Alamzaib Mujahid, a veteran in the Pashto television industry and one of it’s most famous comedians, did not bow out of the limelight for reasons common amongst stars of his calibre.
His story befits the dramas that he had spent most of his life working on. First kidnapped by militants, then released only on the condition that he will never work in showbiz again, Mujahid currently works as a cab driver in Singapore.
Known by fans as Janan, after one of the more famous characters he played on television, Mujahid performed a variety of roles both as an actor and as a producer. He had a huge fan-following in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and neighbouring Afghanistan, and worked in some 250 Pashto comedy dramas, mainly for PTV.
Speaking to The Express Tribune via phone, Mujahid said he left Pakistan three and half years ago and took refuge in Singapore, after being kidnapped by unidentified militants earlier. Their condition for not killing him was his departure from the silver-screen as, according to them, acting and anything to do with television is un-Islamic, he said.
“Even when I stopped working, I was not left in peace in my country, therefore, I moved to Singapore taking my family with me,” Mujahid said.
Mujahid, who hails from Charsadda district of K-P, was initially encouraged to work in Pashto dramas by well-known PTV producer Shaukat Ali. Mujahid’s foray into Pakhtun television started from Draim Wada (third marriage) in 1989.
The actor was doing his masters in Pashto literature from the University of Peshawar, but dropped out. He said that educated people were needed if Pashto culture and art were to be promoted through stage or drama.
“I was part of the famous stage-show ‘Abaseen’ for a very long time. I performed 52 different roles for that, which I believe was one of my best performances,” he added.
Fearing for the lives of his family members, the artist even refused to appear in interviews, saying his brother and other relatives were still in Charsadda. “I want to come back to Pakistan as life in this unfamiliar country is very difficult. I am just languishing here along with my children. The people of K-P have given me a lot of love, but now I am unable to even put my foot in my motherland.”
Mujahid’s predicament seems to be part of a trend in which Pashto artists are being forced to leave the country. These also include Haroon Bacha and Sardar Ali Takar. Several female singers have even been killed, all for their chosen profession.
“A society is recognised by its culture and literature; and literature grows and develops through artists and writers,” said Saadullah Jan Barq, who has written dramas for Mujahid. Barq said: “In our society we are not only destroying our culture and heritage, but artistes are either being killed or expelled from the country on the pretext of doing things against Islam.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2012.