Published in Frontier Post on 13-10-2010
Last week I was able to attend a concert organized by US consulate in Pakistan. The concert was in memory of the famous Wall Street Journal Journalist Daniel Pearl, who was killed in Karachi in 2002. Being a student of International Relations in a university having a campus in Islamabad, I was able to attend the mesmerizing event with the help of my university administration but I had to give in my mobile before entering the premises because of the security of US diplomats.
The concert was full of Rock & Sufi music and held the audience to their feet. I, while enjoying the stampede of sounds in the gigantic auditorium of Pakistan National Council of the Arts, was hit with a jolt. My mind was struck to a standstill when I saw the portrait of smiling Daniel Pearl on the stage. I immediately understood what it means to be an American or a citizen of First World Country. Even after your death you are remembered as much as they can.
On my right side, I had a friend whose wife and kids both were US nationals. I was plunged into an identity crisis. Till then I was a 22 year old student of International Relations and a Government Employee who was a staunch critique of US’ policies and ideologies. Now there I am, sitting among the audience having US diplomats, senior Pakistani Govt. officials and the children of our so-called elite class celebrating life and music as the slogan on the stage was reflecting. I was unable to differentiate myself and the question for me was WHO REALLY I AM?
I was a great example of paradox at that time. Recalling the book ‘The Way of the World’ written by Ron Suskind in which he narrates the story of an Afghan Student, who through a student exchange program goes to US and lives with an American family. That student, Ibrahim Frotan faces the dilemma of his own identity and gets himself entangled into the clash of civilizations. My condition was almost the same like that of Ibrahim. I was strongly in opposition to these values and that night I was a part of it. Paradox!
While moving with the tunes and rhythm of the music, I was wondering who am I? A Muslim who like every other Muslim is angry over the US’ policies and oppression or the one who is helping them to achieve their agenda by setting up the stalls at the main entrance promoting brain-drain and cultural exchange.
Clouded by the identity crisis, I just came to know about the value of human life and suddenly another question rang into my mind. If Dani Pearl is still remembered even after 8 years of his murder then why can’t the senior US diplomats sitting in the audience glance on the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui? Isn’t she a human? Doesn’t she have a family like Daniel Pearl? I learned the rule of quid pro quo in international relations but I wasn’t experiencing the same here.
Sitting shell-shocked in the auditorium while my other university fellows were dancing and singing along, I could easily have been spotted out due to my vague expressions. I remember during the introductory remarks from the guests, the Chief Guest Additional Secretary Ministry of Culture, Pakistan responded to the fact pointed out by the Wall Street Journalist that Pakistan is the most deadly country for journalists by saying that Pakistan is a place full of love and harmony, there was a strong meaningful roar from the crowd.
The evening of celebration of life and music was nearing its end and I was still quizzed in the auditorium when I heard Meesha Shafi singing a very popular Sufi track ‘Alif Allah’ and the response of the audience gave me all the answers to my fuzziness.
We are people, who for all our problems are still strongly attached to our ideology. The standing ovation from US diplomats said it all. It was a night, organized to pay tribute to Daniel Pearl in a country where he was murdered and in the same country which has been labeled as terrorist a lot of times, was rocked by performers who were Muslims. Muslims, whose ancestors rocked the world and lead this whole world to peace and humanity. I got my answer.
No matter whatever crisis we are in, the bond of Islam keeps us united which was further elaborated when they sand ‘Bijli aaye ya na aaye, Dhol Bajay ga’ meaning whether electricity comes or not, the drum will be banged and later the slogans from the audience for the country which was created in the name of Islam ended my identity crisis. I was a Muslim and still am who really thinks that we will stand up again lead this world with our own ideology.