Not Even Bombs Can Silence Lahore's Arts

"Lahore is still very liberal, very broad-minded, very laid-back, very relaxed. So you know, anyone and everyone can get what they want, a slice of what they want here in Lahore," said Najam Sethi, the editor in chief of the Lahore-based Daily Times, one of the leading English language newspapers in the country. "But the balance is disquieting. Lahore is becoming more conservative."

Lahore is best known for its poets and artists, the Mughal sites from the former empire, its restaurants and nightlife.

But early in October, two incidents helped demonstrate that even the most peaceful city in Pakistan has become a target, and how scared some people are.

On Oct. 7 three small bombs destroyed small juice shops in a crowded, lower-middle-class neighborhood known as Garhi Shahu. The shops, neighbors said, would host young couples needing a little bit of privacy. In one of the shops, visited by ABC News last week, a large sign invites patrons to visit the "Family Rooms" in the back.

'Lahore Always Has Been the Last Place Where Anything Happens"

A small, unknown group claimed responsibility and warned it would attack more "centers of immorality."

Two days later, Shabbir Labha, the president of the Hall Road market traders association, received an unsigned letter and a phone call similar to the one received seven weeks later by Peerzada.

Hall Road, a popular, crowded and cheap shopping destination is well known for the cramped stalls that sell Indian and American DVDs, as well as pornography.

"What are you doing about the dirty DVDs?" the caller asked Labha. "Are you going to do something about it, or should we do it?"

A frightened Labha did not wait to see if the call was a prank. "We went from door to door to collect those DVDs and burnt around 70,000," he said in an interview last week. "I haven't received a call after that."

Some of the 70,000 people who walked through the art festival's gates knew about those incidents, but most said they were not worried about their safety. They were just there, they said, to have a good time.

"Lahore always has been the last place where anything happens," said Faisal Rehman, a Pakistani actor, as he signed autographs about a day before the explosions. He stood in front of the stadium in a walkway lined with massive lifesize puppets, giant papier-mache cartoon characters dancing with the help of extras stuffed inside 8-foot-tall suits. It could have been the front entrance to Knott's Berry Farm theme park.

One couple, who declined to give their names, said they'd attended the festival for three straight nights.

"There's always this [fear] in the back of your mind, absolutely, given the recent events in our country," the husband said. "But how long can you sit at home and do nothing? You have to live your life."

The wife, who had scoffed when a reporter asked her whether she felt safe, was even more sanguine. "There's so many colors and lights, I didn't really think about it. Now that you made me think, I should run away. No, they've got good security. If somebody can pass through that, then, well, my bad luck."

Inside the stadium, Ingrid Kindem, a Norwegian electronic pianist, played a synthesizer while her Pakistani guitarist, Shallum Xavier, riffed on an electric guitar.

The Bombs Went Off

It was Kindem's ninth visit to Pakistan. She'd been working with Xavier, who had pulled his shoulder-length hair back into a ponytai, for years,

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