Michael Jackson’s (1958-2009) Influence on Pakistan

Posted on June 27, 2009
Filed Under >Adil Najam, People, Society, TV, Movies & Theatre
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Adil Najam

Like so much of Michael Jackson’s life, Michael Jackson’s death has come as a shock to so many. Including many Pakistanis who grew up to the shadows of his soundtracks.

Do you have ‘Pakistani’ memories of Michael Jackson? Do share.

I must say I have been surprised by how many ATP readers have written to me saying that we should do a post on Michael Jackson’s death. I was not, at first, sure what the ‘Pakistan connection’ was. But one was made to reconsider as one heard of the MJ memorial set up in Karachi (photos below)and it was apparent how so many were so influenced by the personage of the ‘King of Pop.’

Indeed, there was a time when – irrespective of your economic and social class – the was to be ‘tich’ was to be like Michael Jackson. From Saab ji’s son to Saab Ji’s driver’s son, if you were ‘in’ you had to be MJ: the hair, the walk, the white socks, the tight pants, the persona at large. And no stage show from Peshawar to Karachi would ever be complete without the ‘performance’ of a Michael Jackson clone.

To me, the immediate memory of the Michael Jackson influence on Pakistan is embodied in the famous Fifty-Fifty skit above. Elsewhere on this blog, I have argued that this may be the funniest comedy skit ever in the best Pakistani comedy program ever. But the point I wish to make today is different. It is a point about Michael Jackson and the deep and varied impacts he has left all over the world in so many different ways!

I must confess, I was never a Michael Jackson fan, never owned a single track of his. But there is no one who has lived in the times I have lived in who could be unaware of or uninterested in the phenomenon that was Michael Jackson. I think he led a sad life, but a life that is worth celebrating becuase it gave the joy of music to so many.

May he rest in in peace.

47 Comments on “Michael Jackson’s (1958-2009) Influence on Pakistan”

  1. Haroon says:
    June 27th, 2009 3:58 pm

    Wow. What a post.

    And what a great find that Fifty-Fifty video. One of the best and shows just how far reaching this man’s impact was.

  2. Haroon says:
    June 27th, 2009 3:59 pm

    Yes, and I do remember the white socks tight pants phase that everyone in my school was going through!

  3. Huma says:
    June 27th, 2009 4:59 pm

    I was definitely a fan of MJ’s growing up. One of the first cassettes in my walkman was his…my brothers and I listened to his songs and sang them everywhere we went…tried to copy his moves (who didn’t?) All the boys in the school tried to emulate his style and dancing…he was just so international…like him or not, it’s undeniable that he was a musical legend of the century…And i for one, highly doubt there will any voice as famous, far-reaching and as memorable as his, ever again…
    May God bless his soul…I MISS MJ!!!!

  4. Mamoon says:
    June 27th, 2009 5:02 pm

    One of the biggest lines I still remember from my childhood was when ever in school some one try to be more “DISCO” , there use to be a line ” tu bara micheal jackson ban raha hai”. When you reach a certain level in your career then you become a fashion & surely he was.
    The first ever album in my life I bought as 8 yr old was BAD ( still remember it took me 3 months to get those 10 rupees together ). Not because at that time I was such a big fan of MJ , just coz it was FASHION !

  5. June 27th, 2009 6:21 pm

    Might it humor us to note that TODAY 27th June – the Sindh Assembly held a minutes silence at the start of its session for Michael Jackson – http://bit.ly/bSNBr

    It makes me furious to see that our idiot politicians have enough time to commemorate Jacko – while they are least concerned about the growing disaster of over 3 millions IDP’s that have been displaced by a grwoing situation or for that matter try their best to stop the growing terrorism in the country – BUT they still honored Michael Jackson who has ZILCH to do with Pakistan – I question the rationality behind our Sindh Assembly making such a statement from our public offices

  6. Gardezi says:
    June 27th, 2009 6:36 pm

    Yes, the influence of DISCO on Pakistan was really an MJ phenomenon. Wasn’t there also a stage actor who named himself Michael Jackson and had this bad moonwalk routine for stage dramas?

  7. Durrani says:
    June 27th, 2009 8:24 pm

    The height of the Michael Jackson craze in Pakistan was exactly when this album and 50-50 skit came. After that it went down. But at that point Michael Jackson was king in Pakistan too. May he rest in peace.

