The Deputy Governor of Helmand, Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal has been sacked from his position after the Nawruz concert in Lashkargah, in which he invited female singers. Thousands of people attended that concert. When I was watching the photos on BBC Pashto, the crowd looked bigger than any of religious gatherings. More than 200 women also attended the live music. The above photo of exciting children enjoying the concert and clapping on the beat of music gave me the most pleasant feeling, seeing the young cheerful faces having fun in the heart of an insurgency-hit province where children and women are the worst victims of terrorism, and living with the mental torture in such an environment. Afghan police managed the security of the concert, and it was a success for Helmand, one of the 8 places to be transferred to Afghan security forces in July by NATO troops. Recently a similar passion was seen in the concert of Farhad Darya, where thousands came, despite the risky security situation. Such events are rare in the volatile provinces of South, where people have little opportunities of entertainment.
During the dark period of Taliban repression, not only our centuries’ old festival Nawruz was banned, but also music was not allowed, and declared “sinful” for the ears. Since the fall of the forces of darkness, we have been defiant to fight extremism and religious fanaticism. Kudos to Farzana Naz and Rita Wagma, the female singers who made the crowd of 12,000 people cheer with entertainment, for their bravery to go there. It was the first time female singers perform in front of a big crowd in Helmand, not to mention their half-sleeves and no-hijab or head-scarves appearing in public in the heart of insurgency. But this event and “female” singers’ performance was not something to be “acceptable” for the radical Mullahs and Ulemas of the province. They all complained to Karzai about Mirzakwal, and threatened with repercussions, then the Deputy Governor was sacked soon. Karzai bowed in front the religious radicals and took action quickly on their demand, even not consulting IDLG (Independent Directorate of Local Governance), the body responsible for appointing and dismissal of governors, district chiefs and other officials.
The question is, why the President has to react on the “complains” of some medieval-thinking extremists against the will of thousands of people? If it was that un-Islamic and against our traditions, why thousands of people, who are very religious, didn’t raise any objection, rather enjoyed the concert? This is one of the most shameful and ridiculous moves by President Karzai recently. Sacking an official for the complaints of a handful of religious extremists is like agreeing to what Taliban did to the people while holding an AK-47 on their head. There are such concerts happening all over the country, but why should Helmand or Mirzakwal be a victim? What violation of Islamic laws and our traditions have been committed in a concert where a female singer appears on the stage and make the crowd of thousands cheer in delight? Well, if we listen to the interpretation of Islam by these radicals, music is Harram (taboo) and their male-honor and ethics say that “female” are a species to be kept under veils at homes, and subjected to a treatment like an object. They think entertainment is bad for public, and people should not rejoice.
The hypocrisy and cowardice of President Karzai is not understandable when locals have no problem with such an event, but he reacts on the “complains” of some fanatics who consider themselves the self-righteous guardian of peoples’ belief and ethics, who think it’s not proper that a female singer come on stage , and people listen to music, children clap and smile. They want the people to live in a medieval lifestyle where no one but the village Mullah has the right to set limits to the lifestyle of people and declare what is good and part of our traditions, and what not.
It’s an irony that even we are afraid to comment on it. Violence is the weapon for extremists, but our sacrificial compromise cannot be silence. Officials of Karzai Administration say there will be increased violence in Helmand with such “concerts”. What a shame! They want us to live on the conditions of terrorists, even in areas where the Government is confident enough to call for transfer of security responsibility to Afghan security forces from ISAF troops.
President Karzai is very keen with his efforts to negotiate with militants and make compromise deals on their conditions. He is even ready to give up some of our basic rights and freedoms, such as celebration of our cultural festivals, a music concert and performance of a female singer. He wants to appease the militants by bowing down to the “demands” of fanatics. That is the kind of peace that Karzai wants to buy by selling out our freedoms and rights, even before we exercise them. We have fought to gain such rights and freedoms, and we must defend them, not sell out to militants with a peace that will come at the cost of these rights.