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Tuesday, July 23, 2024  
17 Muharram 1446  

Singer Khushbu’s murder: How bullets are the fate for women who follow their artistic dreams

The slain singer's sister asks if she will ever get justice
Photo via author
Photo via author

Popular Pahsto singer Khushbu Gul’s murder sent a shockwave in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. However, the killing is only another chapter in a long story of violence against female artists in the province and the story raises questions that are yet to be answered.

As I entered Khushbu’s room, my eyes were drawn to three framed pictures hanging on the wall.

‘Let the music play’

‘Everything will be okay’

‘I am not arguing. I am explaining why I am right’

These seemingly simple and common phrases, often seen framed on home walls, somehow drew me in.

From the story of Shabana, murdered by the Taliban in Swat, to Khushbu’s story today, I see a common thread: the helplessness of women.

What a woamn wants to do, how she wants to live, who she wants to be with… it is not up to her.

She may feel to the rhythm of music, but she’s not allowed to follow the melody that touches her heartstrings. Society only allows her to live as long as she dances to its tune. But when she tries to listen to her own heart, a bullet becomes her fate.

Two decades have passed since the stories of Shabana, Ghazala Javed, Muskan, Rabeea Tabassum, Saba Gul, and countless other Pashtun female artists were written, but the killer’s mindset and the victim’s desire remain unchanged.

And that same desire is what I saw reflected in the framed pictures on Khushbu’s room wall…

Let the music play, the sign said.

Who was Khushbu?

Khushbu, originally from Swabi, moved to Peshawar. Three women from her family, involved in dance and music, made their mark in the arts.

Khushbu’s sister, Muneeba, told Aaj Digital that a few years ago, Khushbu married an Afghan citizen, with whom she had a daughter, now about three years old. However, Khushbu later divorced him and moved back to Peshawar to live with her parents.

She loved to showcase her art in dance and music performances, which was both her passion and her livelihood, allowing her to raise her daughter.

How did she know the accused, Shaukat?

Muneeba explained that Khushbu met Shaukat during one of her concerts. “They met at a music concert and became friends. Shaukat proposed marriage to Khushbu several times, but she didn’t want to marry him. Shaukat then threatened her on numerous occasions.

According to Muneeba, once, Shaukat even said that if Khushbu didn’t marry him, he would kill her.

Khushbu’s family filed a police report against Shaukat, but he later gave them a written assurance that he wouldn’t harm Khushbu, promising to take responsibility if anything happened. The matter was then settled.

What happened on the night of the murder?

Muneeba said that there were music performances every weekend, and on the day of the murder, Shaukat took Khushbu to a birthday party.

Muneeba explained that after Khushbu left, she called her and asked if everything was alright.

“She said yes, everything was fine, and even sent me some videos and pictures of where she was.”

The pictures and videos shown to Aaj Digital depicted a bedroom scene with Khushbu sitting on a bed.

“We were reassured that everything was fine, but the next morning, we received news of Khushbu’s murder,” Muneeba said.

When the pictures of her body came out, she was wrapped in the same bed sheet that was seen in the pictures.

What is the Noshehra police’s stance?

Akbarpura SHO Niaz Muhammad told Aaj Digital, “After the body was found, police carried out raids to arrest the suspects involved in the incident.”

However, the court granted pre-arrest bail to the accused, and now the police cannot arrest them. If the court rejects the bail application at the next hearing, the accused will be arrested.

Afterward, the police will request physical remand from the magistrate court for further investigation.

No one to protect female Pashtun artists

A tearful Muneeba lamented that there is so much injustice against female artists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but no one to provide them justice.

“If one criminal is punished, then no one would dare to do such a thing. But unfortunately, we artists have no one,” Muneeba expressed.

“I feel that Khushbu won’t get justice either because her killer is still roaming free, and the police are also in cahoots with him.”

“It’s so strange that you can kill someone and then get bail,” she said.

Muneeba shared that Khushbu’s daughter asks her to call her mama every day.

“Call my mama, but where can I get her back? What kind of Pakistan is this, where there is no justice?”

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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa