Pakistan: Manifestations of tolerance and acceptance of music, art and culture


04 March 2013

Manifestation of tolerance and acceptance of
music, art and culture

On Music Freedom Day 2013 at a local hotel in Peshawar, music lovers put their voices together to ensure the freedom of artistic and musical expressions. The participants boldly condemned militancy and extremism in all its forms.

Also, at the Peshawar Press Club, a seminar and a protest walk was organised to inform about the importance of music and free expression.

Ahmad Gul performing at Music Freedom Day event in Peshawar

By Sher Alam Shinwari

Participants at a gathering regarding the annual Music Freedom Day at a local hotel in Peshawar on Sunday 3 March 2013 put their voices together for providing social and financial security to the artists and singers for promoting tolerance, peace and acceptance of art and culture through musical and artistic expressions, adding that militancy and extremism should be condemned in its all forms and designs.

The Culture Journalists Forum (CJF) and Takhleeq Development Foundation (TDF) arranged a well-organised event where more than 100 senior and young artists, singers and music fans from Chitral, Hazara, Charsadda, Nowshera, Mardan, Dir, Bannu, Kohat, Peshawar and Fata attended the function and shared their views on the overall situation of art and culture in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the restive tribal areas.

Security to the artists’ community
Ihtisham Toru President Culture Journalists Forum pledged that the culture reporters would continue to raise voice of the artists and singers and giving vent to their genuine issues and problems: “We strongly demand an art academy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, provision of foolproof security to the artists’ community and establishment of an endowment fund for the welfare of the artists and singers,” Toru stressed.

Speaking on the occasion, Arshad Hussain, a noted tv artist and president of Takhleeq Development Foundation in Peshawar, said that due to the ongoing militancy, artistic and cultural activities suffered badly while artists and singers faced attempts of murder, kidnapping, persecution, harassment and threats to either quit their profession or face the dire consequences from militants.

Khan Teshil
Folk singer Khan Teshil

“During the last decade two historic music streets, one each in Swat–Banr and Dabgari bazaar in Peshawar where there used to be informal sessions of indigenous music training, have been hit. According to a recent survey conducted by our team, the population of Dabgari bazaar has been reduced from 8,000 to 3,500 men and women. Where they have gone? They must be around, but most of them are not related to art and music any longer because of the threats,” Arshad maintained.

He regretted that the outgoing Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government could not give a practical shape to a well-researched cultural policy draft which a panel of artists, musicians, intellectuals and art critics had prepared and which has been pending in the culture department for the last six months.

Alamzeb Mujahid, a popular tv artist who took refuge in Malaysia following his kidnapping by militants three years ago, and the mother of Ghazala Javed from Swat, who was killed in 2012, shared their feelings with the participants on live telephone calls.

“My younger daughter Farhat Javed will not sing because I have already lost my elder daughter to this art. If there is no security who will join and even think of adopting this career which has become such a risky job,” the mother of the slain singer argued.

Rising Pashto music stars
Rising Pashto music stars

Alamzeb Mujahid said that he had been put in a refugee’s camp where he was not allowed to do any work, his children and wife are literally starving.

Artists must raise their voice
Sardar Yousafzai while narrating his woeful tale said, “How can I bring alive that fateful day when militants opened fire on my car carrying my six of friends, one of them, Anwar Gul, later succumbed to injuries. When a singer or an artist is driven by fear of being fired or killed, how can he or she then entertain other people? We have to fight this menace with the force of one voice and no other person but the artists’ community themselves have to raise their voice for their due rights. I will not make any demand from the authorities either because they cannot or will not do it as my country is in deep crisis,” Yousafzai added with a choked voice as tears rolled down his cheeks.

Earlier, some video clips of those artists and singers who had fallen victims to militant’s attacks were shown to the participants.

Speakers and singers
Senior music maestro Ustad Shah Wali, young singers Humayoun Khan and Shahsawar Khan, and Laiqzada Laiq, a writer and Station Director of Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) in Peshawar, also spoke on the occasion.

Later senior folk singers Ahmed Gul, Khan Tehsil, Akbar Hussain and rising stars Sitara Younas, Amjad Shahzad, Shahsawar, Karan Khan and Humayoun Khan performed live.

Sher Alam Shinwari posted this report from the event on

3 March 2013:
Pakistan: Music Freedom Day exhibition, seminar and concert in Peshawar

Ahmad Gul performing at Music Freedom Day event in Peshawar

Click to read more about music in Pakistan

Click to go to

Event for the the importance of music and free expression

The event that was held on Music Freedom Day in Peshawar Press club was the first step in the direction of providing coordination, knowledge and awareness to all stakeholders about music censorship and artistic freedom of expression.

A protest walk was organised by Pakhtunkhwa Cultural Foundation in front of Press Club in Peshawar to record the importance of music and free expression.

Speaking on the occasion, Muhammad Rome, the Executive Director of Pakhtunkhwa Cultural Foundation, said that “the famous singer Shabana was brutally killed in Swat by the extremists, and therefore we demand that a Shabana Memorial Cultural Centre should be established in Swat in her memory.”

