Pakistan: Music once again in the crosshairs

On 2 July 2017, Islamabad police raided a late-night dance party at the Grand Ambassador Hotel and arrested over 50 people, mostly male, including the hotel owner and manager, on charges of “obscene acts and songs”, reported The Express Tribune on 3 July 2017. Police officers stated that the male and female participants were dancing […]

Pakistan: Police ban music at weddings in village

Police in the village of Mattani, a suburb of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province capital Peshawar in northern Pakistan, have banned all music from wedding ceremonies, reported Pakistan’s Express Tribune on 13 March 2017. A local villager told the newspaper that police are not only stopping events, raiding homes that host such banned events, and arresting […]

Pakistan: Singer interrupts show to rescue woman from harassment

Pakistani singer and actor Atif Aslam briefly stopped his concert in Karachi on 14 January 2017 to rescue a female audience member who was being harassed by having security staff pull her up on stage and finding her a safer place to enjoy the show, reported Hindustan Times on 16 January 2017. Aslaf issued a […]

India/Pakistan: Films continue to fall victim to threats and censorship

India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has refused to certify film ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’, which revolves around the stories of four women, reported Hindustan Times on 23 February 2017. The CBFC stated the reason for the denial was that: “The story is lady oriented, their fantasy above life. There are contanious [sic] sexual […]

Pakistan: Scores killed during devotional activities at Sufi shrine

At least 88 people have been killed, and hundreds more injured, on 16 February 2017 after a suicide bomber detonated a bomb at a crowded Sufi shrine in Sehwan, a town in the southern province in Sindh, reported The Guardian on 17 February 2017. “The explosion took place when a large number of people were […]

Pakistan: Two suspects arrested over musician’s murder

Two men suspected of killing Amjad Sabri, one of Pakistan’s most famous singers, among other high-profile killings, were arrested by police as part of a city-wide crackdown in Karachi that netted dozens of arrests after a spate of sectarian shootings that left five dead in late October, reported Reuters on 7 November 2016. Sindh province […]

Pakistan: Ban on dance classes in private schools revoked

Sindh province chief minister Murad Ali Shah revoked a ban on dance classes in private schools on 23 October 2016 that circulated two days before as a letter from the private schools director-general Mansoob Hussain Siddiqui of the province’s education department, reported The Express Tribune on 23 October 2016. In a statement, chief minister Shah […]

Artsfreedom newsletter: The intentional destruction of the living arts

News and knowledge about artistic freedom of expression   View this email in your browser The intentional destruction of the living arts needs to be addressed The intentional destruction of cultural heritage is a human rights issue. On 27 September, the International Criminal Court (ICC) found Mr Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi guilty as a co-perpetrator of the […]

India/Pakistan: Films, actors, tv shows banned amidst Kashmir tensions

In a retaliatory exchange, Pakistan banned Indian films, tv shows and channels after India banned Pakistani actors and technicians from working on Indian films, as a response to deadly attacks over Kashmir that began on 19 September 2016. On 30 September 2016, the Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association (IMPPA) decided at an annual general meeting […]

Pakistan: Court reverses film ban

On 6 September 2016 the Sindh High Court ruled the Pakistan federal government’s ban on movie ‘Maalik’ illegal and cleared it for screening in the country, reported newspaper Dawn 6 September 2016. The film’s director Asher Azeem celebrated on Twitter, saying: “We waited patiently [and] we did not release the film illegally. We suffered, but […]

Pakistan: Government bans film at home and abroad

Pakistan’s Ministry of Commerce has banned the export of political thriller ‘Maalik’ at the request of the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage, which had already banned the film in May 2016 from being shown in Pakistan, meaning the film will also not be allowed to be shown abroad, reported Pakistan Today on 11 […]

Pakistan: Music returns to region amid scepticism

The provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the north-western region of Pakistan, announced a fund to support 500 artists, including musicians, in the area by giving them $300 USD per month to create and practice their art, reported Al Jazeera on 27 May 2016. Apart from the fund, the government is also planning on spending $5 […]

Pakistan: Controversial Indian film suffers 100 cuts before release

Indian film ‘Udta Punjab’, which already has faced a tough censorship battle in India, was released in parts of Pakistan on 24 June 2016, but only after 100 cuts were made to the film removing “objectionable and anti-Pakistan” content, reported The Indian Express on 21 and 27 June 2016. “We have cut all derogatory and […]

Pakistan: Famed Sufi singer killed in drive-by shooting

Freemuse calls for counter narratives to religious extremism On 22 June 2016, one of Pakistan’s most famous singers Amjad Sabri died in the port town of Karachi after two gunmen on a motorbike shot the singer in his car just a kilometre after leaving his home. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the killing, reported […]

