My last visit to Pakistan was in 2008. I wrote to a large degree about my experience in Karachi- Pakistan’s largest city, its economic life line to the globalizing world and the center of its financial future. Karachi is a city of some 14 million people, large swathes of it are not only left without electricity (I flew over Karachi and you could see massive sections of the city just dark while outlined by area’s that had electricity) but massive slums.
When I went to Pakistan my observation was clear- Pakistan is a manmade natural disaster on a railroad track that isn’t just going to split to go in two different directions, but rather the right and left tracks itself are going separate ways. The juxtaposition of conservative burqha clad women next two sleeveless jeans wearing urbanites created a poignant description of my observation. The reality is the wealthy upper middle class and the 0.0001% of the uber rich live in a bubble of their own making behind their fortressed houses in places like Karachi’s Defense neighborhoods. The sad reality is that these people spend more time making their internal homes modern and American, but right in front of their houses, not even a few inches outside their gated palaces are the stark realities of the “real Pakistan.”
My brother just got back from his trip to Pakistan where he was doing research with Agha Khan Medical University in Karachi on childhood water borne diseases. He got an opportunity to visit the slums of Karachi and he told me about how classroom theory become strikingly real. In class he only knew the statistic of the UN poverty index, in Karachi he saw the hundreds of thousands of people who live under that poverty line.
I am not sure when my next visit to Pakistan will be, but my brothers visit there was disturbing enough- Karachi had some 10 suicide bombings while he was there, there were some 3 dozen kidnappings and murders due to ethnic and political rivalries. In Pakistan the reality is that death will happen- so people go about their business. They go shopping in stores living with the reality that they will get blown up. People go to the mosques to pray knowing that some gunman will walk inside and spray the congregants with bullets. Kids go to school knowing, and their parents living in fear, that some band of thugs will kidnap and hold the student for ransom or just murder them. Kids play in the streets knowing full well that some rival ethnic gang could accuse them of a petty crime and they would get mobbed and beaten up. Women walk the streets, often, like some of my cousins wearing the burqa in order to avoid harassment and robbery. Pulling up to a stop light you could get robbed, heck people can jump over your fortified property and rob everything of value in your house. Pakistani’s live with this all the while the price of food goes up, scarcity grows faster, jobs and opportunities dry up, electricity and infrastructure overall is close to nonexistent, a country on the brink of civil war and constantly living in at the cusp of a political seizure.
The challenges in Pakistan are immense. I would not have thought that three years ago Pakistan could produce a middle ground- things were to crazy back then. Yet here I am seeing a middle ground. The rise of a political conscience generation that has a sense of Pakistani national identity that is divorcing itself from the politics of party, ethnic and blind rhetorical adherence, to one that is rooted in principles. What does it mean to be a Pakistani today- its a choice between the rule of law or anarchy, between the a religious identity that is open and vibrant or one that is focused on narrow egotistical self promotion. The choices are quite clear, because its about alu andhay or chicken korma.
Thats why I love this Beygairat Brigade and what they stand for.
I am so excited because finally there is a political anthem that rises above petty politics and above blind nationalism and suggests to the listeners to really critically think about the country’s problems, about their challenges and about the future. I mean the line “where Qadri is treated like a royal, but Ajmal Qasab is the real hero, the mullahs runs away behind a veil, Abdus Salam is a forgotten tale.”
If you know nothing about Pakistan then this line gives to you the dire reality of Pakistani society. Qadri is the high ranking police officer that murdered (assassinated) the Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer after he made public condemnation of the trial of a Christian women for Asia Bibi under the new blasphemy laws passed in Pakistan (some religious leaders in various parts of Pakistan said that people should not mourn for his death). Ajmal Qasab is the sole surviving terrorist of the Bombay Hotel 2008 shootings, who in Pakistan, in various circles is seen as a hero. The “mullahs in veils” is the reference to the Red Mosque siege and the escape of the son of the mosques leader Abdul Aziz Ghazi while wearing a veil. Abdus Salam, well, he happens to be Pakistan’s only Nobel Laureate and also the first Muslim to receive the nobel prize. However, in Pakistan in 1974, the Ahmaddiyah Sect was designated as “non-Muslim” and Abdus Salam left the country in protest over the passage of the ordinance. He died outside of Pakistan and only in 1998 brought back to Pakistan so that his body may be buried next to his parents in his hometown.
Whats amazing about the band especially is their childlike demeanor on presenting these really difficult issues and questions. They shame the political shenanigans and the “fellowship of the beards”. I am quite excited with them and support them. I get excited to see this and its awesome!