The Punjab Assembly’s resolution to ban ‘objectionable’ concerts in educational institutions passed on January 24 was refuted by another resolution submitted by PPP MPA Sajida Meer. The latter resolution called for the promotion of cultural activities in the assembly on January 25 and stated that the former ban did not ‘suit the 21st century. When the opposition leader, Raja Riaz of PPP, was denied permission to speak, the opposition staged a walked out from the Punjab Assembly.
The hype around the resolution has snowballed into wide condemnation from leading musicians of the Pakistani music industry. The move is seen as a major blow for artists, who, in a large part, earn their bread and butter from live shows and concerts.
The resolution was passed three weeks after the stampede at Alhamra led to the death of three young girls during an Atif Aslam concert.
Ahmed Ali Butt (Entity Paradigm)
The government has done their level best to destroy arts and culture in Pakistan. But despite this music survives because the internet has provided another platform for artists to promote their music on. They don’t realise that music has now become a branch of education and by putting a damper on the music industry, they are actually hurting an important channel of education.
Adnan Sarwar (Club Caramel)
The government has all the protocol and security to provide to an organisation like Jamaatud Dawa, that is allowed to hold Difa-i-Pakistan Conference with thousands of people, but they don’t have security to give to 300 students at a concert. In such a situation, India seems like the only option, but then don’t blame us for not being the ‘ideal’ ambassadors of Pakistan.
Ali Noor (Noori)
I am extremely offended by this statement. The reason we entered the music industry was to touch the cultural sensitivities of the people through live music. I have stayed away from politics throughout my music career but this is something totally unacceptable. If the government ends up passing this bill, I am not going stay silent this time around. It’s not about our livelihood; it’s a matter of principle.
The government has never really understood the issues of the country and this how they react in ignorance. I have been speaking with PML-N MPA Mohsin Latif and the Punjab chief minister and have been using Twitter to gather support against the resolution. The musicians have done little to protect their rights, which is why we don’t know about our legal rights.
Shallum Xavier (Fuzon)
My heart goes out to those who suffered in the Alhamra tragedy, but this resolution shows the incompetence of the Punjab government. About 15 years ago, there was a ban on wearing jeans and keeping long hair and this just sounds like one of those ridiculous acts. The government has never bothered to arrange funds for the musicians but they seem more than enthusiastic to stop their bread and butter. People fear Talibanisation, they don’t realise that acts like these show that Taliban thinking has already become a part of our mindset.
Faisal Kapadia (Strings)
I know this resolution is a result of the tragedy that took place at Alhamra but this not the way to go about it. Instead of banning concerts you should work on improving the security protocols and event management. Not only are concerts the only way of making a living for the musicians, they also are the only form of live entertainment.We already have Indian content running all over the channels and this is just the nail in the coffin. Punjab is the biggest venue for live performances and such a ban could seriously damage the music industry.
These people have made Pakistan a cultural wasteland. When they closed down public venues, schools and colleges were the only source of revenue for artists. I’m planning to file a civil suit against the government. I will be meeting with my lawyer to stop the resolution before it goes through the legislative process.
Khurram Waqar (Qayaas)
It was a very sad day in the history of Punjab and music industry in general. Pakistanis are frustrated because they don’t have enough cathartic space. Cricket matches are not happening anymore and the only live action left is live music. If they keep on putting bans on leisure activities, people will definitely become suicidal.
(With additional reporting by Rafay Mahmood)
Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2012.