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Archive for March, 2009

Smokers corner: Revolutionary confetti

Posted by Alta on March 29, 2009


It was quite a sight watching Laal ( a ‘revolutionary pop band’), being scrutinised by some three dozen young men and women on a TV channel this year on Pakistan Day.

The band is being aggressively promoted by the said TV channel — a channel which ever since the start of the Lawyers Movement in late 2007, has sprinkled itself with revolutionary confetti, cleverly treating the concept of revolution as a highly saleable software in times of socio-economic and political crises.

Of course, never is this revolution clearly defined. Instead it usually stumbles out from our TV screens as a cathartic (but highly convoluted) concoction of liberal democracy, socialism, nationalism, patriotism and religion.

Since the programme featuring Laal was live, the channel seems to have been caught unawares, believing in its own assumption that the middle-class urban youth of Pakistan too are a reflection of what the channel has been dishing out in the name radicalism and reform.

Laal mean well though, and I particularly want to single out their lead vocalist, Shahram Azhar, who seems to be a genuine, sensitive talent. However, thanks to the purely media-constructed notions of the current ‘revolutionary’ zeitgeist in the nation’s youth, I’m sure the band too were taken aback by the reception they got on that show.

Not that they were jeered — far from it, because their unplugged performance was rather marvellous — but the questions that they were asked by the audience betrayed what the electronic media has been spouting regarding middle-class youth in Pakistan.

It is a devastating case of naivety to believe (or worse, propagate), that middle-class Pakistani youth have rediscovered the revolutionary, democratic and progressive spirit that it demonstrated from the 1950s till about the mid-1980s.

The truth is, this spirit, if it really has made some sort of a comeback, seems to be confined to assorted fringe clusters, but they are noticed because to most TV channels they are saleable images.

But then these days anything is saleable if it is continuously bombarded in the mainstream media, from pop bands to whole movements. The question is, are these clusters capable of altering minds and opinions?

No is the answer if their propagated ideas are secular, especially in the political context. But yes would be the reply if the offered ideas in anyway are associated with religion.

That said the 23rd March show was a stark reminder of the above notion. The bulk of the young audience didn’t seem all that impressed by Laal’s ‘Marxist leanings’, and many of them actually suggested that good old fashioned inscrutable mantra and rhetoric of following the holy scripture.

The point is, the fringe clusters who were proudly exhibited by many TV channels during the two-year-long Lawyers Movement — passionately spouting slogans, songs and speeches about democracy, justice, free media and revolution — I’m afraid they do not mirror the spirit of today’s middle-class Pakistani youth.

I mean, coming back to that Pakistan Day show, it was naïve of the channel to believe that the audience on that show will wholeheartedly consume and appreciate Laal’s nostalgic penchant for harking back to a past dotted by such fantastic protest poets like Habib Jalib and Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

How can you expect this generation to give a hoot about Marxism, Jalib, liberalism and progressive notions of art and politics, when much of their ideas of political, economic and religious history come from hate-mongers, paranoid conspiracy theorists and at times, outright frauds, whom they see every single day on one channel or the other posing as televangelists and ‘security experts’?

Most of these kids have little or no idea about who Jalib or Faiz or Marx or Lincoln or Kennedy were. They don’t want to hark back to that; instead, they’d rather hark back to that ‘glorious age of faith’ which, in actuality, is a cleverly implanted memory in the minds of us Muslims.

Why Marx, why Laal (red), why music? The questions kept coming from the audience.

They just couldn’t intellectually comprehend a group of ‘protesters’ who (1) weren’t emotionally combusting about PPP, MQM and Lal Masjid like Imran Khan; or (2) spouting out loud long nothings like talk-show hosts, or (3) weren’t implicating the Jews, RAW, Americans and malevolent jinns in the political and economic crimes against Pakistan, the self-claimed bastion of Islam.

How can they, when most young men and women today are getting their political and historical answers from religious and political cranks!

It is a flawed assumption on part of the electronic media to think that today’s young people will be able to grasp the more liberal and progressive notions of protest.

Because on the other side of the coin are these very channels who have already captured (and arrested) this generation’s intellect with irresponsible televangelism and political programming.

Jalib is nothing but a ghostly caricature to most young people today. They’d rather debate and look out for the dreadful al-dajjal.


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Dialogue: The tomato manifesto

Posted by Alta on March 22, 2009

By NFP (Nadeem Farooq Paracha)

“Laal is a socialist band.” This is what I was told by a teenager who saw
me buying their recently released album.

“What’s a socialist band?” I inquired.

My question surprised him. “You are NFP, aren’t you?” He asked.
“Yes … I am Nadeem.”

“Then you should know what I mean,” he said.

“No, I don’t,” I replied. “Do these guys live in a commune or something?”
Detecting my sense of jest, he smiled back: “Oh come on, you know what I mean.”
“Ok, tell me, when you say socialist, do you mean they are something like The Clash or …”
“Well,” he interrupted. “In essence, yes, but their music is a lot softer, more folksy.”
“I see,” I said. “They are like Pakistani Bob Dylans then?”


“Interesting. But I saw a couple of their videos … they don’t write their own songs, do they?” I said.
“No. They sing famous socialist poems by Faiz, Jalib and the likes,” he explained.

“Nice,” I smiled. “And they have a deal with Fire Records, yes?”

“Yes, they are one of their prime bands these days,” he said, pointing at the logo on the CD.
“And the money that they make from the deal, do they share with, say, Jalib’s family?”

