PESHAWAR: The local artists held a protest demonstration here on Monday against the arrest of some Afghan musicians in Peshawar and urged the government to allow them to stay in Pakistan as refugees.

The protesting artists gathered outside Peshawar Press Club and chanted slogans for acceptance of their demands. The leaders of opposition parties in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly including Awami National Party MPA Sardar Hussain Babak and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MPA Ikhtiar Wali Khan also joined them.

The lawmakers assured them that they would raise their issues on the floor of assembly.

Some Afghan artists, present on the occasion, said that they had come to Pakistan to remain safe from Taliban. The Pakistan government, they said, decided to deport them to Afghanistan, currently ruled by the conservative Taliban.

They said that they were not safe and could not continue their profession in their own country.

The MPAs asked police to stop action against the artists as they were guests in Pakistan and their lives were at risk in Afghanistan.

The local artists including Saeeda and Rashid Khan talked to media on the occasion and condemned police action against the Afghan musicians in Tehkal area of Peshawar. They demanded early release of the Afghan artists and recovery of their valuables from police.

They said that Taliban had resorted to violence against the musicians and destroyed their equipment at different places and also shot dead people even participating in the wedding ceremonies in Nangarhar and other provinces of Afghanistan.

“We have applied for bail of the detained artists with the hope to get them released at the earliest,” they said. They set three-day deadline for police to stop action against the artists otherwise both Afghans and Pakistani artists would march on Islamabad to observe sit-in for acceptance of their demands.

They also appealed to UNHCR to take notice of the ordeal of Afghan artists so that they could live in Pakistan as refugees.

Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2022

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