Saturday, September 13, 2014

Changing Face of Pak Protests: Containers, Drones, Music, Social Media

PTI's month-long sit-in led by Imran Khan is setting new standards for political protest rallies in Pakistan. Tens of thousands of urban middle class Pakistanis are joining in to enthusiastically listen to the PTI chief's speeches from the top of a shipping container, with pauses filled with music and dance while media drones hover overhead to cover it 24X7. Social media are abuzz with regular tweets and facebook posts from the attendees and their followers keeping millions more updated on the proceedings of PTI's month-long Dharna (sit-in) in Islamabad.

Urban Middle Class:

Historically, Pakistani politics has been dominated by feudal politicians who hold political rallies with their peasants in attendance who are guaranteed to cast their votes for their landlords in every election. The growth of the urban middle class in years 2000-2008 and the emergence of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) as a political force is changing all that. For the first time in the last 6+ decades,  Pakistan's middle-class city dwellers are now participating in the political process by voting in elections and attending rallies.

Shipping Containers:

Both the government and the PTI and PAT dharna organizers are making extensive use of shipping containers. The government uses them to try and block people's participation in Opposition marches and rallies while the Opposition uses them to house leaders and the container roofs as raised platforms for making speeches.

It seems that the containers have now become a must-have accessory for the modern politician in Pakistan. The cost of converting such containers into mobile homes and speech platforms can easily run into tens of thousands of dollars.

Journalism Drones:

Drones fitted with high-definition cameras are making history in drone journalism in Islamabad.

Since tens of thousands of supporters of Imran Khan and Allama Tahir ul Qadri marched into Islamabad a amoth ago, there have been continuous live aerial images and spectacular videos of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf's and Pakistan Awami Tehrik's massive but peaceful sit-in protests broadcast directly from Islamabad by several Pakistani TV channels. This breathtaking live drone camera coverage of  a major media event has made drone journalism history in the South Asian country of over 180 million people.


Well-timed pauses in Imran Khan's speeches are filled with pre-selected music played by DJ Butt, a professional disk Jockey.  Thousands of attendees dance to the music drawing the ire of conservative right-wingers. Some of them dismiss it as just a concert while others pull out their well-worn fatwas declaring the whole thing "haram" (forbidden) in Islam. The government feels so threatened by it that they have arrested DJ Butt on terrorism charges.

DJ Butt plays national and devotional songs during speeches: from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to Junoon to Ataullah Eesa Khelvi to some tracks especially created by Yousaf Salahuddin. Songs played most often at Imran Khan's rallies include "Mein to dekhonga/ tum bhi dekho gai" by Bilal Maqsood, "Tabdeeli aagaye hai yaaro" by Waqqas Qadir Shaikh and Atif Ali, "Jab ayega Imran/ Banega Naya Pakistan" by Ataullah Eesa Khelvi and "Jitna Vi Imran Khan Jitna" by Abrar ul Haq.

Internet Stats Source: World Bank

Social Media:

PTI activists, and to a lesser extent PAT supporters, have dominated the social media in Pakistan for at least a month to get their messages and news out to millions of Facebook and Twitter users in the country and across the world.


Regardless of the outcome of the PTI-PAT month-long dharna (sit-in), the protest movement has already broken new ground in terms of the demographics of the participants and the effective use of shipping containers, drones, music and social media. The 24X7 TV coverage has also served to start a  broad public discussion of corruption, nepotism, misrule and abuse of power by Pakistan's ruling politicians.

Here's a video of "Jab Ayega Imran" sung by Ataullah Esakhelvi:

jab aye ga imran by bastichawli

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Nawaz Sharif Guilty as Charged but Still PM

Pakistan Middle Class Growth

Pakistan's Protest Music

Drones Inspire and Outrage Pakistanis

Pakistan Media Revolution

Drone Journalism Lab

Military Contingency Plans For Escalating Political Crisis

Pakistani Drones in America

Imran Khan Draws Inspiration From Allama Iqbal

Kudos to Qadri


Riaz Haq said...

Mein tou dekhoonga
Mein tou dekhoonga
Tum bhi dekho gye
Tum bhi dekho gye

Jab roti sasti hogi
Aur mehngi ho gi jaan
Wo din phir aayega Jab aisa,
Hoga Pakistan

Mein tou dekhoonga
Mein tou dekhoonga
Tum bhi dekho gye
Tum bhi dekho gye

Jab rang barangay jhanday
Ik parcham mein ghul jaengay

Aur idhr udhr ko jaate rastay
Ik mod pay mil jaengay

Jab bachchay mulq pay raaj karein
Aur school mein bethain hon siyasatdaan

Wo din phir aayega Jab aisa,
Hoga Pakistan.