He went quiet, almost frowning, as if straining his mind to find a response. To break the pregnant silence, I continued: “I mean, they are a socialist band, aren’t they? Equal distribution of wealth …”
“Yes, yes,” he shot back, “I know what you’re saying,”


“Well, I doubt if they’re making a lot of money, really,” he said.
“So, the 80 bucks that I just paid for this CD, who gets it?”
“The distributors,” he answered.
“So Laal are using Jalib to make money for a not-very-socialist company?”
“Dude, they’re just using it to get their stuff distributed.”
“But who’s making the bucks here?”
“Why should anyone care?” He responded, exasperated.
“I’m sure Jalib’s wife and children do,” I shot back.
“In case you haven’t noticed, Jalib is dead,” he said, sarcastically.
“In case you haven’t noticed his wife and children are alive and struggling,” I replied.

“Well, then the government should help them rather than a pop band,” he said.
“These guys are being promoted as a band of socialists, aren’t they?”
“They are.” He insisted. “They are all activists.”
“Then they should distribute some of their earnings to Jalib’s family and in fact, even ask their record company to do the same.”

He burst out laughing: “I know you’re just playing the devil’s advocate.”
“Perhaps,” I said. “But who’s the angel here?”

“Not you,” he laughed again. “Never thought you would be questioning the intentions of a socialist band.”
“Never underestimate the power of skepticism, mate.” I said.
“Ok, stop!” He cut me off. “Someone told me NFP has gone totally cynical …”
” … Skeptical,” I interrupted.
“Cynical, skeptical, what’s the difference?” He asked.

“The difference is vast, lad.” I said. “There’s nothing more intellectually liberating than skepticism. Doubt everything.”
“It’s sad to hear something like this from a person like you who too had a socialist past,” he said.

“Youth, my friend, is a weird mixture of passion and pretense,” I explained, striking a reflective pose and tone. “It’s a venerable mix, always generating rhetorical external stunts influenced by a self-centered consumption of convoluted ideas about man, society and history.”

“Woah!” He held out his hand. “You are taking this way too seriously, dude.”

“Well, shouldn’t we be taking a band crooning Jalib’s poetry seriously?” I inquired, tongue-in-cheek.
“But they’re just a pop band,” he said, laughing.

“Precisely!” I said, patting him on the shoulder. “Reality most certainly is a liberating thing to experience, isn’t it?”
He smiled and shook his head: “Tell me, why are you buying this CD?”

“I am buying it in hope that some of the money that this transaction is going to make will land in the hands of Jalib’s family.”
“How extremely pretentious,” he shot back.

“Precisely.” I said, patting him on the shoulder again. “Welcome to skepticism, young man.”
Shaking his head, and with smile of resignation, he did not say another word and walked away.
He also had a DVD in his hand. I asked the shopkeeper what was the DVD that he had bought.
The reply was prompt and welcomingly dispassionate: “American Idol, Season 7!”

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Habib Jalib – Mainay Uss Say Yeh Kaha – Laal band

Posted by Alta on March 19, 2009

“Main Nay Kaha” is a satirical poem by the famous leftist poet Habib Jalib called “Musheer” (Advisor). Jalib wrote it in response to a conversation he had with Hafiz Jalandari during the time of Ayub Khan’s dictatorship. It remains just as fresh and valid today.


I said this to him
These hundred million
Are the epitome of ignorance
Their conscience has gone to sleep
Every ray of hope
Is lost in the darkness
This news is true
They are the living dead
Completely mindless
A disease of life
And you hold in your hands
The cure for their ills

You are the light of God
Wisdom and knowledge personified
The nation is with you
It is only through your grace
That the nation can be saved
You are the light of a new morning
After you there is only night
The few who speak out
Are all mischief makers
You should tear out their tongues
You should throttle their throats

Those proud of their eloquence
Their tongues are completely silent
There is calm in the land
There is an unexampled difference
Between yesterday and today
Only at their own expense
Are people in prison, under your rule

China is our friend
We’d give our lives for her
But the system that they have
Steer well clear of that
From far away say “salaam”
These hundred million asses
That are named the masses
Could surely never become rulers
You are the truth; they’re an illusion
My prayer is that
You remain President forever

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Silly things!

Posted by Alta on March 19, 2009

Silly yet funny

Silly yet funny

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Long week longer day!

Posted by Alta on March 18, 2009

The i love to complain and havent for some time post 🙂

You know how i complain about how bored i am at times and i have nothing to do all day,how there is no work etc etc I wish i was having one of those weeks.

I have been to urdu bazaar this week 3 times and today was the worst,though i am done with it for this year,maybe one short trip but thats nothing after today.

I hate mornings and i hate getting up early,i wish i could say i am being forced to wake up early but it was all my doing,dam me!

It wont end any time soon either,more of the same for the next 2 months and  things will even pick up come April so 😦

Work work,as in cars is slow no sales this month,so gari waiqai nahi bikti 🙂 Well 2 weeks to go so who knows 🙂

I am so glad this weekend is a long weekend,i could do with the sleep and being a bum that i love to be,i miss the old me!! Going to bed at 7 am and waking up at 7pm being locked in my room playing games for long hours,actually ill be doing that this weekend,time to put the PS3 to good use.

Also time to meet my friends,havent seen them for a month or more i think,not my fault alone they work and do not have the time (ok so not all true but still)

A roat trip too maybe 😀

Life is good though,i just like to complain 🙂

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Umeed e Sahar

Posted by Alta on March 16, 2009

There is hope yet,i just wish that Pakistanis realise that only we can make the change,no one will help us till we do it,and in many cases we will have to come out on to the streets like yesterday.Those running the country should know who they work for,and the people of this country should know that they have the power,no one cant stand in front of us if we stand together!

Time for a change 🙂

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