In a video report shot in Lahore, Adam Ellick asks a few of Pakistan’s top musicians why they have spoken out against corruption, political wheeling-dealings, poverty and the manner in which the country has been done in by everyone from the politicians to the West to India – but never against the Taliban, who currently constitute the clearest and most present of dangers.
Here, verbatim, is what Ali Noor of Noori has to say:
‘We are not going to get up and say that we want to talk against the Taliban – simply because they are probably one of the smallest problems this country has. […] It’s the West. It’s the West that is against the Taliban, because they are very heavily affected by it. We’re not.’
And here is what Ali Azmat – the man who once sang about ‘zehni ghulami’ – has to say: ‘We know for a fact that all this turbulence in Pakistan … it’s not us. It’s the outside hands.’
What, really, can one say? The Taliban are one of the smallest problems this country has? When we’re having a bombing virtually every day, when parts of the south-west of the country were until very recently in serious danger of falling to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and its associated gang of goons?
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission
Ellick comments, dryly, that this view – it’s not us, it’s ‘foreign hands’ – persists despite a spate of bombings in the country with the targets ranging from civilians and security forces’ installations to an Islamic university for women. ‘They’re [Pakistan’s pop musicians] angry about one fact: that the United States has interfered in Pakistan’s politics for decades…’
So in the next shot, Ellick puts the question to Ali Azmat. Off-camera, he asks, ‘Would you ever sing a song about how two hundred girls’ schools were blown up?’ Azmat’s reply? ‘Well you know, you cannot blame the Taliban for that. Where do you think those fundings are coming from? It’s the agenda of the neo-cons to de-Islamise Pakistan… religion must be killed.’
One could be forgiven, at this point, to want to shoot oneself in despair. We’re all tempted to defend Pakistan in the face of criticism, sure. But in this manner and in such ill-chosen words?
But why blame Ali Azmat or Ali Noor? The sad fact is that this is a nation of delusional people, and the views these two men have expressed are shared by a great many people – I’d go as far as to say the majority. It took years of beheadings, bombings, whippings and extortion by the Taliban to turn the tide of public opinion against them…
What will it take for us to recognise that Pakistan’s problems, from the Taliban to poverty, under-development and corruption, are home-grown? Even where we reject them, we try to blame others. ‘It’s the foreign influences; a conspiracy against Pakistan and Islam; it’s India; it’s America; it’s Israel.’ Like pre-schoolers, we whine on and on: ‘It’s not us; we aren’t like this.’
Sound familiar? RTFA.