Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Why We Mourn the Loss of Celebrities: RIP, Ghazala Javed

In this post, I want to:
- talk a little more about Ghazala Javed's death
- discuss the dangers of being a singer in the Pashtun society
- consider why we mourn the loss of celebrities and other "important" people while not expressing as much sorrow over the loss of "ordinary" people (after all, why all this fuss over Ghazala Javed's death but a mere "RIP" for the innocent civilians who get killed every second in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and all other war-torn regions of the world, right?

More Ranting on Ghazala Javed's Passing

All right, so. I have been unable to think about anything else ever since I heard about Ghazala Javed's murder. The one good thing so far has been that virtually the whole world has been informed about her tragic death. News media from various parts of the world have written about her, and almost every Pashtun I've come across so far (and there have been thousands - mostly online) has expressed intense sorrow over her loss. Understandably so.

Ghazala Javed
And so I'm very pleased at the kind of attention the singer's death has received and is receiving. Everyone's talking about it, people from all parts of the world already came to know about it within hours, and the number of searches for "Ghazala Javed death" that are coming to my blog is stunning. Youtube Videos about the incident received thousands of hits within hours of their posting. There are videos that clearly show the reaction of people around her to her death, displaying her corpse (ouch! It hurts to use this word for her!) as her fans cry in each other's arms. They're so painful to watch, almost disturbing. I think all of these points are witness to her popularity and the fact that everyone was panicking when they found out she was killed and they had to know what Azrael, the angel of death, was thinking when he so brutally snatched Ghazala's spirit with the will of God.

Earlier, Khyber TV, a popular Pashto channel, hosted a program in honor of Ghazala Javed, and the hosts also discussed women's issues in the Pashtun society, especially female Pashtun singers and the dangerous life they're all leading. This Khyber TV show in particular gave me the hope that something positive, in favor of Pashtun women, may result from the tragedy.

Of course, one still encounters the occasional fool who'll make a sick comment like, "Don't pray for her! She was a singer, and God doesn't like singers!" or "She slept with numerous men, so good riddance!" This is "understandable," so to speak, when coming from the hole located near the bottom of the faces of hypocrites who loooove listening to music but haaaate those who produce the music, especially when such hypocrites are not very educated and/or don't live in a society where singers are not berated constantly. We love their music, we also enjoy being entertained by the musicians (the female ones especially), but we will never let our own daughters or wives or sisters or other close female family members become singers or entertainers! This is the face of our hypocrisy. This is how we "respect" our singers.

But when such disrespect towards to singers, such comments against them are breathed out of the holes in the faces of those who claim to be "enlightened" and "educated" and all, it becomes a concern. I was speaking with a Swati Pashtun about this matter earlier. She's really upset over the death (she met Ghazala Javed in person, so, you know, when you actually know someone in person or have seen them or been around them or have spoken with them and they pass away, it usually hits you much harder than those who may not know that person personally). This friend was telling me about some colleagues of hers, also Pashtun but males, who seemed to be expressing happiness over the loss! On my Youtube Video, someone wrote, albeit respectfully, that she was a singer so my giving her time by adding that video in honor of her is only like reserving myself a spot in hell. So, really, what's even more depressing than her passing are these sorts of comments from certain Pukhtuns who attempt to stop us from saying "may she rest in peace" or "khwdey de ubakhi" to her just because she was a singer, which some Muslims, including Puhktuns, believe is haraam, especially if the singer is a woman.

The "Reasons" behind the Killing & Thoughts on Pashtun Singers' Dangerous Lives

Let it be understood that the reasons for her murder seem to have been unrelated to her singing career. The lady led a very painful life, like most other Pashtun female singers (I'll talk about this in a minute). So it was not an attack on music. It was a personal predicament between her and her ex-husband. Turns out, it's almost certain that her ex-husband killed her. Naturally, there are varying reports about it, but here's one claim: she divorced her husband 6 months ago when she discovered that he had "at least one other wife" besides her, and when she filed for divorce in Swat, the judge ruled in favor of her (God bless that judge for being so kind and understanding in a society that would otherwise turn its back against a woman seeking divorce!). But her husband wasn't happy with the divorce, threatened to kill her several times, demanded she live with him despite the divorce (WHAT?!), and expected her to give him her money and all. Now, I know that it's not uncommon for employed wives to give almost all of their money/income to their husbands and/or in-laws in many cultures, but the woman's money, just like no one else's money, should ever be taken from her by force--and especially after she's no longer the ass's wife.

