The Pashtu music star, gunned down Monday in an apparent domestic dispute, defied the Taliban and became an icon for young people disgusted with fundamentalism.
Ghazala Javed stood up to harassment by the Taliban and pressure from a husband who tried to stop her from singing, fans recalled this week as they mourned the late singer. In her eight-year career, Ghazala, 29, had come to be regarded as the "nightingale of Pashto music".
She and her father were gunned down on Monday (June 18th) as they left a beauty parlour in Peshawar, Pakistan. Her sister, Farhat, escaped harm after two armed men on motorcycles opened fire on the family.
According to media reports from Pakistan, police are focusing their investigation on Ghazala's estranged husband, Jehangir Khan, and his two friends, Nasir and Salam Khan. All three have gone missing.
"Her husband stopped her from singing, which saddened her a great deal," media reports quoted Farhat as saying. "She used to say that music was her passion and that she couldn't survive without it."
But music is also considered un-Islamic by the Taliban, which has a huge influence in Ghazala's native Swat Valley. In 2009, Ayman Udas, another popular female singer, was killed. Although that murder still remains unsolved, there is a wide consensus that "conservative groups" were behind it.
"It's too early to say whether Ghazala's murder was the work of the Taliban," Pakistani music critic Shehla Parveen told Khabar South Asia from Karachi. "She was going through a messy divorce and it's common in the northwest region for men to settle domestic scores through murder."
"But one thing is certain. It will be a long time before another female singer emerges to fill the void left by Ghazala Javed and Ayman Udas. People will be terrified of exposing their daughters to the wrath of fundamentalists who have a standing ban on music in general and on female performers in particular."
In an email to Khabar, London-based Pashto expert Nawab Khan praised the singer's bravery.
"Ghazala defied the writ of the Taliban and her popularity spread from the United Arab Emirates to India. She symbolised courage because there were many threats on her earlier," he said.
Ghazala's regional appeal was recognised in 2009, when she received an award from The Times of India group. Although she sang in Pashto, a language not understood beyond Pakistan's borders, her music and persona transcended the divide.
At home, meanwhile, she was an icon for young people disgusted with fundamentalism.
"She inspired a large number of other young singers, particularly females in the northwestern province where fundamentalists were constantly harassing them," Parveen, the music critic, said.
In 2007, when the Taliban began to spread its influence in the Swat Valley, climaxing in a military-style takeover in 2009, Ghazala fled to nearby Peshawar, a town on Pakistan's northwest border with Afghanistan.
"She did not bother about her persecutors," Parveen told Khabar. She recorded her music in Dubai and her albums were great hits."
Responding to news of Ghazala's death, the head of a performers' association in Pakistan vowed that musicians and entertainers in the country would not be deterred by such incidents, nor by the pressure brought by extremists.
"We have been facing the wrath of the Taliban for a long time," said Javid Babir, president of the Artists Welfare Association Zoom. "But we are determined to entertain people".
In the wake of deadly jail beatings of a Pakistani and an Indian prisoner that rattled bilateral relations, students at South Asian University have taken up the cause of peace and harmony between t...