News Revelations

Pakistan’s ‘disco mullah’ feared dead after plane crash

Junaid Jamshed, a renowned religious preacher and ex-musician, died in a PIA plane crash on Dec. 7, 2016. Photo courtesy of Mobeen Ansari via Creative Commons

(RNS) Junaid Jamshed, a Pakistani pop-singer-turned-revival-preacher also known as the “disco mullah,” was among the passengers of an aircraft that crashed into a Pakistan hillside, leaving no survivors, a family member confirmed.

The singer and one of his two wives were on a preaching tour in the northern Pakistan city of Chitral, where the plane, Pakistan International Airlines Flight PK-661, originated with 47 people on board. It went down in a hilly area 45 miles north of the capital city of Islamabad about 4:30 p.m. local time Tuesday (Dec. 6).

Jamshed, 52, was a popular singer and recording artist of nasheeds, the vocal-only religious songs of Islam.

He soared to fame in Pakistan and beyond in the 1980s as the frontman of the pop band Vital Signs. The band’s most famous song, “Dil Dil Pakistan,” was a patriotic number released in 1987. The band soared to fame after the fall of strong-arm dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in 1988.

In 1998, Vital Signs dissolved and Jamshed focused on several solo nasheed albums over the next decade. In 2008, he announced he was dedicating his life to Islam and renounced music to take up preaching.

In 2014, Jamshed found himself accused of blasphemy when remarks he made about the Prophet Muhammad’s youngest wife upset members of Sunni Tehreek, a Sunni sect. The singer apologized, but his own evangelical Sunni group, Tableeghi Jamaat, distanced itself from him.

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Jamshed never intended to pursue a music career, friends said. He was studying engineering when a chance encounter at a concert brought him in contact with the existing members of Vital Signs, which he then joined. He also served in the Pakistani air force, where poor eyesight — he needed glasses — cut his career short.

Jamshed’s fans were legion, far beyond the borders of Pakistan. Many of them took to social media to express their grief.

 

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About the author

Kimberly Winston

Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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