Saturday, December 3, 2011

Veena Malik Challenges Pakistan's Orthdoxy

Pakistani actress Veena Malik (Urdu: ويتا ملک, born Zahida Malik), who raised eyebrows last year for her provocative on-screen behavior in a reality show, is in the midst of yet another controversy after posing in the nude for the December 2011 cover of the Indian edition of international For Him men's Magazine(FHM). The ISI tattoo on Veena's arm and the hand grenade in her hand whose pin she is shown biting on in the picture add to the provocative nature of the cover. This latest "outrage" raises the following questions: Is Veena motivated by her desire for publicity and money? Is Veena leading a new form of protest against Pakistan's religious, political and social orthodoxy?

Challenge to Religious Orthodoxy:

Malik is part of a new emerging crop of Pakistanis which, in small but significant ways, has challenged the religious orthodoxy. She, and others like her, present a sharp contrast to the rising wave of Islamic radicalism that the U.S. and the Pakistani secular-liberal elite view as an existential threat to the country. And with many well-traveled Pakistanis importing ideas from abroad, they are contributing to Pakistan's 21st-century search for itself.

Media Revolution:

In addition to increased international travel, Pakistan's media and telecom revolution that began during the Musharaf years is contributing to changing society. There are multiple, competing TV channels catering to almost every niche, whim and taste---from news, sports, comedy and talk shows to channels dedicated to cooking, fashion, fitness, music, business, religion, local languages and cultures etc. It seems that this media revolution has had a profound influence on how many young people talk, dress and behave, emulating the outspoken media personalities, actors, preachers, singers, sportsmen, celebrities and fashion models. In addition to a smorgasbord of TV channels born out of a surge in advertising spending, there are many newspapers and tabloids, and serious and glossy magazines, and many FM radio stations providing local news, sports, weather and traffic updates.

Protest Culture:

Enabled by Pakistan's youthful population's embrace of the new media, the hit videos Aalu Anday and Paki Rambo are the latest examples in a long tradition of protest music, poetry and literature in the rich and diverse culture of Pakistan.

In recent years, Pakistan's protest culture has entered a new and exciting phase. The artists no longer feel stifled by the heavily censored state electronic media which dominated the national landscape for most of Pakistan's existence. In fact, the new talent does not rely even on the corporate-owned commercial media that have emerged and become powerful during the last decade of President Musharraf's rule. With the growth of Internet in Pakistan, the rapidly expanding online population is feeling more empowered than ever to engage in free expression as part of their political and social activism.

Social Transformation:

Regardless of Veena's personal motivations, it is clear that the FHM cover featuring her in the nude is an act of defiance by the publicity-seeking actress. Shocking as it may seem to many Pakistanis, it represents only the tip of the iceberg of big social changes coming to Pakistan. These changes will likely lead to greater polarization in the short to intermediate term. Eventually, however, I expect that Pakistanis will learn to tolerate diversity and emerge as a stronger and more unified nation.

Here's a Veena Malik Photo Shoot:

Veena Malik’s hot photoshoot for ‘Supermodel’ from Connect on Vimeo.

Here's a video clip of Veena Malik performing for India reality show Bigg Boss:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan Media Revolution

Protest Music in Pakistan

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers

Life Goes On in Pakistan

Pakistani Entrepreneurs Survive Economic Downturn

Silent Social Revolution in Pakistan


Imran said...

FHM servers must be overwhelmed by Pakistani hits.

Ras said...

From The Hindu newspaper article:

"Commenting on the latest FHM cover, one tweeter said “Veena Malik would make a terrible ISI agent

considering how much she reveals” while another wondered if cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf would invite her to the party fold now that she had revealed all her assets."

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from Washington Post blog on Veena Malik:

The controversy comes on the heels of a tense week for Pakistan, in which NATO airstrikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, an incident Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) blamed on ISI, which he said was actively supporting terorrist organizations. Senior officials in recent months have repeatedly accused ISI of supporting militants based in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Pakistan has denied such allegations.

Sharma says having ISI written on Malik’s arm was just intended as a joke. “In India we joke about this . . . if anything goes wrong . . . we say the ISI must be behind this.”

But Pakistan’s media aren’t finding it funny, with the Express Tribune staunchly declaring that the “viral photo is fake.”

Malik has stirred up controversy before. In 2010, she outraged conservatives for appearing on Indian reality show “Bigg Boss,” a show similar to “Big Brother.” In March of this year, she challenged a Pakistani cleric on television.

