UW-Madison Pakistan Students
Reflections on Pakistan
|Debby Tewes is Asian
Writer in the Milwaukee area
Lee Han Fang, [name deleted per request], and Mahin Ahmed
after the interview
cultural events that expose the culture of South Asia. Out of curiosity, we also talked on the topic of discrimination,
seeing that one of the purposes for the event was to clear some perceptions. We wanted to know if there was any
difference between how Pakistani American and a Pakistani from Pakistan were treated. According to our interviewee,
there is no discrimination and that the Pakistanis are not treated differently based on where they are from as they
share a common identity.
Going back to the event, it started with a tribute from the committee members to their outgoing President, Bilal
Allawala, who is graduating at the end of the semester. The idea of organizing “Reflections on Pakistan” was
actually from Bilal himself.
After the tribute, the skit proceeded and it was powerful in terms of the message it contained. Personally I was taken
aback; I’ve always had a certain thought of how suicide bombings are, but the skit changed it all. I never thought of
how the bombings affected families, as I always had some negative perceptions on this issue against the
bombers. However, after the performance, I learned of the effects of it and my perception changed; not all
Pakistanis are happy to have the suicide bombers. The skit was a big hit amongst the crowd as they gave a
standing ovation to the actors at the end. I felt that the Pakistanis in the crowd were pleased that the different takes
on the issue of suicide bombing were displayed clearly.
However, the excitement only truly began when Munni Begum stepped onstage to perform. The crowd erupted when
she took her place onstage and when she began her ghazal singing; they sang along with her.
This was a completely different side of Pakistan that we have ever seen. Through the media, the Pakistanis are
portrayed as people who are constantly attacked by suicide bombings and drones. Tonight however, it was a
completely different side with all the singing and laughing around. The highlight of this was when the PSA
members and some members of the audience took the stage on Munni Begum’s last song and danced together
as Munni sang. We felt like joining them up onstage but it was packed so we ended up dancing on our own at the
back of the theater.
At the end of the event, Munni stayed back for a bit for photos with members of the audience and I believe that
everyone went home that night feeling happy.
George Francis Albert and Lee Han Fang are students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They wrote this story
as a project for their Asian American Studies program course under Asst. Professor Jan Miyasaki.
|Tribute to PSA President Bilal Alalwala (the one in the
|Part of the skit where the leader of the
suicide bombers is explaining his
Crowd dancing on the last song of Munni Begum, a
very popular ghazal singer from Pakistan who now
resides in Chicago
By George Francis Albert and Lee Han Fang
The Pakistani Student Association (PSA) of the University of Wisconsin-
Madison held an event called the “Reflections on Pakistan” last fall to
show people the different sides on the issue of suicide bombing in
Pakistan through a skit, as well as to introduce the ghazal music. Held in
the Friedrich Circle Play Theater at the Memorial Union, the event drew a
large crowd of Pakistanis as well as a few Americans, leaving the theater
packed and some of the audience had to stand as there were no seats
We had a chance to sit down with one of the committee members of the
PSA, [deleted per request], to talk about the event as well as to learn more
about PSA a few days before Reflections on Pakistan was scheduled to
From the interview, we learned that the reason they chose suicide
bombing as a theme for their skit is because it is a pressing issue back home in Pakistan as well as a focus by
some international media. With that in mind, they set up the play in such a way that it would show the many
different aspects of suicide bombing: family’s reaction, victim’s reaction, organizations that are involved in
recruiting suicide bombers as well as the general perception of the public towards suicide bombing. By the end of
the show, she mentioned that it is their aim to clarify some negative perceptions that some may have
towards Pakistanis here in Madison.
The audience was also introduced to the traditional ghazal
music. The PSA invited Munni Begum, a very popular
ghazal singer from Pakistan who now resides in Chicago,
to perform in this event. And she came. The performance by
Munni Begum was the highlight of "Reflections on Pakistan."
Touching on the PSA, Anoushka told us that it is a relatively
young club. Formed in 2009, the club seeks to bring
together the Pakistani students on campus as well as from
the Madison Area Technical College (MATC). However,
currently the club is not only open to Pakistanis, but for
students from South Asia as well. About 30 percent of the
PSA members are south Asian students and the 70 percent
are Pakistanis as the club is non-exclusive and is open to
anyone who is interested to join. The shared languages,
Hindi and Urdu, bring the diverse students together. The
club has organized several huge events such as
fundraisers to help the flood victims in Pakistan, panels and