Rehman Chughtai and especially the work of Sadequain. Sometime back, a group of senior artists examined the NAG collection of old masters especially the paintings of Sadequain and concluded that they were fakes. They had many reasons to say that. This matter also needs to be investigated thoroughly. Interestingly, the PNCA is executing a PC-I of worth Rs 130 million to construct a new boundary wall after dismantling the first one. The objective is to protect the building, housing the doubtful paintings of masters and other contemporary art, and to give further protection to those who could not protect art. Strangely, the scanners installed at the PNCA gates at the cost of millions of rupees are without scanning cameras. So, any goods, baggage, persons and vehicles can come in the building without any fear of being checked. The PNCA officer who got it installed is at large without any fear of prosecution and accountability. He has several such misdeeds to his credit. The PNCA is going through quite a gloomy situation. Previous senior staff has retired without any accountability of their misdeeds. The lower staff is waiting for promotions, and vacate seats. The ministry remains silent despite repeated requests for an inquiry into the overall system. The authorities believe that without adequate performance evaluation and capacity test, the promotion of lower staff would be an additional burden on the national exchequer. On the other hand, the parameters for the process of promotion need to be defined – again a tedious process no one seems interested to take on. Employees have their own stance contrary to the one the authorities have. Anyway, the employees’ satisfaction is necessary and vital for growth of PNCA. So, the halted process of promotions shall take off. New recruitment of permanent professional staff and experts would certainly help in the consistent growth and performance of PNCA. Jamal Shah as the Director General of PNCA has taken several steps to stretch the scope of activities. Several festivals of visual and performing arts, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Cultural Caravan, National Artists Convention are some that occurred during the last two years. Many initiatives are in the pipeline as well. Many are happy about the initiatives Jamal Shah has taken and praise him, and many have a difference of opinion and are lobbying against him. Some have approached the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for its intervention into PNCA’s financial matters which they believe to be suspicious. NAB has sought explanation on various allegations levelled against PNCA’s process of spending public funds. Several complain that there is a lack of fair chance to compete for cultural engagement opportunities under the CPEC regime. The writer is an Islamabad-based policy advocacy, strategic communication and outreach expert. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. @EmmayeSyed Published in Daily Times, October 2nd 2018.