New Delhi: The violent disruption of a Pashtun singer’s private concert has led to public outcry in Pakistan, with several saying the attack threatened Pashtun identity and put the Peshawar police on an equal footing with the Taliban.
On Friday night, Pashtun singer, poet and scholar Dr Karan Khan was performing at a wedding in Nazirabad in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, when the police stormed the venue claiming to act on complaints by local clerics and residents.
According to the police, the local clerics and residents of the neighbourhood were opposing the show because it was held on Shab-i-Barat, which is celebrated on the 14th or 15th day of Sha’ban, the eighth month of the Islamic calendar.
But if news reports and videos of the incident are anything to go by, the police did much more than just stop the event. A video of the event doing the rounds on social media shows an abandoned stage with broken chairs and instruments.
I strongly condemn Peshawar police attack on popular Pashto singer Karan Khan's music program. Terrorists are openly roaming in Peshawar but musicians are under attack.
— Ihtesham Afghan (@IhteshamAfghan) March 20, 2022
Dilshad Afridi, in whose house the wedding took place, was quoted by Dawn newspaper as saying, “We had gathered on the night of March 18 to celebrate the wedding of my friend with Karan Khan performing for some 100 guests,” adding, “The police suddenly raided the venue, manhandling the guests and breaking the instruments.”
The Express Tribune reports that the Peshawar police released a press note with the claim that they acted on the complaints of “enraged” religious students. Khan and other musicians were taken to the police station and later released, allegedly to protect them from the students and clerics.
“A few armed men were also taken into custody by police on the charges of displaying weapons. Musicians and the singer were allowed to go from the police station,” the press release says.
Support from the public
Over the weekend, Pashtun activists and social media users expressed outrage, saying the police’s crackdown was no less than an act of terrorism and threat to Pashtun identity.
Famous Pashto singer and PHD scholar Karan Khan has been attacked by Peshawar police while performing a live concert.
Pashtuns belong to every walk of life has been harassed and we facing worse state repression.
— Noor Ullah Khan (پشتون) (@NoorHuramzai) March 20, 2022
We strongly condemn the attack on the concert of famous Pashto language singer Karan Khan by the Peshawar Police SHO.
Breaking musical instruments is violence against Pashtun culture, music, art and humanity.#westandwithkarankhan#WeStandWithKaranKhan pic.twitter.com/fVMYk0DIPD
— Fee Armani (@ARMANIFEE) March 20, 2022
I strongly condemn the police raid on Karan khan concert and urge the govt to start disciplinary action against those policemen who are involved in this shameful, immoral and illegal act and take stern action against the concerned SHO . #WeStandWithKaranKhan pic.twitter.com/rjYARyEkNc
— Syed Anwar Dawar (@saeedanwar6) March 20, 2022
Pakistanis used the hashtag #WeStandWithKaranKhan in solidarity with the Pashtun singer. Founder and head of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) Manzoor Pashteen tweeted: “Police brutal attack on event of @karanpukhtoon in Peshawar is highly deplorable & dehumanizing. Human dignity is inviolable which must be protected. Such state of exception must ends.”
The Taliban extended their rule to Peshawar through K.P Police. They attacked a local music program, disrespect the renowned Pashto Singer @karanpukhtoon destroyed his musical instruments @KP_Police1 @PeshawarCCPO
— Tariq Afghan (@afghan_tariq) March 20, 2022
A lived reality
Karan Khan’s music is derived from his experiences and lived identity as a Pashtun. Al Jazeera reported that he was one of the millions of people who had to flee the Swat Valley in 2008 when the Pakistan Army fought the Taliban in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
“There is something for every Pashtun living in any part of the world,” Khan told The Express Tribune in a separate interview, adding, “There are romantic ghazals, some songs for peace in Peshawar, some on history, and some, on the war that has affected people of the province. Songs have been sung as prayers to God to bless our region with prosperity.”.