By Mohsin Sayeed
in Karachi, Pakistan
Pakistani rock band Junoon joined Indian folk singer Anaida in a concert to promote peace between the two countries.
Junoon have been described as the Pakistani U2
The number of recent concerts revolving around peace reflects the trend that peace is a buzzword in Pakistan's creative circles these days.
The brochure for this event, held in the Pakistani city of Karachi, claimed its mixture of rock 'n' bhangra was a grand step towards peace.
But the on-spot situation did not match the claim. If there was any thing remotely relating to the peace theme, it was the patient audiences as a crowd of more than 2,000 peacefully waited for their favourite musicians.
"We have no interest in peace. We are here to listen to Noorie," said Najma Zaman, who was there with her sister and five children. "We have spent 3,500 rupees to see them and we shall wait."
Backstage, presenters Adil Qawi and Nini Rafi from Indus Music - Pakistan's first and only music channel - were roaming cluelessly looking for the main organiser, Noman Naeem.
"In the evening, I found out that I was supposed to anchor the show. We don't know anything about the line-up, artistes and other stuff," said Nini.
Since 11 September, everyone is cashing in on terrorism
Known for her honest comments, Nini lived up to her reputation when asked if the concert had anything to do with peace.
"I am really not sure if they are trying to promote a peace message tonight. In fact, since 11 September, everyone is cashing in on terrorism.
"I think the music industry is not doing that well, therefore they need an anchor to hold on to."
After a three-hour delay, the concert finally began and the backstage area became livelier, bustling with artists, journalists, camera crews and autograph-seeking fans.
Director and actor Samina Peerzada was attracting limelight. Dressed in a white top and a pair of denims, she flashed her famous high-powered smile.
"I am here to support these young people in their endeavour. Anything for peace," she said.
And Ali Noor, singer with Pakistan's hot young band Noorie, was in his element.
If peace sells, then who is buying?
"Peace for whom? For which cause? The war is over," Ali candidly replied when asked if he was there for the sake of peace.
"If peace sells, then who is buying?" he asked. According to him, Noorie were there to play their latest album to the fans.
Despite his cynicism, when Ali Noor got onto the stage, he sent ripples through the crowd. Young male fans began defying the barricade to gather in front of the stage and dance to his electrifying tunes.
But soon after Noorie, the crowd began dancing wildly and broke into a fist fight. They also booed pop singer Haroon off the stage. So much for peace.
Pakistan's biggest music sensation, Fuzon, graced the backstage and Shafqat, the lead singer, had arrived directly from Lahore.
"I don't think it's happening for peace. The motive behind this concert is certainly commercial," said Shafqat.
People are sick of wars - they just want to enjoy life
Apart from Junoon, Fuzon were the only band with a peace song to offer. Despite his initial comments, Shafqat gave peace as the primary reason for his performance.
"People are sick of wars. They just want to enjoy life. And probably this is the reason they are here tonight," he said.
Fuzon lived up to the audience's expectations. With hits like Sagar and Ankhian, they entertained the crowd and Fuzon's new peace song Aye Khuda was extremely well-received by the audience.
To clam things down, Junoon was sent on - which proved to be a good decision.
With a powerful performance by Ali Azmat and their usual hits like Sayonee, the crowd was back into the dancing and cheering mood in no time.
Among other hits, they performed their anti-terrorism song No More.
"Everyone wants peace. War-mongering and terrorism belong to those few who have held the world hostage to their dirty games," said Salman Ahmad.
Junoon have been very active and vocal in recent anti-war protests and have given a number of anti-war performances.
"Whether it's Ihtesaab [accountability] or peace, we have always raised our voices and tried to spread awareness about issues that are plaguing the world," said Salman.
Dressed in a glamorous purple dress, Anaida mesmerized the crowd the moment she appeared on the stage.
As an artist I want to spread happiness and entertain my fans on both sides of the border
More glamour and colour were added to her act when Paras Groups' dancer joined her on stage to dance to her music.
"This is the first time I am giving a public performance and I love being in Pakistan," she said.
When asked about the India-Pakistan political stand-off, she dodged the question. "I am an artiste, not politician, therefore let's leave it for them," she said.
According to Anaida, ordinary people in the two countries want to live happily and peacefully.
"As an artist I want to spread happiness and entertain my fans on both sides of the border. I am here to promote unity among artistes. I think all of Asia should be united.
"I do not believe in religious, caste or social divides. No religion teaches violence. War-mongers forget that it is all about people," she said.
By the time Anaida had finished, dawn was almost breaking. But the concert proved to be a lacklustre event and Pakistan has had bigger and better events in the past.
Nini Rafi summed up the situation: "I do not think we are doing anything concrete for peace," she said.
"We are not even organised enough and unless you are organised and united, you cannot be heard as a voice for peace."