  8. Benawa says:
    June 27th, 2009 10:26 pm

    Adil, you got it down pat! When I gave a moment’s worth of
    thought to the idea of the connection betwee MJ and Pakistan,
    guess what was the first thing that popped into my head? Why
    the very 50/50 skit that you have just posted. Uncanny!

    However, poor MJ had yet another connection to Pak Watan
    which may not be visible to the casual observer: through the
    last 2 dcades of his life, he got the same kind of treatment
    that the mainstream Western media routinely metes out to Pakistan, i.e., everything he said or did was givn a negative
    spin. And now thy are milking his death for all it is worth!

    The other thing that occurred to me was the following
    Urdu verses. Writing Urdu in English is such a chore for me
    that I can only muster a translation. I’d let ATP readers
    guess the original lines:

    Lord, don’t give me th long lasting rankle of a thorn
    I’d rather have the fleeting, pinkish intoxication of
    Don’t curse me with a long life,
    Just give me a few rollicking nights and days

    (Alas, I can’t offer you any prize for guessing it right!)

    Last, but not the least: MJ died on a Thursday. There is a
    common superstition in PW that Munker and Nakeer go
    easy on people who are lucky enough to die on Thursdays.

  9. Umar Shah says:
    June 28th, 2009 1:11 am

    Michael Jackson will remain a universal icon, regardless of geography people will remember him as someone who has left us his music and dance moves, his out of this world videos and the story of his incredible yet sad life. I don’t know anybody who hasn’t heard his songs or doesn’t know him. May he rock the world he’s in now.

  10. YLH says:
    June 28th, 2009 2:46 am

    We were lucky to have lived in the era of Michael Jackson- the true King of Pop and truly the artist of the millenium.

    May he rest in peace. Inanilahi wa inna ilahay rajioun.

  11. Ali from Australia says:
    June 28th, 2009 3:16 am

    Rest in peace MJ.

  12. June 28th, 2009 4:42 am

    Better we must move on now!

  13. AF Ahmad says:
    June 28th, 2009 8:19 am

    Please do not get into the habit of stretching the “Pakistan connection” to fit current events beyond what may be natural, even if it is “public kay behad israar par” (on great public demand). As I am sure you know, anything stretched beyond a certain point becomes permanently deformed.

  14. Zafar says:
    June 28th, 2009 8:38 am

    Not a good day today, I read that Sindh assembly had a moment of silence for 1 minute for MJ and now there is a post on Pakistaniat.

    I dont see any connection betweem MJ and Pakistaniat.

    I would have been rather much pleased to read about Mian Tufail Muhammad of JI.

  15. W.M.Q. says:
    June 28th, 2009 10:03 am

    The fifty-fifty video is terrific.

    Yes MJ was very popular in Pakistan once, but then his kartoot really made his popularity vanish

  16. June 28th, 2009 11:26 am

    Dear Adil Najam sb.

    Its so sad & disappointing that you preferred to discuss about the “Influence” of MJ in Pakistani Society, but you totally ignored the sad demise of ex Amier Jammat-e-Islami Pakistan Mian Tufail Mohammad.

    Political or ideological difference doesn’t mean that you ignored the contribution of an important leader of Pakistani society & history which have a significant influence in a section of society either you liked or disliked.

    MJ is not more than a singer or dance which earn million of dollars & always lived along with depression & loneliness. If Taliban is one side of extremism then your this attitude is reflecting other side of extremism i.e. Liberal extremism.

  17. Tina says:
    June 28th, 2009 12:08 pm

    This brings to mind the days when I could buy a cassette from a sidewalk vendor in Islamabad for all of 11 rupees. Okay, it was a pirated one, but I still have it (it’s “Bad”). There’s not much you can get for 11 rupees nowadays. Times change! I think that’s what “MJ” means to everyone who was a teenager during the height of his fame…some fleeting but sweet memories of when they were younger.

  18. Meengla says:
    June 28th, 2009 1:33 pm

    This is what I wrote to the Ny Times:

    “Thank you NY Times for this opportunity. My introduction to rock n roll /pop was in 1982 through watching ‘Thriller’ as a young teen in Karachi, Pakistan. Ever since that I realized that even though I didn’t understand Michael’s music then (English language barrier mostly) nor do I still understand Hindu ‘Bhajans’ or Gregorian Chants just as others don’t understand Sufi Qawwalis of Islam. But music transcends language and man-made boundaries. As Nietzsche said: ‘Passions Dance with Music’ and so my passions danced with Michael’s music–they still do. If America ever needed one person who was acceptable to the rest of the brown, yellow, black, white worlds it was Michael Jackson. RIP Michael.”