Mein tou dekhoonga
Mein tou dekhoonga
Tum bhi dekho gye
Tum bhi dekho gye

Jab mulq ko baich Kay khane wale
Khud hazm hojaengay

Aur pushton say Jo gaddi bethay
Sab bheer may mil jaengay

Jo duur Gaye thae bhoolay say
Lautaengay phir watan ko aik shaam

Wo din phir aayega Jab aisa,
Hoga Pakistan.

Mahesh said...

Your internet stats are correct but too old. India's penetration is now 15% edging out Pakistan at 14.

Also, Morgan Stanley predicts penetration will explode to 40% by 2018.

Riaz Haq said...

Majumdar: "Prof sb, jawab do. Jawab do, jawab do....."

NY Times: India's malnutrition and stunting due to poor sanitation.

SHEOHAR DISTRICT, India — He wore thick black eyeliner to ward off the evil eye, but Vivek, a tiny 1-year-old living in a village of mud huts and diminutive people, had nonetheless fallen victim to India’s great scourge of malnutrition.

His parents seemed to be doing all the right things. His mother still breast-fed him. His family had six goats, access to fresh buffalo milk and a hut filled with hundreds of pounds of wheat and potatoes. The economy of the state where he lives has for years grown faster than almost any other. His mother said she fed him as much as he would eat and took him four times to doctors, who diagnosed malnutrition. Just before Vivek was born in this green landscape of small plots and grazing water buffalo near the Nepali border, the family even got electricity.

So why was Vivek malnourished?

It is a question being asked about children across India, where a long economic boom has done little to reduce the vast number of children who are malnourished and stunted, leaving them with mental and physical deficits that will haunt them their entire lives. Now, an emerging body of scientific studies suggest that Vivek and many of the 162 million other children under the age of 5 in the world who are malnourished are suffering less a lack of food than poor sanitation.

Two years ago, Unicef, the World Health Organization and the World Bank released a major report on child malnutrition that focused entirely on a lack of food. Sanitation was not mentioned. Now, Unicef officials and those from other major charitable organizations said in interviews that they believe that poor sanitation may cause more than half of the world’s stunting problems.

“Our realization about the connection between stunting and sanitation is just emerging,” said Sue Coates, chief of water, sanitation and hygiene at Unicef India. “At this point, it is still just an hypothesis, but it is an incredibly exciting and important one because of its potential impact.”

This research has quietly swept through many of the world’s nutrition and donor organizations in part because it resolves a great mystery: Why are Indian children so much more malnourished than their poorer counterparts in sub-Saharan Africa?

A child raised in India is far more likely to be malnourished than one from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe or Somalia, the planet’s poorest countries. Stunting affects 65 million Indian children under the age of 5, including a third of children from the country’s richest families.....
No Indian city has a comprehensive waste treatment system, and most Indian rivers are open sewers as a result. But Varanasi, India’s oldest and holiest city, is so awash in human waste that its decrepit condition became a national issue in recent elections. The city’s sewage plants can handle only about 20 percent of the sewage generated in the city, said Ramesh Chopra of Ganga Seva Abhiyanam, a trust for cleaning the river. The rest sloshes into the Ganges or fetid ponds and pits.

Millions of pilgrims bathe in the Ganges along Varanasi’s ancient riverfront, but a stream of human waste — nearly 75 million liters per day — flows directly into the river just above the bathing ghats, steps leading down to the river. Many people wash or brush their teeth beside smaller sewage outlets.

Much of the city’s drinking water comes from the river, and half of Indian households drink from contaminated supplies.

“India’s problems are bigger than just open defecation and a lack of toilets,” Dr. Laxminarayan said.

Majumdar said...

Prof Riaz ul Haq sb,

Tks for the article. But still that does not answer why FAO ranks Pakiland more insecure than India inspite of the fact that Pakiland has had the benefit of army rule for half its existence, while India has been marhoom of that.

And what happens if India get its sanitation act together as the new PM is promising to....?


Riaz Haq said...

Majumdar: "But still that does not answer why FAO ranks Pakiland more insecure than India"

I don't know the answer to that. But I do now that India consistently does worse on GHI, global hunger index, published each year by IFPRI.

40 per cent of children under five are underweight

The country (India) is still behind Pakistan and Bangladesh on the index

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's grade 5 and 8 students outperforming their counterparts in India. While 72% of Pakistan's 8th graders can do simple division, the comparable figure for Indian 8th graders is just 57%. Among 5th graders, 63% of Pakistanis and 73% of Indians CAN NOT divide a 3 digit number by a single digit number, according to the World Bank report titled "Student Learning in South Asia: Challenges, Opportunities, and Policy Priorities". The performance edge of Pakistani kids over their Indian counterparts is particularly noticeable in rural areas. The report also shows that Pakistani children do better than Indian children in reading ability.

