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Pakistani Singer Joins Growing List Of Slain Female Artists

Violence against artists is sadly common in in parts of Pakistan, particularly if the artist is a woman. (file photo)
Violence against artists is sadly common in in parts of Pakistan, particularly if the artist is a woman. (file photo)
Peshawar's artistic community is reeling from the killing of a popular local singer, the latest attack against a female artist in Pakistan's deeply conservative northwest.

Gul Naz, who sang in Pashto and used the stage name Muskan, was shot dead at her home in Peshawar on June 18.

"Several people entered her house at around 10:00 am," local police officer Sibghatullah told RFE/RL. "After exchanging harsh words, they opened fire on her."

Gul Naz died later in the hospital.

No suspect has been named so far, although a local police official told the AFP news agency that she had been married three times and had "personal enmities."

Violence against artists is sadly common in Pakistan's restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, a Taliban stronghold where the performing arts are widely considered to be un-Islamic – particularly if the artist is a woman.

Several female artists have been slain in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province after defying the Taliban's decree against singing and dancing.

In 2009, famous singer and songwriter Aiman Udas was shot dead in her apartment in Peshawar. Police accuse her brothers, who staunchly opposed her musical career, but no charges were ever filed against them.

The same year, Shabana, a dancer, was dragged out of her home in the city of Mingora and shot to death.

Her body was left on a central square, strewn with bank notes and CDs of her performances. The Taliban claimed responsibility for her killing.

Deadly Profession

But the most prominent Pakistani artist to be slain so far is 24-year-old Ghazala Javed, gunned down in 2012 along with her father as she left a beauty parlor in Peshawar.

Javed was extremely popular among young people in Pakistan's northwest and had a strong following among Pashto speakers around the world.

A court last year found her former husband, local businessman Jahangir Khan, guilty and sentenced him to death. He was also fined $705,000.

The death sentence was eventually set aside after Khan reached an arrangement with the singer's family.

Javed had divorced him in 2011 after finding out he had had another wife before her and because of his efforts to end her singing career.

Another acclaimed singer, Nazia Iqbal, caused dismay among her fans in 2012 when she announced she was abandoning her musical career to pursue her Islamic faith.

Later, Iqbal resumed her singing. She said she had made the retirement announcement after the Taliban made threats against her children.

And last year, a young actress known as Bushra survived an acid attack at her home in the town of Nowshera.

Unknown assailants hurled acid at the 18-year-old, popular in the northwest for her film, television and theatre appearances, while she was sleeping.

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has repeatedly pledged to protect artists.

Gul Naz's killing, however, shows that art remains a deadly profession in the region, even in the comparative safety of Peshawar.

"The government has no security measures in place for artists," laments local TV star Arshad Hussain, who works for the culture department of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. "Artists don't even get any funding."

Hussain himself says he was abducted in 2008 by gunmen who held him for several days and demanded that he quit acting.

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