By: Mahwash Ajaz, Sadaf Haider, Sophia Qureshi
There was a horrific incident recently in Pakistan where a mother of two was gang-raped in front of her children in Punjab. There was rightful outrage in the public, media and the terrible incident was condemned by everyone. Many called for the public hanging of rapists while others called for chemical castration. Pakistan’s Prime Minister, in an interview given to Moeed Pirzada, also endorsed the chemical castration for rapists, a move that was received very well by many.
PM Khan also talked about the impact of media and culture on the rise of crimes against women and talked about Ertugrul as well, a Turkish television show that depicts the rise of the Ottoman Empire. As fans of the show, we’ve talked a lot about it and we’ve also felt that PM Imran Khan has perhaps not perused some of our own excellent tv shows that we felt that PM Khan should watch.
Therefore we’ve set out a list of tv shows that we feel Imran Khan should watch to know that Pakistani tv shows also promote Pakistani family values, have excellent content and also denounce rape culture and talk about hope and rehabilitation of victims of abuse and assault. We’ve chosen a set of ten tv shows each from the past ten years with stories that have given us all something to think about…
Sadaf Haider’s Choices:
- Dastan (2010)
This is one of the most inspiring and balanced dramas about partition. The emergence of Pakistan as a sovereign country and the twilight of the British Raj is shown through the lives the of everyday people rather than historic figures. Based on the novel by Razia Butt “Bano”, the story revolves around a large Indian Muslim family just as Independence Movement is gaining strength and illustrates the division of those who opted to stay in the new India and those who moved on to the new Pakistan. The terrible price payed by women during Partition is the heart of the story. Bano is an innocent victim of the cruelty and chaos, who can find no peace even after she reunites with the hero, Hassan. Dastan is a reminder that the only way to honor the immeasurable sacrifices and losses that those generations suffered is by fulfilling their hopes and dreams of peaceful, prosperous and equitable country for all.
- Humsafar (2012)
Watch this drama for the romance and the family values, and how not every Pakistani story has to involve a weak man who jumps to the next easy option. Relax, break out the chocolate ice cream, and keep some tissues handy, as you watch this story of love, betrayal and fidelity despite all the odds. Enjoy something every Pakistani has watched or at least heard of and understand that class differences in Pakistani society are very real. How easy it is for the elite class to dehumanize and dismiss the rights and feelings of those who have not attended fancy schools and universities, who do not wear designer clothes or travel in air-conditioned cars.
PS don’t worry love wins, Farida loses!
- Daam (2010)
If Humsafar wasn’t enough, Daam will tell you all about the way class differences and the lack of economic opportunities blight people’s lives. If nothing else watch for the simple, beautiful illustration of friendship, arrogance and human behavior that Pakistani dramas have mastered.
- Mera Saeen (2011)
Watch this dark story about the journey of a ruthless feudal lord and politician, whose ambition and charm have no end. It is fascinating psychological portrait of the sense of entitlement and privilege that wealth and inherited power provide. This gem of serial is not just entertaining, it might even help you understand some of the powerful men around you?
- Zan Mureed (2018)
This is about domestic violence and how simply passing laws is not enough. Facilitating and helping victims survive and overcome this issue requires change in societal attitudes that can come from understanding the economic and familial burdens women and men carry to keep families going. This drama’s biggest strength is the way it shows us that marriage is a relationship beyond the simple gender roles we assign husband and wife. A husband should be so much more than just a provider or head of household and a wife is so much more than a cleaner and a cook. When we recognize that, the family unit we all seek to preserve becomes resilient against every strain.
- Meri Guriya (2018)
Rape, sexual crimes against minors and women are all shown in this exceptional drama. Even more importantly the kind of victim blaming, regressive attitudes and ignorance which allows pedophiles and rapists to walk freely among us while society judges and persecutes victims is amply illustrated. In light of the motorway rape case this detailed case study will show you how both police and public too often react to such high-profile cases. The case for Justice Reform and how politicians can use such a crime as a political football is also amply illustrated.
- Aun Zara (2013)
After such heavy viewing maybe, you need to relax and watch something light and airy like the sheer delight that is this family comedy. This wonderful drama is the Pakistan that exists in our hearts, the strength of family, the wealth of kindness and why being together always beats being alone.
