Pakistan: Harmonium player Anwar Gul murdered by militants



Harmonium player murdered by Taliban militants

On 15 December 2008, a group of musicians were attacked by armed men. Two days later at a hospital in Peshawar, the harmonium player Anwar Gul died from his wounds.

By Shaheen Buneri
– Freemuse’s correspondent in Pakistan

                     Anwar Gul
    Photo by Asad Danish

It was a chilling cold night of in December when a group of armed men attacked two vehicles transporting the popular Pashto singer Sardar Yousafzai and 11 members of his orchestra home from a wedding performance. Five musicians were seriously injured, and the harmonium player Anwar Gul died two days later at a hospital in Peshawar. Anwar Gul is another victim of Taliban’s campaign against musical expressions in North Western Pakistan. Time has gone when musical gatherings and concerts would be a hallmark of Peshawar city, the capital of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and main hub of social and cultural activities for millions of Pashtuns on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border.

Starting with attacks on music shops in different parts of North Western Pakistan, Taliban militants are now directly targeting singers and people affiliated with the entertaintment industry.

Anwar Gul was a famous harmonium player and music composer who earned name and fame for his mastery of the Pashtuns’ music. Being a skilled musician he performed with eminent Pashto singers like Khyal Muhammad, Nazia Iqbal, Anwar Khyal and Mahjabeen Qazalbash.

He had more innovative plans for the future of Pashto music but his untimely death at the hands of Taliban militants left his dreams unfulfilled. Anwar Gul left one widow, five sons and one daughter to mourn his death.

Opened fire
In an interview with singer Sardar Yousafzai, he told Freemuse that they had been performing at a marriage ceremony at Shawa village of Malakand Agency – a mountanious district in North West Frontier Province. As they were returning to Peshawar, a few kilometres outside of Alladhand Dheri, in a village in Malakand, an armed group with covered faces intercepted their vehicles on the main Mingora-Peshawar highway and opened fire on them.

“They did not ask for anything. They just started firing. Five musicians including Anwar Gul seriously injured in the incident. We took him to a hospital in Peshawar but he could not succumb to the injuries and died two days later”, Sardar Yousafzai said.

A sense of helplessness
A report was registered with a local police station in Batkhela, the main town of Malakand Agency, against the unknown militants. Anwar Gul friends and family told Freemuse that so far no one has been arrested for his murder. Despite the high claims of the local government for promoting arts and culture, the authorities has not shown any care for Anwar Gul’s treatment, and when he died, no support has been provided to his family.Naveed, the elder son of Anwar Gul, confirmed to Freemuse that the authorities have completely failed to bring the killers of his father to the book:

“My father comitted nothing wrong against any one. His murder signifies that the militants are adament to close the doors of musical expressions on our people”, he stated.

Naveed Gul fears that after the death of his father no one will think of adopting music as a career in his family, adding that he himself is a Rabab Player but the recent attacks on singers and musicians has left him with no choice but to switch over to another profession.

“My family is facing hard times these days. I don’t know how to survive in this suffocating environment. We are helpless”, said Naveed Gul.

Promotion of fear
In previous incidents, Taliban militants attacked Sardar Yousafzai and Gulzar Alam, two popular Pashto singers, and they abducted Alamzeb Mujahid, a famous tv actor in Peshawar.

A regional expert says that there is no space for art in Taliban state:
“They want to discourage artistic expressions of human emotions so that to creat fear and uncertainty in the society. When there is more fear, it is more useful for the promotion of their fundamentalist agenda,” observed Dr.Shah Jehan, a Peshawar based social scientist and cultural expert.


Click to hear audio interview
Sardar Yousafzai

Click to hear audio interview

Click to hear audio interview
Gulzar Alam

Click to hear audio interview


Pakistan permits sharia law in Swat

Pakistan’s government has agreed to restore sharia, or Islamic law, in the Swat Valley and neighbouring areas of the country’s northwest, reported several news medias on 16 February 2008.

The agreement was reached after talks in Peshawar between members of Tahrik-e-Nafiz Shariat Muhammadi and officials of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government.

“This is not the first time Sharia law has been imposed in this area,” Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder said, reporting from Pakistan. “In the mid 1990s it was imposed following violent protests by the movement for the implementation of sharia law there.

Unlike regions under tribal rule in the northwest, where al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters have found safe havens to launch attacks both in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Pakistani government has typically controlled the Swat Valley. Conservative groups aiming to introduce sharia have been fighting government troops in the region since 2007. The groups took control there after a 2008 peace deal collapsed within months of being signed.

Much of the violence, which has left hundreds of thousands of people homeless, has been blamed on the Taliban in Swat, headed by Mullah Fazlullah, the son-in-law of Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the leader of Tahrik-e-Nafiz Shariat Muhammadi, reported Al-Jazeera

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