Pakistan: Action movie banned by Ministry of Information

The action movie ‘Maalik’ has been banned in Pakistan after already having been playing in cinemas for weeks. In social media, the ban has led to a classic ‘freedom of expression’ versus ‘state control’ debate, reported The Express Tribune on 28 April 2016. The chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), Mobashir Hasan, […]

Pakistan: Punjabi film banned

Pakistan’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has banned Indian Punjabi film ‘Ambarsariya’ for “strong references” to the country’s research and analysis wing of its intelligence agency, reported The Express Tribune on 1 April 2016. The film’s distributors appeal to have the full board review the film again was granted, but the same decision was […]

Pakistan: Two Bollywood films banned

In the continued practice of Pakistan banning the release of Indian-made films, ‘Ishq Forever’ and ‘Neerja’ are the two latest films that will not be given screen time in the country, according to multiple sources. Pakistan’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) determined romantic drama ‘Ishq Forever’ to be “objectionable”, reported The Express Tribune on […]

Pakistan: Increased censorship of Pakistani films

‘Abdullah’ is the latest film flagged by Pakistan’s censor board, which has become more active of late, reported Sheharyar Rizwan for Until recently, film censorship in Pakistan was mostly limited to Bollywood and Hollywood productions, one reason being there weren’t that many films being produced within Pakistan. But now, with a sudden uptick in […]

Pakistan: Court dismisses petition to ban Indian films

A Pakistani court today dismissed a petition seeking a permanent ban on release of Indian films in the country, days after the same court banned the screening of the Bollywood movie ‘Phantom’ on a petition by Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief and Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed. Read more: » Artsfreedom – 25 August 2015: Pakistan: Various Bollywood films […]

Pakistan: Various Bollywood films banned

A number of Hindi films have been prohibited from releasing in Pakistan for diverse reasons over the past few years, according to an article in Hindustan Times. • Most recently, the Lahore High Court on 20 August 2015 temporarily banned the screening of the upcoming Indian film ‘Phantom’ in Pakistan – and directed the federal […]

Pakistan: Gallery ‘cutting the cord of censorship’

“Despite living in a country where enforced censorship and lack of tolerance is rife, Zarmeene Shah, curator of ‘Parrhesia II’ at Koel Gallery, feels the heart of this concept lies in the risk taken by any artist attempting to speak the truth.” Shanzay Subzwari’s art review: ‘Cutting the cord of censorship’, 19 July 2015 » Read […]

Pakistan: DJs and singers silenced with new loudspeaker regulation

In the Punjab province in Pakistan, DJs, singers and show organisers are threatening to launch province-wide protest if Police continues to register cases against them while seizing their music equipment and loudspeaker systems because of a new legislation, the ‘Punjab Sound System Regulation Ordinance 2015’. The Punjab Government enforced the ‘Punjab Sound System Regulation Ordinance […]

Pakistan: Drummer and performer killed by armed men

In Swabi in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, two people were killed in a violent attack in the middle of the night when a group of transgender dancers and musicians was returning home after performing a show at a wedding party. The attackers were waiting for the musicians and dancers in a field and tried to abduct […]

Russia, China and Turkey top yearly list of music freedom violations

Freemuse monitored and documented violations of freedom of expression for musicians on in 2014. Musicians around the world are facing imprisonment, attacks, and censorship in attempts by government and non-state actors to silence the music. In 2014, Freemuse registered a total number of 90 attacks and violations against musicians’ rights to musical freedom of expression. […]

Pakistan: 26 years prison verdict for playing religious song while staging mock marriage

The editor-in-chief of Geo TV, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, actor Veena Malik, her husband Asad Bashir Khan and tv-host Dr Shaista Lodhi Wahidi have been sentenced to 26 years in prison for an allegedly blasphemous tv-programme with a religious song, reported The Hindu, The News and Rural Media Network Pakistan. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman (sometimes also spelled: Mir Shakeel […]

Pakistan: Women musicians speak out about ‘the gender challenge’

In Pakistan today, women often find themselves unable to pursue music careers because of conservative family attitudes, political insecurity, and gender inequality. But certainly not all women, learned Sabrina Toppa, when she set out to investigate how the country’s ‘gender challenge’ affects musicians. Young, independent women are making a difference and a space for themselves […]

Pakistan: Rock guitarist keeps music scene alive despite state-wide fear and censorship

Pakistan is internationally known for its state-sponsored censorship and terrorists’ attacks on musicians and music shops. But in the capital, the music scene is in a fast transition. Meet Islamabad’s maestro guitarist Zeejah Fazli who works hard to help fix Pakistan’s broken and battered music industry. By Annie Zaman with additional reporting by Sahar Ghazi […]

