When Pashto singer Ghazala Javed walked onto any stage in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it was always to the whistling of adolescent boys. The girls were also admirers, as they dreamed to dress and sing like her. The K-P belt swooned when she hummed songs of love and passion. Sadly, this feeling of romantic indulgence came to a screeching halt when the news of her death spread. Javed, a combination of beauty and brilliance, was shot dead on Monday by unidentified gunmen outside a beauty parlour in Peshawar.
“Her death is a great loss to Pashto music. She was an inspiration for the fresh batch of singers coming into the Pashto music industry,” a well-known Pashto singer, Bakhtiar Khattak, tells The Express Tribune. He adds that her tragic murder will serve as a warning sign to younger artists from the region, who will now be reluctant to enter into the local music industry; family pressure and security concerns will overshadow talent and the Pashto music industry will eventually suffer. Female musicians are so deeply affected by the threats received from conservative groups, that they refused to comment on the news of Javed’s death, for fear of a backlash.
Javed hailed from the Banrr village in Swat, which was considered the hub of musicians before the wave of militancy hit the province. “Ghazala Javed was a complete package. She had a beautiful voice and an equally charming personality. I’m shocked to hear about her murder,” says Rahim Khan, a prominent Pashto singer. “Ghazala was a gifted person and we should have honoured her for contributing immensely to the Pashto music industry,” he adds.
The mystery hangs in the air
Although the reason behind her murder is still unclear, like other musicians of that area, Khan blames conservative groups that condemn the profession of art and culture for Javed’s demise. He supports his accusation by citing the murder of yet another versatile female singer, Aiman Udas, who was shot dead in 2009 by unknown assailants. “The new generation will hardly dare to come into this field now, because all they see is death waiting for them with open arms. The actors, singers and musicians should be provided security and protection if we want our Pashto culture to flourish,” says Khan.
A true promoter of modern Pashto music, Javed’s voice resonated from Peshawar to Ningerhar. She was something of a national sweetheart and having a picture of her in your mobile phone was not uncommon for young men of that area. Javed’s sad end reminds one of the brief yet impactful career of Nazia Hassan who, just like the Pashto singer, departed at a very young age leaving her admirer mourning her death.
In the short span of eight years, Javed had managed to release six albums, all of which were a hit in the market. She has performed 10 international concerts in cities like Dubai, Kabul and Kuala Lumpur.
Like most female celebs, she lost a major chunk of followers in April 2010, when she tied the knot with Peshawar-based businessman Jahangir Khan. She remained disconnected with the local music scene for two years until her marriage was on the rocks. After her divorce was finalised, she returned to music, her first love. “She gave stalwarts like Nazia Iqbal tough competition,” the owner of Musafir CD house told The Express Tribune. “She was the one who kept song alive even when K-P was going through its darkest period,” he said.
According to him, her albums sold like hot cakes, and it wasn’t just because she was a pretty face garnering popularity because of her looks. A proud winner of the Khyber Award amongst many others accolades, Javed was a true artist at heart and gave her life in the line of duty. She was heading out for a show from the parlour when unidentified gunmen opened fire on her. The same evening she had recorded her latest song, titled “A zamung kali ta rasha, za ba zan darta pagal kram, tol jehan ba rata gori, za qadamona ba di khqul kram” (The news of your arrival is driving me crazy, the whole village will witness me bow down and kiss your feet).
Now, the city mourns Javed’s death, and will bury with her any dreams of watching her perform again.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2012.