On The Murder Of Pashtun Singer Ghazala Javed

I was at my summer job when I heard news of Ghazala Javed’s murder. At first, it made me extremely sad – even teary – but the more I thought about her death and the way she died, the more it made my blood boil.

Ghazala Javed was – in my opinion – the most talented Pashtun female singer in perhaps all of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Her beautiful enchanting voice was unlike any I’d heard before. The most amazing thing about her was that she was actually leading a regeneration of both existing and emerging female Pashtun singers. And her boldness, courage, and support gave hope to many aspiring female singers, who wished to break social barriers (considering the never-ending threats they received from the Taliban and Islamic fanatics) in order to showcase their love and talent for music. Ghazala – the beautiful and talented woman that she was – really did not deserve to die the way she did. No one deserves to die so brutally and inhumanely! It was reported that she was getting ready for a musical performance and was on her way to a beauty parlour (with her dad), when they both were suddenly ambushed by gunmen and shot down dead, with multiple bullet wounds.

However, this isn’t the first time a female Pashtun singer has been tragically murdered. Bakht Zamina, a very beautiful and talented Pashtun singer from Kabul, was murdered by Islamic militants simply for the reason that she was a bold female singer. And then, just a few years ago, in 2009, another female Pashtun singer, Shamim Aiman Udas, was killed simply because her brothers (yes, her brothers!) were not happy with her having a singing profession despite their disapproval. She, too, like Ghazala Javed, was gunned down and killed. And let’s not even stop there; even Nazia Iqbal‘s – another very famous Pashtun singer from Swat Valley – life (as well as her children’s lives) were threatened recently. For, a few months ago, she’d announced that she was quitting music as she wanted to devote her life to Islam, only to find out later that she was actually forced to quit singing/music by religious fanatics, and that it was not of her own volition.

Consequently, brutal killings of female musicians happen quite often, especially in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Afghanistan. And Ghazala’s murder, to most, may not come off as much of a surprise. A shock, yes, but the murders of Pashtun artists (singers), especially female singers, is quite ubiquitous; especially in these parts of the world.

However, the question I want to ask is: Why? Why is this happening? And keeps on happening? Is it because music is considered “haram (forbidden)” and “taboo” according to the regions’ religion of Islam? Or is it more than just religious reasons? Perhaps it could even be political; the thirst for power and control?

In my opinion, it’s a bit of both – religious and political. Religious fanatics realize how powerful and influential music can be; they also know that if they give artists the freedom, especially women, to become singers and dancers, then that would mean that they are not doing their part to control and subjugate women, as per their “beliefs.” I also think that the notion of “honour” comes into play too. Most (yes, I purposefully said “most” instead of “some”) men feel that women should not dance nor sing, because “Islamically/culturally” women should not flaunt their selves and their bodies so freely, nor express their selves vocally, so that it would draw too much attention; hence objectifying them and making them prone to rape and other sexual advances. (Because we all know that women are, by nature, very seductive so they should not do anything that would lure the men, who, by the way, are nothing but sexual beasts, having no way of controlling their sexual urges.) Thus, in order to avoid bringing “shame” upon themselves, as well as to their families and the society as a whole, the best solution is to kill these women and use the notion of “honour-killing” as an excuse to justify the killer’s horrendous acts. Goodness! If that isn’t utterly despicable, then I don’t know what is!

The thing I don’t understand is that music, especially in our Pashtun culture, is extremely significant. In fact, it is so significant that we actually have exquisite dances like the attanr and beautiful, melodious instruments like the rabab. Music is not only a part of our culture, it pretty much is culture. The Pashto language, itself, is incredibly poetic; and tapays – a two-line poem – are often considered the most ancient and most powerful vehicle of expression, and it is especially popular among the women! And these are women, who express themselves, their social conditions, as well as romantic (taboo) emotions quite boldly through these two-liner tapays.

