Satirical Video Attacks the Military-Religious Complex in Pakistan

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The video above, posted by a band of 20-something Pakistani musicians in the country’s cultural capital Lahore, has become a viral hit in South Asia. “Aalu Anday” or “Potato and Eggs” starts innocently enough but soon launches into a tongue-in-cheek attack on the country’s political establishment and its conservative, religious underpinnings. The group is named the “Beygairat” Brigade, meaning “without honor,” a jab at the Ghairat brigade, a term invoked in the Pakistani media grouping together some of the country’s most vocal nationalists and supporters of political Islam — the community very much at the receiving end of the musicians’ Punjabi satire. The song has not only made waves in Pakistan, but across the border in India, where the plight of Pakistan’s beleaguered liberals has won a lot of sympathy. 

You can read more elaborate analysis of who and what gets ridiculed here and here, but in brief, the song, which has garnered more than 350,000 hits in less than a month, calls out:

  • Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, chief of the all powerful Pakistani army, for extending his tenure
  • well-known conservative and Islamist-friendly politicians such as former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
  • those who eulogize men like Mumtaz Qadri and Ajmal Kasab — the former the Islamist assassin of Salmaan Taseer, the popular, secular governor of Punjab, and the latter the lone survivor of the shocking 2008 terror attack on the Indian coastal metropolis of Mumbai — rather than Pakistan’s lone Nobel laureate, a member of the persecuted Ahmadi sect
  • the climate of conspiracy and animosity fanned by segments of the Pakistani media — note the placard held up mid-video, joking that it was “sponsored by Zionists”

For all their subversive cheek, there are legitimate concerns that the band could find themselves the target of reprisals. Musician Ali Aftab Saeed brushed off such fears when speaking to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn: “The point is to highlight the phenomenon where people with weapons are praised while intellectuals are ignored. Another important point is that it’s just a song. Take it as a song, don’t take it too seriously.” But, as the lyrics of “Aalu aanday” and the news emanating from the region over the past year would attest, what’s at stake in Pakistan is no laughing matter.