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Silenced No More: Popular Pashtun Singer Set To Return

Pashtun singer Nazia Iqbal
Pashtun singer Nazia Iqbal
When Nazia Iqbal called it curtains on her singing career in order to pursue her faith, shocked fans were left to lament the early exit of one of the world's most popular Pashtun entertainers.

Now, months later, they know the real reason for the 32-year-old's early departure -- threats against her children -- and can now look forward to encore performances.

Iqbal describes the blackmail that led to her faux retirement in an interview with RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal.

"I was in Dubai when I received these threats. They told me they had kidnapped my two kids. They forced me to announce I was quitting singing. That's why I made that announcement," Iqbal said.

The singer provided few details about the threats other than to say that she was told to publicly declare she was ending her singing career in order to concentrate on religion.

She did what she was told -- telling a live audience in Dubai in January that she was leaving music and was planning to open religious schools in her native Pakistan.

RFE/RL was unable to independently verify if the perpetrators of the threat actually kidnapped Iqbal's children, and whether their release was secured.

Originally from western Swat Valley, Iqbal is one of the most prominent contemporary female singers among Pashtuns.

She has released music albums in her native Pashtu as well as Urdu, Farsi, and Punjabi, which have made her popular in Pakistan's Pashtu-speaking tribal areas and Afghanistan.

Her retirement was described by some Pashtuns as a "national tragedy" for Pashtuns.

Iqbal, who currently lives in Dubai, said that in the past few months she has heard pleas from fans and even officials in her native Khyber-Pashtunkwa Province to return.

While she did not reveal specifics, Iqbal says that more performances are in the offing, and that she will in the future perform only with her singer-husband Java Faza and their colleague Rahim Shah.
Written by Farangis Najibullah, based on reporting by Radio Mashaal correspondent Farkhanda Wazir.
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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the region. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate and reintegrate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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