'Pakistan's Britney Spears' Annie Khalid seeks fame in the UK - don't expect her to twerk for it

Annie Khalid speaks to Adam Sherwin about fleeing her unhappy marriage in Pakistan, and what it means to be a Muslim pop star

"Every little girl has a dream of how her wedding night will be," says Annie Khalid, the singer described as "Pakistan’s Britney Spears", whose corkscrew curls adorn billboards across the Indian subcontinent. "I thought that I might at least be conscious."

A disastrous wedding celebration, ending in police arrests, unleashed a sequence of events which resulted in Khalid, Pakistan's biggest pop star, whose music soundtracks hit Bollywood movies, fleeing to Essex to escape a husband she accuses of physical abuse.

An outspoken artist (her Tweets criticise the Pakistan government's treatment of non-Muslims), Khalid, 26, is launching a new musical career in Britain, with a single "Boom Boom", featuring dancehall star Beenie Man, released on Monday.

A staunch defender of Muslim women’s right to wear the niqab in public, whilst starring in glossy, Westernised pop videos, the Lahore-born Khalid will present a documentary in which she travels the world to reveal the changing face of Pakistani women. The BBC is in discussions to screen it.

But first she must come to terms with the marriage, now annulled, which threatened to halt the career of the face of major brands such as Pepsi and Lebara in Pakistan, where Annie sold five million records.

Last year Khalid, who made her breakthrough with a 2006 album called Princess, married a playboy Pakistani businessmen, Malik Noreed Awan.

During the event, a brawl broke out between police and residents due to the celebration running late into the night. Police arrested 15 members of Khalid’s family and friends. She was taken to hospital suffering from shock.

"Being hospitalised for two days was the last thing I expected to happen at my wedding," Khalid told The Independent. "I didn’t even get to attend the ceremony. But it happened and I can't let it define me."

Annie Khalid (photograph: Justin Sutcliffe for The Independent) Annie Khalid (photograph: Justin Sutcliffe for The Independent) The marriage swiftly deteriorated with Khalid escaping to Essex, where she had family and once lived as a teenager. She accused Awan of kicking and punching her and forcing her to submit to Murga, a ritual punishment in which the victim is forced into a painful squatting position.

Khalid says she feared for her life. Awan, who says the abuse accusations are baseless, accused her of stealing money and jewellery from him before she left for England.

Awan, who took a Pakistani actress as his new wife in February, was arrested by police following a fraud investigation into his business operation.

"The whole thing was like a really bad dream," Khalid says. "His accusations are laughable and he is in jail now which says it all. He told me I couldn't continue with music after I was married. I'd worked so hard to build up this huge following who were expecting new music and videos. Now there is no-one to hold me back or stop me."

Now focused on resuming her pop career, Khalid believes she can project the glamorous image which the Western music industry demands of female singers whilst staying true to her Muslim roots. "I pray five times a day but I don’t need to prove to anyone that I'm a good Muslim. I won't be twerking because I don’t think that's cool but if that's what Miley Cyrus wants to do, that's great."

A supporter of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) party, who hopes to interview his ex-wife Jemima for the documentary, Khalid opposes any attempt to ban the Niqab. "My brother’s wife chooses to cover and she loves it," says Khalid. "She feels it is so liberating not to be under society's constant pressure to dress a certain way and to look attractive to people she doesn’t want to look attractive in front of."

Khalid despairs that terrorist acts, such as the Nairobi shootings, will ramp up anti-Muslim prejudice. "There are extremists in all walks of life. I know that Islam says it is not justified in any way to kill another human."

Her Twitter followers receive messages such as "Why can't we allow our Christian community who are just 1.6 percent of the country's population, the freedom to exercise their faith?"

She says: "I'm not a slave to the media of any political party. I'm careful what I Tweet but when things really hurt or upset me I say what I think."

She wants to collaborate with Ellie Goulding and the similarly outspoken M.I.A. and reels off a list of territories she now plans to conquer – "India and Pakistan take you to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, then the Maldives and Mauritius – it's great to be an Asian musician right now because there are massive markets out there."

After a turbulent year, Khalid has found new satisfaction living in Essex, where she spent her formative teenage years and is keen to sing live once again. "Most of my songs now are about being happy and grateful for being alive," she concludes.

Annie Khalid in a YouTube video Annie Khalid in a YouTube video

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas