Song Critical of Pakistani Generals Is Blocked Online, With No Official Explanation

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A Pakistani band with a reputation for satirizing the country's military may have finally gone too far.

About two weeks ago, the band, Beygairat Brigade, released a song that criticizes generals even more directly than their previous offering, which became a viral video hit when it was released two years ago.

But over the past 10 days, the videoof the song, "Dhinak Dhinak," has been mysteriously blocked in Pakistan on Vimeo, a video-sharing Web site. The band released the song on Vimeo because YouTube has been banned in Pakistan since September, when a video insulting the Prophet Muhammad caused riots across the Muslim world.

No official explanation has been given for the apparent ban on the video of the song, which critics have praised for its sharp humor. As band members sway and dance, they sing of "the generals" who carry out coups and proxy wars, their corruption ("When pockets are full, all the strings are theirs to pull") and their ability to eliminate critics ("If it's one of them you give a naughty look to, very soon you will disappear from view").

The lead singer, Ali Aftab Saeed, suspects that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority blocked the video after a nod from the military.

"The song was not against the military," Mr. Saeed insisted in an interview. "We have nothing against the military. We were discussing generals, including General Musharraf, who had imposed coups and were not held accountable." He was speaking of the former Pakistani leader,Pervez Musharraf.

Last month, Capital TV, a new news network, briefly was taken off the air after a guest on a talk show used abusive language toward the army chief, Gen.Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Khurram Mehran, spokesman for the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, denied that the government had blocked the video. "I am not aware of any directives to ban the video," he said. Still, on Saturday, the video remained blocked on several Internet service providers in Pakistan.

Some critics say the song is groundbreaking. "This is definitely something that was never done before," said Nadeem Farooq Paracha, a culture critic and columnist. "They went a step further. It is a sarcastic take on the history of army's role in politics and automatically stands out." He said most of the satire in the country lampooned politicians but treated the military as a sacred cow.

The military, once virtually immune to public criticism, has come under pressure from several sides in recent years. Some elements of the news media are increasingly critical, and the former military ruler, Mr. Musharraf, is facing several legal prosecutions that could result in jail time or even the death penalty, a predicament previously unimaginable.

Recording and producing the song proved difficult, said Mr. Saeed, the singer. Several studio owners declined to record the song, deeming it too controversial. A studio owner who eventually agreed requested that his name not appear in the credits, Mr. Saeed said.

Still, he said the apparent censorship of the song's video caught him by surprise. The band's earlier hit, "Aalu Anday," had escaped that fate.

He admits that the band was trying to "push a little, create more space," but not to push too far. "I thought we had wittily discussed the issue," he said. "We tried not to be offensive."

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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