Of Journalism

September 1, 2009

Dancing to the beat of threats

Filed under: Uncategorized — fawadalishah @ 2:54 pm



By Fawad Ali Shah

KARACHI: Swat, the hub of foreign tourists throughout history, has remained a host to dancers and musicians of all parts of NWFP, as here they could easily earn their livelihood.
Usually before visiting the lush green valleys of Swat, foreign visitors would love to stay at Mingora and enjoy dance programmes at night. However, now the bazaars of Mingora are deserted. To the people of Mingora the drumbeats, the sound of payals and the sweet melody of sitars, remain no more than a sweet dream.
After some of their colleagues suffered the brutality of the local version of the Taliban, the dancers and actors of Swat started shifting to Karachi in order to secure their lives and profession.
The artists claim that the terrorists forcefully made them abandon their businesses and those who refused to succumb to their pressure were killed. Beside these threats, the worsening law and order situation in the area made it very difficult for the artists to earn a living.
Saba Naz, 19, a dancer from Swat is one of those artists, who along with her colleagues, shifted from Swat to Karachi. The dancer, sitting in a flat at Sohrab Goth, surrounded by her madam (or ‘mother’ as she calls her) and friends, reveals that their business was badly affected by the recent crisis. The Taliban fired at our house, the teenager told Daily Times, adding that the terrorists kidnapped one of colleagues, and then killed her, brutally.
Saba used to entertain visitors at a local hotel in Mingora. Her services were also hired for weddings. She claims to be a ‘dance master’. “After our houses were struck by terrorists, we quit our jobs for some time and started attending weddings,” the dancer narrates her sorrow tale with her eyes fixed on empty walls and her fingers unconsciously tightening around the arm of the chair that she was sitting on.
She said that the number of dancers in Mingora was around 550. According to her, half of them have shifted to Karachi as they think that here, their businesses will thrive.
“Taliban are enemies of art and culture,” she adds with anger. She adds that now the sound of drums, remind her of the beheaded body of her colleague and her house on fire.
Gul Sanga, 23, another internally displaced artist, has taken shelter in the Banaras area. The house, which is on rent, has four rooms, out of which three will be occupied by her ‘family’ while the fourth one will be used to put on dance shows. “Five years earlier our business was doing fine but soon after the Taliban appeared, our business collapsed,” Rehana shared her experience of Swat, while sitting with her ‘mother’. Her eyes were not shining like they would have once and her mother attributes it to the fact that the terrorists killed Rehana’s sisters.
“Dance is my life,” she said and added that she could not live without dancing while she thoughtfully ran her fingers through her hair. It may be remembered that not only in Swat, which is a part of the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas, these girls used to attend wedding ceremonies in the settled areas of NWFP.
Gulzaara’s mother, 43, who was once a renowned dancer herself, said that the extremists have destroyed the beauty, culture and tourism of Swat.
Zulfiqar, who is the dancer’s administrator and gives himself the title of a choreographer, said that he wished that the entire dancing industry should have shifted to Karachi some four to five years ago. “Karachi has a huge market,” he said while fidgeting with his cap. He added with a hint of pride that the people of the city would have never come across such good dances and dancers. “We will give them variety,” he affirms.
Shabana was one the traditional dancers, who used to perform at Mingora city’s Banar Bazaar. Unlike her other colleagues, she refused to be dictated by the Taliban.
On January 2, she was kidnapped by the members of the terrorist group and was killed at the city’s green square. Besides her dead body, the murderers left a letter, threatening people that whoever will not abide by the laws of the Taliban would meet the same fate. The CDs containing her dances and some money were also thrown along with her dead body. After this incident, no one dared to be in the business and most professionals left the area for their own good. Shabana remains an example of the level Taliban will stoop to in order to make sure that the people obey their rules.



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