  19. Aliarqam says:
    June 28th, 2009 2:00 pm

    Comaprison of Mian Tufail with MJ and complaining Adil Najam for committing this sin….
    My comments in the word of Qurratulain Haider,
    (Extract From Raza Rumi recent article in Friday Times on the depictions of post-partition society in Pakistan from a character of Quratulain Haider’s Novel “Aag Ka Darya”)

    “The modern Kamal, an Indian who becomes a Pakistani, is where Hyder collates the reactions of her entire generation. Kamal, a migrant in Karachi notes six decades ago:

  20. Aliarqam says:
    June 28th, 2009 2:04 pm

    Comaprison of Mian Tufail with MJ and complaining Adil Najam for committing the sin of nt moaning for Mian Tufail

  21. zia m says:
    June 28th, 2009 2:28 pm

    Have we offered Namaz Jinaza for MJ?
    He is believed to have converted to Islam.

  22. June 28th, 2009 2:37 pm

    Dear Aliarqam

    The Opposite of “Mulla” is “Liberal fascist” .

    None is comparing person like Mian Tufail Mohammad (Marhoom o maghfoor) with a singer & dance MJ. Yes, I agree with u that any comparison with two personalities is “Sin”

  23. YLH says:
    June 28th, 2009 3:08 pm

    I am glad Sindh Assembly had a one minute moment of silence for Michael Jackson.

  24. Tina says:
    June 28th, 2009 3:12 pm

    Zia–that’s interesting; I had heard the same thing. Supposedly it happened while he was living in Bahrain. I don’t think anybody knows for sure, though, whether or not he was Muslim when he died.

  25. AishaFbi786 says:
    June 28th, 2009 6:18 pm

    According to the NY Post, MJ reverted to Islam in Fall of 2008. As for what his beliefs were just before he died…who knows. I heard he was raised Jehova Witness.


  26. Calculating_Misfit says:
    June 28th, 2009 6:33 pm

    There were accounts that Jackson converted, however, he never confirmed publicly his conversion.

  27. June 28th, 2009 8:48 pm

    When people idolized other people and their culture and tradition, they slowly and gradually loose their tradition and culture. In the political uncertainty that our Pakistan is going through, people are remembring him that they lost Quaid-e-Azam or something. Not much a response for a person who spend his whole life for the Pakisatani Ideology- Mian Tufail. I don’t care what political party you affiliate yourself, but think Pakistan above others. And what connection are we talking about? I bet someone among us can form a connection of Pakistan with Zimbabwe’s Dictator Mughabe too. We are living in the globalized world!!!

    We all have to die one day even if you are the King of Pop. What is important is that you seek the truth and guidance, like MJ. Even though we have a principle of doubt about his conversion, we can’t deny that he was interested in Islam. So stop worshipping him and mourning him, and seek the life of Islam that was chosen by MJ’s brother and MJ was greatly interested in.

  28. Moeen says:
    June 28th, 2009 9:35 pm

    Like that picture of MJ and BB posters being sold side by side. Yeh hai Pakistan!

  29. Saeed says:
    June 28th, 2009 10:35 pm

    Nice post. Brought back memories of 50-50 and also of Pakistan’s Michael Jackson phase. He was qite teh rage then. LOL

  30. Riaz Haq says:
    June 29th, 2009 1:21 am

    I think much of Michael Jackson’s influence in Pakistan came via Bollywood. The choreographers in Mumbai acknowledge that the big, elaborate moves and dances were all “borrowed” from Michael Jackson videos and concerts.

    Famous Bollywood choreographer Farah Khan put it well when told reporters, “I officially had no training in dance and whatever I learned was by watching Michael Jackson

  31. Aliarqam says:
    June 29th, 2009 1:30 am

    Dear Kashif
    Sorry for not understanding my point on Comparison…
    MJ was listed in the 2000 edition of the Guinness Book Of World Records for breaking the world record for the “Most Charities Supported By a Pop Star”. It states that Michael Jackson has supported 39 charity organizations either with monetary donations through sponsorships of their projects or by participating in their silent auction. Michael Jackson also helped set up Heal The World Foundation, the charities this has supported have not been listed….
    He was Chanda giver Not Begger…
    And atleast the giving hand is better than begging hand

  32. Asef says:
    June 29th, 2009 2:08 am

    1) Michael Jackson: If he died as Muslim, May he rest in peace. And if he died as non-beleiver, I am concerned on one more person passed away without accepting the Haq. Especially in MJ’s case, since he could be a great source to change many people like Junaid Jamshed and Yousuf Islam did.

