Are Pakistani Rock Stars ‘Radicalising’ the nation?

By Majed Iqbal- America’s increased presence in Pakistan as a political and military force under it’s Af-Pak strategy has  been an issue of concern for both Pakistanis and the American administration. Pakistan is a country which has been marred by bloodshed and violence with immediate blame falling on the ‘militants’.

America has upped its game in recent months to present themselves as the saviour for the country against the devilish forces of the militants. Hillary Clinton’s visit in October last year was aimed at justifying their presence in the region in a bid to win the hearts and minds of the ordinary Pakistani to support and endorse America’s vision for the region. However, Clinton’s visit was was met with protests, anger and frustration as Pakistanis voiced objection to American plans. She failed miserably to do this but pledged continued American ‘Support’ for the nation.

In Similar style, America has sought to re-work its image in Pakistan by laying the entire blame on the Taliban for the countries problems. Allegations have been made that the security services are helping Islamists, or factions in the army are inclined towards Islam or that Nuclear Arsenal can fall into the hands of militants.

In the midst of this, a new, fresh, and  un-predicted, allegation has now been made that Pakistani Rock stars are radicalising Pakistani Youth.

Adam B Ellick, a journalist for the New York Times writes in his article “Pakistan Rock Rails Against the West, Not the Taliban” that “While Pakistani journalists, playwrights and even moderate Islamic clerics have boldly condemned the Taliban, the nation’s pop music stars have yet to sing out against the group (Taliban)”.

A video available on the New York Times website shows interviews with a range of singers from Pakistan. The narrator states that “Pakistani pop musicians are propelling anti-American messages” and that “Whilst the politicised songs highlight many of Pakistan woes like corruption and poverty, they also condemn America for meddling in the region.”

“The lyrics reflect widespread views among their young educated fans who say Pakistan’s problem is the West, not the Taliban” states journalist New York Times journalist Adam in the video.

Ali Azmat, one of Pakistan’s leading Iconic Rock Stars is criticised heavily for his latest Track “Tanha hai Kyoon” from his Album Klashinfolk which the author claims “emits a stream of anti-western views”. Primarily known for his love songs, the author states that “like many pop stars he (Ali Azmat) has changed his tune”.

Made in a retro style collage of video footage and images, the video draws viewers attention on the miseries of corporate America,  freedom struggles in troubled regions meddled in by America, Capitalism and War on Terror. The video continuously displays titles questioning the viewer like “Glorified lies?”, “Universal Truth?”, “Slavery “War=Profit” and displays images of destruction,  a world full of Weapons and references to last years Gaza onslaught by Israeli forces.

“Would you sing a song about how 200 girl’s schools were blown up?” asks the journalist in a video interview

“You can’t blame Taliban for that. Where do you think the funding is coming from? It is the agenda of the neo-cons to de-islamise Pakistan” replies a confident Azmat

The last year has seen heavy casualties across the country with attacks taking place in major cities. For musicians, their work has suffered as a consequence as security has been a major concern. No Live concerts have meant resorting to television appearances, affecting their revenue heavily.

The New York Times journalist uses this opportunity to ask how musicians should respond to people who are damaging their musical lifestyle. Noori, a popular rock band are questioned if they would sing against the Taliban.

 “First of all it is the West against the Taliban’s, they are heavily affected by it, were not! We are not going to get up and talk about the Taliban as this is probably the smallest problem this country has” speaks out band member Ali Noor.

Shezad Roy, a famous Pop Star is next in the line of attack. The video narration rolls stating  “As the United states bids for the heart and minds in Pakistan, Pop culture is blaming America for everything, from torturing Muslims to Drone attacks on Pakistani soil”.

This is referred to his song “Qismat apnay Haath mein” on Guantanamo where questions on Justice, being Muslim, torture and living in the age of America’s War on Terror are all raised.

Obama’s election was seen as a new turn for America to fix its damaged international image. Yet in the first month of Obama’s administration the numbers of Drone attacks in Pakistan were more than what former President George Bush used in his two terms in the region.

The hailers of Freedom and Democracy are now being challenged by a handful of musicians who are using their backgrounds to voice their opinions on current events. But it seems that notions of Freedom and Democracy are terms used synonymously with American interests.

In this case, the American administration will not be pleased as they continue to loose the battle to win the hearts and minds of the Pakistani nation.


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