Male Pakistani actor Osman Khalid Butt also rose eyebrows back home this week after he recorded a “foul-mouthed” video. In the video, Butt attempts to use as many of the 1,500 English and Urdu words recently banned by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority from use in text messages that he can.

Roland said...

Do read the BBC story in the link below. At least someone has a sense of humor to release the tension of the days we are going through.

If this had come out before Adm Mullen's retirement--he would have hired her, to get even with the ISI.

Shams said...

How fascinating the way Veena Malik is, in your words, "leading a new form of protest against Pakistan's religious, political and social orthodoxy."

Najam said...

Each and every word of your write up under the heading "Social Transformation" needs to be written in Gold ,and given wider publicity.May be in religious sermons also ,as it will educate people not to be ashamed of Veena Malik's Challenges to Orthodoxy(I could not understand why you did not have courage to write Islam in place of Orthodoxy),but take it as a tip of the Iceberg and we have also learnt through your words of wisdom that tolerating nude photos on covers of Indian Magazines,and similar other acts will make Pakistan a more Stronger and Unified nation.

Unfortunately your advice could not reach father of Veena Malik ,who issued this foolish statement.

Aslam Malik, father of Veena Malik, has demanded the government take serious action against her daughter because she did a shameful act not only for family but for the country.

Mayraj said...

Veena Malik files for Rs100m in damages from FHM

Refusing to balk in the face of controversy, Veena Malik has filed for monetary damages against For Him Magazine (FHM) to the sum of Indian Rs100,000,000 following their release of two magazine covers featuring the diva naked.

The notice was delivered on Sunday and named Maxposure Corporate Media, FHM chieft editor Kabeer Sharma and photographer Vishal Saxena as respondents. It outlined Malik’s narrative of events surrounding the photo shoot for FHM, including the claim that “our client was assured that no nude photograph in any manner would be shot by you.”

The notice reiterated that Malik’s photos had been morphed, stating that Malik had agreed to be shot in shorts and tee shirt and boots; wearing a fur coat up to thighs and boots; hot pants and a broad big belt with the upper portion of her body covered with her hands and an ISI tattoo on her hand; an image with a tattoo of “ISI” appearing on one hand, in which Malik would wear a bikini and/or a thong posing with folded hands with the upper portion of her body covered with other tattoos.

Claiming irreparable harm, loss and damage, the notice said the respondents had committed offences punishable under the Indian Penal Code as well as Information and Technology Act, 2000. The notice called on FHM to ensure the magazine issue would not go into print, remove the tampered photos from the FHM website and pay millions in damages.

Anonymous said...

if I am not mistaken she has tried a similar stunt in an earlier controvery.

FHM is a very large international magazine and not your local girlie picture magazine.

I am sure they did the appropiate due dilligence before publishing...

Rashid said...

Many years ago we re-subscribed to all the Pak channels. We were surprised to see the disappearance of the head cover from lady announcer's heads. Then we saw the all-music channels along with the very frank political discussions allowed by Musharraf. We liked the dialogues and the proliferation of points of view.

Now we see Veena Malik has become the point person for more changes to come.

Progress - or regress.
Progress in one area (political freedom) can not be divorced from changes in other areas (social behavior). Mansoor Ijaz and Gen Hamid Gul's son can only speak on TV when Veena can speak her mind. Otherwise, banning one will necessarily mean the silencing of the other.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "FHM is a very large international magazine and not your local girlie picture magazine. I am sure they did the appropiate due dilligence before publishing..."

Apparently you have not heard about what has been happening in the UK with News Corp, an international publisher owned by Ruper Murdoch.

A number of its editors and reporters have been arrested and charged for breaking British criminal and civil laws and infringing on the rights of individuals.

Khalid said...

Is this a law of physics (or accounting) that our vices and virtues must come together in one indivisible integrated package?

All morality is based upon discriminating between good and bad. However the West, whose advancement in the material world was accompanied by its rebellion against (a corrupt) religion decided that political freedom and freedom from moral laws must be linked together. And our generation is one that has been educated in that nonsense.

Let us be honest with ourselves. We claim to be Muslims and pray (whenever we pray even if once a year) for the Straight Path.Then turn around and claim that the Straight Path and the Crooked Path are inseparable.

Let us stop trying to turn vices into virtues by putting a philosophical cover over the effort.

This report comes from the sewers that originated in the West and are now flooding the East as well. This is the promised social change. I guess we can rejoice if we enjoy the smells of the sewer lines.

Riaz Haq said...

Khalid: "Is this a law of physics (or accounting) that our vices and virtues must come together in one indivisible integrated package?"