India's lost generation: A systemic risk?

Singaporean Thomas Ong, a director at a local private equity firm, recently got invited as a guest lecturer at a private college in Jaipur, India. "I had heard stories about India's young people with 'excellent academic and English speaking skills' but what I encountered was the complete opposite," he said.

Not one student in a class of 100 has ever heard of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. Most students could not understand, let alone speak fluent English. "The only question they had at the end the lecture was how to find a job at home or abroad," Ong said.

His account is anecdotal evidence of what human resource experts, corporate leaders and countless surveys have been highlighting over the past few years - that despite India's huge talent pool of graduates, few are equipped with skills to be gainfully employed.

According to a survey conducted by Aspiring Minds, an entrepreneurial initiative in preparing youth for employability, as many as 83 percent of graduating engineers in 2013 could not find jobs, given their poor English language and cognitive skills.

In fact, only 2.6 percent of graduates in India were recruited in functional roles like accounting, 15.9 percent in sales-related roles and 21.3 percent in the business process outsourcing sector. "Nearly 47 percent of Indian graduates are unemployable in any sector, irrespective of their academic degrees," noted Varun Aggarwal, co-founder and COO of Aspiring Minds.

The statistics run counter to the perception that India's relatively youthful population could help reap demographic dividends for the country down the line.
For India however, the reality on the ground couldn't be more different. "It is not unusual to see graduates employed as security guards, driver or waiters in restaurants, given the poor standards of education. So what demographic dividend are we talking of? The generation coming of age in the 1920s faces the greatest underemployment ever in history," said Anil Sachdev, a human resources specialist and career coach.

The fault appears to lie in the dismal education standards in India. As little as 10- 12 percent of the 15-29 year-old age group in India receives any formal or informal training compared with to 28 percent in Mexico or 96 percent in South Korea.

For tertiary education, none of the 42 central universities in India feature in the most recent QS list of best 200 colleges in the world. In the rankings of the best MBA schools by the Financial Times, the prestigious Indian School of Business has fallen six places to the 36th spot this year and Indian names are conspicuously missing in the top 25 places.

Riaz Haq said...

Wall Street Journal: Pakistan Protest Leader Imran Khan Addresses Rally in Karachi

KARACHI, Pakistan—Politician Imran Khan took his antigovernment protest movement to Karachi, the country's biggest city and commercial hub, attracting tens of thousands of supporters.

It was the first time since Mr. Khan began a sit-in demonstration in Islamabad on Aug. 15, aiming to topple Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, that he took his protest movement outside the country's capital.

"Your end is near, Nawaz Sharif, and this time neither Saudi Arabia nor America can save you," he told the crowd on Sunday.

"Imran has given us hope, and I know he will come true on his words about delivering on the rights for women," said a homemaker who said she voted for the MQM in the last election.

MQM chief Altaf Hussain, who lives in self-imposed exile in London, welcomed Mr. Khan's rally.

"I congratulate you on continuing the fight for the masses, which was in fact began by the MQM in the 80s by getting people from the lower income class elected to parliament," Mr. Hussain said.

Mr. Khan brought his mixture of political activism and carnival to the streets of Karachi, with a sound system blasting out music that got the crowd dancing.

Many came with their families, with small children clambering up their fathers' shoulders to get a view of Mr. Khan, who gained fame as a cricket star.

Girls in jeans and skirts with PTI colors painted on their cheeks pushed up toward the stage waving party flags. Young women in scarves and veils waved banners saying "Go Nawaz Go."

Mr. Khan again repeated that he would continue his protest until Mr. Sharif resigned. He believes his demonstration has developed a new public consciousness about the political system, which he says is abused by traditional parties, especially Mr. Sharif's party and the Pakistan Peoples Party, the only two parties elected to run Pakistan in the periods when it has had civilian rule.

"Pakistan has woken up," said Mr. Khan. "For 30 years, you two parties have grown rich, but the nation has become poor."

Anonymous said...

India: Orbits Mars

PAkistan :Dharna enters 40th day!

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: India: Orbits Mars"

Poor, hungry, illiterate, sick #IndiaAtMars? Does it make sense for #India to waste money on space? …

Riaz Haq said...

Purana #Pakistan vs #ImranKhan's #NayaPakistan #PTIAzadiMarch - Dr Farrukh Saleem #GoNawazGo #PTILahoreJalsa

Purana Pakistan has six characteristics. One, elected leaders treat state assets as their personal estates. Two, elected leaders mutate civil servants into their personal serfs. Three, taxes are collected and then spent to fulfil rulers’ priorities. Four, monetary rewards of political power are extremely high.

Five, there is massive under-investment in human capital. Six, power projects are being inaugurated that would produce power at an astronomical rate of Rs41 per unit.

