In the foothills of the beautiful mountains of Swat, there is a crowd of people gathered around a 20-year old young man. They have all come to listen to his flute playing. Despite being visually impaired, the young artist manages to pull a sizable crowd.
Mohammad Sajjad is not only known in his local area, but throughout Swat for his mastery of the rubab, flute, vocals, and heart-touching poetry. During the day, he plays the flute in the mountains and sings melodious songs.
Sajjad, who hails from the Manglor area of Swat, lost his sight during a visit to the mountains of Saidu Sharif, when he came across an old, discarded hand grenade while wandering the slopes.
The explosion of the hand grenade robbed him of his eyesight, but he did not lose courage and is now entertaining people with his flute, rubab, sitar, and heartfelt poetry. His performances have earned him renown in the area. The years from 2007 to 2009 were a dark period of Taliban rule in Swat; two military operations were conducted to bring an end to the Taliban’s brutality.
During these operations, large amounts of explosives were used, and the remnants of these explosive devices are still present in the valley. During the terrorist years in Swat, thousands of people sacrificed their lives and nearly every home in the valley had to carry funeral processions of martyred kin. When Sajjad was ten years old, he found a grenade in the mountains of Saidu Sharif.
At that time, he did not realize that his eyesight would be lost due to the grenade explosion. According to Mohammad Sajjad, he happily brought the hand grenade home, intending to break it apart and sell it at a high price in the market. When he came back to the house, all the family members were attending a relative’s wedding. He attempted to disassemble the grenade, and after hitting it with a hammer a few times, it exploded, causing not only damage to his eyes but also blowing off three fingers of one hand. “After the explosion, it felt like I was taking my last breaths. The people in the neighborhood entered my house and transferred me to the Saidu Sharif Hospital.”
After receiving treatment for seven days, I was transferred to Peshawar and remained under treatment for six months.” Mohammad Sajjad mentioned that he remained at home for a year after a long illness because he was unable to move around. “My life became dark from that point, but I made a commitment to myself that if I ever become capable of walking again, I will fill others’ lives with happiness.”
Mohammad Sajjad is the eldest among his siblings, and his father is a truck driver. During the evening, Mohammad Sajjad plays the flute in the mountains, and he sings beautiful songs where he found the hand grenade. There, he gathers young people and cheers them up by playing music. On Fridays and Sundays, Muhammad Sajjad also organizes music gatherings with friends, where people come together and sing songs about peace and love. Most of Muhammad Sajjad’s poetry revolves around peace, love, and brotherhood, which is why his songs and music are popular.
Since 2008 to 2009, thousands of people were martyred in Swat. The Taliban slaughtered various women artists and left their bodies in a public square called Green Square. The head of the artists’ union, Wadood, said that the artist community were the target of the Taliban at that time. “When two of our artists were slaughtered, we became fearful for our lives and had to leave Swat.”
“We received two to three letters and messages from the Taliban every day, threatening to kill us,” he said. “We resisted them to a considerable extent, but eventually we surrendered to their weapons.” In the restoration of peace in Swat, ordinary people, police officers, artists, and the Pakistani army have made unparalleled sacrifices, thanks to which there is peace now in Swat.
A large number of tourists head towards Swat. During the last year, 12 million tourists visited Swat, and now Swat and Malakand Division are symbols of peace. Observers say that there are very few people in society who make their lives a source of happiness for others, among whom is Muhammad Sajjad, who has brought smiles in people’s lives despite losing his eyesight.