No, the unwritten law really enforced in Pakistan is that the people must hang the petty thieves and appoint great ones to high offices.

This Taliban style talk of vice and virtue about females is a distraction from the real moral and material corruption rampant in Muslim nations.

Jihad must first be waged against the real filth of lies, bribery, violence and injustice that is spreading the worst kind of stench from the open "social sewers" in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Islamic world.

Salman said...

Riaz: "Jihad must first be waged against the real filth of lies, bribery, violence and injustice that is spreading the worst kind of stench from the open "social sewers" in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Islamic world."

I agree in toto and most othere will do as well.But my dear friend ,one has to draw a line which ,as Muslims and as Pakistani,should never be crossed when it comes to widely used term of "openness" and "social freedom in all repects" in the West.

As a Muslim and Pakistani ,I will like to die before I can see one of my daughters behaving like Veena Malik.I m sure that most on this site will hate to see their daughters to do even 10 % of it.So question is that ,by doing so are we depriving our daughters of the social freedom they must enjoy? If yes ,then I stop here and no more arguments from my end.

If not ,then are we not exposing ourselves as ones with double standards that we set one standard for ourselves and another for other girls ---the muslim daughters of other fellow muslim fathers.

Riaz Haq said...

Salman: "If not ,then are we not exposing ourselves as ones with double standards that we set one standard for ourselves and another for other girls ---the muslim daughters of other fellow muslim fathers."

I respect your opinion, and I do not endorse the choice Veena Malik made for herself.

As to the double standard, I think you are confusing tolerance with's an important distinction that must not be lost in this discussion.

Roland said...

extremism, in any form, is to be avoided.

Khalid said...

Riaz: "As to the double standard, I think you are confusing tolerance with's an important distinction that must not be lost in this discussion."

So you will tolerate if your daughter did it? (And even talk about the bright results that may ensue from this bold but unaccepted act).

Riaz Haq said...

Khalid: "So you will tolerate if your daughter did it? (And even talk about the bright results that may ensue from this bold but unaccepted act)."

Since you raise such hypotheticals, let me ask you this: What would you do if your daughter decided to do it? Would you resort to honor killing? Do you endorse that response which is all too common not just in Muslim nations, but even among educated Muslims in the West? Is that appropriate?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a description of the photos and the ensuing scandal as reported by NY tabloid Daily News:

A nude shot of a sultry Pakistani starlet on the cover of an Indian lad mag has sparked an uproar between the two nuclear rivals.

Pakistani actress Veena Malik appears on the cover of FHM India's December issue wearing nothing but a steamy gaze and the initials of Pakistan's fearsome intelligence agency, ISI, tattooed across her arm.

Conservative Muslim clerics in her home country slammed the shot as an insult to Islam, while Pakistan's government has promised to investigate whether the image was doctored, London's The Telegraph reported.

Malik, meanwhile, has filed a lawsuit against the magazine, saying that she agreed to pose topless -- along with a cheeky dig at her home country's spy service -- but the editors digitally altered the shot to make her appear totally nude.

"I agreed to a photo shoot and having an ISI tattoo in a humorous way but I did not have any nude photos. My pictures have been morphed," she told a Pakistani television station.

The suit is seeking $2 million in damages.

FHM India editor Kabeer Sharma insists the cover is legit.

"Maybe she is facing some kind of backlash, so maybe that's why she is denying it," Sharma told Agence France-Presse.

"We have not photoshopped or faked the cover. This is what she looks like, she has an amazing body."

Sharma says a video from the cover shoot would prove the photos are real.

An alternate cover that has surfaced online shows Malik clad in a dinky military cargo belt while nibbling on the pin of a grenade.

The 33-year-old Muslim actress and model was best known as a Pakistani TV star before hitting it big in India in 2010 as a contestant on the fourth season of the reality show "Bigg Boss," a version of "Big Brother."

In January, she got in a much-publicized verbal spat with a conservative Muslim cleric, who called her an insult to Pakistan and Islam for cozying up with a dashing Indian actor on the show.

Read more:

Riaz Haq said...

A Pakistani high court yesterday rejected a lawyer’s petition asking it to direct authorities to file charges against model and actress Veena Malik, following allegedly nude photographs of her appearing on the cover of FHM India’s December issue and confiscate her passport.

Salimullah Khan had filed the petition against Malik in the Islamabad High Court the day before yesterday, noting that she should be tried under provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code for obscene acts, sedition, defamation and not wearing clothes and using equipment used by Pakistani military personnel.