Here are the proofs of the above six. One, Rehman Malik had a PIA aircraft wait for him for two long hours. Two, on June 17, Punjab Police killed 14 unarmed citizens. Three, budgetary allocation for the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is Rs160 million while the annual budget for the PM House is Rs770 million.

Four, Pakistanis are getting more and more indebted by the minute while assets of the ruling class keep on increasing by the day. Five, Nigeria is the only country on the face of the planet with more out-of-school children than Pakistan. Six, the cost of the Nandipur Power Project has gone up from $329 million to $847 million and if diesel is used to produce power it will cost Rs41 per unit. This is what purana Pakistan is mostly about.

Admittedly, Imran Khan has no comprehensive blueprint for Naya Pakistan; neither does Allama Tahirul Qadri. What they have done, however, is exposed the purana Pakistan to 180 million Pakistanis. And Pakistanis hate what they see in purana Pakistan.

Here are the proofs that Pakistanis hate what they see in purana Pakistan. One, passengers threw Rehman Malik off the PIA aircraft – something that has no precedence in our political history. Two, police high-command has now started demanding written orders from their elected leaders in order to shoot at unarmed citizens.

General (r) Mirza Aslam Baig, for reasons only known to him, may want to call it a foreign conspiracy against Pakistan but, to be certain, throwing Rehman Malik out the PIA aircraft is no American conspiracy against Pakistan. To be sure, police high-command demanding written orders from their elected leaders is no Jewish conspiracy against Pakistan. This is all about Pakistani middle class revolting against purana Pakistan.

Naya Pakistan has to be a contractual state. Naya Pakistan has to have a social contract between the voters and their elected leaders. The social contract must cover three things. One, who will pay taxes? Two, how much taxes will be paid by each taxpayer? Three, how will these taxes be spent? Naya Pakistan has to have three things – elections, accountability and a responsive government (purana Pakistan has had plenty of elections but neither accountability nor a responsive government).

Here are four steps to a naya Pakistan. One, alter spending priorities as per voters’ needs and demands. Two, invest in education and health. Three, invest in justice. Four, privatixe all public sector enterprises in a competitive, transparent process.

The constitution is not under threat. The democratic system is not under threat. Yes, the old political order is under threat. And, yes, the custodians of the old political order are feeling threatened.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's how I see PTI and PAT dharnas in Pakistan:

Using the laundry analogy, the part of the washing machine that beats the dirt out of dirty clothes is called "agitator".

Similarly, a traditional Pakistani dhobi uses a danda (like the agitator in the washing machine) to beat the filth out of dirty laundry.

Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri are essentially playing the much needed role of the agitator to beat corruption and filth out the rotten system in Pakistan.

I hope they succeed in it.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from Tom Friedman's NY Times column about US Secret Service that seems to sum up the general dysfunction in Pakistan:

Again, I’m not excusing the Secret Service, but the recent breakdowns don’t surprise me when so much of the political class that oversees the service is so self-absorbed, risk-averse and shortsighted. When the people governing us become this cynical, polarized and dysfunctional, it surely seeps down into the bureaucracy. As above, so below.

Riaz Haq said...

Excerpt of Op Ed by Dr. Farrukh Saleem in The News:

Sir, democracy is not under any sort of threat and neither is your government. Your government is secure and so is democracy. Yes, your style of governance is under attack and the real origin of that attack is Pakistani voters. The only power that can bring down the PML-N government is the PML-N. No more mistakes, please.--------
Sir, this country is going nowhere without deep-rooted electoral and economic reforms. To be certain, the principal prerequisite to reforms is a political leader with tons of political capital.
Sir, having lost almost all of your political capital you now have three options. One, transform your style of governance (in order to accumulate political capital). Two, limp, lurch, bumble and stumble towards 2018. Three, call early elections.

Riaz Haq said...

ISLAMABAD: A far cry from the chaotic scenes witnessed during the early days of the sit-in on Constitution Avenue, Sunday saw a massive, yet relatively disciplined turnout at the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf rally.

Most of those who made their way to Blue Area and Parade Avenue were locals, but even youths that converged on Islamabad in cars adorned with party paraphernalia and resounding with party anthems looked quite fired up.

Also read: Nov 30: Game-changer or deadline-changer?

“We started from Peshawar in the early afternoon, but had to make several stopovers to avoid roadblocks, set up by mullahs,” said Rehmatullah, who led a group of Insaf Students Federation (ISF) activists.

The roadblocks he was referring to were set up by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl workers, who were protesting the murder of a Sindh-based party leader.

While very few reports of violence between supporters of both parties came, no clashes were reported in the capital all day.

