Banning concerts is not a solution

Published: January 27, 2012

Lives were lost at a recent concert at a similar venue and this is an important and exceptionally unfortunate impetus for ramping up security and for pushing for more public (and media) accountability.

Tracing back the history of Pakistani pop music is tricky. Wikipedia describes Runa Laila as a veteran among pop sensations; Nazia Hassan and Zohaib Hassan are ranked after her. 

Today, Pakistani pop music is one of the most popular genres in South Asia and also with the South Asian diaspora around the world.This fact has been accepted with much grace and enthusiasm by the majority, but there are always hindrances posed by certain hard-liner groups, changing governments and Islamic fundamentalists, who frequently have issues with Pakistan’s vibrant and thriving mainstream and underground music factory.

Following Ziaul Haq’s military coup, Pakistan saw an unfortunate pushback against the music industry. Limitations were imposed on music distribution, music videos were banned, and whereas we see hundreds of music channels and blogs today, at that time, PTV was your source for all things music (as approved by the government at the time).

However, if there is one thing Pakistan deserves credit for, it is its resilient nature. The ban is a solid example of Pakistani musicians living on, with the likes of Nazia and Zohaib Hassan reaching the top spot on European music charts. The fact that Pakistan’s talent had to (and continues to) seek solace and recognition and respect through foreign avenues is a disheartening state of affairs.

A few days back, the Punjab Assembly’s resolution banning concerts, proposed and passed on the same day, felt like a reversion to a low point of Pakistan’s music industry. I was in the studio all weekend in Karachi and received a couple of messages which didn’t spell out the complexity but simply read that musical concerts had been banned in the province of Punjab.

Music for us is not only a job, the way we earn our bread, but also a means of hope, survival, optimism and growth – personally, professionally, and even collectively, as a nation.

Countless talented colleagues perform at the very venues targeted by this resolution.

This December, I spent seven evenings at such places. Sure, the artists deserve recognition, for their concert and for an appearance but really, it’s the people who turn up to these things that deserve the real applause. I have seen people attending, all smiles, all cheer, despite the threat of dengue, despite the risk of a blast, and despite the overwhelming heat. Perhaps, we should step back and appreciate this more often.

We speak of the threat of fundamentalism like it’s a distant spectre on the horizon. Sometimes we lull ourselves in to a false sense of security:

“Oh, it will be okay. It’s not close enough to me, I am not affected.”

However, that’s not the case. The discussion which took place in the Punjab Assembly earlier this month is testament to the fact that it’s not necessarily just the danger of fundamentalism that threatens to do away with Pakistan’s arts and culture.

It would be unfair to make any sort of criticism without pointing out the alleged root cause behind the resolution. Three lives were lost at a recent concert at a similar venue and this is an important and exceptionally unfortunate impetus for ramping up security and for pushing for more public and media accountability. These are things I felt the night I heard of the incident and I continue to feel today, but I refuse to believe that such a resolution will serve to protect the people of our country. To me, it appears to directly target the music industry which includes countless artists across Pakistan.

The fact that there are urgent matters which require immediate attention with regards to concerts and venues is undeniable, but proposing a law which seeks to burn the entire institution to the ground is not the answer.

Do you think concerts should be banned, as proposed in the Punjab Assembly?

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Bilal Khan

Bilal Khan

A singer who graduated from LUMS. He can be followed on Twitter at @bilalkhan and on Facebook at

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Burhan

    The Pakistani Music industry is a giant compared to other nations and our artists are globally famous. Another idiot move by the Government to chase away Pakistani TalentRecommend

  • Haider Jamil

    I totally agree with you Bilal. Recommend

  • Adeel Ansari

    By the same logic of the unfortunate deaths at a concert, we must ban all forms of transportation as well, since it leads to accidents and unfortunate incidents.

    What a lot of rubbish. Rather than coming up with a solution our government decides to kill yet another form of entertainment for the people.