Nevertheless, I digress, as usual. But what I am trying to say is that, to me, it is extremely frustrating to see and hear about these young and talented artists (singers, poets, etc.) whose lives are inhumanely cut short, just because to some ignorant and backward-minded fools, they are partaking in something that is supposedly “forbidden.” There are times that I wish I could look inside the minds of these mad men and try to understand their narrow-minded perspective of the world around them. What exactly is going on in their utterly twisted minds? Don’t they feel any guilt? Any remorse? Any iota of shame for taking innocent lives – the lives of people whose music I’m sure they thoroughly enjoy as well? It’s such a catch-22! It’s like they enjoy the music, perhaps even partake in it when no one is around, but they can’t stand the sight of someone creating that same music (that they apparently love so much), and wish them all dead! And if it’s a woman, that’s even worse!

I just don’t know what will happen to us Pashtuns. So many innocent lives lost in this “war” on music; Pashtuns killing other fellow Pashtuns — my people killing my own people! It’s so incredibly distressing that I have no words left to say anymore. And the demise of Ghazala Javed is something that may perhaps take me a while to get over. A long while, perhaps. Her beautiful voice will haunt me every time I listen to her songs. May her dear soul rest in peace; as well as her father’s, who, too, died alongside her.

My husband, Abaseen (who was also Ghazala’s greatest fan) said it best:

“Ghazala Javed’s murder is like breaking the last rabab in the world. I had a dream that someday I will point out Ghazala to my kids and tell them that this is the only female Pashto singer whose voice I admire. Sadly that is never going to happen now. RIP Ghazala.”

Here’s one of my most favourite songs of hers. I absolutely love this song! There are more, but I’ll add them as I find them (some of the videos suck; this one is decent, so decided to share it, and of course the song is SO beautiful!!!):

19 responses to “On The Murder Of Pashtun Singer Ghazala Javed

  1. Wow what an amazing post. I completely agree and am absolutely frustrated to no end. As an aspiring Pakistani musician, I am continuously shocked and disgraced by these narrow minded excuses of humanity, who twist our religion using their extremely narrow minded perspective.

    I didn’t know this singer’s work until now, but when I saw the ticker I couldn’t help shouting “What?!” because it seemed so ridiculous, and it is. These murderers cannot be accepted in our society.

  2. You have my full support and understanding. It´s time that our muslim brothers and sisters in pakistan and around the world to man up and stand up against these kind of ignorant bastards.
    The people doing this should be hunted till the last day of their lifes

  3. i was very saddened by her murder news.her killing was a very coward,inhumane and wild act.she was the most beautiful young pasto singer with uniqe voice.perhaps we me never see female pashto singer with such qualities in centuries this girlish act of her killing broke hearts of millions of afghans.these stupid and ignorant people who kill such innocent artists give a very negative image of pukhtoon society to the world. I ask peace for her and her fathers soul we will remember her.and may pukhtoons become civilized.

  4. ghazala u have broken me.i can’t explain to any person which sort of relation i would with u.meetin with u was my long cherished hope.but i now i can never fullfill my dream.soon we will meet in heaven.u were the cokoo bird of swat.

  5. harrold robbins n his book THE CARPET BEGGER on the death of beautiful diva RINA MARLOVE said the” God is’nt there enough uglliness in this world.why u destroy the beautiful things.”same is my heart saying on the death of ghazala.now we can never get such a flawless tulip.she was the prime bellirena of dancing garden of white tulips.her soft face like a pearl.but she was very unliucky ,she was the jinx of fate that she has taken birth in a muddy lake .she should born as a beautiful princess .but alas…………………………………….

