Taliban cannot deter KP music lovers: singer
By Abdul Khaliq Qureshi
ABBOTTABAD: “Since last few years, I have sung more than a dozen songs against the Taliban”, award-wining singer Khyal Muhammad told Daily Times. “I got threatening messages on mobile phone. But I will continue to sing because singing gives me potency”, Khayal vowed.
Not all singers in the troubled north of Pakistan are as courageous. Mhanau, 32, a female singer, says she had received several letters from the Taliban after which she quit the profession.
“I still want to sing because it is my passion but my brothers want me to stay away from singing,” she told Daily Times.” Several actors and singers from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) had sought political asylum after they were warned by Taliban to abandon singing or face death.”
“The endless series of bomb attacks on CD and music shops has become the order of the day, but we are undeterred,” says Nauman Shergill, president of the CD and Music Shops Association in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in the North West of the region. “We will continue to produce new dramas and songs for the Pakhtuns. They were with heart touching songs and with watching films.”
Standing at the bomb blast site in the Nishtarabad CD Market, in which seven people died and 30 injured, Khan says Taliban militants want to destroy the business. The district has about 500 shops selling music and movies’ CDs.
“We have been receiving phone calls and threatening letters from the Taliban to stop selling music CDs, because they see these against Islam,” he tells Daily Times. But shops owners in the district have already repaired about 20 shops damaged in the blast.
“During their rule in Afghanistan from 1997, the Taliban had placed a complete ban on music. Transporters and hotel owners were not allowed to play music,” local singer Irfan Khan tells Daily Times. Musicians had left Afghanistan due to Taliban reprisal, he said.
Shabana, an artist who used to sing and dance, to earn her living, was shot in the head January 2008. Her body was hanged from an electricity pole in Swat.
Swat is a famous tourist resort and was home to about 500 women dancers and about 800 music shops before 2007. When the Taliban took over, all shops were removed within a year. Dancers migrated to other areas for safety or just stayed home. “The majority of showbiz people who had migrated from Swat have now returned after the successful military operation towards the beginning of 2010,” Javid Babar, on the suburb told Daily Times. “Now everything in back to normal and the activities are in full swing.”
Babar, a recipient of the Presidential Award, says the Taliban were forcing people to follow their own brand of Islam. But music and drama are an integral part of the culture of Pashto speaking people, he says.
The former local Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) government that was close to militants closed Nishtar Hall, the lone theatre in the province, soon after coming to power in 2003. The religious parties’ (MMA) government also cleared out the Dabgari Gardens market. Several musicians had their offices there who make live performances at weddings and on festive occasions. KP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told Daily Times the government has ordered a tightening of security at music markets throughout the province.
“The shopkeepers in Nishtarabad have been asked to keep vigil and inform the police in case they spot any suspected element or unclaimed bag, motor bike or some other vehicle,” Hussain said.
Omar Shah, 17, a student at the Government College, says militants had destroyed about 100 music shops in his hometown but all have been rebuilt. The Taliban cannot eliminate music by force, he said. “People are buying CDs of Indian and Pakistani movies, songs and telefilms, which are produced by local artists. We watch the stuff with enthusiasm because they depict our original culture and there is no element of obscenity or rudeness”, Omar maintained.