After its string of public meetings and sit-ins across the country, the PTI’s event on Sunday seemed far better organised than the party’s past outings in the capital
Similarly, when students from the Jamia Muhammadia gathered to protest in front of the National Press Club, blocking the road between Supermarket in Sector F-6 and China Chowk in Blue Area, PTI supporters did not look to engage with them either.

But most party workers making their way to the capital from different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa encountered JUI-F roadblocks.

Those Dawn spoke to at the rally said that several people who were travelling to the rally with their families turned back because they did not want to get stuck on the roads.

The discipline on display was quite commendable: there was little pushing or shoving as men and women stood in line at the entrances to the venue.

Those waiting to get in would periodically take up a chant or two; cries of “Diesel, Diesel” and “Go Nawaz Go” could be heard from nearly all corners. But there was no name-calling or abuse and most sloganeers restrained themselves, ostensibly due to a large presence of women and children there.

Decked up in their Sunday best, young women, mothers with their children and even school girls added a lot of colour to the festivities.

Rubab, a first-time rally participant from Jhelum, told Dawn she had never attended a public event like this one.

“Impressed by the respect afforded to women by PTI supporters at previous events, my family agreed to bring me to Islamabad for this rally,” she said, as her mother munched on a bag of freshly roasted peanuts from a nearby vendor.

Compared to the pandemonium that ensued when the Azadi March reached the capital on August 15, Sunday’s show seemed better organised.

This event was also distinct from previous PTI outings in the capital in terms of the demographic of people who turned out.

Imran Khan’s whirlwind tour of Punjab with public rallies in nearly all major cities looked to have paid off, as an overwhelming majority of people at Sunday’s rally came from different parts of the province.

“We hired a bus to bring us here. We’re here to prove that it’s not just the people of KP who are with Imran Khan; he is our leader too,” said a charged Ghulam Mohammad, who had come all the way from Gujrat.

Riaz Haq said...

At about five in the evening, a few bald patches in D Chowk still visible, I said that Imran Khan’s rally was not the overpowering thing it should have been. Barely an hour later I was eating my words. Stepping down from the TV perch from where we were pontificating, and making my way to Jinnah Avenue, I was dumb-founded. For a river of people was flowing towards the parade ground, the venue of the jalsa.

Feeling a bit shamefaced, I went up to the Geo office for a cup of tea, worn out as I was for I had been there since 12 in the afternoon. When I came down to Jinnah Avenue again…the river was in high flood, ceaseless and unstoppable. When I asked a few people what had taken them so long, they said JUI-F workers/maulvis (Maulana Fazlur Rehman) had blocked the roads and they had to wait for hours before they could move towards Islamabad. ...

The purpose is not to glorify the PTI, much less sing Imran Khan’s praises, but only to point out that this is a new phenomenon we are seeing. Imran Khan may have been around for a long time, struggling for the last 18 years, during which time a lesser man perhaps would have given up, but after these years in the wilderness, of not being taken seriously as a political figure, he has finally arrived. Like it or hate it, there is no escaping this reality.

The galvanising of the young and the not-so-young, of the middle class and the lower middle class, of whole sections of the people hitherto aloof from politics, the huge, unprecedented participation of women of all ages in PTI rallies, and the carnival atmosphere to be seen in those rallies…about this new spirit of engagement what the nay-sayers, and above all the ruling party, have to understand is that it is not going away anywhere any time soon. It is here to stay.

The PPP is dead and buried in its once-stronghold of Punjab. The PML-N is a product of times past, its sell-by date perhaps over. The PTI is the new enfant terrible to arrive on the national scene.

Those who think that Imran’s strength will ebb and the steam will go out of his balloon are fooling themselves. He has committed mistakes, even blunders – like his misplaced call for a civil disobedience movement. But these weaknesses pale beside his one undoubted achievement: the way he has stirred the stagnant waters of Pakistani politics and turned vague public frustration into a solid political movement. Excoriate him, pillory him, make fun of him…but you will have to be fooling yourself to insist, against all the evidence, a new thing at his hands has not come to exist.

Riaz Haq said...

Here’s a list of some of's picks for the best music moments in 2014.

First Pakistan Idol
Although the show officially started in 2013, the season continued till the first few months of 2014 and it was a great start to the year musically, as scores of men and women in cities across Pakistan went out to audition.

When was the last time we saw thousands of people all over Pakistan make an effort for music? (No, dharnas don’t count).

Pakistan Idol was a great way to suss out the incredible talent we had no idea existed.

There were some moments in the show one can pass off as comic relief as contestants cracked jokes during auditions, and some were just plain ugly. In his attempt to follow the American Idol format, Ali Azmat forgot he is not actually Simon Cowell.

Hailing from Mandi Bahauddin, Zamad Baig charmed the judges and voters with his classical, Sufi renditions. With no formal musical training, he became the first ever Pakistan Idol. He later went on to do a collaborative performance with Ali Azmat on the show Cornetto Music Icons, and is currently working on releasing an album.