    2) Mian Tufail and people like him (e.g. Molana Naeemi): Allah shower His mercy on them. We have known them practicing Muslims and had effective personalities in our society. They will for sure (according to a Hadith) be receiving the sawaab of their good deeds the made in this world.

  33. Shani J says:
    June 29th, 2009 2:09 pm

    He meant so much to so many people. I am black and I know that he had a lot of barriers to break down and overcame many trials. His whole family once lived in a tiny house the size of one room. I don’t worship him..I never even met him but there is such a connection and sadness now that he is gone. He was a musical genious and will be remembered as such. He was also so very giving when the people around him sucked him dry. I never believed those horrible allegations of molestation and honestly..I think the weight of all that killed him via cardiac arrest. I didn’t know the impact that he had globally but it is so touching to see that he was still loved. It is still so sad though because I feel like he had so much more that he wanted to do.

  34. Hasnath says:
    June 29th, 2009 4:56 pm

    Love the video clip. Michael Jackson, Pakistani style!

  35. Yasir says:
    June 29th, 2009 5:23 pm

    I think we can safely say that no international artist has ever had as much impact on ordinary Pakistanis as MJ did. In fact the rich and poor alike tried to copy him and that was his magic everywhere. Your video clip from 50 50 shows that clearly. Nice post.

  36. Aliarqam says:
    June 29th, 2009 11:52 pm

    If someone have seen guys from Liyari Celiberating any event…He will has seen them dancing in a mix way of Sheedi Dance and a touch of copying MJ…Even I have seen many of them with the copying Mj unique dressing…gloves shirts or many things…
    In their weddings they have dance functions known as ‘Lewaa’,They dance like we have seen in the movies of Junglemen….Many of the young guys not familiar with that traditional dance style follow the gr8 MJ…

  37. mano says:
    June 30th, 2009 4:28 am

    I am a little surprised to see some people commenting against this post… I would have been svery disappointed if pakistaniat hadn’t published any article on MJ’s death. He was a phenomenon and an international one. Accepting this doesn’t make us getting influenced by an alien culture. Our own cultural roots should be strong enough to keep us rooted. Come on! he is the only “angrizi singer” I remeber from my childhood.. and someone mentioned his “kartoot”.. what ever his personal life was, we shouldn’t be interested in that rather we should be interested in how he influenced us….

  38. Ramla A. says:
    June 30th, 2009 5:55 am


    Thank you for doing this post. Michael Jackson inspired millions of people and made them happy. He put his gift to use, and through him, millions of humans experienced the awe of witnessing great art.

    This is joy — this is common to all humanity. We don’t have to beat our hearts up if the heart is allowing itself a moment of remembrance and…. joy.

    Today, tens of millions of people around the world are celebrating the life of an artist whose reach was phenomenal and who put his heart into his art.

    This is inspiring to the human soul. We are, no matter our “identities,” part of the world, and part of the collective soul. If that soul wants to remember an artist that touched it, so be it.

    Cheers to Michael Jackson’s fans all over the world. Cheers to Pakistaniat for putting up this post and acknowledging the many fans of MJ in Pakistan — there are many, many of us.

    So, too, I am glad that the Sind Assembly, upon the request of a minority member, assumed silence to remember a global artist. This is a sign of being alive, of being human. I am touched by it, to be honest.


  39. usman says:
    June 30th, 2009 2:52 pm

    Micheal jackson….!!!!!

    yeah…..thats the name!!
    ….a man who has seen millions of die hard fans ….
    ..a man who was not the king of pop only but a magician who could just lock the mind of people in whatever he did and whatever he sung….
    ….highest fan following that a pop star could ever ever see…around the world ….
    micheal has been the trend setter thats y he’s loved so much….

    My god….jux cant 4get his songs ….and the spirit of his voice

    he is not only the 1 who has faced ups….but also the 1 who lived in deep darkness …..
    can 1 imagine????….the king of music has spent ending years of his life away from his homeland ….

    this guy has earned billions and lost thrillions…..


    he’ll not die becoz his music is still alive …..and it’ll stay alive

    hey jackson

    we all love u buddy

    may ur soul live in peace

    u r the best …..

