If one were to rate the content on Pakistani TV the award for the most entertaining drama would most certainly go to the new stream of performers introduced on our TV screens by the new people in power the PTI.
Thanks to their self-assuredness that they would definitely come into power, we got a preview even before the elections with Sheikh Rashid. While paying tribute to a courtesan he grew up sharing cigarettes with, he implied that the women in our performing industry are all of a similar origin. He explained how I was much worse than all of these. Much worse than a prostitute, or a topless performer, because I chose to write a book which broke the code of respectable Pakistani society.
PTI’s Continuing Circus in the Name of Islam
Many of us assumed that once in power the party would tame its mouthpieces. But, as editors on both sides of the border fell over with exhaustion, there was no end to the gaffes from the new kids on the block. Many of my friends stopped watching the Daily Show with Trevor Noah on Comedy Central. The reality show the PTI put up was by far funnier.
Once in power we heard the Arts & culture minister Fayaz ul Hasan Chohan ordering all film posters with women in alluring poses to be taken down. We were told that all stage dances were to be performed in front of him before being shown to the public.
He went on in a public speech to brag he would convert the famous theatre performer Nargis into Haji Nargis soon and jeered that instead of 30 fasts of Ramadan she would be fasting 300 days a year.
Watching the speech I actually felt that the minister was better suited to the theatre circuit himself as his explicit lewd remarks would probably get more wolf whistles out of the audience.
But the misguided moral police has no plans of giving up just yet.
PEMRA’s Misplaced Guidelines Put Divorce & Infidelity in the Same Category
The year opened with the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) telling TV channels to not air dramas with themes like divorce, infidelity and extra marital affairs.
Apparently divorce and infidelity fall into the same category for the watch dog.
Who am I to tell the upholders of our faith that while infidelity is frowned upon in all cultures and societies, divorce is permitted by law and by Sharia? In fact, according to Sharia, some would go as far as saying infidelity is punishable by stoning until death. But Islam, unlike Catholicism, gives the right of divorce to both spouses. Notwithstanding these facts, who are we to argue with PEMRA that claims divorce falls into the category of objectionable and indecent content?
PEMRA has insisted that the dramas were not depicting the true picture of Pakistan. Perhaps PEMRA has not been around the whole of 2018 and perhaps Pakistani news is so depressing that they choose not to watch it.
Ergo, they may have missed this minor detail that the current PM of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is an elderly man in his sixties, who is twice divorced and married to a woman who left her husband for him.
They may have forgotten that the information minister Fawad Chaudhary, and the very flamboyant TV anchor and PTI supporter Amir Liaqat, have boldly introduced us to the new women in their lives despite concerns of their first families.
No Reality, Please! We Are Pakistani
The guidance goes onto say that rape scenes, use of drugs and alcohol shown in dramas is in “utter disregard of the Pakistani culture and values”.
Of course, rape is unheard of if you live in the vanilla bubble that PEMRA enjoys. The brutal images of 7-year-old Zainab Ansari raped, murdered, and dumped on a rubbish heap are not real. Asma, 4, raped, strangled, and left in a sugarcane field must have been merely a creature of our imagination.
The nephew of Interior Minister Shehryar Afridi found to be in posession of drugs might also be just our collective hallucination.
And wait for it, PEMRA lamented that most of the dramas revolve around ‘women and feminist issues’ and that it has neglected men. I immediately let out an “Aww my baby, you feel neglected?” I also wanted to send a virtual hug to all these poor boys who had lost their doting mummies.
Finally, the media watchdog ordered all TV channels to create content that paints Pakistan in rosy hues. Yes my friends, ‘create’ being the key word. Please think up Utopian themes where nothing wrong ever happens in the land of the pure.
Because if you do make an attempt to represent reality, you are obviously funded by RAW and this is why only Indians will appreciate your work.
I am fine with this, personally, as I also want to go back to my bachpan kay din when I saw elegant ladies wrapped in chiffon dupattas speaking ever so softly on PTV. I grew up believing that people who are constantly photographed praying and playing with rosary beads are obviously true Muslims and the upholders of morality.
I also grew up believing that Pakistanis don’t cheat on their spouses and alcohol and drugs are the problems faced only by infidels in the West.
Oh, and feminism? That, of course, is an imported phenomenon. Fatima Jinnah, Benazir Bhutto, Asma Jahangir, Maryam Nawaz, Bakhtawar Bhutto, Sherry Rehman—they are all foreigners.
Women who demand a place at the table and speak louder than men is most definitely against Pakistani traditions. Right?
(Reham Khan is a Libyan-born British Pakistani journalist, author, and filmmaker. She is also the former wife of current Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. She tweets at @RehamKhan1. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)