Haris Ali, a 20-year-old who lives in the Pakistani city Sahiwal, has grown up listening to the melodic voice of an ice cream seller in his neighbourhood.
But it was not until a few years ago that he realised how closely the ice cream seller, known as their kulfiwala, resembled the former U.S. president.
“Since Trump’s 2017 visit, we have been calling our kulfiwala, Saleem, Donald Trump,” Ali told VICE World News.
Now, a video of Saleem, also known as the Pakistani Donald Trump, singing a hypnotic song in Punjabi about his kulfi or traditional ice cream is going viral. And everyone is noticing the uncanny resemblance.
While Trump’s anti-Muslim views have made him a controversial figure in Pakistan, Ali said that Saleem, whom he has known since his childhood, is happy to be called Trump. “We find him [Trump] funny, so even Saleem enjoys being called Trump,” Ali said.
But while Saleem’s resemblance to Trump has brought him business, it was partly the result of a genetic condition that affects about one in 20,000 people worldwide.
In an interview with Pakistani news channel Samaa TV this month, Saleem said he is in his mid-40s and has albinism, a rare genetic condition where the body produces little to no melanin, making skin pale and extremely sensitive to sunlight.
Superstitions in South Asia falsely hold that albinos develop the genetic condition by eating fish after drinking milk. News reports in Pakistan introduced him as Saleem “Bagga,” which some consider a derogatory term in Punjabi for people with albinism. VICE World News was unable to reach Saleem for comment.
Saleem told Samaa TV that he’s been singing and selling ice cream since his father asked him to raise his voice while pushing his cart through neighbourhoods.
A 2009 study of the Bhatti tribe, which has a large Albino community in Pakistan’s Sindh province, suggested that they were regularly denied jobs and social mobility due to their condition, while also having to deal with medical complications and poverty.
"When we go out some people give us a hard time, by saying this guy is a foreigner, he’s not from here,” Zahid Hussain, 29, an albino in the city of Hyderabad in Sindh, told VICE World News.
In 2015, Hussain founded a Facebook community called Pakistan Albinism Society to raise awareness on the condition and create solidarity within the community. “Saleem going viral does help our cause,” he said.
According to Ali, Saleem also faces many difficulties as an albino, especially since his profession requires him to work in the sun.
“But his beautiful voice and resemblance to Trump have made him a local attraction,” he said.