Music Freedom Day in Pakistan: Call for cultural policy

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Participants gathered with great enthusiasm across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata to celebrate the annual Music Freedom Day, calling on their leaders to formulate a comprehensive cultural policy, reported Sher Alam Shinwari from the city of Peshawar on 3 March 2016.

By Sher Alam Shinwari

Senior artists, singers and writers at a function demanded of the KP government to come up with a comprehensive cultural policy and set up a residential colony for the local artists’ community. The demand was made at a Music Freedom Day event at a local hotel in Peshawar on Thursday 3 March 2016, organised by the Culture Journalists Forum (CJF), Takhleeq Development Foundation (TDF) in collaboration with the Directorate of Culture in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Participants also appealed to Chief Minister Pervez Khattak for free medical treatment of noted tv artist Naushaba’s ailing son on priority basis.

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Music Freedom Day was celebrated across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata, with local artists and singers enthralling audiences with their beautiful velvety voices, vowing that they would defeat militants through their soul-searching art.

“We shall continue expressing our hearts and minds through music’s unique way of expression,” one of the performing singers stated.

Both new and senior singers performed on the occasion but lamented that successive provincial governments had ignored their contribution and genuine demands. However, they appreciated the incumbent KP government for taking concrete steps for the promotion and safeguarding artists’ community. A large of number of local performers and music lovers attended the event.

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Government’s olive branch
Director of Culture Abdul Basit, while addressing as chief guest at the function, said the issues of left out deserving artists would be addressed soon.

“Those artists and singers who were left out in the recent KP government monthly stipend scheme from Swat, Mardan, Peshawar, Lahore, Fata and elsewhere would be duly compensated in the due course of time. It was not a government fault,” he clarified.

Yet another promise
The director culture said that KP government was working on drafting comprehensive cultural policy for the province while a summary of Rs 500 million endowment fund for the welfare of artists and singers. He said it had been sent to the Chief Minister for approval, and that a monthly stipend programme would be extended to next fiscal year.

“The KP government is focusing on reviving indigenous art and culture under the RICH project. Promoting literary and cultural activities is an effective weapon to counter terrorism and militancy. A Censorship Board Act is in the pipeline while bylaws are being devised to utilise the proposed endowment fund for the welfare of the local artists, singers and writers,” Additional Secretary Muhammad Tariq added.

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Speaking for singers
Ihtisham Toru chief of CJF told participants that the basic objective of celebrating the international Music Freedom Day was to encourage local artists and singers to continue contributing to art and culture. He recommended the culture department for launching artist-friendly projects and for extending financial support to them.

“The artists’ community needs promotion, protection and projection. They have suffered a lot at the hands of militancy. We appreciate the KP government’s initiatives but we also demand a comprehensive cultural policy to give more security to the artists’ community,” he said.

He also requested that a fee for Nishtar Hall Show should be waived to Rs 10,000 for local artists and singers, and that Arts Councils at all districts of KP should be materialised to promote local art and culture.

Artists’ voice
Senior tv actor Tariq Jamal in his remarks said that the artists’ community fully supported the KP government in launching projects which could help boost artists’ morale to work for promotion and a better image of the militancy-plagued province.

“We support every step of the government that could not only benefit artists and singers but also help bring permanent peace and stability in the country at large,” he assured.

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Singers’ woes
Senior Pashto folk singer Gulzar Alam regretted that the artists’ community was still in destitute and many of them lurking in fear and penury. He complained artists sacrifices were not being recognised duly at social and government level.

“The services of artists and singers should be at least recognised as they are the cultural ambassadors. They need social and financial security,” Mr Alam requested.

Artists’ perspective
Noted tv actor and chief of TDF, Arshad Hussain, said artists and singers were totally neglected in the past, some were threatened to quit their profession while many were forced to leave the country. He ran a documentary film on how noted male and female singers and artists were subjected to aggression and physical violence.

“Music can’t be silenced, nor can it be suppressed. Music is a unique way of expression. We want our singers Haroon Bacha, Sardar Ali Takkar and artist Alamzeb Mujahid to come back. We also miss the slain singing birds – Ghazala Javed, Eman Uddas and Gulnaz. Sardar Yousafzai has applied for asylum while Masood Akhtar and a few other singers quit singing because of religious inclination,” Mr Husain added.

Through world’s lens
Rokhan Yousafzai, general secretary of CJF, pointed out that Music Freedom Day had been celebrated in around 50 countries where music was being suppressed and condition of our artists and performers no better at all.

“We also began to celebrate Music Freedom Day in Peshawar a few years back to provide a platform to senior and upcoming singers and performers,” he explained.

When the speakers had left the stage, musicians were given the last word: Gulzar Alam, Hashmat Sahar, Khalid Malik, Shah Sawar, Zeek Afridi, Sitara Younas, Laila Khan, Farah Khan, Rashid Wafa Khan, Gulab Khel Afridi and Aine Khan performed and received round of applause from the participants.


 
Sher Alam Shinwari is a journalist and activist working for voicing issues singers and artists in North of Pakistan are confronted with.

Photos by the author.

 

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