Speaking about his experience in the first ever Pakistan Idol season, Zamad said: "The experience was life changing, it was something happening for the very first time in Pakistan, so whoever was part of the venture learned a lot.

"I went in as a young boy, and came out with so much experience."

Strings produce Coke Studio Season 7
Was Rohail Hyatt a better producer than Strings?

That is one never-ending debate.

The last season Rohail produced was an elaborate affair with all those foreign musicians, but it felt like the show was running its course.

And then Strings (Bilal Maqsood and Faisal Kapadia) stepped in to produce season seven, playing a bit with nostalgia.

Being able to witness the likes of Zoheb Hassan and Amir Zaki in a show together brought back memories of a time when music in the country was thriving.

25 undiscovered musicians on Nescafe Basement 3
We haven’t seen much of this season so far, but the reason why it is one of the best moments for music is because of the 26 unknown musicians that producer Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan, popularly known as Zulfi, took on board with him.

Be it musicians from Karachi or Rahim Yar Khan, it seems this season Zulfi decided to pull out all the stops.

A group of young, promising musicians covered some great classics most of us grew up listening to, including songs by Roxette and the Back Street Boys.

Struggling underground, independent musicians are the new trend in the Pakistani music scene, serving as the ventilator that keeps things alive.

Poor Rich Boy and Khumariyaan, indie bands based in Lahore and Peshawar respectively, got selected for a concert tour in the US for Center Stage, which is an exchange program with the sole purpose of using performing arts as a means of spreading cultural awareness.


`In 2014, there were a handful of notable music festivals that were held in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi.

Most of these festivals were organised by underground musicians in order to have a platform to reach out to their cult following.

These festivals include Storm in a Tea Cup, which was organised by True Brew Records and took place in January in Lahore, where underground bands from Karachi and Islamabad also performed.

Rockfest, organised in Islamabad by Kuch Khaas, also took place around the same time as Storm in a Tea Cup. The concert was part of the Khayaban-e-Lussun tour, organised by Nadir Shehzad Khan, the front-man of Karachi’s indie band Sikandar Ka Mandar.

This tour helped bands from the three cities come together and play shows for wider audiences.

Riaz Haq said...

The world's most bizarre #YouTube star is from #Pakistan. Here's the proof. #TaherShah #TaherShahAngel #Karachi

At a time when Pakistan finds itself in the news for grisly bombings and a soaring rate in executions, an unexpected angel has swooped in with a message of peace, love and harmony.

Two years after "Eye to Eye" baffled the country by giving birth to a huge cult following, the Pakistani singer Taher Shah returned this weekend with a second music video, "Angel," that has gone viral. Topping Twitter's trending list in India and Pakistan (and ranking third across the globe) and racking up millions of plays, this new classic may cement Shah's position as the world's most unlikely YouTube sensation.

Shah is a businessman from the port city of Karachi and doesn't seem to be a trained singer. His voice and the bizarre aesthetic of the videos have led some to believe that his shtick is an elaborate ruse. For most of the new video, Shah walks around a golf course wearing a tiara and a purple gown (bathrobe?), showing off his chest hair. One of the top commentors on the video for the song joked, "That awkward moment when you think you are an angel, but in reality u r a brinjal," using a common South Asian term for eggplant.

With anything this weird, it is probably good to hold on to a bit of skepticism. But in interviews, and in a blog post on the "ideology" behind "Angel," Shah comes off as a genuine believer in his power to inspire humankind's better side.

"Mankind is a beautiful 'Angel,' " he writes on his blog. "All humans' internal and external elements should be like an 'Angel' and spread their essence like a flower as an 'Angel' along with all of the world's entre [sic] value with respect so all 'Angel' like humans together can make their own and family world heavenly."

Shah's Urdu is immaculate, but his English, which he uses for some publicity and for his lyrics, is the source of much mirth. The two songs are filled with lyrical gems, but one of the most memorable from "Eye to Eye" is: "Without you/I am a butterfly/without fly."

The sudden star looks as if he could be Pavarotti's pudgy nephew, though with lovelier locks of curly hair and without the sonorous voice. His orchestra is made up of synthetic flutes, saxophones and percussion — as if straight from Kenny G's vault. The songs are tormentingly easy to get stuck in your head. So much so that many on Twitter — especially in neighboring India — have alluded to their weaponization:

For his part, Shah explained in a TV interview in Pakistan that the message behind his music is one of great optimism. "Please, please, please be entertained," he said in English, before switching to a mix of English and Urdu. "Be positive and feel the good things in your heart. When you feel good, then definitely you will be able to portray yourself better."

