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Who silenced the Pakistani diva?

A scene from Ghazala Javed`s music video (YouTube)

Publication Date : 22-06-2012

 

A prominent Pakistani female singer, Ghazala Javed, was shot to death on June 18 by two unidentified gunmen, according to local news reports.

Initial police investigation indicated that the 24-year-old singer’s ex-husband Jehangir Khan may be behind the attack. Last year, Javed asked him for a divorce, which is considered a dishonour in the highly conservative male-dominated society.

However some are speculating that the singer’s abrupt death is a remainder of the dark history of “artist prosecution” in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region.

The 24-year-old singer, who was popular across the Pashto-speaking communities, had to leave her hometown three years ago because the rise of Taliban made it difficult for artists to perform in the country. The group is known to strictly prohibit singing and dancing in public.

Due to this threat, Javed had to record many of her songs in nearby Dubai.

She is not the only artist whose career was hindered.

The oppression against artists in the country has a firm root, dating back to a decade ago when Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), a coalition of five far-right Islamist parties, gained power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The MMA attempted to rid the area of performances, especially of music, in public places.

Some artists, like comedian Alamzeb Mujahid, gave up their careers and left the country. Singer Gulzar Alam grew tired and fearful of his continuing arrests and those of his family members, and finally decided to give up his gig.

Though the gradual collapse of MMA encouraged those like Alam to return to show business, Islamabad has yet to provide a safe environment for artists, especially female performers.

In 2009, female singer Aiman Udhas was allegedly killed by her brothers, who deeply disapproved of her career, a year after MMA lost power in the region. The ex-husband of Javed was also fiercely against her profession.

Even as the governmental restriction is lifted, it seems nearly impossible to eradicate the deep prejudice and discrimination.

No matter who was behind Javed’s death, the case is likely to remain a bitter reminder of how difficult it is for a woman to live freely in the restrictive male-dominated society.

 

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