|“Close within three days – or you will be blown away.” This threat by the religious extremists became a glaring reality when a music and video centre was blown away on 13 March 2007 in the Bakhshali Village of District Mardan in north-west Pakistan
By Marvaiz Khan, Freemuse’s correspondent reporting from Mardan
Locals say that it was close to midnight when the powerful bomb blast and blew away New Graphics Video Centre in the main bazaar of Bakhshali in District Mardan, approximately 50 kilometres away from the provincial capital.
District Police Officer Akhtar Hayat Gandapur termed the incident as a result of personal animosity and said that local material was used in the explosion. Local police arrested one accused. But Qazi Bashir Ahmad, administrator of Union Council Bakhshali, told reporters that the incident was completely the result of growing religious extremism in the region.
“The police have arrested an innocent person,” he added.
A few days earlier, an unidentified religious group by the name Dawat-Elal-Khair (‘Invitation to Virtue’) had sent letters to owners of music and video centres demanding them to close down their “un-Islamic businesses” or they would be blown away.
“The surge of religious extremism is on the rise in the region. They even send letters to girls’ students studying in the educational institutions of Mardan to veil from head to toe or be prepared for the consequences. They want to spread fear and uncertainty. I don’t think that they are serving Islam, which is the religion of peace, tolerance and love,” Muhammad Israr, a resident of Bakhshali village, told Freemuse.
In the nearby tribal areas, local Taliban have banned playing music in vehicles and allegedly bombed a number of audio-video centres over the past few months. In Waziristan agency they have paralysed the civil administration and they control almost all affairs of daily life there. The educated lot of the Mardan district say that extremist views are now engulfing the whole region.
“People in Mardan are modern in their outlook and this area produced many prominent singers and poets who contributed new trends in arts and literature. We also believe that our traditions and social values should be safeguarded. There should be a debate on what type of music is permitted in Islam and what is prohibited. Bombing music centres and spreading terror is no solution to the issue. This is barbaric and totally un-Islamic,”Ahmad Ali said, professor of Pashto literature in a local college.
|Related articles in the media
Asia Times – 14 March 2007:
‘Beards – and polio – in Taliban country’
By Ashfaq Yusufzai in Peshawar
International Herald Tribune – 14 March 2007:
‘Islamic militants increasingly targeting Pakistan’
Google News – continuously updated:
Search ‘Taliban’ + ‘music’