I share with you an open letter sent by Salman Ahmed of Junoon to Bilal Musharraf, son of
General Pervaiz Muhsarraf, I had received the email directly from Salman but had resisted the urge to post it since I thought he may have not meant it to go public, but when I read that this email exchange was posted up on PkPolitics.com i decided to share it with my readers as well –
Post updated at 20:17 with a letter from a Pakistani asking Bilal Musharraf some honest questions
The first email from Bilal Musharraf to Salman Ahmed
I am compelled once again to share another personal anecdote, rather a saga¦ and apologize in advance for the length of the account. This one is about Salman Ahmed.
You read heaps and write heaps
And bury your head in books
Light is everywhere but where you are
And you haven’t a clue how to reach it
Marking time in extra prayers
Climbing a minaret and screeching
Mounting a pulpit and preaching – –
All this has nothing to do with knowledge
Cryptic Sciences? Enough already!
Aleph is all you need ¦. Iko aleph teray darkaar
Lyrics: Bulley Shah
Music: Salman Ahmad
Salman has been a close friend and a spiritual guide of sorts since 1998. It started with an email I wrote to Salman (got his email address from my brother-in-law) in a moment of unabashed inspiration after listening to Ali Azmat sing “Aleph? over and over again. From what I remember, “Aleph: A Call to Basics? was the subject line of that email. I was star struck when I heard back from Salman, and pursued further correspondence that developed into a friendship. My brother-in-law Asim had made Junoon’s first video ‘Sayonee,? The video, along with the amazing album ‘Azadi’ had propelled Junoon to become the best international band by Channel V in 1998. Asim went on to make videos for Junoon’s live concert at central park in 1998 (a tribute to Nusrat Fateh Ali), “Yaar Bina,? “Bulleya?, and “Saqi Nama.?
It was the live concert in NY where I finally met Salman for the very first time. I had been married six months and my wife and I drove down from Boston as typical “groupies? singing Junoon’s songs all the way on the drive over to the concert. The attached picture below will probably better articulate our “junooni? state. In the packed to capacity crowd of 20,000 at the summer stage, I had picked my wife up on my shoulders because she couldn’t see anything¦. In fact a Friday Times journalist who wrote about the concert included an image of the of us swooning to the music, and captioning the picture “On Top of the World?. This was 1998, prior to the anomalous events that were to happen in my life and I remember my parents and my in-laws getting a good laugh out of the embarrassing moment caught on camera. I also remember this concert as the high point of Junoon’s fame.
So what began as a random email exchange led to a friendship that is now close to a decade old. The events of this year have unfortunately cast a shadow on the authenticity of the relationship, and I stand guarded with regard to where we stand today. Salman was one of very few individuals that I reached out to on a regular basis to bounce off thoughts and ideas, seeking guidance in managing my emotional and psychological self. He has been a source of support and inspiration, and I truly grateful to him for that. His valuable insights (Salman’s extremely well read), were meaningful for me in negotiating with circumstances that I unexpectedly found myself in. I feel that for Salman, music is a platform but I really feel he is best suited to play a bigger role in the scheme of things. I used to describe Salman as a Sufi to the core. He walked the walk and talked the talk, when it came to standing up for what he believed in. However here is where I start feeling sad and disappointed¦. Because I don’t know what he believes in anymore. Please allow me to explain.
The first time my alarm bells rang were regarding the future of the band Junoon itself. I remember having a conversation in which I tried to persuade husband and wife, Salman and Samina, that since Ali and Brian were dropping out of the band, that Salman no longer use junoon’s name. Why? Because Salman’s personal musical and intellectual journey was going in a direction that Junoon’s music might not have gone, had the band and the fans stayed together. Not that I could speak for “the fans?, I was just one of them. In my humble opinion the “junoon? phenomenon was not just Salman, Ali and Brian, it was also the 1990s, the newly unleashed power of rock, and a youth bulge feeling stifled and desperately looking for change. For any one band member to unilaterally try to run with junoon might take away from the junoon experience, similar to how Matrix II and III actually ended up eroding Matrix I. Let it be, was my verdict. So many new bands had come up, who paid homage to Junoon (Noori, Jal etc.) for opening the doors, but were much better at riding the youth’s passion. In fact I made a half baked pitch to take the character “Jeem? from Junoon perhaps, and broaden its domain as being “Jeem? for “jiddojehed, jurrat, jazba? etc. not just passion ala junoon. In a shallow vein, I suggested looking at what happened to the men’s clothing store “Structure? as an example. “Express?, which was a women’s clothing line acquired “Structure? and started calling it “Express for Men? but it failed. Men simply refused to wear clothes that said Express on them because they didn’t feel it was right. I feel something similar is happening to Junoon.
