Qawals, Qandeels and what that says about our priorities


There is an (allegedly) Chinese curse:

“May you live in interesting times.”


The Chinese origin is debateable, but if the past week alone is any indication, these certainly count as “interesting times”.

I started the week with every blogger and PR rep in my contact list losing their minds when selfies of a certain self-styled diva and a (then) serving member of the Ruet-e-Hilal committee surfaced on social media. Soon after followed rumours of a marriage proposal and then a video from the woman in question which had everyone scrambling to verify the “news”. It was, for a brief period, the only thing every news channel was talking about.

It wasn’t the “scandal” that fascinated me as much as the reaction. While the perverted may find solace in her exhibitions, what I don’t understand is why people who seem genuinely upset by her videos insist on watching them in the first place. No, they absolutely do not need to verify if her images are as “shameless” as their neighbours said they were – the entire country knows the kind of content this woman favours. Let’s just say it ain’t family friendly. All their angry comments and shares achieve is earning this Kim Kardashian wannabe the kind of attention she wants – the kind that’s lucrative. She’s thriving on it. Her spot on “Big Boss” was confirmed after the stunt; she’s featured in a frankly absurd episode of Mubashar Lucman’s talk show and her “fan base” is growing.

The next time someone wants to share or comment on one of her posts, we’d do well to ask ourselves: What contribution, if any, does Qandeel Baloch offer to society? The answer is “none”. So what contribution should we be making to her promotion? The answer should be self evident.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is a man who did, does, and always will deserve that kind of respect though: Amjad Sabri.

I grew up fascinated with English music, so qawalis were not something I listened to willingly until I got to college. After I was introduced to Atif Aslam’s cover of “Tajdar e Haram”, I came home and badgered a visiting uncle to listen to what I considered an absolute masterpiece. “That’s nice,” he laughed. “But you need to listen to the original.” We found it, and “Bhar do Jholi”, and I was treated to an out-of-this-world experience. Three minutes in, I was tearing up, and I was hooked.

So walking into work to find out that the last Sabri Qawal had been gunned down in Karachi was, in a word, devastating. His death doesn’t just mark the possible end of a line of Sufi singers that dates all the way back to the original Qawals of the subcontinent; it represents the volatile situation in Karachi and in the country in general. It’s a question mark on the face of the Pakistani leadership’s less than stellar policies.

Calls for respect for his family made me resist posting about this so far but I chanced upon “Bhar do Jholi” again today and the first verse had me in tears.


“Jannat rasool ki. Dozakh mein kaisay jaye gi yeh ummat rasool ki?

Toh bhar do jholi meri ya Muhammad, lot kar mein na jaun ga khali.”


I have no words to express my horror and devastation in the face of his brutal murder, but I would like to point something out: even after this great tragedy, google trending stories from Pakistan and you’ll see that Baloch is still trending. And if that doesn’t tell you that something needs to change within our people and media, then I don’t know what will.



  1. NRK wonderful phrases about AS the legend I go through first time ur column fantastic

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