Amjad Shahzad, the Art Director of Pakhtunkhwa Cultural Foundation elaborated the threats faced by the singers, musicians and artists of the region. He further said that music is innocent in nature. It spreads love and peace.

People from all walks of the society participated with great enthusiasm. After a walk the participants gathered in front of Peshawar Press Club. The forum demanded:

• The protection of singers, musicians and artists must be ensured
• Music should become the part of education syllabus
• Music as a subject must be introduced in Fine Arts departments of all the universities

There is no doubt that music plays a vital role in the evolution of a society. Pashto music in particular is rich in all its forms and varieties. The current crisis has badly affected this industry. Singers, musicians and artists have been targeted and killed. CDs shops were blown up. Professionals were forced to quit their profession. In these circumstances many singers, musicians and artists are finding ways to get refuge in other countries.

The Music Freedom Day provides a sole opportunity to demand the freedom of expression. Pakhtunkhwa Cultural Foundation believes in the importance of music and free expression. Pakhtunkhwa Cultural Foundation takes every possible step to promote culture of the region and all its positive manifestations.

Go to top
Related reading on

Pakistan: Manifestations of tolerance and acceptance of music, art and culture
On Music Freedom Day 2013 at a local hotel in Peshawar, music lovers put their voices together to ensure the freedom of artistic and musical expressions.
04 March 2013
Pakistan: The undeclared ban on playing music lingers on
Sher Alam Shinwari set out to investigate what the situation is like in Peshawar on Music Freedom Day 2013. He found stifling sounds of Pashto music amid militancy and hostility
01 March 2013
Pakistan: Popular singer gunned down in music market
A young popular singer, Ghazala Javed, was shot dead on 18 June 2012 along with her father by two unknown armed men. The motive is still unknown.
19 June 2012
Pakistan: Death sentences for dancing at a wedding party
Pakistani media is bringing confusing reports from northern Pakistan about a tribal court which allegedly handed down death penalties for dancing at a wedding party
04 June 2012
Pakistan: Artists camp reflect on aspects of intolerance and terrorism
In Peshawar, Pakistan, on 7-27 May 2012, a two week camp for international artists aims to discuss and understand the phenomenon of terror
28 March 2012
Pakistan: We want to defeat terrorism through music, says culture minister
Interview with Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Khyber Pakthunkhwa’s culture minister, who wants to reverse the policies of the former MMA government which banned musical concerts
19 March 2012
Pakistan: Four CD shops destroyed in explosion
Four music CD shops were completely destroyed after an explosion in a market in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhuwa province
12 March 2012
Music Freedom Day 2012 marked in 22 countries world-wide
Reports and documentation of Music Freedom Day 2012 which was marked on 3 March 2012 with events, concerts and radio programmes in 22 countries around the world
06 March 2012
Pakistan: Punjab Assembly bans concerts in educational institutions
On 24 January 2012 Punjab Assembly passed a resolution that bans holding of ‘objectionable’ musical concerts in educational institutions
25 January 2012
Pakistan: Music returns to some of Pakistan’s tribal areas
In parts of Pakistan’s tribal areas, music is starting to return, reported Free Speech Radio News in a well-produced radio report on 16 January 2012.
18 January 2012
Pakistan: Taliban campaign against music still in full swing
Militants bombed or torched more than a dozen music shops in the second week of November 2011 in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province and North Waziristan
16 November 2011
Pakistan: Freemuse network will document attacks on musicians
At a two day workshop held in Islamabad 12-13 November 2011 a Pakistani network was set up in support of musicians and composers at risk
15 November 2011
Pakistan: Under the censorship radar, anti-establishment songs flourish
Using humour and satire, song writers increasingly enjoy a new sense of openness and freedom of speech in Pakistan nowadays, reported Times of India
02 November 2011
Pakistan: Bomb blast destroys music and video market in Peshawar
Six people were killed and over 37 injured in a bomb explosion on 19 September 2011 that targeted a music and video CD market in Peshawar
21 September 2011
Pakistan: Broad instability spelled an end to art in Swat Valley
World Policy Institute has published an in-depth article about the development for artists in Swat Valley since 2007, written by Shaheen Buneri
14 September 2011
Pakistan: Threats from the Taliban sends sarod player into exile
Asad Qazalbash, Pakistan’s only accomplished sarod player, has left the country due to a declaration by the Pakistani Taliban that music is un-Islamic
22 August 2011
Pakistan: The Taliban’s war on music has done lasting damage
It will take a long time for Swat’s musical culture to recover from the Taliban’s crackdown on music, reported Shaheen Buneri from Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
08 August 2011
Pakistan: Terror campaign by religious militants against Sufi worshippers
In the sixteenth attack on Sufi shrines in two years, Taliban suicide bombers killed 49 and injured 93 Sufi devotees while they were doing music and meditation
08 April 2011
Pakistan: Anti-music militancy increases in the north-western mountain region
The militants are targeting films and music and everything they see as obscene, and the situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is deteriorating
21 March 2011
Pakistan: CD markets bombed – once again
The bombings of CD markets in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in beginning of February 2011 suggests that militants are again threatening the entertainment industry
24 February 2011