The second context of the alarm bells had to do with feeling uncomfortable hearing messianic verdicts from Salman regarding my father until maybe last year, to the extent that I felt a need to discount the faith in autocracy as being able to deliver on all fronts. As Joel Polodny (current Dean at Yale, former OB professor at GSB) put it, “In the short term, performance can almost always be enhanced by foregoing logic of person and emphasizing logic of position. In the long term however, logic of person (read: vision) facilitates accountability, flexibility, and motivation. Leadership depends on a balance.? I was a bit disappointed when a picture of Salman and my father that I had taken some years back when Salman met me in Pindi appeared on Junoon’s website (http://www.junoon.com/news_archive2003.htm). Although Salman had asked for the picture, he had not indicated that it would go on the website, let alone also be credited to me publicly! In any case, I reconciled with that as no big deal.
This year though, has left me truly disappointed and hurt. If Salman feels the need to neutralize the burden of prior public contact with my father with his venomous rhetoric, I find it not just unjust but truly unfair. Looking back today, I am unable to decipher whether his motivation for prior public overtures towards my father were selfless or selfish in nature. I told him just last month in Calgary (at the Mystical Journey Tour: http://www.theismaili.org/he2-3.htm) the difference between him and Bono is that Bono wouldn’t post a picture with Bush on his own website, even if he sees the President as an instrument of change and not the personification of it.
No one is perfect, I realize. However to the extent one can, one must try to reduce one’s integrity gap which someone defined aptly as the difference between lived values and stated values.
Response by Salman Ahmed to Bilal Musharraf
Thanks for this shared e-mail. I’ve never publicly responded to you but am compelled to do so now. I’ll respond to the public part of your criticism of my changed stance against your father’s policies. For the record, my support for your father’s vision of “enlightened moderation” was never based on any personal expectations or “marketing” (rock musicians dont usually like hanging out with military dictators) My prior public support to your father’s govt. along with that of the vast majority of Pakistanis was given in the belief that he would deliver on his public promises to fight extremism, respect civil institutions,bring accountability to corrupt politicians, open up a free and independent media and reduce the immoral gap between Pakistan’s rich and poor. The picture that you took of me with your dad was taken in 2003,when I felt that the international media was cynically and wrongly depicting Pakistan as a total terrorist state being defended by “only” one pro-western moderate Pakistani, your father. Although i was ridiculed by many for doing so, but i chose to put that picture on the Junoon website after the assasination attempts on your father in December 2003. The picture was meant to symbolise the majority support of Pakistan’s civil society for the fight against extremism and lawlessness. That picture and my support for your father’s govt (WHICH YOU WOULD VOUCH,I HAVE NEVER ABUSED FOR PERSONAL GAIN NOR HAVE MY FAMILY OR FRIENDS) was never meant to be taken as a blank check for the state machinery to run amok and start dismantling civil institutions, making deals with crooks and plunderers, treating civil servants like common criminals, kidnapping and killing innocent Pakistanis under the guise of the “war on terror” and illegally spying, torturing and jailing thousands of Pakistanis (which include national heroes, supreme court judges, lawyers, rights activists, house wives and students).
