Pakistan: Music has died in the Swat valley



Music has died in the Swat valley

Musical expressions are completely banned and ruthlessly discouraged in the newly founded Taliban state of Swat in the north-western part of Pakistan. Hundreds of singers, musicians and women dancers have fled for other provinces.

By Khushal Yousafzai, Freemuse’s correspondent in Mingora

The few singers and musicians who remain in the area have shunned their music business and publically announced that from now onwards they will never indulge in the “un-Islamic” practice of singing. Taliban threats have forced popular singers such as Nazia Iqbal, Gulrez Tabbasum, Gulzar Alam and Shehensha Bacha to publically denounce music and join “Tablighi Jumat”, an Islamic movement that spreads Islamic teachings in different parts of Pakistan and internationally.

Samin Khan, a young singer from Kabal area of Swat district, told Freemuse that the district administration supports Taliban in their campaign against music: “The DCO (District Coordination Officer) clearly stated that music is prohibited in Islam and he would never tolerate obscenity and vulgarity on the pretext of singing and dancing”, Samin Khan said.After one and half year fighting between militants affiliated with Maulana Fazlullah and Pakistan security forces, the social and cultural identity of the Swat valley has completely disfigured.

500 music shops closed
The estimated 500 music shops that earlier sold music CDs of all types have been either bombed or looted, and the owners were threatened of dire consequences if they violated Taliban code of morality.

At the same time, CDs and DVDs showing Taliban style ‘justice’ are available in every nook and corner of the district. “People who earlier dealt in music CDs and videos are now selling Jihadi CDs”, says Sher Ali Shah, an NGO worker in Mingora.

These Jihadi CDs are produced in the Al-Fatih production house of Taliban with latest audio-video equipment and then distributed in the whole region.

Brutal murder
On 2 January 2009, a group of Taliban militants brutally killed a female dancer and singer Shabana in Mingora town and threw her dead body in the Green Square of the city for others to learn a lesson. Later on Taliban claimed responsibility for her murder. Her death was a clear message for other musicians and singers that now there is no space for music and dancing in the valley famous for its idyllic beauty, serene environment and centuries old musical heritage.

Campaign against music
On 16 April 2009. Pakistan promulgated Nizam-e-Adal Regulation; a controversial Shariah law was promulgated in Swat including six other districts of Malakand division in return for peace. However, the Taliban still continued their violent activities and occupied towns and a shrine of an eminent saint in neighboring Buner district.

On 19 April, while addressing a large gathering, Maulana Sufi Muhammad, chief of the banned Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (Movement for the enforcement of Muhammadan Law) said that after 20 years of struggle his movement had succeeded to implement pure Islamic law in Malakand.

“Now we will focus on other areas and will bring every sphere of life under the injunctions of Islam,” he maintained.In Maulana Sufi Muhammad‘s interpretation of Islam, music is strictly prohibited and source of all sins, and it is expected that the Taliban will now further intensify their campaign against music and singers.

Transforming cultural values
“They want to transform local cultural values. The future is bleak for singers and music lovers,” said Zafar Yousafzai, a political analyst based in Islamabad, adding that music has now died in the Swat valley which was once a valley of music, melodies and dances and a great seat of learning in liberal arts.

Nazia Iqbal, a popular Pashto singer who has now joined Tablighi Jumat.

Photo by Majeed Babar

Swat valley


Read more on the internet

Google News – continously updated:

Search: ‘Taliban’ + ‘music’ + ‘Swat’

The Atheist News – 8 March 2009:

‘Taliban eradicates music from Swat valley’

IBN Live – 6 March 2009:

‘Taliban in, music and revelry out of picturesque Swat’

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