Khan also asked the court to confiscate her passport and order her to return to Pakistan. Malik’s passport is “state property” and the government could confiscate it under the law, he claimed.

Rejecting his petition yesterday, the court said it could not take any action as the photos had been published in another country.

Khan contended that Malik’s conduct was “controversial and shameful for everybody in Pakistan” and that she had trampled “all standards of Islamic cultures and morality”.

“She is carrying an inscription on her arm, that is ISI in bold letters, and she is also proclaimed as a weapon of mass destruction by the magazine. Thus she has defamed the country and its institutions,” Khan told....

Tariq said...

Did you know there are two Pakistani porn stars in American adult film industry?

Check out Gia Jordan and Tiffany Taylor

Riaz Haq said...

Veena Malik has gone missing, according to media reports:

The controversial Pakistani model and actress, who is suing FHM magazine after she claimed they doctored photos to make her look nude, has not been seen since yesterday morning.

She had complained of feeling depressed, but also was the subject of death threats over the photos.

Her manager Pratiek Mehta said he received a text from Malik saying she was ill and depressed.

Mr Mehta said she had been filming a movie called Mumbai 125 Kilometers at Goregaon and was last seen leaving in a car after shooting had finished.

He added: "I have been trying to reach her since yesterday, but have failed. I have approached the officials at Bandra police station and have sought help in finding the whereabouts of Veena."

The film’s director Hemant Madhukar said: "Veena left after the pack-up yesterday (Friday) morning. In the afternoon, I received an SMS from her where she apologised for not being able to concentrate on the shooting, stating that she was disturbed.

"I called her immediately, but her number was not reachable. I have not been able to get in touch with her since.”

Read more:

Riaz Haq said...

Veena is safe, reports NY Daily News:

A Bollywood beauty whose racy magazine cover photo sparked outrage in Pakistan was reported missing Friday, but has turned up safe and sound in a hotel in India.

Veena Malik, who posed nude for the latest issue of the India version of FHM magazine, apparently vanished last week, causing her manager, Pratiek Mehta, to report her missing, according to London's Daily Mirror.

He was concerned because he said she told him she was feeling depressed and had received several death threats over the photos.

The report led to rampant speculation in the Indian media, including claims that she had snuck back into her home country of Pakistan garbed in a burqa because her visa in India had expired.


The 33-year-old - who is in India filming a movie - has since emerged and her spokesperson said she was safe in a hotel in Mumbai.

"Touched base with Veena this morning, she is fine," the spokesperson said, according to the Mirror.

Malik, a Muslim, posed for the men's magazine topless with a tattoo on her shoulder of Pakistan's dreaded intelligence agency, ISI. Conservative clerics in Pakistan called the photos an insult.

The model, who gained fame on the Pakistani version of "Big Brother," said the images were doctored and is suing the magazine.

"I agreed to a photo shoot and having an ISI tattoo in a humorous way but I did not have any nude photos. My pictures have been morphed," she told a Pakistani television station.

FHM denies her claims.

"Maybe she is facing some kind of backlash, so maybe that's why she is denying it," FHM India editor Kabeer Sharma told Agence France-Presse. "We have not photoshopped or faked the cover."

Read more:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a brief excerpt from Time Magazine about "Protestor" as "Person of the Year" for 2011:

Once upon a time, when major news events were chronicled strictly by professionals and printed on paper or transmitted through the air by the few for the masses, protesters were prime makers of history. Back then, when citizen multitudes took to the streets without weapons to declare themselves opposed, it was the very definition of news — vivid, important, often consequential. In the 1960s in America they marched for civil rights and against the Vietnam War; in the '70s, they rose up in Iran and Portugal; in the '80s, they spoke out against nuclear weapons in the U.S. and Europe, against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, against communist tyranny in Tiananmen Square and Eastern Europe. Protest was the natural continuation of politics by other means.

And then came the End of History, summed up by Francis Fukuyama's influential 1989 essay declaring that mankind had arrived at the "end point of ... ideological evolution" in globally triumphant "Western liberalism." The two decades beginning in 1991 witnessed the greatest rise in living standards that the world has ever known. Credit was easy, complacency and apathy were rife, and street protests looked like pointless emotional sideshows — obsolete, quaint, the equivalent of cavalry to mid-20th-century war. The rare large demonstrations in the rich world seemed ineffectual and irrelevant. (See the Battle of Seattle, 1999.)

There were a few exceptions, like the protests that, along with sanctions, helped end apartheid in South Africa in 1994. But for young people, radical critiques and protests against the system were mostly confined to pop-culture fantasy: "Fight the Power" was a song on a platinum-selling album, Rage Against the Machine was a platinum-selling band, and the beloved brave rebels fighting the all-encompassing global oppressors were just a bunch of characters in The Matrix. (See pictures of protesters around the world.)