The world needs that message, and by extension, these songs. Here's hoping someone does a dance remix.

Riaz Haq said...

I attended Silicon Valley book launch of Pakistani-American Saqib Mausoof's "The Warehouse".

The Warehouse is set in Pakistan's federally administered tribal area (FATA) that has seen a powerful Taliban insurgency since the US invasion of Afghanistan.

The author's novel's protagonist is Cash (Syed Qais Ali), an insurance company adjustor from Karachi who ends up in Waziristan to survey damage in a warehouse fire.

During discussion at the launch event at PACC last Saturday, Sept 10, 2016, Mausoof said he saw many FATA women attending Namal University in MIanwali that was founded by PTI Chief Imran Khan.

Namal University is located close to Pakistan's tribal areas where women have traditionally not benefited from higher education.

Mausoof saw several women from FATA wearing veils using computers and developing software in information technology classes at Namal.

Fyza Parviz, originally from Peshawar but currently in SF Bay Area, confirmed that she too is seeing many veil or hijab wearing Pashtun women from KP's rural areas attending colleges and universities.

Fyza Parviz originally hails from Peshawar Pakistan and has been living in the Bay Area for 14 years. She is a Software & Electrical Engineer by profession and loves to read, write, attend events, and create literary experiences. She is also the Web Producer for the Annual Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley. She is currently developing an engaging Online Social Platform for writers and readers. Her short stories, essays, and reviews have been published in PaperCuts Magazine and LitSeen.

Here's a news story from last year's graduation ceremony that feaured Imran Khan as keynote speaker at Namal:

Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Imran Khan on Sunday attended the convocation ceremony of Namal University at Mianwali.

Imran Khan, while addressing the ceremony gathering, welcomed the Parents of the students hailing from Waziristan and also extended his congratulations to the parents whose children earned Bradford degree.

Imran Khan, in his message to the students, said that those people had never failed, who stuck to their aim, adding that unfortunately quality education in Pakistan was not accessible to poor’s segment of the society.

Riaz Haq said...

Growth of #Internet & #SocialMedia Spawning Many Tweeting politicians in #Pakistan

Twitter has been in existence since 2006; users can sign up for accounts in their real names or anonymously, and post short messages of 140 characters. In 10 short years, it has become the place for much political movement, first grass-roots actions like communication and organisation, as well as information dissemination. The Atlantic states: “Twitter has grown into a force that has bolstered grass-roots conversations, disrupted the top-down nature of political leadership and thought, and has given voice to groups long hidden on the political periphery.”


In Pakistan, Twitter was slow to catch on at first, and still remains a tool of the somewhat elite and educated, the first people to gain access to the internet. But with the boom in cheap smartphones (13.5 million subscriptions to mobile broadband in 2015) and the advent of 3G in the country, 17.2m Facebook accounts and 280m connections to Twitter a day, Pakistani officials and political parties knew they had to join the trend or risk irrelevance.

As the site ProPakistani writes, the last three or so years has seen a proliferation of government officials and agencies take to Twitter and Facebook in order to announce their activities, solicit public feedback, and deliver pro-social messages to the Pakistani public. The Pakistan Army’s ISPR uses Twitter to make announcements about security situations and progress in national emergencies. Diplomats and bureaucrats are not up to speed yet with Twitter or Facebook, and while most Pakistani embassies around the world have official Twitter accounts, they aren’t very active.

On the other hand, Pakistani politicians have taken to Twitter like gasoline on a fire. Some of the most popular Twitter accounts belong to leaders like Imran Khan, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Maryam Nawaz Sharif, who spend much of their time tweeting allegations at each other. Mavericks like Sheikh Rasheed and stalwarts like Dr Arif Alvi lend their personalities to their Twitter accounts, using Urdu and English to raise chuckles and deliver sober accountability respectively. It’s a lively arena with ordinary Pakistanis forming breathless fan clubs and fighting with each other in the hopes that their favourite politician-cum-celebrity will favour them with a ‘retweet’ or a ‘like’.

But our politicians and government representatives must bear in mind the weight of their office and their responsibility to the people when composing a tweet. Take the example of Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, who on Dec 23, 2016, reminded Israel of Pakistan’s nuclear ability in a tweet. He reacted to fake news that suggested Pakistan would send ground troops to Syria, with Israel purportedly threatening to retaliate with nuclear weapons if this happened. This tweet made it to the pages of international newspapers and turned Pakistan into a laughing stock.

The inventor of Twitter probably didn’t envision a nuclear incident resulting from an ill-thought-out tweet, but if anyone could make such a Stanley Kubrick-esque scenario a reality, it would be a Pakistani politician. With great Twitter power comes great Twitter responsibility; our leaders need to restrain themselves from abusing it to the detriment of the people they claim to serve

Riaz Haq said...

