PESHAWAR: Senior stage and theatre artists and a number of leading cultural organisations have shown concerns over their exclusion from Pakistan Theatre Festival to be held in Karachi.

According to them, Pakistan Theatre Festival will be starting from Sept 8, 2023, at Karachi Arts Council (KAC) in which artists from Sindh and Punjab and even abroad will perform.

“Not a single performer has been invited from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the festival to represent culture of the province. It shows prejudice and bias against rich culture of Pashtuns. The organisers and officials should look into the matter and immediately issue directives to quarters concerned to include KP artists in the event,” the members of artists organisation ‘Awaaz” told Dawn.

They said that the organisers seemed to have had grudge against artists of KP, who enjoyed a long history of live theatre and producing legend performers like Dillip Kumar, Prithivi Raj, Raj Kapoor and Madhubala.

Ask authorities to take notice of the matter for action

The artists said that Peshawar city had once the most vibrant and thriving theatre in the entire South Asia. “The Khudai Khidmatgar Tehreek led by Bacha Khan staged a theatre play titled Dray Yateemaan in 1927 in Utmanzai, Charsadda, in which his own sons Ghani Khan, Wali Khan and Ali Khan performed. Since then KP talented performers have kept up the golden tradition,” they said.

Artists Action Movement (AAM), a representative organisation of the province, also condemned what it called a biased attitude of the organisers of Pakistan Theatre Festival.

Veteran artist and chief of AAM Tariq Jamal told this scribe that in the recent Past, KP artists staged ‘Rahman Baba and Khushal Khan Khattak’ theatre plays in Nishtar Hall and all the performers proved their talent.

Noted playwright Noorul Bashar Naveed said that federal and provincial culture departments should take notice of the unwanted move and ensure inclusion of theatre performers from KP in the festival. The historic Edwardes College Peshawar had been staging live performances for more than three decades where its students had been performing different roles, he added.

Prof Abaseen Yousafzai said that KP had no dearth of talent when it came to live performance. He said that the festival without KP artists would mean dishonouring the cultural representation of the province at national level. It only bred parochialism and would also hurt a the sentiments of Pashtuns living in Karachi, he added.

Arshad Hussain another renowned actor said that relevant authorities should never allow such move to marginalise KP artists because they deserved more than others owing to prevalence of militancy in the province.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2023

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