- Baaghi (2018)
This maybe an offbeat choice, but it will help you look past the mass of stereotypes and prejudices that we all have built up about a certain kind of woman or man .This drama looks at the tragic story of Qandeel Baloch not as some sensational media personality but as a real person, mired in poverty, handicapped by ignorance. She uses her body because that is all she has to scrape her way through life, grabbing at every straw floating past as if it will bring her fortune. While we are judging women like Qandeel let us also judge the political and social framework that molds them and remember we do not have to approve of or like someone to give them justice.
- Ehd e Wafa (2020)
Four young men that represent the promising future of Pakistan: a soldier, a politician, a civil servant and a journalist. Four school friends grow up and drift apart as vanity, ambition and revenge drive a wedge through their relationships. A clever journey through the different strata of society, showing us there is strength in unity only if we recognize and value everyone’s contribution. No matter how hard the journey , trust , faith and friendship can help you make your way through the darkest most difficult times , the message is of this drama is clear; forget everything bet never forget a good friend who reminds you of what is right , not just what you want to hear.
- Jackson Heights (2015)
We hear so much of the success stories of diaspora Pakistanis, of Doctors, Engineers and MBA holders working in Multinationals in America, Europe, Great Britain and beyond this serial tells us of the struggles and difficulties of the other side. These stories give us an intimate portrait of the forgotten workers who struggle every day to earn money to send home despite barriers of language, education and culture and support Pakistan through thick and thin with their remittances. The immigrant diaspora is too often misunderstood and dismissed by the same Pakistani elites whose hoarding of wealth and opportunities forced them to leave the homeland in the first place. The lives of this quiet demographic are highlighted with humor and honesty.
Sophia Qureshi’s choices:
- Uraan (2010)
“Uraan” is a show that was brave for its time, highlighting the issues of physical, emotional and verbal abuse in a marriage. Instead of emphasizing misery and suffering, “Uraan” chose to depict the resilience and strength of the Pakistani woman. The show also cast light on mental illness and how mental illness can manifest as abusive behavior. Starring Hamayun Saeed, Aamina Sheikh, Saba Qamar, Zhalay Sarhadi and Shamim Hilaly in prominent roles, “Uraan” is directed by Yasir Nawaz, written by Umera Ahmed and aired on Geo in 2010.
- Yakeen Ka Safar (2017)
“Yakeen Ka Safar” is a show that is essentially a realistic take on life, family and love. Viewers follow Zubia and Asfandyar on their journey through trauma, acceptance, personal growth and, finally, love. Dealing with social issues like rape, (lack of) justice, character assassination, loss of familial trust and much more, “Yakeen Ka Safar” tells a well-rounded story that leaves the audience wanting more. Starring Sajal Aly, Ahad Raza Mir, Hira Mani and Shaz Khan in leading roles, “Yakeen Ka Safar” has been written by Farhat Ishtiaq, directed by Shahzad Kashmiri, and aired on Hum Tv in 2017.
- Shanakht (2014)
“Shanakht” is a show that is, as its title states, about one’s identity. Following two characters, Annie and Rohan, navigating their way through upper class society as religious individuals, the show highlights the hypocrisy within Pakistani society regarding attitudes towards modern, educated youth embracing their religious identity. “Shanakht” scores by not preaching religion; rather it promotes an individual’s right to choose and embrace their own identity while depicting positive aspects of Islam. Starring Maya Ali, Noor Hassan, Fahad Mirza and Kanza Wayn, “Shanakht” is directed/written by Amna Nawaz Khan and aired on Hum TV in 2014.
- Qaid E Tanhai (2010)
Leaving one’s homeland for greener pastures is a common part of reality. But while their loved ones are off in a faraway land, how are their families affected? “Qaid E Tanhai” examines the immigrant experience and how personal relationships can suffer due to loneliness. Exploring different dimensions to this topic, such as how men and women are treated differently for making the same mistakes, this is a complex human story. “Qaid E Tanhai” is directed by Babar Javed, written by Umera Ahmed, stars Faysal Quraishi, Savera Nadeem, Saba Hameed, Neelum Munir and Syed Jibran and aired on Hum TV in 2010.
- Talkhiyan (2013)
An adaptation of Arundhati Roy’s novel “The God Of Small Things,” “Talkhiyan” follows the lives of three women and their place in society without the support of a man – until Jugnu, the son and heir, arrives and patriarchy sets in. Bibi, played by Sanam Saeed, is essentially the main character and the story is told through the eyes of her children, showing the injustice inflicted on their mother for being a divorcee and the struggles within a society that has not yet done away with the caste system. Starring Sanam Saeed, Hina Khawaja Bayat, Shamim Hilaly, Adnan Jaffer and Hassan Niazi, the show has been directed by Khalid Ahmed, written by Bee Gul and aired on Express Entertainment in 2013.
