Pakistan: Lahore feels under siege



Lahore feels under siege

Pakistan’s performing artists face deadly occupational hazards. In Lahore, the city’s music festival was bombed, and cafés and theatres are bombed in co-ordinated overnight raids, BBC News’ David Loyn reported on 27 July 2009

“Pakistan feels like a country on a hinge of history. This year for the first time it has turned on the extremist version of Islam that it nurtured for so long. But the decisive battles in its war with the Taliban might not turn out to be on the North West Frontier Province, but on this cultural frontier of hearts and minds, as a nation struggles with its identity in the world,” writes BBC’s David Loyn in his report from the ‘cultural frontline’ in Pakistan, the city Lahore.

“The Taliban have staged their most spectacular attacks in Pakistan recently on five-star hotels — the Pearl Continental in Peshawar and the Marriott in Islamabad — but it is the Punjab province capital, Lahore, that has faced the most constant attention,” he writes.

Old viewpoints of Islam
The Lahore International Arts Festival was bombed in November 2008, and since then targets have included a cafe belonging to the Peerzada family who stage the festival, and theatres across the city in co-ordinated overnight raids.

Click to read more about music in Pakistan

The Peerzada family, still hoping against the odds to be able to stage their international festival again, stress that Pakistan’s Sufi Islamic traditions as a counter to the Taliban. Lahore is full of shrines remembering Sufi saints — a type of religion that the Taliban detest.

Faizan Peerzada has been on a long tour of Sufi areas, collecting stories, music and poetry. And he has promoted a Sufi singer, Sain Zahoor, now internationally famous.

Sain Zahoor sings ancient poetry that tells of past conflicts between the Sufi mainstream and mullahs who wanted a more restrictive vision of Islamic life — a reminder that the Taliban represent an old viewpoint, appearing in a modern guise.

All of these artists are striking back with the only weapons they have — drama, music and above all humour. And the public are responding. Learning about the real nature of the kind of life the fundamentalists want has brought a new unity against them.

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BBC News – 27 July 2009:

‘Pakistan arts-lovers defy Taliban stage fright’

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