Pakhtunkhwa Times

No Space For Art In "Taliban State" Dr. Ashraf Ali

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on February 11, 2009

Tue, 03-Feb-2009

Humayun Sakhi, popular Rabab player, now resides in the United States. National Geogrphic Photo

With an artificial smile on his face, the heavy hearted Alamzeb Mujahid, announced his ‘pre-mature retirement’ from the ‘world of art’ at a hurriedly arranged press conference in Peshawar’s Press Club immediately after the popular comic figure got released from his captors.

“Today I say good bye to the world of art and I will no more be appearing on the television screen in future”, remarked Alamzeb Mujahid, adding ‘I will soon join Tablighi Jamat to find salvation in the world hereafter”.

Mujahid 39, the evergreen drama artist himself became a drama when he was picked up by unknown armed men for ransom a few days ago from the posh area of Peshawar. Mujahid’s abduction proved as a blessing in disguise. The actor’s release from his abductees also secured him a release from the artificial life he has been leading as an actor for the last more than a decade. The famous comedian once said, “I regret being raised as an actor. I gave the precious moments of my life to an actor but in return the actor could give me nothing”.

Media reports said the actor had sensed the situation after he received threatening calls from unknown quarters. His relatives said he was all set to shift his family to Nowshera, but the kidnappers didn’t allow him and he was picked up before the idea could be materialized.

Though Mujahid is back home but the message from the Jihadis is clear. “Artists are no exception”.

The news of Mujahid’s abduction fell more heavy on the artists’ community which had not yet recovered from the shock of their fellow colleague, Arshad Hussain who went missing a couple of months ago and got recovered only after his family struck a deal with his captors. The mental trauma Hussain went through all this while, has badly affected his health. Hussain says he has lost almost eight kgs of his weight and partly his mental balance. The young and educated actor from Mardan, who is roaming around office to office now, seems to be tired. “I don’t think, this country has now any accommodation for artists”. “We have to make our way somewhere else”.

Haroon Bacha was lucky to make his way. Bacha, whose popular album “Awal ba kala kala Gham woo” – which earned him a worldwide fame, finally came to his rescue. Finding the situation stifling, the famous folk singer, got settled in the United States of America before this melodious voice could be silenced. Gulzar Alam moved the other way. Alam who rose to prominence for his famous revolutionary song “Rawakhle Bya Da Inqilab Sra Nishanoona”, sought to take refuge behind the beard, but it didn’t work. The continuous threatening calls from unknown quarters made the versatile singer silently kept all the “symbols of revolution” back into the corner and parted ways with his profession. Like his senior fellow Gulzar Alam, the new arrival in the field, Sardar Yousufzai was also lucky to escape assassination bid on his life, however the young singer could not help his bleeding four fellows who met their deaths after the militants showered bullets on their vain on the main Mingora road leading to Mardan.

The phenomenon of targeting singers, artists and musicians is not new. North West Frontier Province started shrinking on them during the last government of the Muttahida Majlas-e-Amal (MMA) when it launched a campaign against ‘Anti-Islamic’ activities in Peshawar’s Dabgari garden, a hub of musical activities. Following a ban on cultural activities and especially musical concerts by the government of the MMA – a conglomerate of six religio-political parties, the musicians were left with no other option but to flee the city and settle in other parts of the country for their livelihood. The entertainment-starved Peshawarites were deprived of the only recreational opportunity when the lone Nishtar hall was closed for hosting stage dramas, musical concerts and other cultural activities. Some of the artists and musicians said good bye to the profession and opted for alternative businesses while the rest got involved in the Cd drama production. However the rising attacks on CD and video shops made the shopkeepers down their shutters causing a great blow to the business. A considerable decline in the production made the artists leave the field open for the militants to flood the market with their own brand of Jihadi CDs which offers more attraction for its target

audience and especially young lot. “Why not one watch the top ten suicides bomb attacks of the year instead of the top ten bollywood and lollywood songs”, replied Ghulam Ahmad 17, at a shop in Karkhano Market, who was here to buy a Jihadi CD.

Cinema houses throughout the province are already giving a deserted look. So is the case with wedding halls and community centers where no one could dare to host a musical concert. In a latest move, the bus drivers have started removing audio and video players from their vehicles after the militants threatened of committing suicide attacks

on those passenger carriers which would play music or movies for the passengers. In a letter addressed to the transport workers in Mardan, the NWFP Chief Minister’s home town, the Taliban complained that buses offering such kind of entertainment were responsible for spreading ‘vulgarity and obscenity” and that it was a ‘source of mental agony for pious people’. This is a wake up call.


