PESHAWAR -- Pashtun youth in Peshawar held a grand "Attan for Peace" in Bagh-e-Naran public park Friday (April 7) in a show of unity against militancy and violence.
The mood was festive as an estimated 500 people from all over Peshawar arrived at the spacious park in Hayatabad township to participate in or watch the Attan, a traditional Pashtun dance performed by men on happy occasions.
The performers beat drums while men of all ages danced in a circle. A number of women came to encourage the Attan and to support the message of peace.
A group of Pashtun youth from Quetta, Kandahar, Peshawar and tribal areas organised the event in response to a violent clash between two student groups during an Attan performance March 21 at the University of Punjab in Lahore, according to local media.
"We want to give a message of peace to the world and to tell it that ours is the culture of peace, as Pashuntwali [the Pashtun moral code] has no place for extremism," Tariq Afghan, a Peshawar social activist and organiser of the event, told Pakistan Forward.
Referring to the clash at the University of Punjab last month, Afghan said it was an attack on Pashtun culture.
"Attan has been part of our culture since time immemorial, and nobody can stop us from performing it," he said.
The basic idea behind holding the grand Attan for Peace was to promote Pashtun culture and to raise awareness among youth of the importance of music and dance, he said.
"We have arranged proper security through police and our men to ensure peace during the event, which is being held to oppose extremism," said Afghan.
A day of joy
Many spectators and participants at Bagh-e-Naran said the event brought smiles to their faces.
"This is a good activity and needs to be held frequently," said Yasir Hussain, a local resident who was watching the event.
Hussain said he enjoyed the event, although he had some criticism for the dancers. "The dance was not well organised, [and it] could have been better produced for such an important occasion," he told Pakistan Forward.
Others, however, said the event was very significant for giving a message of peace to the world.
"Attan plays a pivotal role to express the collective aesthetics of the Pashtuns," said intellectual and educator Dr. Khadim Hussain of Peshawar.
"Around the globe, Pashtuns are seen mostly as gun-toting people devoid of all celebration of the beauty of life," he told Pakistan Forward. "The Attan for Peace will certainly transform the image of Pashtuns for the better."
Resistance to extremism
Another grand Attan was arranged in Islamabad Saturday (April 8) in solidarity with those who organised the event in Peshawar. Such events took place recently in Karachi, London and other cities to convey a message of peace.
"The Attan for Peace in Peshawar was a good attempt by the Pashtun youth, and they expressed their resistance to extremism in a very peaceful and powerful manner," Aimal Khattak of Peshawar, a social activist and son of politician and popular Pashtu-language poet Mohammed Ajmal Khattak, told Pakistan Forward.
While referring to the March 21 incident at the University of Punjab, Khattak said that Attan is emerging as a very powerful cultural tool in countering extremism and one of the best forms of non-violent resistance.
"We have witnessed the Attan events all over the country to condemn and protest against the hooliganism of extremists," Khattak said, adding that culture is the best tool for promoting peace.
The Attan in Peshawar showed how Pashtun culture has vast potential to counter extremism and the prevailing culture of violence, he said.
"We saw how the Attan for Peace symbolises unity, diversity and cohesion in our society," he said.