Other reports suggest that she divorced her husband because he didn't want her to sing and wanted to control her profession even after the divorce.

In actuality, Ghazala Javed had been married to another man before this ass, and she was happy in the previous marriage, but her father forced her to divorce that husband and marry this new one because he offered a large sum of money for the union. (This raises questions about the agency and power of females from whom you'd expect a lot of both!) I know this through a friend who knows Ghazala Javed and met with her mom recently when she visited Swat. (Ghazala Javed is from Swat, remember?) Another Pashto singer, Naghma, was married to a popular Pashto male singer, Mangal, who abused her constantly and would go to his shows, come home drunk, and bring men along with him and force Naghma to sleep with them (or so I have read/heard). Naghma divorced this bastard and is now, according to reports, happily married to someone else and is living in Canada. Shakila Naz, also famous for her looks and extremely beautiful voice, has a similar story of being forced to do something she did not want to do, but I forget what exactly--I'll ask around and get back to you on this. (Remind me to confirm, in case I forget!)

Since Ghazala Javed's murder didn't have anything to do with her career, I don't want to discuss the equally unjustified murders of other Pashtun female singers, such as Aiman Udas, who was killed by her brothers in 2009 because they didn't want her to continue singing. I don't want to talk about the dangers that Pashtun female singers are facing for being 1) Pashtuns, 2) females, 3) singers. All of these are crimes. I would love to talk about it, however, since I think the threat to Pashtun female singers' lives lies inside their own homes, not from the rest of the society. Consider the reaction to Ghazala Javed's death, for example, or to Aiman Udas's: Pashtuns were and are absolutely miserable over their passing. People that these ladies didn't even know existed have cried non-stop for them. Do these people not count as "society"? If they don't, then who or what IS "society"? But, again, Ghazala Javed's death is unrelated to the matter of music, despite popular responses, especially stemming from the west, that "yet another singer silenced' and other such remarks. And, for the record, singers/musicians/entertainers in general have been experiencing a hard time in the Pashtun region recently, receiving death threats from the Taliban and other religious extremists. Many have fled the region while other have remained where they are and continue facing problems. But do know that Pashtun singers in general and female ones in particular have it rough. (P.S. The Pashtun people still generally look down upon singers and other musicians! We loooooove their music, but we have no respect for those who create that music. This hypocritical view is prevalent in much of the world, not just in the Pashtun society, however.)

Why We Mourn the Loss of Celebrities and Other Famous People

All that said, I'm asking myself why I feel this way about her loss. She was not my favorite (female) singer, and neither do I think she was the best singer the Pashtun land has ever given birth to (I think the best female Pashto singer is Naghma, who I'll talk about in just a moment). Ghazala certainly had a beautiful voice, as is proven in this song of hers called "Baraan dey," and she had many other things a good singer should have. And why this whole fuss over her death? Isn't she just another human being who got killed unjustly? Why don't I dedicate videos and Tweets and blog posts and Facebook statuses to the little innocent children and their loved ones who get killed every minute every day all over the world? I still cringe when I read about them. I still hurt. I still pray for them. I still think about their families, about the future they were just divested of--but I don't go about talking about them the same way I have talked about Ghzala Javed in just a little over 40 hours (yes, I'm counting, thanks). There are some Pashtuns who're asking us all the time, "Hello - 40 civilians were killed today in a bomb blast in Region X; X number of people were killed in South Waziristan this morning, [etc., etc.] why so much attention for a SINGER and none for these others?" One might also ask why hardly anyone's remembering that her father was killed with her. Yet, few headlines have mentioned her father with her.

I'll tell you why. I'll tell you why no one cares so much that her father was killed but they're shedding wells of tears over the "dama" (derogatory Pashto term for a female singer/musician/entertainer; it also applies to males ("dam"), but males aren't nearly as derided as females). I'll tell you why celebrities and other popular figures get so much attention after they die while us ordinary folks get close to none. I'll tell you why:

Because we have formed attachments with them. We "know" them. We see them constantly. We feel them constantly. We read them or read about them constantly. They made themselves an integral part of us when they made their presence known to us. The moment they appeared on TV, for example, the moment we heard their voices, the moment we saw their faces, the moment we heard their names from people around us--they became close to us, they became our friends, they became a part of us. So, naturally, when a part of you is gone, of course it will affect you deeply. Imagine how you feel when someone you've spoken to just a few times passes away or is hurt, as opposed to someone you don't know at all. We'll naturally feel worse about the loss of the person we know than we would about the person we don't know. Essentially, I think, not only do we know that these people are out there somewhere, but we also "know" them. We look forward to hear about/of/from them, we look forward to talking about them, we look forward to seeing them.

