Famous Pashto folk singer Zarshad Ali, 52, died of throat cancer Monday morning. He was laid to rest at his ancestral graveyard in Rajar village, Charsadda.
His brother Falak Niaz said despite suffering from cancer for two years, Ali was still performing at folk concerts. However, his condition deteriorated in the last two months and he was admitted to Irnum cancer hospital, Peshawar, where he died.
Ali is survived by a widow and 12-year-old-son Khatir Ali.
Ali began his music career nearly 35 years ago and was one of the most famous folk singers of his time. He routinely performed at weddings in Mardan and other parts of the province.
At one particular party, Ali was hit by a stray bullet and paralysed from the waist down prompting well known PTV personality, Farmanullah Jan, to produce a 50-minute drama on his life; highlighting the tradition of aerial firing at weddings.
“His concerts were not limited to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), Ali performed in Abu Dhabi, Qatar, and other parts of the world for Pukhtuns,” said Niaz, adding that Ali must have recorded over 200 albums during his career. He regretted the fact that his brother was not awarded for his services to Pashto folk music.
“Ali was a seasoned and highly mature artist, but the condition he was passing through during the last years of his life were extremely depressing” said a neighbour, Ziaullah, adding that Ali did not ask the government or any other organisation for help.
The K-P government has taken several steps to promote Pashto culture, but the system of identifying those in need has to be improved, he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2013.