- Diyar E Dil (2015)
“Diyar E Dil” is a magnum opus, stylized drama with a talented ensemble cast including Abid Ali, Mekaal Zulfiqar, Ali Rehman Khan, Sanam Saeed, Hareem Farooq, Maya Ali and Osman Khalid Butt. The story, on paper, is not complex, rather it simply follows the story of a family. Once tight-knit, the family has a falling out and it falls upon the next generation to reunite their families. While the story may be simple, it is a beautifully presented drama that shows the importance of loving and respecting family members. “Diyar E Dil” is directed by Haseeb Hassan, written by Farhat Ishtiaq and aired on Hum TV in 2015.
- Besharam (2016)
“Besharam” is a love story at heart, bringing Haider, an aspiring politician, and Mishi, an actress, together in marriage. Within this story, many strong statements are made on the double-standards society holds for men and women and, specifically, how one’s career shapes how that individual is viewed by the outside world. Starring Saba Qamar and Zahid Ahmed, “Besharam” is directed by Farooq Rind, written by Sarwat Nazir and aired on ARY in 2016.
- Akbari Asghari (2011)
“Akbari Asghari” is the story of two sisters who are very different in nature and follows their lives before and after marriage. An adaptation of “Mirat Ul Uroos,” the basic plot of this story is simply that beauty is deep within and one should not judge a book by its cover. Packaged in a way that’s purely comedic, “Akbari Asghari” manages to tackle several deeper subjects such as religion, human psyche, the loss of culture and the importance of family. Starring Fawad Khan, Imran Abbas, Sanam Baloch, Humaima Malik and several others, “Akbari Asghari” is directed by Haissam Hussan, written by Faiza Iftikhar and aired in 2011 on Hum TV.
- Dillagi (2016)
A show about an unrelenting lover, Mohib (Hamayun Saeed), and the object of his affections, Anmol (Mehwish Hayat), quickly evolves into a game of wills – will Mohib’s love win or Anmol’s ego? While Anmol and Mohid’s relationship starts off on the wrong (forced) foot, “Dillagi” sets out to even the footing throughout the course of the show, leveling the ground bit by bit so that, by the end, Mohid and Anmol are equals. The strength of “Dillagi” is Faiza Iftikhar’s writing, not only creating likable characters, but also strong, fleshed-out female characters that can stand up for themselves. Starring Hamayun Saeed, Mehwish Hayat, Saba Hamid, Uzma Hassan and Imran Ashraf, “Dillagi” aired on ARY Digital in 2016.
- Sirat E Mustaqeem (2012)
Is it possible for a young man to completely lose his way in life and manage to find his way back? This is the story “Sirat E Mustaqeem” sets out to answer, following Mustaqeem in his immature ways until he is forced to grow up and find his way back to the place (and father) he promised he would never return to. Starring Sami Khan, Kiran Haq, Urwa Hocane and Firdous Jamal, “Sirat E Mustaqeem” is written by Sarwat Nazir, directed by Mohsin Mirza and aired on Express entertainment in 2012.
Mahwash Ajaz’s Choices:
- Kankar (2013)
Starring Sanam Baloch and Fahad Mustafa, this is a tale of a middle class family that wants the daughter married off to a wealthy boy (no surprises there in the plot really) but the girl ends up being physically abused by the boy and the tv show is mainly about the journey of a survivor. There are some essential messages about how violence permeates families and how patterns are created by parents and children are unable to escape that pattern and end up becoming similar toxic adults without realizing how much harm they are causing to others. It starred Ismat Zaidi, Behroze Sabzwari, Hassan Niazi, Laila Zuberi and Uroosa Siddiqui among others. The show is written by Umera Ahmed and directed by Aabis Raza.
- Shehr e Zaat (2012)
Starring Mahira Khan and Mikaal Zulfiqaar, the show was about how a wealthy young woman falls in love with a gorgeous hero only to find out that he does not value her. While it is mainly a romantic drama, it has many powerful lessons such as existentialism, sufism, search for truth and self-actualization. It starred Sameena Peerzada, Hina Khawaja Bayat, Nadia Afghan and Sana Javed among others. The show was written by Umera Ahmed and directed by Sarmad Khoosat.
- Nanhi (2013)
Starring Shahood Alvi, Sajal Ali, Javed Sheikh, Behroze Sabzwari among others, this tv show is brutal and multi-faceted in terms of the painful realities of urban centers. It has some incredible performances by Sajal Ali, Asma Abbas, Uroosa Siddiqui among others and it should definitely be on your must-watch list, PM! The show was directed by Haseeb Hassan and written by Mona Haseeb.
- Ullu Baraye Farokht Nahi (2013)
This incredibly dark television show that scratches kitchen politics only on the surface but actually digs into the depths and the darkness of feudal politics in Inner Punjab. Sohail Ahmed as the leading patriarch in the show delivers a bone-chilling performance and the rest of the star cast includes Saba Qamar, Uzma Hassan, Irsa Ghazal, Omair Rana, Yumna Zaidi and Saleem Mairaj among others. The show was written by Amna Mufti and directed by Kashif Nisar.
- O Rangreza (2017)
How a young ambitious girl falls into the philosophical quagmire of wanting to escape who her father is but never really escaping who her father is. It’s got some fantastic performances and some deep rooted psychological and philosophical questions mired into humor, tragedy and reality. The show also stars Sajal Ali, Bilal Abbas, Nauman Ijaz, Sana Fakhar and Irsa Ghazal. The show was written by Saji Gul and directed by Kashif Nisar.
- Khuda Mera Bhi Hai (2017)
This is a story of an intersex child who is born to a couple where the father refuses to accept the child as his own. As the child grows up and faces difficulty and pain and copes with the idea of marriage and family, the show charts the journey of the family itself and those around the protagonist. The show starred Ayesha Khan, Syed Jibran, Irsa Ghazal, Imran Ashraf and Saba Hamid. The show was written by Asma Nabeel and was directed by Shahid Shafaat.
- Alif (2020)
Based on Umera Ahmed’s novel of the same name, the show is a sufi journey into the life of a woman named Momina Sultan. It deals with her life’s difficulties as a young woman who is trying to earn for her family and also trying to succeed in show business without trying to deal with its very realistic negativities. The show starred Sajal Ali, Hamza Ali Abbasi, Kubra Khan, Saleem Mairaj, Sarmad Sehbai and Ahsan Khan. The show was written by Umera Ahmed and it was directed by Haseeb Hassan.
- Udaari (2016)
This popular tv show faced the wrath of PEMRA because of its content: Ahsan Khan plays a predator. He plays Ishtiaq a man who assaults his neighbor’s daughter and then his own stepdaughter. The show was about how that young woman grows up to fight her case and the other girl grows up to be a famous singer. The show stars Farhan Saeed, Urwa Hocane, Bushra Ansari, Samiya Mumtaz and Hina Altaf. The show was written by Farhat Ishtiaq and directed by Ehteshamuddin.
- Sang e Mar Mar (2017)
A complicated yet compelling look into the life of rural Khyber Pakhtunkhwah, the show delves into difficult matters such as honor killing, violence against women and emotional abuse. The show starred Nauman Ijaz, Sania Saeed, Omair Rana, Mikaal Zulfiqaar, Uzma Hassan, Paras Masroor, Kubra Khan and others. It was written by Mustafa Afridi and it was directed by Saife Hasan.
- Pyar Ke Sadqay (2020)
One of the most well-written scripts in the past few years, the show talks about two neurodiverse characters, Abdullah and Mahjabeen, who are stuck in different socioeconomic strata but meet and end up together in bizarre circumstances. Watch for some incredible performances, some cutting insight into human psychology and some viable intrigue as well. The show starred Bilal Abbas, Yumna Zaidi, Atiqa Odho, Gul e Rana, Omair Rana, Srha Asghar. The show was written by Zanjabeel Asim Shah and directed by Farooq Rind.
Pertinent to mention here that these lists are not exclusive to us and that most of us agree with each other’s’ lists. All of us, for example, are unanimous fans of Yaqeen Ka Safar and Pyar Ke Sadqay and Sange Mar Mar. However, to keep the lists as fresh as possible, we’ve included different tv shows so that the Prime Minister, whenever he has time, can pick and choose (if by some miracle he gets to read this!) whichever one he wants. The point really is to explain to the government and our audiences that Pakistani television channels have been producing good content, despite having some questionable content, and that some of these tv shows in the past ten years are proof that Pakistani dramas are giving some very positive and empowering messages for victims and for celebrating Pakistan’s culture and family values.