Spotify Turns Up the Volume in Pakistan With Events and Music Campaigns

Two years ago, we introduced Spotify to listeners in Pakistan. Since the launch, we’ve worked with the country’s artists to expand their reach and share their music with new fans worldwide—and now we’re taking things to a new level.

March marked the first anniversary of our EQUAL women’s empowerment program in Pakistan, with singer Tina Sani as the Ambassador of the Month. RADAR, which highlights emerging artists from all around the world, also recently made its debut in Pakistan, featuring Taha G up first. He’s at the top of the RADAR Pakistan playlist, and Spotify worked with the singer to create a mini-documentary that spotlights his life and career.

In addition to bringing these programs to the region, we’re finding unique ways—from Masterclasses to cricket campaigns to local playlists—to connect with artists.

Lending artists support with a Masterclass in Lahore
Our music industry experts were ready to share their knowledge during a Spotify for Artists Masterclass event in Lahore, PK. “We hosted at the historical Haveli Barood Khana mansion, and used this opportunity to educate and share information on music streaming trends and new product features with the burgeoning music industry in the region,” shared Khan FM, Artist and Label Partnerships Manager for Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. Renowned Coke Studio music producer, curator and artist Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan shared his perspective on the Pakistani music industry with an audience that included more than 150 artists and their teams.

Spotify gets in the cricket spirit
“Cricket is huge in Pakistan, and Spotify highlighted the nation’s love for the game by launching a cricket marketing campaign and digging into the data* of the popular Cricket Fever playlist,” shared Talha Hashim, Marketing Manager for Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. The curated collection has seen a staggering 611% increase in streams since the beginning of Pakistan Super League 08 (PSL) this year. Among other trends, we noticed:

Karachi is the top city streaming the playlist.
Tuesdays and evenings are when the playlist sees the most streams.
Top songs include “Groove Mera – Pakistan Super League” by Aima Baig, Naseebo Lal, and Young Stunners and “Agay Dekh (Pakistan Super League)” by Atif Aslam and Aima Baig.

Celebrating local artists with Pakka Hit Hai
The Pakka Hit Hai playlist is the go-to Spotify destination for Pakistan’s top hits. “The playlist first launched in 2022 and has seen incredible growth and popularity since its inception. To celebrate, Spotify partnered with COLABS for a concert series called Pakka Hit Hai Live,” said Rutaba Yaqub, Senior Editor for Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. The first show featured Fresh Finds success Abdul Hannan and Taha G, two of the best-performing artists on the playlist. Bringing the playlist to more fans through live events is one way we’re expanding its reach.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani singer Ali Sethi wows Coachella crowd with Pasoori

The Punjabi track was 2022’s most-searched song on Google and has surpassed half a billion views on YouTube.

A tale of forbidden love with an infectious hook, Ali Sethi’s song Pasoori has become an international phenomenon, fusing poetic tradition with global beats to fuel the rise of the Pakistani singer’s star.

The Punjabi track whose title roughly translates to “difficult mess” was 2022’s most-searched song on Google and has surpassed half a billion views on YouTube, offering a melodic metaphor for conflict between India and Pakistan in the form of an impassioned love song with an eminently danceable flow.

The song’s origins stem from when Sethi was asked to pen a song for the popular Pakistani television programme Coke Studio, which occurred just after an experience where an Indian broadcaster had pulled out of a creative partnership because the 38-year-old is Pakistani.

“You’re a Pakistani, and India and Pakistan are at war, and now we can’t really put up a billboard saying we are working with you because extremists will set fire to our building,” the singer recalls being told.

“As a Pakistani, I have grown up with that… ‘Oh you can’t do this because it’s prohibited, yada yada.'”

‘All true love is prohibited’
The experience got his creative wheels turning. “Of course, the theme of prohibition is such an eternal theme in South Asian love songs – all true love is prohibited,” he told the AFP news agency following an electrifying party of a performance on Sunday at the Coachella music festival in the United States, a cherry on top of his remarkable year.

“So I wanted to write a song that was sort of a flower bomb hurled at nationalism and heteropatriarchy,” Sethi continued, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and black button-up with colourful embroidery alluding to styles of the American southwest. “With all the fun innuendos and all this camp energy.”

Sethi says he drew on Punjabi folk songs of his youth, imbuing the lyrics with puns and double entendres, “a nice way to slip in and subvert orthodox views without really appearing to be out beyond the veil”.

He performs the track with Shae Gill, a singer born to a Christian family in Lahore.

Sethi was “astounded” by the global response to the song, which has the improvisational framework of a traditional South Asian “raga” mixed with the region’s contemporary sounds, along with Turkish strings, flamenco-style claps and the four-four Latino reggaeton beats keeping rhythm for much of today’s reigning pop.