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  1. Anonymous said, on February 18, 2009 at 9:05 am

    The News International, Pakistan

    Our rulers: erratic, fearful and full of deceit

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    By Shireen M Mazari

    Just when one was about to commend the President for finally seeing the light in terms of agreeing to the NWFP government signing a deal with the TNSM for peace in Swat, we witnessed the usual backtracking from the Presidency, if Ms Rehman the official propagandist is to be believed. That, in turn, led to the ANP government being pushed into a state of confusion over what exactly it had signed on to in the agreement it made in front of representatives of all the major political parties – barring the JI which refused to attend. This has marked all the negotiations and agreements made to end militancy and violence earlier also – not just in Swat but also in FATA where US drones always put paid to any peace through negotiations.

    It is no wonder then that the government has no credibility on any issue – given its record of erratic behaviour. But we have also seen a chorus of protest from the westernised or, as they see themselves, ‘the liberal” lobbies within the urban areas of the country regarding what they see as a fatal compromise before the religious lobbies and Shariah. Undoubtedly there is much substance in the question “whose shariah?” There are also many legal issues that will also arise including the issue of minorities although according to this latest Swat accord, minorities will not be subjected to the Shariah laws as is the case in the rest of the country in terms of personal laws. As for the issue of discrimination, this is a national blight against the minorities and needs to be tackled with at the national level.

    The main point is that the people of Swat have been pushed against a wall and that is why they have accepted the news of this accord with a weary relief if not outright joy. Who are we in the cities to begrudge them this peace and let us not forget the history of the locals’ demand for their earlier Qazi courts which they saw as dispensing credible justice? Mercifully some foreign elements like the Australian foreign minister have at least shown some understanding of the Swat situation as it seems has hapless Prime Minister Gilani.

    The argument that you cannot have differing laws in different parts of the country is absurd given how we already have different laws for different categories of citizens in terms of personal laws. In any case, since we are so enamoured of the West, let us recall how in the US different states have different laws including bans on alcohol and gambling, not to mention the death penalty. If we seek decentralisation and autonomy for the provinces, then we must concede them the power to set their own houses in order with decentralised laws, including laws relating to taxation. So perhaps we should hope that peace will return to Swat and allow the displaced people to restart their lives. Already the Presidential delay in giving the nod for the negotiations added to the bloodshed and destruction.

    The Nizam-i-Adl relates to Personal Law primarily and, according to some lawyers, while Islamic nomenclatures are being used, the law itself is not too far removed from such laws in the rest of the country. Also it has scope for arbitration. Of course one is not sure what the final form of the laws will be which the President will sign – if he does so at all, given the instability of decision-making in that quarter. What would be required would be monitoring and assessment of whether the re-establishment of what were the old Qazi courts would now come up to people’s expectations and provide them with quick and credible justice.

    For the rest of the country it is important to realise that if we do not want to create a situation akin to what has been happening in Swat, we need to push the government into establishing the rule of law and an independent judiciary as well as ensuring the safety and security of all its citizens – especially against foreign threats. It is in this context that Pakistan has to delink from the US and reclaim all our bases from them. Unless we create some space between ourselves and the US, there will never be any stability in this country.

    If we do not want to see “fundamentalists” and “extremists” gain ground in other parts of Pakistan then we need to have a responsive state that is able to provide credible and cheap justice to all its citizens and is able to deliver social justice to its deprived citizenry. If it only looks to appeasing foreign powers, it will continue to weaken itself from within. The drone attacks may kill a few militants but they also destroy ordinary people’s homes and lives and that has its costs for this country – especially in terms of more space being created for militants. It is not dialogue with the militants that will bring extremist Taliban ideology to Pakistan but ignoring the rising tide of disaffection amongst the people for the rulers, the military and the corrupt state institutions which have made a mockery of the rule of law and justice.

    In the context of FATA, for those who think that tribal lashkars rising against the Taliban are a sign of the rejection of the latter, let us not fool ourselves. The tribals are being armed and paid to act as proxies for the US through our military and that is a dangerous development in an area where there are already too many arms floating around. Also, as we have seen so many times before, proxies develop a life of their own and cannot be controlled or reined in when required. As for those who feel the Pakistan Army is deliberately not crushing the militants in FATA, they should ask themselves why NATO and the US are unable to crush the Taliban in Afghanistan where they now control almost 70 % of that country! Another favourite cop out is to declare non-Pushtun Pakistanis as unable to understand the Pushtuns. This is ridiculous since as a Pakistani one understands the hopes and fears of fellow Pakistanis – be they Pukhtun, Baloch or any of the other groups that exist in this country and whose blood flows in a happy mix in so many of the citizens. It is the external powers who do not understand any Pakistani except the corrupt ruling elite and the latter who choose not to understand the obvious.

