Performers and singers hailing from Fata have demanded the federal government to launch a monthly stipend scheme on the pattern of Khyber Pakhunkhwa government to revive cultural activities in tribal areas.
Around 400 artists, performers and singers belonging to Fata had been forced to flee to settled areas as federal government had neither helped them to rebuild their homes destroyed during militant’s attacks or military operations nor compensated them, according to an artist currently living in Peshawar.
The tribal artists said that cultural activities in their areas could not be revived if they were subjected to starvation and deprived of any financial support.
Wazir Khan Afridi, a popular folk singer from Bara subdivision of Khyber Agency, told this scribe that he along with many other tribal artists and performers had been living a miserable life because they couldn’t return to their villages. He said that his colleagues approached several times the officials at Fata Secretariat for financial assistance to rebuild their homes but no avail.
Mr Afridi said that he had been kidnapped three times from his residence in Bara four years ago by militants and each time he had been released on the condition that he would quit singing.
“But I shall continue singing despite difficult times because I have to carry on this precious legacy as most popular singers like Khial Mohammad, Sarfaraz, Rafiq Shinwari and many others belonged to Khyber agency,” he said. He has 50 albums to his credit. He said that terrorism could only be countered through art and cultural activities.
“When we walk up to KP government, it tells us we belong to Fata but when we approach Fata Secretariat we find no one to listen to our ordeal, where should we go,” questioned Hanif Afridi, another singer from Bara.
Wazir Khan Afridi, a popular folk singer from Bara, said that he had been kidnapped three times from his residence by militants and each time he had been released on the condition that he would quit singing.
He said that they demanded of the President of Pakistan and KP Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra to launch a monthly stipend project for 500 artists and performers so that they could revive cultural activities in the tribal belt.
Khial Gul, a senior folk singer from Kurram Agency, told this scribe that he and his other colleagues had been living in Peshawar in rented houses for a long time.
He said that tribal artists and singers were the worst off owing to the declining market of live performance and lack of sponsorship of album productions.
He said that they were not receiving any stipend or financial assistance from both federal and KP governments. “I don’t know why the Fata Secretariat is silent. That’s good that artists in settled areas are given monthly stipend but why we are deprived of any such scheme while serving the same cause of promoting cultural activities,” he asked.
Zeeshan, a young rabab player, said that opportunities for Fata artists were getting fewer because they couldn’t go to their own villages for performance due to fear of being attacked or robbed on the way.
He said that tribal people didn’t conduct open air live performances and depended only on DJ system.
“We can hardly make both ends meet as we cannot pay rent due to slump in the music business. I have submitted an application for financial assistance to KP culture directorate recently. I expect they will consider it on sympathetic ground,” said Zeeshan.
A source at the KP culture directorate said like previous year, the department accommodated a considerable number of artists and literati in the monthly stipend scheme wherever possible and also that time around the same criterion stood for them.
An official at Fata Secretariat, when approached, said that no artist had submitted application for financial assistance. Requesting anonymity, he said that federal government had no scheme of financial support for artists on card but could be compensated in the light of the set procedure.
“Artists and singers can perform in Fata subject to the peace environment in a particular region,” said the official.
Originally published in Dawn, January 30th, 2018