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Pakistani Rock Video Cooks Up Liberal Satire

Potato and egg curry is hard to stomach for the millions of Pakistani schoolchildren who pack it for lunch every day.

But for the rock band Beygairat (Shameless) Brigade, Pakistanis' shared pain of facing the same slop day in and day out was the perfect metaphor for addressing a phenomenon in which violence seems more honorable than education.

Now the group's satirical video "Potatoes And Eggs," which pokes fun at prejudice, extremism, and stagnation in Pakistani society, has become a YouTube sensation. And with every new viewer -- the video has attracted more than 350,000 hits in less than a month -- the band finds itself addressing growing controversy as well.

The Punjabi-language video begins with the three band members clad in school uniforms and lamenting why their mothers are so keen on feeding them eggs and potatoes when all they really want is chicken. But it soon turns to more serious themes.

The lyrics have caused quite a stir. And that is obviously the intention.

In a bald reference to well-known conservative politicians and brothers Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif, the song asserts, "The Kojaks are hanging on a kite."

It goes on in rapid-fire fashion to suggest that cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan is banking on the country's chief justice to fire the current government, and to make light of Pakistani military chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani's extending of his term in office for three years:

In Khan's darkness, CJ [Chief Justice] is the last light. With such uproar about the extension / the [military] chief has gone into hibernation.

This subtly suggests that civilian politicians are not immune from a coup d'etat, despite attempting to please Kayani. The government last year gave him a three-year extension in his post.

The video pulls no punches, directing the most daring satire at hard-line Islamists and their use of violence to gain influence.

The line "Qadri is treated like a royal" is a reference to the flower-garlanded Mumtaz Qadri, the police bodyguard who in January gunned down secularist Punjab Province Governor Salman Taseer for his opposition to the country's blasphemy laws.

The next line laments that Ajmal Qasab, the sole surviving perpetrator of the 2008 terrorist attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai, "is a hero" to many, while Abdus Salam, Pakistan's lone Nobel laureate, "is forgotten."

The last reference to Salam, a member of the Ahmedi sect that has been targeted by militants in recent years, has led some to suggest that the members of Beygairat Brigade are themselves Ahmedi, and that their song is part of a conspiracy.

Band member Ali Aftab Saeed rejected such speculation during an interview on Pakistan's Dawn TV:

"We are neither promoting nor demeaning a religious belief. Ajmal Qasab and Qadri were people with weapons while Abdul Salam was somebody who pursued scientific research all his life. The point is to highlight the phenomenon where people with weapons are praised while intellectuals are ignored. Another important point is that it's just a song. Take it as a song, don't take it too seriously."

But in Pakistan, the message is bound to be taken seriously, a fact the band foreshadows in the video. Toward the end, one band member is shown holding a placard: "If you want a bullet through my head: like the video."

-- Abubakar Siddique