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'Why should we give Pakistanis a chance?'
Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Mumbai | March 25, 2003
Pakistani artistes and singers have performed in India for a long time.
Singer Abhijeet recently protested this phenomenon. 'Why should we allow these people into our country to perform when we are not welcome in their country?' he asked in a letter to the Government of India.
Along with bhajan singer Anoop Jalota, ghazal artiste Jagjit and playback singers Kumar Sanu and Jaspinder Narula, Abhijeet asked the government to ban Pakistani artistes from performing in India.
"We don't play cricket because our people are being killed by them. Why should we allow their singers to perform here?" he asks Associate Editor/Chief Correspondent Syed Firdaus Ashraf.
What have you written to the prime minister?
We are seeking the government's help in banning [the entry of ] Pakistani artistes [into India].
I was hurt when I heard about the atrocities Indian artistes face in Pakistan. Our artistes are banned there -- from performing as well as on television.
One can't even attend a wedding without them [Pakistani authorities] being suspicious that you might perform there.
But Pakistani artistes are welcomed in India; they make money. Some even settle down here.
I ask that our government should consider the dignity of our artistes. There are Indian Sufi singers, ghazal singers and pop singers here as well who do not get a chance.
Why should we give Pakistanis a chance?
[Ghazal singer] Jagjit Singh was sent back to India when he wanted to perform in Pakistan. We gave much respect to [playback singer] Noorjehan, felicitated her, but Lataji [Mangeshkar] was denied a visa to Pakistan.
We [Indians] cannot play cricket with them. We have no relations with them. But they seek refuge in our culture.
Lucky Ali performed in Pakistan three years ago. Lataji refused the Pakistan Cricket Board invitation to perform.
She must have refused because she was denied the visa earlier. How can she go there again? It is humiliating.
You tell me, how many Indian singers are shown on Pakistani television? None. Why should our channels show them?
As for Lucky Ali, I don't know whether he has Indian or New Zealand citizenship. Check with him.
Do you listen to Pakistani music?I used to listen to [ghazal artistes] Ghulam Ali and Mehdi Hasan. Now I don't.
They can make money here, but we cannot make money there. Look at Adnan Sami.
What have you got against him?
I met many Pakistanis in Houston, America. They are very angry with Adnan because he never says he is proud to be a Pakistani.
But he is a British citizen.
No. He holds a British passport. If a Pakistani comes [to India] via some other country, does it mean he is not a Pakistani?
Is it professional rivalry speaking?
No way. I have sung 200 hit songs.
At the cost of my career, I am taking on these Pakistani singers. People say I am doing this for publicity. Why?
What publicity do I need? My songs are being played all over on television from morning to evening. I am seen on television channels.
But music is for everyone. These artistes have not harmed anyone.
Let me give you an example of [the late] Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He was a qawwali singer in Pakistan. No one knew him. As soon as he landed in India, we gave him such a rousing welcome, he became world famous.
He then said in an interview, 'I have come [to India] to settle the score.' You understand what this means for India?
What does it mean?
I don't know. But what am I to think when a person from an enemy country says that?
But people enjoy their music.
Who said that? Our music has 100 per cent audience in Pakistan compared to theirs in our country.
Who else has joined this protest with you?
There are many NGOs angry about our artistes being treated badly in Pakistan. When they came to know Adnan Sami and Abida Parveen are Pakistanis, they got very angry.
We call Pakistani singers to perform here. Our heroines dance with them; that is bad.
What does your letter say?
We have four chappatis to eat in our country. Why do we need to share that with our enemy country?