"Massive and effective street protest" was a global oxymoron until — suddenly, shockingly — starting exactly a year ago, it became the defining trope of our times. And the protester once again became a maker of history.

Prelude to the Revolutions
It began in Tunisia, where the dictator's power grabbing and high living crossed a line of shamelessness, and a commonplace bit of government callousness against an ordinary citizen — a 26-year-old street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi — became the final straw. Bouazizi lived in the charmless Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, 125 miles south of Tunis. On a Friday morning almost exactly a year ago, he set out for work, selling produce from a cart. Police had hassled Bouazizi routinely for years, his family says, fining him, making him jump through bureaucratic hoops. On Dec. 17, 2010, a cop started giving him grief yet again. She confiscated his scale and allegedly slapped him. He walked straight to the provincial-capital building to complain and got no response. At the gate, he drenched himself in paint thinner and lit a match.

Read more:,28804,2101745_2102132_2102373,00.html #ixzz1h2cwmt4W

Mahim Noor said...

Absolutely fantastic Post
Veena Malik Controversy Lots of great information and inspiration, both of which we all need!Thank you for another great article. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect way of writing?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story about unruly Pak media:

One morning last week, television viewers in Pakistan were treated to a darkly comic sight: a posse of middle-class women roaming through a public park in Karachi, on the hunt for dating couples engaged in “immoral” behavior.

Panting breathlessly and trailed by a cameraman, the group of about 15 women chased after — sometimes at jogging pace — girls and boys sitting quietly on benches overlooking the Arabian Sea or strolling under the trees. The women peppered them with questions: What were they doing? Did their parents know? Were they engaged?

Some couples reacted with alarm, and tried to scuttle away. A few gave awkward answers. One couple claimed to be married. The show’s host, Maya Khan, 31, demanded to see proof. “So where is your marriage certificate?” she asked sternly.

This hourlong spectacle, broadcast live on Samaa TV on Jan. 17, set off a furious reaction in parts of Pakistan. Outrage sprang from the Internet and percolated into the national newspapers, where writers slammed Ms. Khan’s tactics as a “witch hunt.”

“Vigil-aunties,” read one headline, referring to the South Asian term “aunty” for older, bossy and often judgmental women.

Now, the protests are headed to court. On Friday, four local nongovernment organizations will file a civil suit against Samaa TV in Pakistan’s Supreme Court, hoping to galvanize the country’s top judges into action.

“Journalists don’t have the right to become moral police,” said Adnan Rehmat of Intermedia, a media development organization that is among the petitioners. “We need to draw a line.”
The media revolution has transformed social and political boundaries: in 2007, feisty coverage played a central role in pushing Pervez Musharraf toward the exit; in recent weeks it helped guard against a possible military coup.

But television is also a lucrative business controlled by powerful, largely unaccountable tycoons. Last year Pakistan’s television stations had advertising revenues of more than $200 million, according to Aurora, an industry journal — 28 percent more than the previous year.

Amid stiff competition for viewers, channels have relied on populist measures — rowdy political talks shows and, in recent times, vigilante-style “investigative” shows modeled on programs in neighboring India.

Some have a noble objective: holding to account crooked public servants, police officers and even fellow journalists. But others have veered into territory that could be described as Pakistan’s answer to Jerry Springer — voyeuristic, mawkish and intrusive.

In recent months, one reporter screamed at a man accused of child rape as he awaited trial outside a courthouse; another hectored a man said to be a self-confessed necrophile inside a jail cell; and a TV reporter “raided” a gathering of whisky drinkers, even though alcohol flows freely at many media parties.
But on Wednesday, Samaa TV issued a formal apology for her show, followed by a short clip of Ms. Khan, sitting on a bed, offering an apology of sorts. “I never intended to make you teary-eyed or hurt you,” she said.

The furor has renewed long-standing demands for media regulation. With the state-run Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority seen as ineffective, the organizations approaching the Supreme Court on Friday hope the judiciary can help. “We need to hold the media to account,” Mr. Rehmat said.
“My real worry is that Pakistan is moving rightwards, and this time the face won’t have a beard,” said Mr. Nasir, the former head of Dawn News television. “And before people know it, they won’t know what’s hit them.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP story on the firing of "vigil-auntie" TV host Maya Khan:

In a rare victory for Pakistani liberals, a private TV station decided to fire a popular morning show host after she sparked outrage by running around a public park trying to expose young, unmarried couples hanging out, a taboo in this conservative Muslim country.

