The murder of famous Pashtu singer Ghazal Javed today in Peshawar, Pakistan, has unzipped the shadows of uncertainty surrounding the life of female singers in this part of the world. Bullets were sprayed at the popular singer and her father as she came out of a salon in Dubgari Garden area of the city. The bullet wounds killed both Javed and her father as they were rushed to LRH, the city’s main government hospital.
The incident’s details are awaited but the FIR of the killing has reportedly been registered at the concerned police station against the singer’s ex-husband and two other persons whose names have not yet been confirmed. The news of the incident left the city shocked as Ghazal Javed was the heartthrob of millions not only in the Pashtu-speaking population of the province but even internationally, particularly in Afghanistan where Javed used to frequently visit for live performances.
The details not listed in media so far relate her history of conflicting cultural elements and values. Starting from a lower middle-class family, her talent suddenly took her to boundless fame and accordingly to large earnings. The dazzle of money was apparently so mesmerizing that she and her family could not say no to the notably well-off Jehanger, a resident of Peshawar who reportedly gave a huge sum of money to Javed’s family to get her hand in marriage. Yet, Javed got divorced only after six months of marriage.
This move had dangerous consequences which the singer, somewhat surprisingly, did not take seriously or sensed their intensity precisely. Marriages that involve huge amounts of money or equivalent in kind are considered business deals or simply as an act of shopping something. In traditional societies as Pashtuns, this is no different from a sale. It was her husband’s turn to get shocked after spending a fortune and yet losing custody of his “bounty” so soon. Credible sources report that her ex-husband had threatened her with consequences of the divorce, particularly if she was seen in Peshawar city again.
Yet the singer had only her profitable talent in view, and life seemed to be moving ahead fairly smooth and safe. She forgot that her choices had not only robbed the man of a formidable sum of money but also stained him with what in their culture amounts to “murder of honor” – a man dumped by his wife. Javed was not safe but she appeared to have no care for keeping guards or staying a hundred miles away from the place where a wounded ego had been planning revenge.
At this moment, there is no clear evidence that her husband really killed her himself or hired anybody to do so. But her fate reminds that of another famous Pashtu singer Aiman Udas who was killed allegedly by her own family to avenge upon her for marrying against the will of the family. These cases, and those of numerous other women who are not so famous to get into media, reflect how male ego comes to destroy its object of desire when the object—in these cases, women—dare speak for themselves or take control of their lives. Money and fame are dangerous elements when mixed with authority and relationships in a traditional setting which is not yet ripe enough to tolerate empowerment of the traditionally subordinate groups of people. Ghazal Javed’s killing is another example of this dangerous game. If these defenseless women could only be more careful in judging where they are stepping and at what cost.