Kismat Baig’s murder shakes up Lahore’s artist community

A star has fallen

Adnan Lodhi November 25, 2016
A star has fallen. PHOTO: FILE

LAHORE: A strong command over dance may have set Kismat Baig apart from her contemporaries but sadly, the story of her tragic end is one we have heard many times now. Shot eight times by unidentified armed men on her way home on Thursday, Baig is now amongst a long list of stage actors who have suffered similar fates, including Sangum Rana, Yasmeen, Karishma Shah, Naina Nagina Khanum and Nadra.

Baig ventured into the industry about eight years ago, while living out of a rental in Harbanspura with her two children, aged mother and sister Sitara. The family was in dire straits and barely had any money or food to support itself. Theatre was a quick solution Kismat and Sitara opted for, hoping to make ends meet.

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As luck would have it, both sisters went on to become one of the highest-paid dancers in Lahore. Kismat, in particular, became known as the ‘dancing doll’ of the city, performing in theatres across the region, including Faisalabad, Multan and Gujranwala. Little by little, the dancer built up her assets and eventually, managed to purchase properties in some posh locales of Lahore. She also released a few CDs of her performances and was in the middle of negotiations to work in Pashto films as well.

After the incident, Kismat was rushed to the hospital where she breathed her last. Her secretary and bodyguard Ali was also injured after receiving one bullet but managed to make a statement for the media. As per his memory, the attackers said, “We’ll hurt you so bad that you’ll never be able to dance again” before opening fire.

According to reports, Kismat, a divorcee, had developed a close friendship with some landlords over the past few months. Not to mention, Ali was also rumoured to be in love with her. Who orchestrated the attack is yet to be ascertained but it must be noted that this was not the first time Kismat was attacked. She had reportedly confronted a similar episode in Faisalabad some time ago and had been living in fear ever since.

News of the murder has exacerbated the insecurity within the actor community in Pakistan. Most cases of slain dancers are yet to be resolved and it is not just female artists who are being targeted. Earlier, another stage actor, Hassan Khan, was tortured by suspects in Lahore’s Gulberg area. A case was registered against unidentified suspects following his brother’s complaint.

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Speaking to The Express Tribune, senior stage dancer Shiba Butt recalled a time when her craft was celebrated. “People used to respect us. Dancers were considered artists who worked hard to entertain others,” she said. “Things have changed now. Never before did any of us have to hire a security guard for ourselves. I am surprised the younger dancers can even afford to pay for the extra expense!”

According to Shiba, this need for guards could well be due to potential involvement in illegal activities. “The dancers could be involved in some mysterious work, who knows? The consequences are obvious now. But even so, I strongly condemn what happened to Kismat. No one deserves to die.”

Stage director and actor Goshi Khan echoed Shiba’s sentiments. “The artist community is very tense and worried about security. Theatres in Lahore have been closed ever since news of Kismat’s death,” said Khan. “But we will protest against this. We demand the culprits be found and arrested!” Another stage performer Irum Rana added, “There is never any security for us, even at the theatres. We are also human beings who are simply working to earn a living for ourselves and our loved ones. Of course we are scared! Do our lives have no worth?”

Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th, 2016.

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M. Shahid | 5 years ago | Reply Murder of anyone can't be justified in anyway. We should remember the Quranic verse "who killed one person it's like he killed the whole humanity" But my question is after every murder of an artist why this community makes noise that artists should be given security. They are professional like any other. Same level security should be given to all citizens not a particular person or community.
bangash | 5 years ago | Reply If someone dare to kill her for dancing then he should dare to pay her for food etc...the better way to bring someone on the right path is to solve his problem not to cowardly kill...shame on is not Islamic but to suicide is not Islamic too.........
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