Pakistan: Music shops disappeared as result of war on music

25 February 2015


Around 95 per cent of all music shops disappeared as result of war on music in Swat Valley.

There was a time when Swat Valley in Northern Pakistan was described as the ‘Switzerland’ of the British Empire. Today the beautiful valley is under threat of the Taliban. The valley became globally known for the murderous attack on a young girl, Malala – the Nobel laureate for 2014 who hails from the valley.

Music had a strong position in Swat Valley until the ultra conservative General Zia Ul Haq in 1979 took power in Pakistan and initiated a hostile culture policy.

The real disaster to cultural life set in during 2002-2007 when an alliance of six religious powers came into power and banned music and cultural expressions in the North Western Province of Pakistan. And as if this wasn’t enough, music came to a complete standstill when Taliban forces occupied the Swat Valley in 2007 and silenced all music.

Study launched
A new comprehensive study on ‘effects of war and repression of musicians, performers and the public of Swat’ will be presented in Peshawar on Music Freedom Day. Carried out by PCF, Peshawar, in collaboration with Freemuse, the study was conducted during 2014-2015.

As an example of the effects of the conflict, the study reveals that the market for music CDs has been reduced by 95 per cent since the Taliban invasion.

Before the crisis, the CD business was flourishing in the valley. There were 200 shops in Mingawara (also called Mingora) – the largest city of Swat. Although the Taliban no longer control the city, only a few shops remain as owners of the shopping complexes do not rent shops for CD business due to the fear that the Taliban has created.

Caring little of potential repercussions, the study has included several face-to-face interviews with artists, organisers, elders and shop keepers. The final study will be published internationally during the first months of 2015.

In the video interview below, CD retailer Usman Khiali talks about the disastrous effects of the war and repression. Additional interviews will be released in the coming months.

Posted on on 17 February 2015.

» Read more about the music crisis in Pakistan

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