Check out this video produced by a number of Pakistani pop-musicians that is all the rave in Pakistan. ‘Yeh Hum nahin’ which means ‘This is not us’ in Urdu is a song aimed at condemning terrorism. What fascinates me about this is the attempt at redefinition of identity that goes in procliaming ‘this is not us’.
This song became a sensation in Pakistan giving rise to the a campaign against terrorism by major artists and TV personalities. The YHN campaign has currently got 62.8 million signatures for a petition condemning terrorism, surely making it one of the biggest petitions in history.
It also represents an positive in the debate on terrorism in Pakistan. The website of the foundation that is behind the YHN campaign asks ‘Are we the ones depriving mothers of their children? Are we the ones destroying our own future?’. This tacit admission of terrorism being a very much a home-grown problem is refreshingly distant from the past attitudes of Pakistanis who, following the state, would blame India, America or Israel.
Pakistan suffers from an insurgency by the Taliban, who in alliance with home-grown Islamic militants about a month ago threatened to over-run the capital Islamabad. It’s cities have also been the subject of a series of horrendous terrorist attacks in the past couple of years, the most recent of which was on the Sri Lankan cricket team that was touring the country, leading to the suspension of any international sporting competition in Pakistan. To top of it the leadership has been weak and indecisisve since the ouster of Pervez Musharraf in dramatic civilian protests. Pakistans leadership over the years have been far from blameless when it came to supporting militant groups, at first in Afghnistan during the soviet invasion, and then in Kashmir. The state created a monster that has now come back to bite it.
It is no surprise then that the people of Pakistan are seeking to redefine identities. The song carries a message of reconciliation, keeping nationalist rhetoric at arms length (pakistan also suffers from ethnic secessionist, non-Islamic insurgencies in the south). There is no flag waving and national posturing involved here, nor are there any religious motifs, so common to public debates in Pakistan. Only an expression of fear, regret and a complete rejection of terror.
When I travelled to Pakistan two years ago, I expected hostility given my Indian nationality. However, whenever I would mention my Indian nationality, I would have doors openend for me, literally. On one occassion when me and some other Indian friends went shopping in the bazaars of Lahore, the shopkeepers refused to accept payment, giving us stuff to take back as ‘presents from across the border’. The Pakistani people have been some of the heartiest, most welcoming people that I have ever met. I have little doubts that their open-heartedness would get them through this period of crisis as well.
The question really is whether campaigns like YHN would get the ears of the leadership, which in Pakistan is often deaf to peoples voice, and more importantly the rural youth in the North-West which is the recruiting ground for Taliban? And how long this would take?