Saboor Aly reacts to people applauding Javed Akhtar | The Express Tribune

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A video from the 7th Faiz Festival, held in Lahore, went viral on the internet where the renowned Indian poet, lyricist and screenwriter Javed Akhtar voiced how terrorists from the 2008 Mumbai attacks “still roam free” in Pakistan. The statement left many Pakistani artists livid while their counterparts in the neighbouring country lauded the Indian veteran for it.

Actor Kangana Ranaut initially shared the video on Twitter to praise how Akhtar “attacked Pakistanis in their own country.” The short clip saw the poet answer a question from the audience. “You have visited Pakistan many times. When you go back, do you tell your people that (we) are good people?” a man asked Akhtar during the session he was invited as a guest.

“Let us not blame each other. That won’t solve the issues. We saw how Mumbai was attacked. They (terrorists) came neither from Norway nor from Egypt. They are still roaming freely in your country. If these complaints are in an Indian’s heart, you shouldn’t take offence,” lamented Akhtar, adding that Pakistanis do not celebrate Indian artists the way that his country does. “We hosted big events for Nusrat and Mehdi Hasan but no performance of Lata Mangeshkar was ever organised in your country.”

Sharing this, Kangana wrote, “Whenever I listen to Javed sahab’s poetry, I feel like Goddess Saraswati has blessed him. There must be some truth within a person for him to be blessed with divinity. Jai Hind. He attacked them [Pakistanis] in their own land.”

Pakistani artists speak up

Akhtar was later invited to an event in his honour which was attended by a bevvy of Pakistani stars. The hypocrisy didn’t sit well with actor Saboor Aly. Taking to Instagram, she urged all those who showered Akhtar with immense respect and happily cheered for him despite the fact that he insulted the country while being on the soil to have some self-respect.

“What a shame! All the educated illiterate – the so-called niche – you never gave the same respect to your own talent. There were so many artists in this country that didn’t even have money to afford healthcare at the end of their lives. Where were all of these appreciators of talent back then?” she asked.

“If we can’t respect ourselves then how will others do it? I agree that art has no boundaries or borders but you can certainly draw boundaries when it comes to your self-respect,” she added in another Instagram Story.

Resham, who was there at the after-party with Akhtar, also took to her Instagram to condemn his statement. Claiming that she was unaware of Akhtar’s controversial remarks, she wrote, “My country is more dear to me than anything else. I absolutely had no knowledge of what Javed Akhtar sahab said about my country in the Faiz Festival session. I condemn his words. As per our customs of special treatment, we consider guests God’s mercy but Pakistan is more precious to us than our hearts and lives.”

Actor and filmmaker Shaan Shahid also shared reservations about Akhtar being granted a visa to enter Pakistan when he held such hatred for the country.

“He knows about the murderers of Muslims in Gujrat but he’s silent about that. And this gentleman is now looking for the perpetrators of the 26/11 attacks in Pakistan. Who gave him the visa?” he wrote on Twitter.

Aijaz Aslam simply said that the fact that Akhtar returned safely to his home country is a testament to how tolerant the country was. “Mr Javed Akhtar, would you mind shedding some light on the Kashmir issue? You shouldn’t have come if you have such hatred for Pakistan. We still allowed you to go back safely and that’s our answer to your nonsense,” read his tweet.

Singer Haroon Shahid had a bigger issue with Akhtar’s statement on India doing so much for Pakistani artists. “Javed Sahab can party all he can in Pakistan, but I can’t stand him suggesting that ‘India has given Pakistani artists a chance,’” he said adding that it’s not the art or talent that India nurtured in Pakistanis but the business structure that they have that makes one a star.

“I’m saying this because when Indians pick up talent from Pakistan, they don’t pick up their music, they pick up the artist and then mould their music according to their industry. In my view, they pick up a rockstar from Pakistan and send back a ‘Bollywoodised’ version of that singer,” and Shahid sure has a problem with that. “The problem that I have is about how we, as a nation, fail to see how we’re being used. Sadly, it will go on till we give our people business and respect! To my fellow Pakistanis, please stand up for your country! We’re going through a rough patch but Nusrat, Atif, Rahat, Fawad, and Mahira are our artists, not theirs.”

Akhtar recalls audience’s reaction to his controversial statement

In a new interview with NDTV, Akhtar has now said that his statement about the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks was “well-received” in Pakistan. When asked about the audience’s response to his remark, he said, “They all clapped. They agreed with me. There are many people who admire India and want to have a relationship with us. We tend to think of countries as monoliths. That is not the case. How do we connect with millions of people, who want to connect with India.”

Upon being asked if this was the right time for talks between the neighbouring countries and if a middle ground can be achieved, Akhtar opined that he is not the right person to ask this. “I don’t have that kind of calibre (to respond to this query). People who are in power, who are holding that position, understand what is happening, what is the situation and how to go about it. People who run the country know better. My information is little. We, in India, have very limited information about Pakistani people. Same is the case with them,” he concluded.

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