  6. Inalillahi wa ina illahi rajioun…( to Allah we came from and to Allah we return)..Such a sad state of events..What has become of our once proud chivalrous nation? where every home boasted of the finest hospitality (melmastia – mehman ka nawazy), where on the battlefield the people fought like lions to defend what they truly loved..,where even Alexander wrote of these tribesmen akin to the lions…where the women were spoken of as the finest in the region for their beauty, their faces the radiance of the moon..and as strong as Malalai of Maiwand who held her fort against the onslaught of the invaders……and what has become of us now..a shadow of what once was..I know not of Ghazala Javed nor was I a fan of her music..but that doesn’t give me the right to put judgment on her..and to kill her in such a cold fashioned way is totally against the norms of this region…May Allah give hidayat to us all (enlightenment)..
    Pakistan is known as the land of the pure but there seeps in our pores impurities that are becoming cancerous within our system..acts like this being enacted will have a ripple effect on our already decaying social fabric conscience..our souls are decaying and with the passage of time, we will be but a distant memory just as Ghazala and her father and many others will be a distant memory in a few days time….and what of us..from the top to the bottom..we are blaming each other for everything and seeing no fault of our own in our state of affairs..the inhabitants blaming the government for its incompetence in all matters, the government blaming the inhabitants as miscreants..sure there are some circumstances beyond our control but as the wise once said..ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country..the same principle applies to looking after our loved ones,our neighbors and our strangers..to many of in the world, Ghazala Javed was a stranger..to the pakhtuns, she wasn’t..Ghazala was a stranger to methough….I knew nothing of her until these events..and yet I felt a peculiar sensation in my heart when I did some research..I wondered what were her thoughts before the tragic events that took place..she was a human being..with love, hope and aspirations….someone who was probably jovial and good natured inside..and as a stranger, as a human, the least I will do is send a prayer in memory of her and pray her family have the courage and patience to overcome this great tragedy..in the end. Ghazala and her father didn’t just die..a part of humanity in this great nation died with her..and will we forget about her in a few days as we have forgotten about those gone past..??or should this be a wakeup call..should we pray in memory of the deceased and pray for grace for the living..Does anyone really care what is happening??I hope all is not lost..there is much we can do to revive what we once had..it’s up to us to make a difference..ultimately it’s up to us..we have a moral obligation..

  7. Ghazala was too beautiful too talented too purehearted to forgive me for saying even waste her time on singing! because ultimatly singing is what killed her. Yes her voice was the sweetest voice we have heard…but why do women from those areas have to be so brave as well and put themselves in hard situations. Unless they cant help it and often find themselves in those cicumstances…which i think is what happens. May Allah grant her jannat…Ameen…the pure die young.

  8. What a beutiful woman and her voice is so clean and sweet, although I don’t understands the language it sounds so pure. How can somebody destroys beauty?

  9. may God destroy that one who did this bludy act,i love her songs.she was too pretty and nice girl.i can,t forget her aven till life.thanks for nice post

  10. ghazala was realy good singer but in the killing of her and her father her father were the sin because her father sold her for many on mr jahanger when she divorce form him he decided to kill her this was my coments don’t be sad on such case allah know all the things

    • That is the point that should be questioned and and not be laid to rest…why? Why? Why? Selling of daughters and bringing your daughters up to dance and sing? I have heard of this so called pashtoon cultural tradition…but i thought no way! No pashtoon is able to do that…i am mistaken. Please wake up Swat…

  11. most of the evidence actually point to her ex-husband having a part in it–something that even Ghazala’s sister accused him of. from the headlines we’re reading, it’s really annoying that people who don’t even live here have to trump the taleban and islamic fundamentalist card when things are QUITE far from that (alhamdulillah alhamdulillah). maybe they did, maybe they didn’t, but for the majority of people living here, it seems very unlikely. yes there was a time when most of the singers from Swat fled to Peshawar and other cities/countries due to threats from taleban et al, but most of them are picking up where they left off (i think the fact that so many female singers have emerged should be attestation enough about the atmosphere being a bit more lax now).

    her and her father’s janaza happened just outside the street i live on, and it was pretty massive. so, in the end, whatever the theories are, it stands to show that she had many supporters and admirers. For Ghazala and all those young aspiring artists whose lives ended so fatefully, may Allah overlook and forgive their shortcomings, and enter them into Paradise, ameen. inna lillah wa inna ilayhi raji’oon

  12. I read this news of her death on the internet recently (in late August, 12). But I have not been able to find out any progress in her murder case. Was her ex-husband eventually nabbed and or tried for allegedly killing her and her father?

  13. Pingback: Goodbye 2012: Some Thoughts And Reflections « SesapZai – Artist. Academic. Philanthropist.·

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