Pakistan: Music business faces serious threats in North West Pakistan

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Pakistan:
Terror against music business in North West Frontier Province escalates

1,200 owners of music centres have been warned by Islamic hardliners of “serious consequences” if they fail to close down their “immoral business”. On 21 April 2007, three more owners of video and music shops experienced the seriousness of these threats when their shops in Swabi were blown up by a homemade bomb

By Marvaiz Khan, Freemuse’s correspondent reporting from Peshawar

Gulzada Market in Swabi, about 100 kilometres north-east of Peshawar, has approximately 80 shops of CDs, DVDs, tape recorders, and also houses groups of bands which are hired to perform in wedding ceremonies. Islamic hardliners in the area are said to call the shopping complex the “Hell Market” because they consider music ‘un-islamic’.



On 21 April 2007 a bomb destroyed one shop and partially damaged two others. Local police chief Fazal Elahi Badshah said to the news agency AFP that there were no casualties because the market was closed at the time when the bombs exploded, late at night.

The music business as a whole faces serious threats in North West Pakistan. Recently, members of a religious seminary, Jamia Hafsa, have issues fresh warning letters and made phone calls to owners of music centres in Nishtarabad area of Peshawar to close down their ‘immoral’ business without any further delay.

Earlier on, the fundamentalists issued anonymous letters to owners of music centres but now they openly visit different areas of the culturally rich city of Peshawar and discourage people to purchase or sell music cassettes or CDs.

After the new warnings many music centres are seen closed in the area, and the owners are restricted to stay in their homes due to fear of a backlash from the religious hardliners.



Closed shop in Nishtarabad market. Photo by the author    

Waves of shock

“They say these are immoral and dangerous for the youth”, Farhad Ali, owner of Shadman Music Centre told Freemuse.

Sher Dil Khan, president of Nishtarabad Trade Union said that the students also offered money in return to hand over all music CDs and DVDs to them. As it was done in Islamabad a week ago, they wanted to burn all the music CDs in public so that to teach a lesson to the people related to music business.

Sher Dil Khan said that the recent warnings had sent waves of shock and uncertainty among all the people affiliated with the business.

“About 1,200 people are doing music business in Nishtarabad. They have invested millions of rupees in it. We have no other source of income nor we can do any other business. I don’t know what future keeps for us in the store”, the trade union president elaborated.

He further said that members of trade union also called upon the city’s police chief and requested for their security.

Complacency

It may be recalled here that three months back, owners of music centres in different areas of the province received threats in the shape of pamphlets and handwritten letters but law enforcement authorities did not take the matter seriously. High officials in the police department were of the opinion that incidents of bomb blasts were restricted to the tribal area only where the local Taliban controls virtually all the administration.

Talking to journalists, chief capital city police officer Abdul Majid Marwat said: “I don’t foresee it happening in the future. We are investigating into the matter of pamphlets sent to the video shop owners and would trace out the network soon.” He admitted that Police so far has failed to track down the network behind the hurling of threats and blowing up CD shops in different parts of the province.

But this complacency on the part of law enforcement authorities did not remain for long, and a series of bomb blasts in the settled districts of Peshawar and Mardan rocked four music shops and killed three innocent people.

Comments

Ghafar Ali Khan, a Peshawar-based senior journalist said that the new wave of religious extremism and resentment against music is now out of the control of the government:

“The US-led war against Al-Qaeda and the air attack on a religious seminary in Bajaur Agency have provided a reason to the religious groups to victimize people who don’t subscribe to their fundamentalist views and religious thoughts”, he observed.

Reporter Maulana Gul Nasib, provincial president of Muathida Majlas-e-Amal, a six parties religious alliance that also governs the North West Frontier Province, said that such actions by the administrator and students of Jamia Hafsa will badly damage the image of religious seminaries and will bring no good to the cause of Islam.

Maligning the ruling alliance

Peshawar is seen as the “cultural capital” of North West Frontier Province of Pakistan. Through centuries it has provided entertainment facilities to millions of people both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is a centre for music performance, and the city has played a major role in the development of Pashto music. This is a town of history and rich cultural heritage.

But when the Mutahida Majlas-e-Amal alliance (MMA) came into power in the last general elections it imposed ban on music, destroyed signboards and billboards with images of women, and closed Nishtar Hall, the sole recreation centre of the provincial metropolis.

Commenting on the recent threats and bombings of music shops, provincial minister for information Asif Iqbal Daudzai said that the situation in North West Frontier Province has been peaceful throughout the MMA rule, but as the elections are coming closer, suddenly we see these bombings and kidnappings. “It is our belief that the Federal Government is behind all this to malign the MMA,” he said.

Islamad’s music business also threatened

On 14 April in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad a group of students claiming to be Taliban entered Al-Awan video shop and threw and burnt CDs and video cassettes. They were from the religious seminary Jamia Farida madrassa. Also, burqa-clad girls students of Jamia Hafsa madrassa have issued a month’s deadline for the music shop owners in the capital to close down.

Arrested students claimed in their statements to the police that they had convinced the owners of the music shop to change his business and burnt the CDs and video cassettes in agreement with the shop owner.



North West Frontier Province

Cleaning up after a bomb blast in a music centre in Peshawar in March 2007. Photo by Sajjad

Related articles in the media

AFP / Khaleej Times Online – 22 April 2007:

‘Pakistan music shops blown up’

The Hindu – 15 April 2007:

‘Extremism’s new face’

The Pioneer – 18 March 2007:

‘Talibanisation of Islamabad’

Google News – continuously updated:

Search ‘Taliban’ + ‘music’

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