  40. Rasheed says:
    June 30th, 2009 5:54 pm

    I agree with those saying that other topics deserve a spot at ATP more than MJ, but there’s no harm in discussing a topic of interest to most, if not all, Pakistanis, like everyone else in the world. Since Pakistanis are already discussing it elsewhere, they might as well on their own blogs. Also I agree that Maulana Tufail deserved much more mention on ATP, even though I can’t stand Jama’at Islamia. I’m saddened that Sind assembly would observe a moment of silence for a child molester. They might as well cut a cake on Bin Laden’s birthday or something.

    What I haven’t been able to figure out was what MJ had that attracted so many, especially Pakistani youngsters, and especially girls, toward himself. He didn’t have extraordinarily good looks – at least he didn’t think so – look at all the monstrous nose jobs. I was never impressed by any aspect of MJ’s performances – a lot of people can sing in a high-pitched voice, or can pretend to have seizures and vibrate or shake like a grass hopper. His typical move that brought a lot of response from youngsters was the thrusting of his crouch in a seksually provocative manner, which I can’t believe gets tolerated in a society like Pakistan while a woman gets punished for slight violations of “Islamic” dress code.

    I remember hearing about this guy whose kids were out of control saying he wished Michael would die, ‘coz that would probably be the only way to take him off their minds. I have to admit that the thought crossed my mind, too.

    I’m sorry, not to take away from your hero, but when I see praise being showered with such disproportionate excess than what is deserved, it’s a total turnoff for me, even if the person may possess some talent. And no matter how talented, if someone lives as lavishly as Michael did, I can’t be a fan of such a person. Wanted to bring these things up to point out that there’s at least one Pakistani who’s not a fan of MJ. But I’m always surprised at how many more people in the world are stoopid than one can imagine.

  41. June 30th, 2009 9:35 pm

    It’s good to see he is being remembered in Karachi in such a loving way.
    Michael sparked a lot of joy and love in my heart back when I was a 4 year old kid.
    He’ll always be in my heart… he’s always been..
    condolences go out to each and every fan, his familymembers.
    lets celebrate his life

  42. July 1st, 2009 4:42 am

    The iconic life and talent of Micheal Jackson did affect millions all over the world. He was one of the most known persons in the modern world like Lady Diana.His music lives on. His real life demons of prescription drugs abuse, childhood abuse and intense pressures of western showbiz life are there for all to take lesons from. See my blogpost on this topic.

  43. Sara Khan says:
    July 6th, 2009 2:28 am

    Ufone has introduced a custom made service called Ufone Music Station. You can enjoy live music, poetry, celebrity interviews and much more on Ufone’s rocking mobile radio station. You can also add songs from the music station to your playlist.
    Add this service and enjoy the ultimate music experience!!

  44. Shayan says:
    December 21st, 2009 2:14 pm

    NO ONE CAN BReaK His Records till now and forever..
    King of pop is legend .. and legend never dies..
    Regards Shayan Shaukat!!

  45. Arslan says:
    January 4th, 2010 5:31 am

    I listen very songs but i like Micheal’s song very much. Michael is a Excellent singer,dancer,producer,acter. Billie jean,Bad,Man in the mirror,beat it,Heal the world,u r not alone,Thriller is my all time favorite songs. Michael in Alive in our hearts. I love Michael Jackson. Michael u r my life.But Alas! my life is not with me.But u r always in my heart.

  46. October 23rd, 2010 7:05 pm

    To all Michael Jackson Fans in Pakistan and other Asian Countries:

    Please join us at http://www.michaeljacksonfanbase.com and make us the biggest fanbase for an artist in history !!
    Honour The King of Pop, our legend, Michael Jackson.
    Thank you so much !

  47. Kashmala says:
    October 24th, 2010 8:44 am

    Michael is a legend. and i always think about his life that he suffered a lot , his father used to whipped him. and whenever i think about these words i used to cry and wish for Michael that may he had a peaceful life but now he’s dead and i still wish that he should have peace in heaven. Michael discovered that his brother Jermain is converting into Islam, Michael became interested in joining him on this spiritual quest. He also did a lot of soul searching and research on changing religions. And most exciting news is that i’m also a Muslim.

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