Kolkata: A rock band in Pakistan is openly singing in support of teenager activist Malala Yousufzai and has got good response despite the fundamentalist elements in the country.
The band ‘Laal’ has created two songs – ‘Darte hai bunduko wali ek nehati ladki se’ and an English rock number ‘You give me hope Malala’ which have been well received in most parts of Pakistan, said its founder, writer, spokesman and lead vocalist Taimur.
“Yes we get a lot of hate mails for the two songs supporting Malala. But we have not received any credible threats so far,” Taimur, who is here to participate in ‘Beti Zindabad’ campaign of international NGO ActionAid, told PTI.
There has been enthusiastic response for the two songs in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and Rawalpindi besides Swat Valley of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the girl faced Taliban threats and then was pumped bullets in her head and neck for her activism for rights to education for women.
“Talibans are a minuscule part of Pakistan and the people hate them,” he said.
The songs have been well received even in the rural areas of Punjab and Sindh too where girls too came out and joined,he said.
Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai had sent ‘Laal’ an e-mail from England, where the family now resides after the Taliban attack on the girl, thanking it for the two songs, said Taimur, who composed the songs and created the music.
“Campaigns like ours should be launched globally. There are grave inequities between men and women in Pakistan. Malala is a brave girl who tried to address these inequities,” he said.
Taimur, who began as an assistant professor and coordinator of political science at Lahore University of Management Sciences, said the fact that he is a teacher helps him to understand the modern youth.
The music of the two songs is contemporary and rock. “Unlike in India where Bollywood has a profound influence, the influence of Lollywood is not as much in Pakistan.”
‘Laal’, formed by Taimur in 2008, is known for socialist and progressive songs, specially on the poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Habib Jalib.
The band, in the past had spoken against child marriage, child labour, violence against children and for right to education for women, polio vaccine campaign, besides anti-terrorism, gender equality and labour rights.
“Aside from the reactionary elements, the general people of Pakistan now acknowledge that women should be of a certain age before marriage. There is now provision in Pakistan constitution on the marriageable age of girls.”
“We tell the people that women need to participate in culture, music and in theatre, which is their democratic right. This comes from the band’s politics which is democratic, secular and progressive,” Taimur said.
The presence of his wife Mahvash Mawaqar as the second singer in the band helps to push forward the message.
The situation in Pakistan is, however, much better than in the 1980s under the Zia ul Haq regime.
“Pakistan is now more plural,” he said.
The situation is changing with more and more women breaking into fields so long dominated by men. But the scope and opportunities are not the same as in India and presence of women in public space is therefore still less.
“This is true in all national and social aspects, including in music and theatre.”
In India, more so in Kolkata, Taimur, who is visiting the city for the fourth time, is struck by the wide participation of women in public life.
Asked about Laal’s open support for the girl child in that country where women’s position is one of gender subordination vis-a-vis men and honour killing common, Taimur said it was very close to his heart.
“Sadly I don’t have a daughter. A daughter is a blessing and should be taken care of in the same way as a son. There should be no gender discrimination”.
The ‘Beti Zindabad’ programme here is being jointly hosted by Altamira, a platform that holds musical programme to support a cause.