Pakistani liberals derided host Maya Khan's behavior on Twitter and Facebook, comparing it to the kind of moral policing practiced by the Taliban, and started an online petition asking Samaa TV to end this "irresponsible programming" and apologize.

The company responded Saturday in a letter sent to reporters saying it had decided to fire Khan and her team and cancel her show because she refused to issue an unconditional apology for the Jan. 17 program.

Samaa TV's decision marked an unusual victory for Pakistan's beleaguered liberal minority, which has become more marginalized as the country has shifted to the right and whose members have been killed by Islamist extremists for standing up for what they believe.

Critics of the program also praised the company's decision as a positive example of self-regulation by Pakistan's freewheeling TV industry, which was liberalized in 2000 and has mushroomed from one state-run channel to more than 80 independent ones.

Some shows have been praised for serving the public good by holding powerful officials to account, but many others have been criticized for doing anything that will get ratings, including pandering to populist sentiments at the expense of privacy and sometimes truth.

"Samaa management has set a good example that some others need to follow," said prominent human rights activist and journalist Hussain Naqi.

During the program in question, Khan and around a dozen other men and women chased down young couples in a seaside park in the southern city of Karachi. Several couples raced away from the group. One young man put on a motorcycle helmet to hide his identity, while his female friend covered her face with a veil.

Khan finally accosted one couple sitting on a bench and pestered them with questions about whether they were married and whether their parents knew they were there. The man said the couple was engaged and asked Khan to shut off her cameras and microphone. She lied and said they were off.

"What is the difference between this kind of media vigilantism and that demonstrated by the Taliban?" said Mahnaz Rahman, a director at the Aurat Foundation, an organization that fights for women's rights in Pakistan.

Islamist extremists have been ruthless in targeting liberal Pakistanis who disagree with their hardline views. One of the most prominent examples was in last January, when a bodyguard shot to death the governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, because of his criticism of Pakistani laws that mandate the death penalty for criticizing the Prophet Muhammad.

Following Khan's program, one headline in a local paper called the host and the other women who appeared on the show "Vigil-aunties," referring to the South Asian term "aunty" for a bossy older woman.

Riaz Haq said...

In a Tehelka Op Ed, Kiran Nazish writes: "One way to regulate the media or politics in Pakistan is to have civil society watchdogs and that seems to be working. The civil society in Pakistan seems to be quietly — and perhaps, inadvertently — regaining strength. We don’t know if this could this be a threat to the establishment’s control over the state."

More excerpts:

"In recent years, Pakistani media has been on a wild ride of television ratings. To catch up, Maya Khan, a popular TV host took her show to public parks, where she – with her battalion of likeminded women, ran from ‘couple’ to ‘couple’, with microphones and cameras, exposing them as a social disgrace. "

"If the stars were on their usual path, Maya Khan would not have encountered the kind of public outrage she did. While some jocular humour embellished public anger, and jokes like ‘when in parks, beware of dogs and Maya Khan’, were winning popularity; a group of civil society members took shape. The Citizen for Free and Responsible Media (CFRM) emerged as a group of activists, academics, lawyers and journalists, including unadorned citizens that collectively forfeited against Maya’s actions and ran a campaign to ensure that she identifies such behaviour as unethical and apologises. Which, when she didn’t, aggravated the situation and caused her to get fired by the channel along with rest of the team on her show. The following days CFRM continued pointing out and campaigning against other programmes with questionable content or anchoring style and caused two resignations from the anchor and producer of popular prime time shows.

Maya Khan is not just a person, but also a phenomenon, and the growth of such phenomenon is now being impeded by efforts of groups like the CFRM. This development is significant in Pakistan, especially when, to rephrase a CNN report, ‘Media is becoming more powerful than the military.’"

"Take the NRO issue or the Memogate scandal, a massive outrage from the public has constantly been visible. Pakistan now seems ready to hold the state to account, forcing it to live up to its own commitments. Then the lawyers’ movement, with 10 million signatories, was crucial to restore the chief justice. Not just lawyers, but people from all walks of life took to the streets till the goal was accomplished. A lot happened in between but the resistance could not overcome collective civilian participation. It was the civil society in Pakistan that brought about the change from authoritarianism to democracy. We need to explore how quietly and steadfastly their efforts are having a transformative impact. And whether civil society can help dismantle the power, political and monetary concentration by the military. Pakistan may not have free and independent media yet but behind the barricades and across the checkposts, the civil society is learning how to self-liberate."

