July 16, 2023
By Jamaima Afridi
A group of tribal ulema in Khyber, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, imposed a ban on playing music and performances by transgender women in weddings, threatening to refuse to perform the funeral rites for families who violate the ban.
Additional Deputy Commission (ADC) Khyber Hameed Bonere stated that while the authorities support celebratory customs that are in line with the local culture and Shariah law, decrees enforced by individuals or groups such as the Khyber clerics give rise to conflict.
Musicians from Khyber district registered their strong disapproval of the ban.
Ahmadullah, a singer, stated that the local music, such as rubab and matka, has been played since the time of their ancestors centuries ago. He urged the clerics to raise their voice for the other myriad problems plaguing the community rather than targeting music.
“Why ban music? I sing to light up people’s lives. Our musicians and performers do not want to cause hurt to anyone,” he posited.
“This is folk music. If there is anything inappropriate in it, I would be the first to oppose it.”
The ulema who issued the ban stated that, regardless of the government’s position on that matter, the district’s clerics remain steadfast that they will not be a part of any event if their orders are disobeyed.
“As per our darbar’s own history, we have imposed bans on drinking, gambling and music. We normally set fire to at least two rooms in the home of whoever engages in any of these three ills. I and my people fully support severe action against drinking, music and gambling,”
Amir Saeed, a local TLP leader said. “I urgently request the authorities to also restrict these practices.”
Riaz Shah, a scholar hailing from the Sadukhel area of Landi Kotal, held that music is integral to the image of a nation, and so many things could be lost by imposing a ban on it.
“This is local music. We should promote our music because it includes folk music, anthems, sad ballads, celebratory songs, all types of music… and it represents our nation,” he said. “If you ban music, you ban an entire literature… For us Pashtuns, first our language was taken, then our reading and writing, and now our music.”
He added that imposing a ban on literature equates to banning one’s language and therefore the ability to be heard.
“Music is culture, music is life, and without it both things are incomplete. Without music, your poetry, your literature will never develop. You cannot ban it.”
The emergence of the Taliban in Afghanistan on August 15, 2021 appears to have brought with it a rise in conservative and patriarchal attitudes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, especially the merged districts.