When we refer to the Frontier Corps (FC), we think of a force wielding AK-47s, guarding some barren outpost against militant attack. Seldom would the image of a soldier dressed in a white frock, sword-in- hand, whirling to the sound of music, spring to mind.
FC, a paramilitary force, ever ready to fight the enemy at the frontline in the war against terror in the tribal region, has offered the greater number of sacrifices to safeguard the country. But perhaps only a few amongst their countrymen have seen them perform cultural dances.
The FC folk dance group, comprises of 47 members of the force, who are trained to perform four folk dances representing four diverse cultures of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Khattak, Chitrali, Bithani and Mehsood dances. The “chagha party”, as the group was called, would beat drums to warn the troops of an enemy assault. It was formally awarded the status of a folk dance group in 1972.
With the passage of time, as modern technology eliminated the need for a drum-beating advance party to warn about the enemy, the group was assigned to welcome dignitaries visiting the country by performing cultural dances.
The group has members from all over the province including Bajaur, Miranshah, Swat, Shawal, Kurram, Wana, Chitral,Tal and Orakzai.
Leader of the FC folk dance group, Subaidar Shahnawaz, who has been part of the group since 1984 even though he retired in 2005, said they are regular FC personnel and perform their duties at the headquarters of Khyber Rifles in Landi Kotal, in volatile Khyber Agency. The group had come to perform at Nishtar Hall during a two-day festival, “Cultural Revival of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa” held last week in connection with the World Music Day.
“We are always on high alert as you are well aware of the situation in Khyber Agency but at the same time, we are asked to welcome guests by performing cultural dances,” he said. The group has had the honour of welcoming international dignitaries.
“We have welcomed hundreds of dignitaries including former secretary general United Nations Kofi Annan during his visit to Pakistan and we have also performed at the White House in Washington DC in 1997.
The group has represented the country across the globe including the USA, Lebanon, Australia, Oman, Muscat, Dubai, Turkmenistan, and Malaysia.
The group also consists of soldiers, who were injured while fighting against militants but still perform folk dances to represent the country’s soft image. Abdul Hannan said he was dropped from the group when he sustained injuries during a clash with militants.
“I was really upset when I had to leave the group after I received chest injuries in a rocket attack,” he said, adding he could not express his feelings when he was asked to rejoin the group after treatment.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2012.