Most importantly, they left the world a legacy. They contributed to our culture and society. Does this mean that we don't mourn the loss of "ordinary" people as much as we mourn that of celebrities just because these "ordinary" people haven't made a contribution to the world, or at least that we know of? I don't know. But I don't think so. It's not just about contribution. It's about attachment, it's about making them a part of us, of our lives. They left an important part of them behind to us (in Ghazala Javed's case, her music, her voice, her songs, her looks, her performances). We expressed awe, amazement, love, admiration for their talents. We thanked God for them. We spent time (and a LOT of it) listening to them and watching them and admiring them. We shook our heads slowly as we listened to Ghazala sing, so very much mesmerized by her voice (and by her beauty, for some people). We chanted "Vah, vah!" and "MashaAllah!" to her as she stood/sat there giving a phenomenal performance, one that has been immoratlized by Youtube and other media. Now, we'll watch that performance with tears knowing that we will never hear from her again, that there is nothing new to look forward to from her. And we will hurt.

Still, a non-Pashtun is not as likely to feel this way about her loss, I believe, as a Pashtun would. Why? I'm thinking it's because they wouldn't connect with her the way the Pashtun would: Ghazala Javed spoke our language, she wore our clothes, she practiced our religion, she understood our society, she walked on our land, she breathed our air, ... she was a Pukhtana. We related to her, and she related to us. Yes, this matters.

Don't believe me? Then tell me why YOU were saddened by the loss of Ghazala Javed but not so (or at least not as much) by the loss of the lives you read/hear about every day. Tell me why the death of her father didn't affect you in the way that her death did. Why won't you feel the same way when someone *I* know passes away as you would when someone *you* know passes away? Why was the world mourning when Steve Jobs passed away but not a moment of silence for someone who's not as universally known? To the non-Pashtuns: did/do you feel the same way about Ghazala Javed, whom you probably have never heard of before, as you did about Whitney Houston?

We thus know that it's a fact that we're going to feel something, however big or small, over the passing of celebrities. Which is why ... please, please stop saying things like "Psssst - so-and-so was killed today, too!" It's not that we don't care. It's not that we're glad they're dead. It's that we didn't have an attachment with that person. I'm sure there's a lot of psychological and other studies done on this issue, but I'm too lazy to look right now. I encourage you to do so, however. ... [[Oh will you look at that! I just googled "mourning the loss of celebrities" and all these great results came up, all discussing the idea of "attachment" and whatnot. Good, I'm not off! I will discuss this topic in the future again once I do some reading on it.]]

So, for those who keep thinking that 'Hey, Ghazala Javed was just a singer, a dama, no one important, why mourn over her like this?" think again. She's missed miserably BECAUSE she was a singer, BECAUSE she was someone important. Nothing gets more hypocritical than a Pashtun listening to her songs and saying, "She's just a dama." It's the same hypocrisy as demeaning them while inviting them to our weddings and other happy occasions to sing to us, to dance to us, to give life to the event!

Why, Why, WHY?

Someone said it very well on Twitter: How could anyone hurt someone (a singer) whose sole purpose is to bring happiness to people's hearts and minds? C'mon - everyone knows of the positive effects that music has on our hearts and minds. For many of us, nothing could make us happier! (I know, I know - it's not true for all, some will claim.)

Rest in Peace, Ghazala!

Anyway, there's a saying in Urdu that we don't realize how much we love and respect people until they die and everyone starts admiring them. But, while this is true for many, many people, yes, it's not true for Ghazala Javed. In this video, with one of her most beautiful and most well-received songs ("Baraan dey Baraan" -- "it's raining"), hear her being praised by the person who's introducing her. The speaker is admiring her singing skills, her personality, her maturity.

Rest in peace, Ghazala Javed! You are dearly missed already! Khwdey de ubakha, along with all other humans who have suffered like you. Aameen.


