Pakistan: Music once again in the crosshairs

14 July 2017
Pakistan's relationship with music remains tenuous with religious leaders and police threatening and raiding music events or banning music outright.
Photo: Pakistan Monument, Islamabad/Wikicommons


On 2 July 2017, Islamabad police raided a late-night dance party at the Grand Ambassador Hotel and arrested over 50 people, mostly male, including the hotel owner and manager, on charges of “obscene acts and songs”, reported The Express Tribune on 3 July 2017.

Police officers stated that the male and female participants were dancing together, playing music and smoking. According to Pakistan Today, police reported the seizure of alcohol and drugs at the party and detained the participants under the Drugs and Amplifier Act. A few hours later all those detained were released on bail.

Dance party shut down after religious threats
Earlier in May 2017, police shut down a dance party at Sozo Water Park in Lahore, Pakistan’s second most populous city, after religious cleric Sunni Tehrik Lahore President Maulana Mujahid Abdul Rasool threatened police to either stop the party immediately or “face the music”, reported The Express Tribune on 11 May 2017.

One of the organisers explained to The Nation at the time that police asked them to shut down the party at midnight because religious activists “were ready to attack the event”. They announced the news immediately over loudspeakers to the over 2,500 people in attendance, which included celebrities and socialites.

The organisers, who threw the same party last year, had approval from the city’s district coordination officer for the event.

DJs banned in Peshawar
Also in May 2017, the political administration of the Frontier Region Peshawar issued an order banning DJs, as well as the purchase, sale and use of drugs and alcohol. The new order comes with a stiff penalty of 1 million Rupees (approx. USD $9,500), reported The Express Tribune on 15 May 2017.

The newspaper reported that the measure has angered locals, including one resident who said: “Just like the Taliban, the political administration has also banned music”.

Earlier, in March 2017, police in Mattani, a Peshawar suburb, banned music altogether, including music at weddings. A local villager at the time told The Express Tribune that police were not just stopping events, but raiding people’s homes and detaining participants.

Similar ban in Punjab
In May 2016, local government officials in the village of Sheikhan, in the eastern province of Punjab, also banned music and dancing at weddings. A district government official deemed the celebrations and musical evenings for wedding to be “not healthy” social activities.

The official also said the ban was to “prevent any attack” from militants as the village neighbours an area known to harbour them.

In 2015, the Punjab Government enforced the Punjab Sound System Regulation Ordinance, an act that was originally intended to stop hate speech and terrorist acts, but caught DJs in its wake.

Punjab Sound (DJ) Association President Shafiq Butt said at the time that Police had registered around 5,000 cases against owners of sound systems, PA systems and loudspeakers throughout the province.

A joint June 2016 report by Freemuse and Peshawar-based Pakhtunkhwa Cultural Foundation explores the shaky ground that artistic and cultural life still stand on in the Swat Valley in KPK, even after the Taliban’s removal from the area several years ago.

» Read the full Freemuse and Pakhtunkhwa Cultural Foundation joint report here: ‘Study on effects of war and repression of musicians, performers and the public of Swat, Pakistan’



» The Indian Express – 3 July 2017
Pakistan: 50 arrested for attending dance party in Islamabad

» The Express Tribune – 3 July 2017
Islamabad police held dozens in raid on dance party

» The Express Tribune – 2 July 2017
Police raid dance party at Islamabad hotel, arrest 50

» Pakistan Today – 2 July 2017
Islamabad police crash dance party, arrest 52

» The Express Tribune – 17 May 2017
Party’s over: FR Peshawar administration bans DJs, drugs and alcohol

» The Express Tribune – 11 May 2017
Cops shut down dance party in Lahore after cleric’s threat

» The Nation – 10 May 2017
Police stop party on cleric’s call

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