November 21, 2018

Daniel Pearl, it’s me again

Dear Mr Pearl,


You don't know me. We've never met. And I am only able to write this to you because you are no longer among us. After you were murdered in Karachi in 2002, your parents started a foundation in your name, which, among other things, helps train journalists from Pakistan. I am one of the fellows, from 2003. I started writing my blog at the Jewish Journal shortly after. But also, each year, when the Daniel Pearl World Music Day is held, I cover it from Karachi.

To tell you the truth, each year when the invitation would land on my desk from the US consulate I would cringe. I have no idea how to cover music and because I am a desk editor, I always shy from interviewing people. So covering the music day event was always really hard for me. I also felt a lot of pressure from the Jewish World to cover it correctly. I also feel a lot of pressure to keep apologising for your murder in Karachi. We're actually not really bad people here; there are just some nut jobs around who spoil it for the rest of us.

Each year when the stiff, creamy envelope with the gold-embossed insignia would arrive on my desk I'd worry about finding a new angle to cover your music day. Of course, I understood how important it was for your parents and journalists here to remember those whose lives have been taken in the line of duty. I felt like it would have been inappropriate to also assign someone else to do the job because the fellowship had given me so much. It was the least I could do.

For the first few years it was super hard but I did it nonetheless. It was only in 2011 that it became easier to write about the music day; that was because I stopped apologising and started becoming part of the story.

Sadly, though, this year, 2013 your music day couldn't be arranged in Karachi for several reasons. October came and went and it suddenly hit me that the creamy white stiff envelope hadn't arrived at my desk. I emailed the US consulate and they said that as far as they knew, no music day was in the offing. I emailed your mum and she confirmed that it wasn't happening.

I went home that day really sad. I thought that this would be the first year that the music day wouldn't happen in Karachi. I felt that–shit. What is the point in having so many alumni if we can't do anything? And as they say in Urdu, “laanat mujh pe.” I should be damned if I couldn't draw on some contacts to figure out a solution.

I prayed to God. I said, “Ok God, look we have to do something. But I know that people here are a little cagey about being associated with Jewish folks so you'll have to open some doors here.”

Then I had a brainwave; Karachi was hosting Pursukoon Karachi, a festival to take back the city from violence, this weekend. Perhaps, just perhaps, one musical performance could be dedicated to you? And the seven other journalists who have been killed here since 1992.

As my newspaper was a media partner for the event I spoke to our CSR manager and they spoke to the festival's organisers. A day later I got confirmation that one session, a play or series of dramatic readings of stories of Karachi, would be dedicated to you and the other journalists who have been killed. I nearly wept with joy.

So I grabbed my camera and headed to the performance just an hour after hearing the confirmation and hunted down the director. I explained to him my request and how it fitted with the theme of a violence-free Karachi. He was super nice about it and said, “Why didn't you tell me before? We could have arranged a music day too!”
The ” style=”font-size: 14px;”>explained that because the music day hadn't really happened this year, it was an attempt to salvage it. To at least take a moment out to remember you and mention you.

I wrote a really cheesy piece for my I promise to organise a big noisy jam session next year. I am convinced you can hear me. Even if we aren't playing music for now.

Caption: Noel Francis, Kulsoom Aftab, Meesam Naqvi, Kashif Hussain and Bakhtawar Mazhar performing 'Mein Hoon Karachi' at Napa, dir by Zain Ahmed, for Pursukoon Karachi on Nov 22, 2013 in Karachi. It was dedicated to Daniel Pearl and the seven other journalists killed here since 1992. Photo: Ayesha Mir/Express