Riaz Haq said...

Veena Malik is now being accused of being an ISI agent, reports Express Tribune:

Pakistani actor Veena Malik’s controversial ISI tattoo caused a stir on both sides of the border, but it seems some Indians have taken the message in the photo shoot literally. Allegations have arisen that Veena is working as a spy with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) – a rumour she has been quick to deny and term “nonsense”.

“One day I am accused of being aggressive, and the next day a spy. I am an actress. I don’t like being given such labels. People should respect me. I am an honest person who is just doing her work,” the actress was quoted as saying.

The latest controversy erupted after a court order to look into a complaint that Veena was spying for Pakistan. Delhi police investigated the matter and reported that Veena had denied the allegations. The original complainant had said that Veena’s tattoo in a risque photo shoot for FHM magazine indicated that she was spying for the intelligence agency.

In response to this charge, Veena’s international manager Nisha Sahdev said:

“We see and hear stories in the press daily on Veena Malik. We choose to let them be, but on this occasion we must clear that Veena has all the proper paperwork to enter and exit countries she works in and holds all the rightful documents for each project. These comments are unnecessary and time consuming.”

Veena is currently focusing on the release of her three Bollywood films and a reality TV show.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a link to pictures of Nadia Moore Ali, Pakistani-American Playboy Centerfold:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report on the rise of televangelists in Pakistan:

Islamic groups in Pakistan were initially hostile to cable TV because of concerns about "obscene" foreign imports, but religion now dominates the airwaves. A new breed of Islamic TV evangelist has emerged, leading to a confrontation with liberals.

On any day of the week, television in Pakistan is a potent cocktail of soap operas, fiery political debate and, increasingly, pop-Islam.
Farhat Hashmi has been accused of embezzling funds from her television show and fleeing to Canada to avoid prosecution, although she denies any wrongdoing. And Mehar Bukhari, known for her political interviews, sparked outrage by declaring the politician she was speaking to was a heretic.

Another mullah clashed with a Bollywood actress on live television after condemning her behaviour - that clip subsequently became a viral hit.

But the best-known of all the TV evangelists is Dr Amir Liaqat. From a glossy television studio above a parade of run-down shops in Karachi, he had an audience of millions for Alim aur Alam, a live one-hour show that went out five days a week across Pakistan.

The programme allowed Dr Liaqat to play the role of a religious "Agony Uncle", remedying the religious dilemmas of his audience.

In September 2008, Liaqat dedicated an entire episode to exploring the beliefs of the Ahmedis, a Muslim sect which has been declared as "un-Islamic" by much of the orthodoxy. In it, two scholars said that anyone who associated with false prophets was "worthy of murder".

Dr Khalid Yusaf, an Ahmedi Muslim, watched the programme with his family, and says he was shocked that a mainstream channel would broadcast this kind of material.

"They talked about murder as a religious duty. A duty for 'good' Muslims."

Within 24 hours of the broadcast, a prominent member of the Ahmedi community was shot dead in the small town of Mirpur Kass. Twenty-four hours later Khalid Yusaf's father, another Ahmedi community leader, was killed by two masked gunmen.

Liaqat has distanced himself from the shootings. "I have no regrets because it has nothing to do with me," he says. "I'm hurt by what happened and I'm sorry for the families but it has nothing to do with me or anything that was said on my programme."
The "Veena vs the Mullah" incident turned Malik into a symbol of struggle for Pakistani liberals. Mansoor Raza from Citizens for Democracy, a campaign group that has openly supported religious minorities, says Malik's new-found status as a darling of the left is a sign of the times.

"More and more women wearing the niqab, the full face covering now. Many of these are middle-class housewives that watch these religious shows”

"I know housewives who wear the hijab," he says. "They call Veena Malik a hero. She said what we all wanted to say. Our politicians are failing us and so it's left to film stars like Veena Malik to speak out."
Liaqat says these programmes have appeal because they educate. "I want to spread a message of love. Despite all the controversy I am still here and audiences love me because people want to learn about religion. That's why people watch these programmes. People want to learn."

Badar Alam, editor of the Karachi Herald, believes that television could be changing the way Islam is practised in Pakistan - for instance, more women wearing the niqab.

He believes that middle-class housewives who tune into the religious shows are learning cultural practices that are quite alien to Pakistan.

The flux between mainstream Pakistani Islam and a more hardline version of the faith is being fought out on Pakistani TV screens each day.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on provocative paintings in Pakistan:

...The uproar was sparked when the college’s Journal of Contemporary Art and Culture over the summer published pictures of a series of paintings by artist Muhammad Ali.

