Pakistan: ‘Musicians are in panic’, says popular singer

23 June 2009
“Colleagues, including musicians, singers, and other art performers, are in panic. We are all at risk,” ‘Zeek’ Afridi, an up-and-coming singer from Pakistan’s embattled city of Peshawar, told correspondents of Radio Liberty.

Zeek often receives threats via SMS from the Taliban, reported Kristin Deasy and Sharifa Esmatullah in a feature article for Radio Liberty:

“Zeek has found himself face-to-face with the Taliban threat. A beep from his mobile used to be a friendly sound. Now, it’s terrifying. The Taliban has been sending Zeek threatening SMSs.

As the Taliban’s influence began to rise in Peshawar, Zeek became concerned for his life and left the country. But after a friend told him some weeks ago that the Taliban were listening to his albums and may target his family, he took the first flight back to Pakistan.

‘It’s impossible,’ the 29-year-old says about the oppression artists face in Peshawar, long a home to Pakistan’s artists and intellectuals. Now, many like Zeek, as he is known, find themselves face-to-face with the Taliban threat. ”

‘Potent release’
Zeek has had a massive hit with the song ‘Khyber Zalmi’, (‘The Youth of Khyber Pass’), which features 70-year-old lyrics that invoke ‘brave youth’ who love their country despite those with ‘bad intentions’.

The article on Radio Liberty continues:

“By grafting edgier rock melodies onto older, traditional lyrics, Zeek has plugged into a style of music increasingly popular among a booming new generation of twenty- to thirty-somethings.

This is a problem for the Taliban. Nationalism-infused rock music like Zeek’s is a potent release for the anger, poverty, and desperation the militia group uses to push young people toward extremism. It has banned musical instruments and public performance.

Given the Taliban’s disapproval of musical instruments and public performance, Peshawar musicians were not allowed to perform at their own awards ceremony recently because organizers feared the event would be bombed.”

‘A lethal force’
Radio Liberty also interviewed the Pakistani rock star Salman Ahmad who was in Peshawar for a couple of months, and who at the time of the interview had returned to his exile in USA just 10 days earlier:

“Nowadays, musicians are going through hardships. I could not see that people are really terrified, but I think that majority in Afghanistan and Pakistan are against the Taliban and they want they Taliban to be defeated.Guitars and amps can drown out the bullets. Arts and culture are a far more lethal force against extremism,” Salman Ahmad told the liberty reporters.

Radio Liberty’s correspondents Murad Rezwan and Abubakar Siddique contributed to the report.




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Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty – 22 June 2009:

‘Peshawar, End Destination For Displaced, Has Rocky Cultural History’

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