Arts & Entertainment

Pakistani musicians protest arrest of Afghan artists in Peshawar

Islamabad, May 30 (EFE).- Pakistani musicians on Monday held a protest in the northwestern city of Peshawar against the detention of four Afghan artists last week for illegally entering the country without travel documents, after the hard-line Taliban group seized power in neighboring Afghanistan last year.

After the fall of Kabul in August 2021, a number of Afghan musicians crossed over into Pakistan, fearing violence and persecution from the Taliban, who had banned music during their previous rule in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

The musicians, mainly from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, held the protest with their musical instruments urging authorities to issue special permits to the Afghan artists enabling them to stay in Pakistan on humanitarian grounds.

“You can’t throw them to the wolves,” a placard read as the protesters believed that sending the artists back to Afghanistan could put their lives in danger.

Last week, the police in Peshawar arrested four Afghan artists, including two singers and two musicians, for not possessing any travel documents and staying illegally in Pakistan.

“Police arrested four Afghan nationals on Friday as they did not have any legal documents to stay in Pakistan,” Gul Khan, an official at the Tehkal police station in Peshawar, told EFE.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Pashto literary and cultural organization head Rashid Ahmad said two singers, Naveed Hassan and Syed Ullah Wafa, and two musicians, Ajmal and Nadeem Shah, fled to Pakistan after the Taliban took over and banned live music in public.

“The police raided the place where they were staying at night and arrested them without any arrest warrants, Ahmad told EFE over telephone.

He stressed that the Afghan artists are facing persecution in Pakistan just like they were facing in Afghanistan.

“Deporting them back to Afghanistan and giving them into the hands of the Taliban will be an inhuman act,” said Ahmad.

Ahmad said when the artists reached Peshawar they did not even have money for food, and the artist community in the province helped them financially and arranged a place for them to live.

He further stressed that the artist community had planned to march to the country’s capital city of Islamabad if they were not released.

“Our main demand is that they should not be deported to Afghanistan under the current situation as millions of other Afghan refugees are also living here,” asserted Ahmad.

Meanwhile, the police official revealed the Afghan artists were detained under clause 14 of the Foreigners Act and now the court would decide their fate.

According to the act, if any person knowingly enters into Pakistan illegally, he shall be guilty of an offense under this Act and shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years and fine which may extend to 10 thousand rupees.

The law further says such illegal residents can be deported with the consent of the federal government and permission from the court. EFE


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