    Bravo government, you stoop to yet a new low.Recommend

  • Yasir Mehmood

    The resolution was demanding ban only In educational institutions then why you are complaining? is your music more important than human lives?. Enjoy doing a concert somewhere outside.Recommend

  • Yamna Khan

    Totally agree!
    We should address and correct issues and not try and avoid them altogether!

    (Also, quite well done on the Mata-e-jaan song!
    It’s really good:D!)Recommend

  • Rukhsar

    Banning concerts in educational inst wont effect music and artistsRecommend

  • alicia

    Those girls died because some stupid boys started a bomb hoax. The assembly did not even condemn that or say that if in the future somebody tries to prank others or spread such serious rumors will be punished. Furthermore the complex where that concert was held could hold 4000 people and there were 7000 girls inside. The security and arrangements were not done properly at all.
    So Punjab assembly decides to ban concerts instead of improving building laws or punishing the people who acted so negligently and did not make proper arrangements. But then I guess this is Pakistan and actually expecting something sensible from our lawmakers is stupid.Recommend

  • abdallah

    Becuase of stampede causing deaths there should be a ban on concerts. Now tell me Is This not extremeism? Recommend

  • Ishaq.Zaidi

    I agree, but there ‘should be some criteria to avoid accident in concerts..!!
    Banning is not an solution..!! :(

  • Nida S.

    There is research that proves the importance of art, culture, music etc in developing a persons cognitive abilities. Without this, we’ll have a nation full of narrow minded bigots, not that we’re far from that ‘ideal’ already.

    Sad state of affairs when a nation starts to ‘ban’ culture. Recommend

  • Ifra

    I dont know if i should agree or disagree …music is forbidden in islam(surah luqman) and being an islamic country this law is justified ,but the points posed by bilal are true too.the concerts shouldnt be banned because of the recent incident but because we claim to be an islamic state. P.s bilal khan i love your music :DRecommend

  • Hamza Balouch(@H_Balouch)

    I think author did not read the resolution.

    Banning Music concert in Educational institute is not banning Music in all over the Pakistan!!!!Recommend

  • Hindu Indian

    So going by the same standards, assume there is a stampede at a mosque or a religious congregation, will the Govt ban all religious meetings ? or stop gathering in a mosque? The govt should take steps to prevent such incidents from recurring not banning them.Recommend

  • Noor

    In this age of media (sponsored by Zionists), who cares what is right or wrong.

    We’re Muslims just in the name, and think that we’re the gifted nation just like the Bani-Israel, about which Quran has spoken a lot, but we don’t understand.Recommend

  • waqqas iftikhar

    um….you say music is forbidden, concerts should be banned and and you love his music….confused a tad?Recommend

  • apj

    if we go by this then jamhooriya in pak should also be banned given that it has forced so many people to dieRecommend

  • Imdad

    As usual, the government instead of taking responsibility and making policy which could prevent such events from happening in future has resorted to the easy way out of imposing another ban.

    All the ‘meethay meethay Islami bhais’ here are up in gleeful cheering that an unIslamic act has been rooted out. What the fail to recognize is that something similar can happen almost anywhere for example in a marriage hall, a Naat competition, a crowded masjid hall on Juma, a shopping mall etc.

    The basic problem is still unresolved i.e. implementation of proper codes and standards for large enclosed spaces where people congregate in big numbers.

    The ideal way to go about would have been to impose a ban on all such crowded gatherings without a safety permit from a relevant authority whereby the organizers proved that they had made all arrangements for emergency evacuation if the need arose and that the building was equipped for emergency evacuation.

    But ofcourse. Banning is so much simpler.Recommend

  • Baji

    Its akin to saying : govt. should ban all the medicines just because some of the expired ones caused deaths. Totally twisted line of reasoning , that is , IF govt. uses any reason at all.Recommend

  • Hassam Tahir

    Thousands of people die in car accidents every year. Lets ban cars, is transportation more important than human lives? @Yasir Mehmood: Recommend

  • Hassam Tahir

    Its a lot easier to ban concerts than make proper laws to regularize concerts and avoid accidents like this. The government just choose the easy way out. which is pathetic I might add. Pakistan may be a Islamic state but what about the freedom of expression guaranteed in the constitution? Recommend

