Salman Ahmad founded the music band Junoon, which was banned by Nawaz Sharif in 1998. Speaking with The Indian Express, the rock star discusses the implications of Friday’s verdict.
Sharif banned your group Junoon over one song, Ehtesaab or accountability. Can you tell us about this?
The corrupt elite have always been afraid of Pakistani poets, filmmakers, writers and musicians who have spoken their heart through their art. PM Nawaz Sharif, 20 years ago, banned Junoon for singing and raising awareness about the need for Ehtesaab. Ironically, now Sharif is the one who has been ordered by the Supreme Court to step down.
Dr King was right: The arc of the moral universe is long — but it bends toward justice.
Today, do you feel vindicated as an artist?
Well, art is a very powerful weapon to impart knowledge and artists have a responsibility not only to entertain but also to raise awareness. Throughout my career, my focus has been on social justice. Across the board, accountability not only helps our mission to eradicate polio (I’m also a polio goodwill ambassador), but it strengthens democracy and all public institutions.
What are the most important implications of Nawaz Sharif being disqualified?
In a country where historically, there has been one law for the poor and weak, and no law for the rich and powerful, Sharif’s disqualification by the SC on concealing assets and forging documents will have far-reaching implications for all public office holders.
But critical voices are suggesting that Sharif’s removal will allow his own brother and/or the army to take charge. How likely is either scenario?
Sharif’s party has been seriously damaged, politically and morally but, under the constitution, it has the right to nominate a new PM and to complete its tenure until the next election. There is zero chance of an army take-over in Pakistan. The Panama Papers case now has global implications for all those who were in power and abused it for personal gain.
The verdict has been vindication of Imran Khan’s concerns. But alongside, how should observers view his alleged closeness to hardliners?
Imran Khan is a national hero, a philanthropist and the most popular Pakistani politician whose life has been an open book since he came into politics 21 years ago. Despite his critics and opponents’ accusations, Imran Khan is a unifying force in Pakistani society.
As a cultural icon and a doctor, please analyse the impact of political corruption on Pakistan?
Corruption has destroyed most public institutions in Pakistan. It has poisoned the fabric of society and made a mockery of the rule of law.
Until today’s judgment, no one even thought that the rich and powerful could be brought to justice.
Will the Panama Papers verdict have a lasting impact on the politics of dynasty and corruption in Pakistan?
Well, the Pakistani people’s voices have been heard and justice has been served. This process will now gather momentum across the spectrum — and no one can stop it.