Report: Religious extremism disastrous to music in Pakistan

Since 2001, 12 women have been reportedly killed because of their direct involvement in music in North Western Pakistan. Approximately 600 musicians suffered due to the closure of Dabgari Bazar during the MMA government. Around 50 Sufi shrines have been reportedly attacked and an estimated 150 attacks on CD shops and music centres have left an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 shops and centres destroyed.


These are the tragic facts published on 17 March 2014 in ‘Music and Militancy in North Western Pakistan (2001-2014)’ by Center for Peace and Cultural Studies (CPCS), Peshawar, in collaboration with Freemuse.

“This is a very alarming report,” said Freemuse Director Ole Reitov: “An extremely puritanical Wahabi interpretation of Islam professed by the Taliban militants is restricting musical expression in the North Western Pakistan close to the Pak-Afghan border. Their terrorism has too long been posing a major threat to freedom of musical expression and security of artists in the region.”

Anti-women wahabi ideology
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the ten years Afghan War severely affected Pashtun culture and artistic expressions and music of the people were restricted. The US supported dictatorial regime of Zia ul Haq, in the 1980s tampered with the indigenous cultural diversity and imposed religiosity on the state and society.

“The anti-women wahabi ideology of Taliban and a predominantly patriarchal society obsessed with the female stereotype of honour are blocking women’s access to education and their participation in the socio-cultural life,” stated the three report writers Shaheen Buneri, Muhammad Arif and Rameez Hassan Zaib.

In traditional Pashtun society females are allowed to sing and dance during celebrations and festivals but professional female singing is very rare and most of the professional female singers either belong to the music families or they are groomed in isolated areas or music streets.

Taliban militants
The rise of Taliban in Kabul, the 9/11 incident, USA’s War on Terror in Afghanistan, and the rise of religious political parties in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are some of the leading events which provide an in-depth background to cultural losses and the limitations on freedom of musical expression. Presently Taliban militants have a considerable influence in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and their influence is spreading to other major cities of the country. This is a grave situation for a society where music has remained part of devotional prayers in shrines and where music has centuries old rich folk traditions.

Operations include killing and harassment of musicians and forcing them to abandon their profession; kidnappings; forceful migration of musicians to safer places; forcing religiosity upon musicians and attacks on Sufi shrines. The operations have even threatened the Kalash tribe to convertto Islam. The Kalash people have a rich music and dance traditions and are one of the few ancient tribes of the world, who still practice their centuries old pagan rituals.

» Read the report: ‘Music and Militancy in North Western Pakistan (2001-2014)’


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