    What is required in FATA is for a political framework to be created and implemented within which economic incentives can come to the area (not through US funded ROZs but indigenous enterprises) and negotiations can be initiated between all stake holders. We need to do what the British did finally in Northern Ireland after years of unsuccessful military operations, when they moved to unconditional talks and negotiations. We need to recall how violent the terrorist acts were in Northern Ireland, spreading to England also. Our state needs to begin dialogue and negotiations with all the Pakistani militants – so that the foreigners are isolated. All dialogue requires give and take and eventually hard line positions are abandoned. The success of the Good Friday Agreements is a case in point.

    At the national level, the need of the hour is to move towards operationalising the consensual resolution of the Parliament and calling an APC to create a national political consensus on a dialogue and negotiation policy for the FATA region while extricating ourselves from all the commitments made by the Musharraf regime with the US. The costs of these commitments have been far greater and more long term than the gains which have been transitory at best in terms of money – which in itself is an issue of controversy. After all, we have reduced our state to a mercenary entity for the US – a country that neither understands Pakistan nor is interested in sensitising itself to this nation. This is once again apparent in the comments of Holbrooke in India.

    As for the US and our successive governments, let us be under no illusion as to the US negative agenda towards Pakistan, especially its strategic nuclear assets. The drone attacks have now spread to Kurram Agency also and it is now verifiable on the internet that the drones are rolled out from a special drone base in Balochistan around Washuk or Shamsi, while control is from the US (Maps and actual coordinates are readily available on websites such as Dictatorship Watch). So it is time for the GoP to stop its lying and come clean to its people even as it must extricate itself from the killing of its citizens. Equally important, let us see some spine and resoluteness from our rulers, rather than the trembling fear that crops up at the least US whimper.

    The writer is a defence analyst. Email:

  2. Anonymous said, on February 19, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Associated Press of Pakistan

    Why restoration of ‘Nizam-e-Adl’ is no Taliban victory

    ISLAMABAD, Feb 19 (APP): Swat peace agreeemnt is an historic moment for people in Pakistan’s Swat region, and a remarkable achievement by the provincial government of the northwest frontier province (NWFP). An independant analysis of foreign newspaper said, after negotiations between the provincial government, its stakeholders and representatives of Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM), an agreement was finalized to implement ‘Nizam-e-Adl’ in Swat, provided TNSM and its followers are able to maintain peace.

    While celebrations are going on in Malakand and Swat, Western media has expressed its worry about the implementation of “Islamic Law” in the region, taking this as a victory of the Taliban—and defeat of Pakistani Government.

    To correct this misconception, we have to first look into the origins of the demand for Shariah Law. In 1969, the states of Swat, Dir and Chitral officially joined Pakistan and annexed into a division called Malakand, with Saidu Sharif (in Swat) as its capital. Historically, people of these states followed their tribal system of justice, earlier known as Rewaj (Customary Law) and later as Sharia.

    After becoming a part of Pakistan, the people of Malakand had to face the legal system of Pakistan, based on a British legal system fraught with complex procedures, which were slow, expensive and corrupt. Soon, they started to demand reverting back to their former, independent system of justice. The Pakistani government refused.

    This dissatisfaction gave rise to the movement of TSNM by Maulana Sufi Mohammad in 1994. Later on, his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah broke away from the movement and started militant activities.

    Things turned nasty in Malakand when the renegades from Afghanistan and FATA joined forces with corrupt local elements. In order to gain public support, they took on the name of ‘Taliban’ and ‘Nifaz-e-Shariat’ (restoration of Shariah Law) as their slogan. Locals of Malakand division were clearly not happy with this as they ended up sandwiched between these rogue elements and the government, which was trying to maintain its writ in the region.

    The NWFP government of ANP has so far done a terrific job of restoring peace to Swat and adjacent areas, in spite of the fact that their leaders are also on the hit list of militants and have braved several life threatening assassination attempts.

    From their early days in provincial government, leaders of ANP acted with diplomatic and political acumen, first releasing Sufi Mohammad and then supporting the moderate elements of the region. Now, by meeting public demand, they are positioned to isolate ‘Taliban’ elements of Malakand, who have lost their popular leverage. Hopefully, peace will return to Swat once again.

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