We don’t know the Qaumi Tarana any better than Shafqat Amanat Ali!

Published: March 24, 2016

Shafqat posted a lengthy apology on his official Facebook page, attributing the error to audio and technical glitches. PHOTO: AFP

Cricket matches unite the country and bring out the maximum national fervour Pakistanis can ever muster, especially if it’s an India-Pakistan game. But this time what gave more fodder for the newsfeed than the defeat itself, was Shafqat Amanat Ali’s performance of the qaumi tarana. After Qandeel Baloch’s offers to the cricket team – we finally found something unique, fun and deeply rooted in our patriotism to go gaga over. All of which makes a great combination for some national criticism.

Pakistanis were excited that someone as talented as him was chosen to accompany the stalwart Mr Bachchan in performing their respective country’s national anthem. However, as with everything that annoys Pakistanis, our singer’s alleged mistake was picked up as the bull’s eye of the evening. Surprisingly, even Mr Bachchan was under fire across the border for going over the standard duration of Indian national anthem. He even has a police complaint registered against him now.

Precisely, Shafqat’s rhythm, wordings and duration of the performance were targeted. He responded to the media and Facebook with apologies terming it as an ‘audio-technical glitch’, but Twitter sarcasm and mean memes kept flowing in. This is pretty much what happens when someone disappoints us.

Are we really that sensitive about our national anthem that we’re unable to spare a single mistake?

Is our benchmark of patriotism only up to the accuracy of the national anthem?

Clearly, real problems still exist in Pakistan, and this is something most of us will forget very soon.

I do not intend to demean the importance of the national anthem for our nation. It evokes our national spirit, binds us together and if sung rightly, gives us goose-bumps. Yes, it was on an international platform (rather more controversially in India) and it’s a matter of pride to present it meticulously. But what seems to have seized the fury of the nation is the fact that it’s the national anthem. We learn it in school; we’re not supposed to forget it, as even primary-school students get the rhythm right.

But is it really unpardonable? Are we that stringent about the national anthem and its words?

As we convene for morning assemblies and opening ceremonies of sports and debate events in school, a choir sings the national anthem and everyone else follows. High-school students fidget, fix their hair and remain preoccupied with other things as the national anthem goes by. There is always more enthusiasm and national spirit when Dil Dil Pakistan or Hai Jazba Junoon is played.

So how does our education system instil the meaning and values behind Pak Sarzameen? As we communicate in the colloquial version of Urdu, there definitely is the need to learn and understand the national anthem.

In fact, how many times after school do any of us really sing the national anthem out loud? Go to the rural areas in Sindh and ask someone to sing the national anthem – don’t be surprised when 90 per cent don’t know it.

The only leverage we have is that we were not performing in front of a huge crowd. Other than the fact that he was performing in front of thousands of people, there is nothing enjoining Shafqat Amanat Ali or Amitabh Bachchan to outperform rest of their countries while singing the national anthem.

Having said that, our patriotism is evoked upon criticism of people representing us, be it Shahid Afridi’s batting or Shafqat’s national anthem performance. Are we developing a sadistic national character that takes pleasure in criticising our fellow countrymen’s mistakes around the world?

There are no direct consequences of turning this into an issue, we can continue bashing him, and he can keep posting apologetic Facebook posts, but where will this take us?

Frankly speaking, it will only take us to another controversy juicier than this.

In that case, all the brouhaha is redundant and demeaning to our seemingly fragile patriotism itself. We are fond of hiding from real problems behind petty issues like actresses working abroad, Amir Liaquat handing out babies etcetera but if it is about nationalism, there are greater ways to serve the purpose than destructive criticism.

Do you think criticism towards Shafqat Amanat Ali's performance of the national anthem is justified?

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Maham Kamal Khanum

The author is an International Baccalaureate graduate, studying Policy, Politics and Law at American University, Washington, D.C. She tweets as tweets @mahamkhanum (twitter.com/mahamkhanum)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • neil

    Nice article . But a correction. Amitabh bachchan didn’t come under fire by 1.2 billion indians or indian media. His performance was loved by all indians and was highlight of the day, apart from wining match. It gave goosebumps to all Indians with his powerful voice, but it’s not first time and his songs in his voice does. He was accurate/perfect with emotion, patriotism, humility while singing it. It was public stunt by jealous unknown filmmaker in Delhi, filing case on frivolous charges of timing on Mr Bachchan. We as indians are quiet angry on Mr ullas the complaintant from Delhi than Mr Mr Bachchan. Indian media even ran a article “the complainant deserves a slap”.Since No one in india sings in robotic speed to finish in 52 secs. In schools we sang for 2 mins. the case hold no merit and will be dropped. Recommend

  • Naema Afaqi

    I think it’s now a fashion to say that we don’t know urdu….we dont know our national anthem by heart…and yes I do mind if on suvh a big forum and occasion some one make a single mistake in our national anthem. And not only this I do mind his whole attire also….long hair…earring…what kind of image we are giving to the world about our country. If he was supposed to perform our national anthem atleast his appearance should also be decent enough to represent our coountry. So sorry Maham Kamal i do not agree with you at all.Recommend

  • asma akhter

    Well a part from the way he sung, I guess the anguish of people is more about his preparation. He knew that he was going to sing in a stadium,going to represent Pakistan, he ought to have fully prepared it beforehand. simple as that.
    p.s no doubt he is a good singer !Recommend

  • Fahimuddin

    I think make our anthem in numbers like 65, 66, 67 then people may remember it or some ancient language of red indians which Pakistan don’t know.Recommend

  • Zed

    He’s a professional at the end of the day he wouldn’t mess any of his own songs in a concert would he? At a event like this you cannot do that.

    He screwed up, there is no defence for this. No matter what his fans say. This is his disgrace to own as a professional singer, not as a Pakistani though we all dont know the anthem that well. Recommend

  • Sane

    If Shafaqat did not know the national anthem of Pakistan, then why he read in an event watched by millions of people globally. Who brought him to read QAUMI TARANA. We take every thing trivial…. oh! what happens!!! if he couldn’t read correctly. Should this be taken so easy….. Where is the sanctity of national anthem.Recommend

  • Sane

    Shouldn’t you also be numbered instead of having name. What’s your number?Recommend

  • Sridhar Kaushik

    Actually, India’s national anthem is in Bengali and is sing very differently in that language. It was written by Tagore who also wrote the national anthem of Bangladesh.
    So, in reality, most Indians do not sing their national anthems correctly but sing it in their own way and in their own unique accent (that is not Bengali)Recommend