Nishtar Hall to host musical concert today after five years
* Religious parties banned public music galas at Nishtar Hall after gaining power in 2002
By Akhtar Amin
PESHAWAR: The first musical show in the sole cultural and entrainment centre of NWFP ‘Nishtar Hall’ will be held today (Tuesday) after five years as the government of religious parties had banned music in public in the Nishtar Hall after gaining power in 2002.
A non-governmental organisation (NGO) has arranged the first musical show just after the new coalition government of secular parties- the Awami National Party and Pakistan People’s Party - lifted ban on musical shows and cultural activities at the Nishtar Hall. The event is being organised as a charity show for orphan students in which renowned local singers including Gulzar Alam, Anwar Khial, Wisal Khial, Gulraiz Tabassum, Haseena Naz, Shakila and Ghazala and local comedians Said Rehman Sheeno, Gul Bali and Islam Gul will perform.
Established in 1985, the sprawling building of Nishtar Hall, named after noted Pashtun freedom fighter Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar, was the hub of art and socio-cultural activities in the province.
The first step the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) government took after gaining power in 2002 was to impose a ban on cultural activities, including musical concerts and theatre. They immediately closed the doors of Nishtar Hall for all artists and entertainers, terming it a campaign against vulgarity and obscenity.
The Abaseen Arts Council earlier ran the affairs of Nishtar Hall, situated close to the Peshawar High Court (PHC) building. Later, the building was handed over to the NWFP Culture Department in 1992 for the promotion of art and culture.
Nishtar Hall was not the only place that bore the brunt of the MMA government; in the five years of its rule, MMA leaders had strictly banned music programmes and cultural shows in the rest of the province as well. The Nishtar Hall was mostly rented out for government-sponsored Islamic lectures and political gatherings during the MMA government.
With all doors closed on them, some entertainers either left the province or switched over to other businesses while others stood by their profession and converted their work (dramas and dances) on Compact Disks (CDs) for earning a livelihood. The main victims were eunuchs or cross-dressers, performing for decades in Peshawar’s famous musicians market – the Dabgari Gardens.
Like others, the eunuchs were unceremoniously evicted from their bala khanas in Dabgari Gardens, where they had been entertaining music lovers for the past several years. They dispersed and settled in different residential areas of the city. Some of them went underground while others secretly continued their business.