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Pashtuns Lament Pop Star's Decision To Call It A Day

Pashto singer Nazia Iqbal
Pashto singer Nazia Iqbal
When one of the world's most beloved Pashtun singers announced that she was giving up music to follow her faith, it came as more than a shock to fans and supporters -- some took it as a national tragedy.

Nazia Iqbal surprised concertgoers in Dubai on January 21 when she announced that they were seeing her last performance. She was leaving music, she said, to live the "life of a devoted Muslim woman."

"Now you are not going to see my face," the popular Pakistani singer said, "because I will be wearing the Islamic veil."

"Nazia,", as she is known to her admirers, is from Pakistan's western Swat region, but has been based in the United Arab Emirates since 2005.

Her albums, recorded in her native Pashto as well as Urdu, Farsi, and Punjabi are very popular in Pakistan's tribal Pashto-language areas and Afghanistan.

Nazia says she now plans to open an Islamic religious school or madrasah in Pakistan, but for many of her fans there, this homecoming won't compensate for the loss of her music.

Shabana, an admirer from Quetta who identified herself only by her first name, is taking the news very hard.

"I am really very sad because of Nazia Iqbal's decision," she said. "I am so grief-stricken that I want to cry."

Prominent Pakistani poet and radio producer Laiq Zada Laiq took things a step farther, describing Nazia's departure from the stage as a "national tragedy" for Pashtuns.

Pashto Careers Cut Short

The careers of several famous singers who performed in Pashto have ended unexpectedly, and sometimes tragically, in recent years.

Pakistani singer Ayman Udas was shot dead in her Peshawar apartment in 2009 in an apparent "honor killing" by her brothers after receiving several threats from radical Islamists.

The last song performed by Udas on television was, "I died but still live among the living, because I live on in the dreams of my lover."

Prominent singer and dancer Shabana was killed by Taliban militants in Swat in January 2009.

The male singer Shahensha Bacha also quit singing and embarked on the "righteous life of a Muslim" in 2010.

Female artists Shakeela Naz, Farzana, and Farida Khan also all halted their careers in recent years after marrying.

written by Merkhat Sharipzhanov based on reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal
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