PESHAWAR, Dec 24: Khalil Plaza, on Peshawar’s dusty Jamrud Road, has something really different to offer to its visitors.
Situated in a busy commercial area with shops and business outlets displaying a variety of saleable commodities, Khalil Plaza instead is a house to hundreds of musicians, singers and art lovers from Afghanistan.
Rhythmic compositions of the rich Pakhtoon and Persian folk music greet every new, and even old visitor, who steps in the complex situated right on the crowded Jamrud Road.
Resounding effect created by melodious tunes of the traditional musical instruments - the stringed rubab, conventional pair of tambourines, daf (a type of handy tambourine) and harmonium - rarely leaves anybody unmoved.
The refreshing impact one gets upon entering the complex diminishes the unpleasant noisy effect of pressure horns blared by large number of minibuses and rickshaws.
Apart from providing accommodation to scores of musicians and singers from Afghanistan, Khalil Plaza also served as a centre of preserving and promoting Afghan folk music.
It is the place, which, after providing shelter to musicians and singers from Afghanistan, has become a a centre of conserving Afghan music, specially the Pashto and Dari (Persian) folk music.
Around 500 musicians and over 100 singers, mostly middle-aged, have kept the music of the war-torn country alive while living as refugees here.
They have converted dozens of small shops and compartments into their studios in the multi-storey plaza where they conduct rehearsals, play stringed rubab, tambourines and practice Pashto and Dari’s folk songs every day.
Love for their beloved country, desire for the return of peace and normalcy to their cities, villages, streets, and the restoration of Afghan way of life form the central point of the songs they are often asked to sing by the audience in the marriage ceremonies and functions of Afghan refugees in Peshawar.
“People usually ask us to sing songs that give hopes Afghans going back to their normal way of life in their homeland,” said Azhar Khayali, a young Afghan singer who is equally good in playing stringed rubab and harmonium.
Despite the fact that musicians from Kabul and other places of Afghanistan kept the Afghan music alive while living here, they had to pay a heavy price for that.
Khayali, like several other Afghan musicians who live in Khalil Plaza, was forced to leave Kabul six years back when the Taliban banned music, declaring it unIslamic.
Obaidullah, a middle-aged musician also from Kabul, had left the Afghan capital much before that.
“I left Kabul in early 1990s because staying there was getting very difficult amid infighting between different Mujahideen groups,” said Obaidullah.
Almost all the musicians and art lovers, interviewed by this scribe, expressed their keen willingness to return to their homeland. They expressed the desire to perform in front of their compatriots in their homeland.
But the main hurdle in their return is the uncertain situation and slim peace prospects. “I’ll definitely go back as it is my dream to play rubab in Kabul, but unless peace reigns supreme and normalcy returns to my country I cannot take the risk of leaving Peshawar,” said Tirmizi.
Although Tirmizi earns only Rs1,200 to Rs1,500 per month for a family of five, he does not want to take decision in haste. “The interim setup has a daunting task to accomplish, it would remain under the pressure of warlords and commanders who were involved in killing their own countrymen for their petty designs,” he said.
Like him, several other musicians from Kabul did not appear to be in a haste to go back to their homeland though they are facing hardships in Peshawar.
JOINS PPP: Mian Yahya Shah Kakakhel, a prominent figure of Nowshehra District, has joined Pakistan People’s Party and said that only the PPP can steer Pakistan out of the external threats.
After having separate meetings with PPP leaders Liaqat Shabab and Mian Jamal Shah Kakakhel, Mr Yahya announced his decision to join the party.