Artists in Peshawar protest delayed payment of their monthly stipend — File photo
Artists in Peshawar protest delayed payment of their monthly stipend — File photo

The year 2018 was characterised by hopelessness for the artists, performers and folk singers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as no concrete steps were taken for the revival or improvement of arts and cultural activities despite the launch of a comprehensive cultural policy. However, many art critics consider the policy a mere eyewash.

The art scene of the culturally-rich province remained largely deserted as its destitute actors and performers went through great sufferings. Whether film, stage, theatre, radio or TV, the KP artists and musicians are found performing and singing dirge of their own fallen souls. Misery and gloom are writ large on their faces that earlier were symbols of hope, peace and love.

“KP artists have been virtually reduced to street beggars as they find neither respect in the society nor an ear to listen to their feeble voice,” said Zardad Bulbul, a noted actor.

Despite tall claims, the KP government couldn’t implement its well-drafted cultural policy as neither an art institution was built nor a single project launched to engage artists and literati for promoting the cause of national integration and peace.

“The so-called KP cultural policy was lost in the bureaucratic files and the artists’ community continued to suffer and a few died during the course while the government aid reached for their burial,” said Mohammad Ilyas, a disgruntled TV actor.

When approached, most senior artists were of the view that Nishtar Hall should be handed over to the seasoned professionals of the art and culture field, like in Punjab and Sindh where senior artists run art institutions. The state-run radio and TV also closed their doors to local artists, writers and performers due to lack of funds.

The KP culture directorate failed to conduct a single cultural or literary event at the Peshawar city’s lone theatre of Nishtar Hall during 2018 as the required funds for different activities couldn’t be released. The artists’ community was seen on roads protesting over delay in payment of their monthly stipends, which came close to Rs110 million to be awarded for the next seven months to the deserving artists and singers.

Sources privy to the matters of KP culture directorate told this scribe earlier that the KP government used to release Rs35 million on annual basis since 2011 for conducting different cultural and literary events, but regretted that 2018 remained dry for the artists and cultural activities as all the letters and reminders fell on deaf ears of the authorities concerned. They said that the officials concerned were not serious about revival of cultural activities in the province plagued by militancy where the artists’ community also suffered.

Sharing her views, seasoned TV artist Shazma Haleem said that the KP artists had a bleak future lying ahead for them. She said that she was so hopeless that she had stopped taking part in any protest. “A writer, performer or an actor should be treated as a person deserving high pedestal in the society. 2018 proved a dismal year for the KP artists. Even private radio and TV channels dismissed hardworking and talented artists due to financial slump,” she said.


Originally published in Dawn, December 31st, 2018

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