  1. Inalillahi wa ina illahi rajioun…( to Allah we came from and to Allah we return)..Such a sad state of events..What has become of our once proud chivalrous nation? where every home boasted of the finest hospitality (melmastia – mehman ka nawazy), where on the battlefield the people fought like lions to defend what they truly loved..,where even Alexander wrote of these tribesmen akin to the lions…where the women were spoken of as the finest in the region for their beauty, their faces the radiance of the moon..and as strong as Malalai of Maiwand who held her fort against the onslaught of the invaders......and what has become of us now..a shadow of what once was..I know not of Ghazala Javed nor was I a fan of her music..but that doesn’t give me the right to put judgment on her..and to kill her in such a cold fashioned way is totally against the norms of this region…May Allah give hidayat to us all (enlightenment)..
    Pakistan is known as the land of the pure but there seeps in our pores impurities that are becoming cancerous within our system..acts like this being enacted will have a ripple effect on our already decaying social fabric conscience..our souls are decaying and with the passage of time, we will be but a distant memory just as Ghazala and her father and many others will be a distant memory in a few days time….and what of us..from the top to the bottom..we are blaming each other for everything and seeing no fault of our own in our state of affairs..the inhabitants blaming the government for its incompetence in all matters, the government blaming the inhabitants as miscreants..sure there are some circumstances beyond our control but as the wise once said..ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country..the same principle applies to looking after our loved ones,our neighbors and our many of you, Ghazala Javed was a stranger..she was a stranger to me..I knew nothing of her until these events..and yet I felt a peculiar sensation in my heart when I did some research..I wondered what were her thoughts before the tragic events that took place..she was a human being..with love, hope and aspirations....someone who was probably jovial and good natured inside..and as a stranger, as a human, the least I will do is send a prayer in memory of her and pray her family have the courage and patience to overcome this great the end. Ghazala and her father didn’t just die..a part of humanity in this great nation died with her..and will we forget about her in a few days as we have forgotten about those gone past..??or should this be a wakeup call..should we pray in memory of the deceased and pray for grace for the living..Does anyone really care what is happening??I hope all is not lost..there is much we can do to revive what we once’s up to us to make a difference..ultimately it’s up to us..we have a moral obligation..

    1. Hello, Anonymous! Thank you for your insight! :)

      Indeed, we were once upon a time a brave people, but then again ... the concept of bravery seems to be subjective, at least today! Who knows what bravery really means now.

      Reminds me of a funny image I saw on the Internet when Rahman Baba's tomb was bombed. Here's the link:

      God knows what happened to the "Pashtuns" that Khushal Baba would identify with!

  2. Well this is very sad I didn't know any of this. I don't know much about pushto music as I grew up abroad but my parents are in to it so I know a bit. I remember as a child Naghma she seemed so strong and happy. While talking about Ghazala Javed's murder with my parents they reminded me that it was common for pukhtoons not to be able to let go of wives that had left them. Also I was reminded that when I was younger in our kali there was this girl who had gone out on her own and had died in an accicent. The men of our kali wouldn't handle the body because she was out on her own and a mateeza. Her body lay for days and rotted. People wouldn't talk to her parents and her father never left the house for years. Surely that was then and now things are different I said but was then reminded of this girl who married without her family's consent and can now not go back to our kali because she will be killed. And there from here (UK). Sorry for the rant but couln't fit it in twitter!

    1. Welcome to my blog and thank you so much for your comment, Dana khwagey! That wasn't a rant at all, marey, and I'm glad you shared it here! Twitter certainly limits us--more than necessary, if you ask me lol

      Oh God - that's tragic what goes on certain communities! I'm not surprised, though, since it's not uncommon, although not too common either. But it's always disheartening to see that women are constantly used and abused as symbols of honor, to the extent that this burden of honor ends up destroying them.