  • Arman Yousaf

    Pak Culture need to be promoted at this moment as we have already deprived a lot like Basaant, Tourism etc.Recommend

  • Tayyaba (U.E Bsc B.Ed ODD- 19)

    I believe that banning concerts in Pakistan is just not satisfactory step, to avoid any mishaps. Our people and leaders know very nice ways to run away from the problem, rather then solving it.Recommend

  • Bilal Qureshi

    I completely agree with you! They should have thought about the artists for once before making such a stupid decision. Where would they go?, fly to India then? but those who have settled in the mainstream only they would be able to afford that. What will the youngsters do who have a dream to do music? There will be a full stop in the music industry and no more new musicians would come forward. On the other hand, this will scare away all the artists currently working too. This will be a major fall for Pakistan which the foolish Government don’t realise.Recommend

  • Parvez

    In the on-line poll 18% say concerts should be banned – has tolerance and common sense completely abandoned this lot ?Recommend

  • Annam Khan

    Our government is taking us all back to stone age, ban on concerts in educational institutes wht rubbish is it!! The ban is illogical – ppl need entertainment in their lives, more security should be provided..even during hajj ppl die due to stampede. Shame on those Members of Punjab Assembly in Pakistan who voted to ban music concerts in schools & colleges Punjab Assembly passes resolution to ban musical concerts in educational institutions, there concern should be on otherissues a.s fake medicine etc. Taking away lawful and morally acceptable way of entertainment from the youth of already depressed and suffocating society can have far reaching effects. The policy makers should think on broader scale rather than reactive approach towards incidents.”Music is part of our culture” youth of our country has few arenas of easy entertainment like concerts. How can we stop our youth from listening to “Dil Dil Pakistan”, “Hey Jazba Junoon” and such amazing motivational and patriotic songs. PML:-N has lost there senses. Its entertainment, u can’t ban it!!Recommend

  • maestro

    I was at the Qurat ul Ain Baloch (QB) concert last night in Isloo – packed crowd of guys and girls and it rocked with police vans standing outside to guarantee security. Not one indecent or unfortunate incident happened – Punjab govt should take a lesson from Islamabad police and authorities for guaranteeing security at concerts. By the way, the Atif Aslam concert style stampedes happen every year across the world when the organizers don’t make proper arrangements for entry and exit – this was a first in Pakistan – may Allah give those poor departed souls jannah – the Punjab govt and organizers should be held accountable for this tragic incident instead of banning concerts. Music runs in the Pakistani blood and we have MA talent like no other. It must be promoted. Peace. Recommend

  • Dr A K Khan

    Compare this to the rich folk culture of Hindu and Sikh Punjabis. Their dances and music are so rich and go back hundreds of years. This a living, authentic, and vibrant village culture. Would you rather be a guest at a Sikh wedding or a Punjabi Muslim wedding ? Travel the world and learn the difference. Only 60 years ago Muslim Jats lived so similarly to Sikh Jats in the same villages.Recommend

  • @Mufazzil

    Well as in my opinion it wasn’t any harmful decision. I believe Educational institutions have some prestige and if for maintaining the honor, govt is taking any decision why is it hurting people? Like they aren’t banning it across the province! Recommend

  • aliya

    Well actually bilal khan is absolutely right!!When Nazia and Zohaib Hassan first arrived at the music scene there were no other young people in this field and they were basically the first to introduce a whole pop culture in the subcontinent,infact in all of Asia!They paved the way for the youth to come forward and express themselves.Their music didn’t only have musical significance but also had its impact on social values and norms.The duo of nazia-zohaib defined liberalism to a certain extent.It was a great revolution.Music was a medium to achieve modernism.Music in pakistan is not just music but it defines our culture.We need an intellectual society not a narrow-minded one.Our misconceptions of islamic principles would lead us nowhere.Musis is not something against islam!Baning music concerts,even in one province,is not a solution to our problems!PAKISTAN WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFEE!!!Recommend

  • zuneera

    @Hindu Indian:
    good example fo nerrow minded ppl ..!!!Recommend