Renowned Pashto folk singer Khan Tahsil has received numerous accolades during his lifetime, but the ailing crooner says the awards hold little meaning for him now as he suffers from multiple health complications, including kidney problems.
Sixty-year-old Tahsil belongs to a gypsy family from Lakki Marwat and was awarded the Pride of Performance Award in 2011. His wife, Zarsanga, is also a celebrated folk singer, popularly known as the ‘desert queen of Pashto music’. The couple has been serving the vernacular music industry since the past 40 years and have performed not only across the country, but also the world.
Tahsil has performed alongside Zarsanga in the US, England, Paris, Germany and the UAE among other countries. Now the couple lives in a modest mud house in the suburbs of Peshawar.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Tahsil said he had been admitted to the Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC) for the past one month, but was brought home by his family on Friday due to lack of finances.
Though HMC is a state-run hospital which offers free treatment, Tahsil claims he could not afford to stay there any longer. Like many other artists, Tahsil is waiting for the government to provide him with financial assistance to help pay for his treatment and medication.
The singer said former culture minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain gave him Rs100,000 for his artistic contributions a year ago. “However, during my illness, I have received no help from the authorities, nor has anyone visited me in the hospital,” Tahsil lamented. “I have been given numerous awards during my lifetime. They are useless to me today.”
Karan Khan, another Pashto singer, agrees authorities need to support ailing artists. “These musicians have projected a positive image of Pukhtuns around the world. The government should set up academies and centres to help them through such appalling conditions.”
Around two months earlier, senior Hindko actress Safia Rani died after battling with liver cancer for almost five years. Hidayatullah, yet another famous Pashto singer, suffers from dementia while other folk artists like Almas Khalil and Gulab Sher are also ailing from various health complications. The government has not yet offered any assistance to these performers, who were once hailed as the representatives of Pashto culture.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2013.