  3. I'm not Pashtun, and though I really like what little Pashto music I've listened to (e.g through links people post on fb/Twitter, and through mainstream TV shows like Coke Studio and Ufone Uth Records), I had never heard of Ghazala Javed before I read in the news that she was murdered. Nevertheless I was really sad when I heard the news. Firstly, because she and her father were yet more innocent victims of the neverending spiral of violence that Pakistan nowadays seems to be caught up in. Secondly, because she was a singer, and as you said singers 'bring happiness to people's hearts and minds'. I certainly love singing and music (and do play an instrument and sing as well as a hobby), and I do love the people who make music as well, and admire all the hard work and dedication they put into their craft - making good music isn't easy, and the best make it seem effortless. So for me, the loss of a singer who was loved by millions, even if I didn't know of their music, is a tragic loss. Not to mention the fact that there is certainly a culture war going on in Pakistan and the tolerant, vibrant culture of music and dance that all ethnic groups in Pakistan (not just the Pashtun) have is under threat from all this extremism. So in Ghazala Javed we as a country have lost another powerful symbol of culture and art. And thirdly, but by no means least, call me naive but whenever I hear of violence perpetrated against a woman I feel even more shocked than if it was against a man. Singers may bring us happiness but women bring the world love - they are what makes the world, as far as I am concerned, worth living in. For someone to attack a women is therefore an attack on the gentle and loving aspects of human nature that in my mind women portray far more than men (I don't know if this sounds cheesy but it's very hard to express what I mean - hopefully you will get it), as well as an act of shocking cowardice to target someone who's usually (not always, but usually) physically less capable of defending themselves. Sad as it was that both Ghazala and her father were killed, I have no doubt that it was basically she who was targeted, and that makes me really sad. But given that her music made a personal impact on you, and that you related to her culturally, I'm sure it must have made an even bigger impact on you. May God let her soul rest in peace - inna lillahi wa inni ilaihi raji'oun.

    1. Pa khair, Rehaaaan!
      Which instrument do you play? That's so cool! I intend to learn the piano and the rubab when I grow up, inshaAllah.

      Awww, such sweet thoughts about women :) Not naive and not cheesy (in the bad way!) but beautiful and reasonable thinking. I agree! We're basically the wheel upon which this otherwise hopeless world runs!

      Thank you, as always, for your comment!

  4. The previous husband is now dead too I believe I flew home a couple of days back and my father is involved in the investigation (as a doctor). The previous husband was the son of some big wig and the guy who killed her was some badmash - I'm not quite sure what happened myself I only spoke to my dad about it for 5 mins at lunch time.

    Feels so good to be back in pesh though ^_^

    1. Omgosh! You're in Pukhtankhwa??? Mazeeeeeey deeee!
      Get all the scoops from your dad and lemme know what he says to you :p

  5. The saddest thing about Ghazala Javed's death is that it'll be forgotten in just a few days and no action will ever be taken against the horrid society.

    1. I hope not :( Kho most likely, yes!

  6. Yea, A good write no doubt, Here I wana make clear one thing, her murder is soo much related to her career and beauty. I know , you want to know how was it relevant. Her X-husband was her fan first and she was forced to get married to that badmash, later on, she got divorced somehow. Now when she decided to come back to her singing career, that was unacceptable for loser to see how her fans were waiting on her coming back. ( what I wrote is just a linkage to the well known and apparent story of her death ) Now coming to the real part. She is not killed by her X husband but a former chief minister Akram Durani ( MMA ) men have taken her life, since Ziad Durani, her 31 years old son and MNA from Banu was in love with her and wanted to marry her. Yesterday on 21st June he also has committed suicide.
    In the second story , you see how much ger murder was relevant to her career. One more thing , I wana mention here, we mourn her death, cause she was here inside our hearts, long ago when she started singing. we were used to see her beautiful face alot on TV ,Utube. people u see the most, like the most , mourn the most, with ordinary people , thats not the case ( they are not ordinary for their families , bus since we are not in direct contact with them thats why we dont feel that much pain , which is so natural.

    1. Thank you so, so very much for dropping by and leaving such a great reply, Nazraney!! Khwdey de khushala lara!

      Yeaaaah - I keep reading on Twitter that Durrani's men are the ones who killed her, not her ex-husband after all. Need to update the above post.

      And great thoughts about why else we mourn celebrities and not so much "ordinary" people whom we don't know!

      Also, what were you telling me about the whole Shakila Naz issue and her being kidnapped and all? I forgot the story but wanted to include it in this post.

      Khushala wosa :D

    2. thats not true,my fiance is from swat and he personaly knows the lawyer of ghazala javed for divorce,she promised him to marry him after divorce and he is also a very rich man,they were near to get married when she was killed,secondly her own sister claims that she herself heard her ex-husbands cousin shouting to him that kill her what are you waiting for.

  7. Was Aeman Udas born in a Jewish family?

  8. Can u please upload thr tributes to her by avt khyber i couldnt find them in youtube


Dare to opine :)

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