Pakistan: 800 music shops bombed over three years



800 music shops bombed over three years

“No doubt this is the most critical phase in the history of our province,” writes journalist Shaheen Buneri about the situation in north-western Pakistan where he is based. “The singers and muscians are living a hard life, and most of them are displaced from their homes. My heart pains!,” he writes in an email to Freemuse.

On 9 July 2009 The Media Line published his article ‘Snuffing Music & Dance: The Taliban’s Cultural Invasion’ where Shaheen Buneri describes the Taliban’s mission to ‘purge’ Swat valley of the evils of singing and dancing, and how different Taliban groups gradually has engulfed the whole of north-western Pakistan.

He summarizes events since changes in the area began in September 2007, when Maulana Fazlullah, a cleric turned militant commander, vehemently discouraged music, dancing and all forms of entertainment in his broadcasts on a pirate FM radio station. 

Fled Swat valley
Shaheen Buneri reports that it has been estimated that more than 800 music shops have been bombed in different parts of Northwestern Pakistan since 2006. Hundreds of singers, musicians, poets and dancers have fled Swat valley since the Taliban’s clamp-down on music in the area. They are now living in Peshawar, Lahore, and Karachi. As their livelihoods have been taken away from them, they are now confronted with serious financial crises.

Firoz Khan, a businessman managing a textile industry in Karachi, told Shaeen Buneri that the lack of opportunity for female singers and dancers to express their talents in an acceptable manner has forced some of them into prostitution.

Despite claims of impending action from the secular Pashtun Awami National Party in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), no concrete steps have been taken to protect singers and musicians from the Taliban onslaught, or to provide relief for the artists’ families.

Murdered harmonium player
On 15 December 2008, unidentified militants targeted Sardar Yousafzai, a popular Pashtun singer, while he was driving his car with members of his orchestra in Malakand Agency. The bullets missed Sardar Yousafzai, but his colleague, the harmonium player Anwar Gul, was murdered in the attack.

“They want to kill me because I am a singer and I don’t subscribe to their narrow version of Islam,” Yousafzai said. He is currently staying in Peshawar to avoid Taliban attacks and support his family back home. He is seriously concerned about the safety of his family but he can’t afford to move them to a safer place.

Replaced by Jihadi CDs
Locals believe that by targeting singers and artists, the Taliban will close the doors of artistic expression and create an environment in which their own brand of religion will prosper. The markets in Mingora, Peshawar, Charsada and Mardan were flooded with Jihadi CDs when traditional singing and dancing came to a halt.

“The people who earlier dealt in music CDs and cassettes are now selling stuff that promotes religious bigotry and obscurantism,” says Ali Akbar Khan, owner of a music market in Mingora.

Shaheen Buneri is a tv and online journalist based in North West Pakistan

Shaheen Buneri

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More reports from Pakistan

Read the article – 9 July 2009:

Snuffing Music & Dance: The Taliban’s Cultural Invasion

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