Singing the tune of oppression

Pakistani theatre actress and dancer Shamim was shot dead on Monday by unidentified gunmen in Shah town of Multan in Punjab province. The 29-year-old artist was killed early in the morning outside her house. Her brother, Saifur Rehman said she had been receiving threats for performing in theatres. Shamim's family also suspects that her estranged husband might be involved in the murder. Last year, another theatre actress Kismat Baig was killed by her estranged lover in Lahore. She was shot 11 times in her legs, stomach and hands. “Kismat now you will not be able to dance,” one of the gunmen had said after spraying her with bullets, her driver had told the police. Kismat’s killing had followed the assasination of prominent Qawwal Amjad Sabri in Karachi in June, and the murder of model Qandeel Baloch by her brother at her home in Multan. Baloch was killed because her family disapproved of her scandalous ways. Clearly, these are not stray instances of deaths. Since 2008, there has been a chain of killings of renowned singers, actors, dancers and artists in Pakistan. While stage actresses — Nadra, Nagu, Yasmin, Naina, Nagina, Shabana, Marvi, Karishma, Sangam, Afsana, Arzo and Mussarat Shahee n— from Lahore and Multan have all been killed either by their estranged lovers or unidentified men in broad daylight, singers Gulnar, Saima Naz, Ghazala Javed, Yasmeen Gul, Kamal Mehsud, Ayman Udas, artist Sana, drumbeater Ibrahim and harmonium player Anwar Gul have been killed in suspicious circumstances. Even as the country’s mainstream music brands Coke Studio, Lahooti Melo and Pakistani dramas collect fans across the world for their sublime content, it’s sub-altern cultural traditions are getting muzzled and massacred in the streets everyday by zealots who consider these unislamic. Small time artists are giving up their profession or getting killed by the dozen for being provocative and blasphemous. While even mainstream artistes are not safe, the proletarians are the most vulnerable. Those who can afford are leaving the country in droves. Those who can’t wait for the mainstream to voice their pain.

Ritu Pandey