Musician Salman Ahmad hopes Mr. Khan’s tenure as Prime Minister will lead to better ties with India.
Cricket brought musician Salman Ahmad and Pakistan’s Prime Minister-elect Imran Khan together more than 35 years ago, when Mr. Ahmad was picked by Mr. Khan to join the national team, along with players like Wasim Akram and Rameez Raja on their historic first tour of Bangladesh in 1985.
‘Like older brother’
“Ever since the ’80s, IK has been like an older brother, mentor and guide. We have shared a common junoon (passion) for cricket and music, and a strong desire for social welfare and justice,” Mr. Ahmad says.
The two then moved away to other fields, with Mr. Ahmad abandoning both his cricket and medical career to set up the famous rock band Junoon, while Mr. Khan went on to join politics, but they remained close. As he prepares to attend Mr. Khan’s swearing-in ceremony on Saturday, Salman Ahmad says he has had no regrets about not having joined the electoral fray with his friend and former captain, whose party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), won the largest number of seats in elections on July 25. The PTI’s party anthem ‘Naya Pakistan’, as well as several campaign songs, were performed by Salman Ahmad, who emphasises that he has not joined the party.
“My music IS my politics,” he told The Hindu in an interview conducted over email and telephone from Islamabad. “Junoon’s music and message has always been very socially conscious. In 1996, I wrote a song called Ehtesaab(‘accountability’), which has become an anti-corruption anthem in Pakistan.”
In 1998, their musical tour in India had coincided with the 1998 Pokharan blasts, and when he returned to Pakistan, Mr. Ahmad was handed a notice from the Ministry of Culture, which accused him of being a traitor.
Nevertheless Junoon brought out a new album Azaadi, which had equally politically-charged lyrics.
Mr. Ahmad’s journey will come full circle this week, as he and his group will perform as a band again, to mark the 20th anniversary of the song Azaadi, on Pakistan’s Independence Day on the 14th. Mr. Ahmad says he hopes Imran Khan’s tenure will also see better India-Pakistan ties, and particularly that artists and sportsmen can resume exchanges that have been stopped for several years. “We need to allow our respective artists to communicate, collaborate and travel regularly,” he said, adding that he hopes to travel with a new album, Dosti, to India soon.