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Life or style? Gangnam rules

January 20, 2013

As if the world waited for a new musician; as if Pakistan awaited a new messiah. Well, both arrived late 2012. The former from South Korea; the latter from Canada. Few knew PSY, creator of Gangnam Style dance. Fewer still knew Tahirul Qadri. The ‘conqueror’ of Lahore, Imran Khan, who like Qadri captivated Pakistan a year before, was all we knew. Tehreek-i-Insaf, like Tehreek-i-Minhajul Quran was the electromagnet then, luring lotas from leading political parties leaping aboard Imran’s gravy train.

A lot of water has flown under the bridge since. Today it is TMQ getting everyone excited. Altaf Hussain, the weatherman for all seasons knows when a favourable tailwind blows and from which direction. The London émigré then marks a trajectory simple enough for his tribe in Karachi to follow, always making sure that the destination spells success.

MQM, no great surprise, joined Qadri. Now having second thoughts?

Some like it hot. Others want garden-fresh faces. But most sit by the sidelines and merely smile as the circus rolls through town with our temporal ‘heroes’ promising the moon. The jaded among us will recall the populist calls by Air Marshal Asghar Khan, Z.A. Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto in Lahore. Yes, some of us were there. We remember blood tingling shivers travel up and down our spines as each swore to change the history of Pakistan. Remember the ‘Asian Tiger’ slogan of Nawaz Sharif? He came, plundered and then left, as did Benazir Bhutto. Asghar Khan never took off and ZAB got too ambitious. But how can we forget his style? It was his Gangnam Style that enthralled us. He acted like a rock star, ruled like Napoleon and calmed his countrymen like Abraham Lincoln after we lost East Pakistan.

The rest who ruled Pakistan were just wimps.

As the crystal ball flirted away the last few seconds of 2012 in New York’s Times Square accompanied by a million-voice chorus breathlessly marshalling a new year, the South Korean PSY, whose full name is Park Jae-sang, danced and sang Gangnam Style.

Millions around the world watched this star, until recently a nonentity. But when his music video for Gangnam Style exceeded one billion views on YouTube, he earned the title of “King of YouTube.”

All in one ¯ rapper, writer, entertainer, this singer and dancer is above all a patriot. PSY has the courage of his convictions.

Despite Americans going crazy over him, the South Korean musician’s heart is firmly pinned in the right place. He infuriated many when he smashed a toy American tank on the ground while singing his rap-rock song Killer. He beat the toy with his microphone stand into pieces to the excitement of the crowd. The song according to Korea Herald, “makes a mockery of the brutal law of the jungle when big guys can bully the weak for anything.” It originated after the 2002 death of two Korean schoolgirls, killed in an accident with an American military vehicle outside Seoul.

PSY became the voice for his country’s downtrodden. In 2004, he sang a rap song calling for the killing of “Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives.”

No one knows what Qadri brings to the table. Hawking religion won’t do. Vendors like Zia tried it and see how they ended.

Musharraf cobbled together all the jamats bonding the party with MQM as a permanent adhesive. The commando ended up in exile. Even ZAB took a shot at it by banning alcohol and gambling, when all else had failed to appease the opposition parties. It didn’t fly. Currently Imran Khan is flashing the religion card. Like PSY, he is an outspoken critic of drone strikes that America has been carrying out for some years killing several innocent men, women and children in Waziristan.

So will the two tehreeks butt heads against each other in the forthcoming elections? Guesswork is ripe and conspiracies as spicy as they come. One astute watcher writes “Tahir ul Qadri has already won! National Assembly postponed, Capital city is scared, stocks are down, Nawaz gives almost daily sermons on long march. Qazi died failing to produce in 74 years the groundswell that Qadri is getting”. My email friend then veers off to the reason for Qadri’s sudden rise: “Of course it is not Qadri; it is the Rs100 crore by investors and their clout”.

The email wanders off to the erstwhile law minister Babar Awan. “Did you see Babar Awan with Zardari on TV? Of course, if there’s one man in Pakistan who has the correct information on the Qadri phenomenon, it’s Babar Awan. His analysis of religious leaders is often accurate”. Perhaps, Zardari is the only one enlightened by Awan’s wisdom.

A recently returned doctor from Pakistan has another view: “To meet the moving expectations of the people, Qadri is like a moving target who is constantly evolving,” says Dr Hussain. “His confidence level has climbed to a very high level and I see this continuing.” The “big losers”, thinks Dr Hussain, are Zardari and Nawaz Sharif. He hopes Imran Khan is “flexible” and willing to face Qadri. The two could team up and “run with the ball”.

Do I like Qadri? The doctor questions and then answers himself. “I have great difficulty liking people who indulge in fashion fads.

Qadri’s shiny hat with the upper circumference bigger than the lower disturbs me! Jokes aside, he’s not a fool. He’s an educated pretender, but then all politicians are, including Imran”.

What will happen?

God alone knows. The two who rose like the phoenix — Qadri and PSY — may be history next year when I sit down to write about new people who have seized the world or the national stage and become larger than life. Will Gangnam Style prevail? Will we still be moving to the music invented by the South Korean rapper’s obscure online video that burst upon us last December? Or will we chase another fresh find?

Will Qadri return to Canada, his adopted country if his movement fizzles out? Just the way it did way back in the late ’70s when he was a preacher in Lahore. While growing up, I remember his persona caused quite a stir among many like-minded people.

They heard in awe.

Then one day Qadri was gone. Will we see a repeat?