Pakistan: Ban of social media has great impact on musicians

As Pakistan continues to restrict access to social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, activist band Laal discusses the silencing effect that these bans have on artists, and speaks to the future of free expression. By Anushe Noor Faheem, with additional reporting by Annie Zaman Laal, Pakistan’s most vocal social-justice oriented band, has built […]

Pakistan: Singer killed by four gunmen

» Dawn / AFP – 19 June 2014: Pashto singer Gulnaz shot dead in Peshawar Pashto singer Gulnaz alias Muskan was killed in the Gulburg area of Peshawar Cantt. Police said unidentified gunmen entered the house of Gulnaz also known as Muskan and shot her dead. » Samaa – 19 June 2014: Pashto singer Gulnaz […]

Pakistan: “Censorship boards and artists have always been arch rivals”

“Censorship boards and artists have always been arch rivals. What an artist considers necessary for the audience is often considered unnecessary by the censor board of the time. Article by Rafay Mahmood, published in The Express Tribune on 17 March 2014. Photo by Ayesha Mir. “Pakistani stage and cinema have witnessed their fair share of […]

Pakistan: Voiceless singers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa cry for security

Black curtains have fallen on Pashto cinema in KP as militants have speeded up their attacks. Musicians are receiving death threats, being kidnapped and forced to leave their homes. Local government hopes a new cultural policy can change the desperate situation for artists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. By Sher Alam Shinwari, reporting for Freemuse from Peshawar […]

Pakistan: Five killed in cinema attacked with hand grenades

On 2 February 2014, two hand grenades hurled into a cinema hall in Peshawar killed five persons and injured 31. Police were reportedly not surprised – they had been warning cinemas for a while that they needed to step up security. A stampede following the blasts was responsible for many of the injuries. Around 100 […]

Pakistan: Court stops the screening of Indian films on tv

While staying the beaming of foreign content, Lahore High Court Justice Khalid Mahmood Khan ruled that Indian films and television serials were included in “Negative List” under the current bilateral trade regime. Khalid Mahmood Khan also directed the federal government and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to submit a detailed reply in this […]

Book with accounts of artists’ resistance to religious extremism

Here is a book which describes a largely invisible global community of writers, artists, doctors, musicians, museum curators, lawyers, activists, and educators of Muslim heritage around the world who often risk death to combat the rising tide of fundamentalism within their own countries. ‘Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here’ is written by Karima Bennoune, a […]

Pakistan: Online music video banned by Telecommunication Authority

“They are helping us by making this video controversial,” Beygairat Brigade’s lead singer Ali Aftab Saeed said to Pakistan’s The Express Tribune, after the band’s online music video ‘Dhinak Dhinak’ was banned by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. Beygairat Brigade put out their new song, ‘Dhinak Dhinak’, on Vimeo on 20 April 2013. First Post wrote: “The song, […]

Pakistan: Manifestations of tolerance and acceptance of music and art

On Music Freedom Day 2013 at a local hotel in Peshawar, music lovers put their voices together to ensure the freedom of artistic and musical expressions. The participants boldly condemned militancy and extremism in all its forms. Also, at the Peshawar Press Club, a seminar and a protest walk was organised to inform about the […]

Pakistan: The undeclared ban on playing music lingers on

During the last decade, Pashto music has lost artists and singers of high repute. Some have preferred to seek political asylum in the foreign countries. Many are living a miserable life. Receiving threats from militants has become a routine matter. But have things improved lately? Sher Alam Shinwari set out to investigate what the situation […]

India: Activist challenges Indian blasphemy law

“Can you legislate against offence without compromising free speech?,” asks Caspar Melville, editor of New Humanist Magazine, in his report about Sanal Edamarauku, who challenges Indian blasphemy law on the basis that it conflicts with provisions in the Indian constitution which protect free speech. Catholic groups in India have brought blasphemy charges against Sanal Edamarauku, […]

Afghanistan: Religious leaders stopped ‘immoral’ eid celebration concert

An eid celebration concert by the popular young singer Shafiq Mureed was cancelled after local mullahs had labelled his music ‘immoral’, reported Freemuse’s regional network partners in Afghanistan. The city of Herat is one of the most sophisticated and culturally active towns in Afghanistan. A call from religious leaders in Herat made authorities stop and […]

Pakistan: Popular singer gunned down in music market

A young popular female singer, Ghazala Javed, was shot dead on 18 June 2012 along with her father by two unknown armed men The incident happened in the busy Mohallah Nau of Dabgari Garden in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, where the singer was on her way from a beauty parlor […]

Pakistan: Possible death sentences for dancing at a wedding party

Pakistani media is bringing confusing reports from northern Pakistan about a tribal court which allegedly handed down death penalty to four women and two men for dancing at a wedding party. Rumours said the four women from Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhunkhwa were shot dead by their families. However police and official sources rejected this […]



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