My recent op-ed in the Washington post and my public disassociation with your father should not be a surprise to you. I wrote many candid e-mails to you in August and September of this year,sharing my concern about your father’s policies and his govt’s high handed tactics.You responded by saying I was being too harsh to which I reminded you that true friends are not meant to be mistaken for sycophants and cronies but are a True barometer of the public’s perceptions.You chose to ignore these warning e-mails and dismissed them as “emotionalism”. Even when you visited me while I was on tour in Canada in October, you promised that there would be no reason to impose emergency in Pakistan and you assured me that your father respects the judiciary and has spoken to the chief justice of the supreme court in this regard. Alas, even that myth has now been totally shattered. The supreme court judges are also citizens of Pakistan who have courageously tried to stick to the letter and the spirit of the law for which they are being punished by your father’s govt. Why is this so?
All that I write above is not just my view but the view of millions of Pakistanis and independent observers. I’m not writing out of spite or revenge but conveying the voice of Pakistan’s not so silent majority. As an artist I have also publicly criticized previous Pakistani rulers who like your dad made the mistake of not respecting civil society or civil institutions and I will continue to do so in the future as well. Staying silent is no longer an option, Art disturbs and artists have no choice but to listen to their conscience.
P.S. I still have the e-mails that I wrote to you privately which reflect my public disapproval of your father’s deviation from his self confessed path of enlightened moderation, I can resend them if you’d like.
Updated with a response from a Pakistani
Dear Mr Bilal Musharraf,
I don’t know you personally and have absolutely nothing personally against you or your father. Since the civil society and those understanding law i.e. lawyers are up against the way things have unfolded in our beloved nation, I have decided to write to you. Can you please care to answer the following questions ( no I am not on any agenda nor any foreign govt has paid me to protest against your father, I am just an ordinary citizen)
- Are we children of lesser God that your father while addressing western audience time and again declares that this country cannot have western way of democracy
- What divine right he has to give himself extension after extension what agenda he has to finish or is it personal lust of power he seems to have
- What personal grudge he has against civil society while fighting a war on terror against fundamentalists
- Do you think it is possible in western society (barring Bush) to govern a country like your father is doing. He is making amendments after amendment to keep himself at hem of affairs courtesy, Malik Qayyum, Peerzada and many more like them
- A man is known by the company he keeps, look at the people he is surrounded by Big arm Wasi Zafar, Sher afghan, Shujjat, Sheikh Rashid, Ahmad Raza Qasuri. They are national embarrassment. Can you put your hand on your heart and say your father could not find any bright, intellectual patriotic Pakistan amongst 160 million people or he convenient has surrounded by pathetic, sycophants who say only things he wants to hear. THEY ARE AN INSULT TO OUR INTELLIGENCE
- Why has democracy not been allowed to flourish. I want these corrupt politicians to be voted out by not hounded by ISI, NAB. Why are Nab-wanted politicians like Saleh Hayat, Sherpao in your father’s cabinet. I am not for any current politicians but like a child learns to walk and falters many time before start walking, I want people 160 millions of them to learn to walk and vote them out. For God sake give these people a chance to walk and learn
Bad democracy is better than good dictatorship. We are not serfs or subhumans, we can learn too you know. Imagine if your father while he was teaching you how to walk had treated you with similar disdain and impatience
We want rule of law. I as an ordinary citizen can understand the contradictions in your father’s statement no matter how much links his personal ambition with national interest he fails to do so. I am 45 years old and have seen a few eras in my life. I had looked for heroes for my time and couldnot find any until recently. I am proud to live in this time and witness scores of lawyers, judges, students ordinary civil society, media anchor people standing up for one thing rule of law. My nation has a hope. This hope is not from privileged people in power but the above mentioned heroes.
Dear Sir, I will not be surprised if suddenly I am hounded by your agencies and may end up with renal failure. (isn’t it the fate of many brave men who dare to criticize your father) But remember, history is very cruel and Khuda ki lathee bay awaz hoti hay. have some perspective and comes of delusions and paranoia. zaban-e-khalq ko naqaar-e-khuda samjho
I salute Salman Ahmad for his stand. Music has come alive again. John Lennon will be proud of you. As far as Mr President is concerned “Grave yard of this world if full of indispensible people” Sirf allah ka naam raya ga.