During my inquisitive years in college in Britain, I made many friends from Pakistan. Despite the weight of history we feel back in our nations, our many similarities drew us closer in a foreign land, allowing us a chance to peer across the barbed wire even though hundreds of miles away.
As radicals wage war in Pakistan and other nations, for my friends and neighbours, terrorism is nothing more than a cancer. A female Pakistani student once told me about the heavy security and safety measures in her school in the heart of Karachi. She remembered six layers of security and armed guards outside the gate of her school, bombing drills during school assembly – a stark contrast to the prayers, activities and songs Indian school students take part in every morning. Imagine growing up, going to school everyday to the sight of machine guns, grim faced soldiers and concrete barriers.
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Silence of the Pakistani Artists Raises Questions
I know they truly believe that like war, terrorism is blind hatred that breeds more despair and vitriol than any remedy. However, in an age where all of us have platforms to voice our opinions, where the force of human conscience can be seen resonating and felt at the click of a button and the tap of a finger, in the face of blind destruction silence is not golden. It is cowardice and apathy.
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In the wake of the Uri attack, the silence of Pakistani artists in India and activists who yearn for peace between the two nations is detrimental to the fight against terror. It widens the ideological divide and gives more room to hate and warmongers to control the overall narrative.
Earlier Attempt to Rebrand Pakistan
Back in 2009, my Pakistani friends in college proudly showed me a public awareness campaign from their country called ‘Yeh Hum Nahin’. It was a song sung by various Pakistani artists like Ali Zafar and the band Strings. The song was an attempt to win back the identity of Pakistan, an active appeal against the nation being labelled a terrorist state in the aftermath of multiple terror attacks and rampant radicalism. It was a strong campaign, but lost steam very quickly with no attempts to even resurrect it. These artists have now been silent for years.
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Lacking a Firm Stand on Terrorism
The simple truth is that it is not possible for India to see Fawad Khan, Atif Aslam, Ali Zafar or any other Pakistani artist as just a celebrity. They will be seen as intelligent Pakistani nationals with a brain and opinions – and the world would like to know what they think about the scourge of terrorism in India and Pakistan.
In the wake of the Paris attacks, global condemnation on social media and on the streets drowned out the voices of extremists and divisive narratives. At that time, Pakistani artists were active in expressing their anguish. Fawad Khan tweeted, “Shocked and saddened; praying for Paris, praying for humanity”.
Ali Zafar took to Twitter as well where he said “#PrayForParis #PrayForPeace”.
Actor Mahira Khan also expressed grief over the Paris attacks on social media saying “Heartbreaking. What a world we live in.”
Empathy with India Missing
This begs the question – why the silence over attacks in India by Pakistan-based terrorists? Pathankot, Pampore and now Uri all took place after Paris – yet these artists have had no words of solidarity or condemnation; no anger towards the groups spreading havoc in their country and how the violence spills over into India where they seek the adulation of millions. All it takes is a hashtag and less than 140 characters to side with humanity and send out a strong and poignant message – yet they said nothing.
What could be the reason? Was the Paris attack more ‘trendy’ on social media than Uri? Do they fear reprisals back home from extremists or the military if they show unity with India? Do they think Hafiz Saeed and other terrorists in Pakistan are social workers? Do they truly believe their nation is not involved in spreading terror in India?
Join India in Its Fight Against Terrorism
They are public figures from across the border and the nation will look to them to make some sense of the situation, re-ignite faith that in this age of terror, peace-loving Indians and Pakistanis are on the same page. Despite the MNS threat to Pakistani artists in Mumbai, the state is powerful enough to provide them protection and make sure no harm comes to them.
Yet, these artists will do a great service to their fans, India and the overall ideological fight against terror to raise a voice against all those who advocate and perpetuate violence to divide and destroy. They should once again shout from the rooftops – ‘Yeh Hum Nahin’.
(The writer is a senior news editor at CNN-News18. He can be reached at @Jamwalthefirst. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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