Particularly infuriating to conservatives were two works that they said insulted Islam by mixing images of Muslim clerics with suggestions of homosexuality, which is deeply taboo in Pakistan.

One titled “Call for Prayer” shows a cleric and a shirtless young boy sitting beside each other on a cot. The cleric fingers rosary beads as he gazes at the boy, who seductively stretches backward with his hands clasped behind his head.

Mumtaz Mangat, a lawyer who petitioned the courts to impose blasphemy charges, argued the image implied the cleric had “fun” with the boy before conducting the traditional Muslim call for prayer.

A second painting shows the same cleric reclining in front of a Muslim shrine, holding a book by Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho in one hand as he lights a cigarette for a young boy with the other. A second young boy, who is naked with his legs strategically crossed to cover his genitals, sits at the cleric’s feet. The painting has caused particular uproar because verses from Islam’s holy book, the Quran, appear on the shrine.

Aasim Akhtar, an Islamabad-based art critic who wrote an essay accompanying the paintings in the journal, wrote that Ali’s mixing of images was “deliberately, violently profane,” aimed at challenge “homophobic” beliefs that are widespread in Pakistani society.

“Ali redefines the divine through a critique of authority and the hypocrisy of the cleric,” wrote Akhtar, an Islamabad-based art critic who is also listed as a potential defendant in the blasphemy complaint.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa, widely believed to be a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, issued a statement after the paintings were published demanding the college issue a public apology and withdraw all issues of the journal.

College staff members also began receiving anonymous text messages threatening violence, said a member of the journal’s editorial board. They were afraid to push back for fear of being killed, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted.

Extremists gunned down two prominent Pakistani politicians last year for speaking out against the country’s harsh blasphemy laws, which can mean life in prison or even death. Human rights activists have criticized the laws, saying they are often used to persecute religious minorities or settle personal scores.

Yahya Mujahid, the spokesman for Jamaat-ud-Dawa, denied the group sent any threats but said the state should punish those responsible.

“It’s part of Western and American plans to malign Islam,” claimed Mujahid.

A court considering whether to press blasphemy charges held its latest session in mid-December, but it has not said when it will rule whether such charges apply in the case.

Shahram Sarwar, a lawyer representing the college’s editorial board, said his clients did not intend to hurt anyone’s feelings but he was prepared to apologize on their behalf if they did.

Besides shutting down the journal, the college also closed the department where its staff worked, said Sarwar.

The current head of the National Arts College, Shabnam Khan, denied the institution caved to pressure from hardliners, saying the editorial staff quit voluntarily. She said the department was closed because no one was left to run it...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Bloomberg piece on Urdu dubbed Turkish soap operas popular in Pakistan:

As Nihal prepared to marry Behlul, not everything was going to plan. Wielding a gun, the bride’s stepmother declared undying love for the groom and said she couldn’t live without him.
Illicit liaisons were at the heart of “Ishq-e-Memnu” or “Forbidden Love,” the Turkish series that was the biggest hit on Pakistani television last winter. At its peak, the show on the Urdu 1 channel was watched by a third of the country’s cable and satellite audience. Still, the racy plotlines proved too much for conservative politicians, and a parliamentary committee found the “onslaught of foreign dramas” so harmful to the nation’s culture it suggested a ban.
Undaunted, Pakistani networks have ordered more shows from studios such as Ay Yapim Productions, the Istanbul-based maker of “Forbidden Love,” while advertisers are paying 15 percent more for commercials. As viewers seek relief from 24-hour news reports of sectarian violence and a war with Taliban insurgents, the success of foreign programs has also sparked a revival in locally made dramas almost 30 years after an army-sponsored censorship drive that sought to create a stricter Islamic state.
“A major shift is taking place in Pakistan’s entertainment scene,” Salman Danish, chief executive officer at Lahore-based MediaLogic Pakistan Ltd., which assigns channel audience ratings, said. “The intense competition is forcing production houses to come up with creative ideas and bold topics. But the biggest surprise is that society is accepting and enjoying this freedom.”
Women’s rights, domestic violence and gay couples have featured in dramas broadcast by Hum TV, Geo TV, ARY Digital and other channels. Shows have dissected a mullah’s relationship with his wife and daughters, and featured a poor girl struggling to survive in an elite school.
“Some social taboos are slowly breaking. But this freedom is also creating tension between conservative and liberal mindsets,” Samina Ahmed, an actress and producer who’s playing roles unthinkable earlier in her four-decade career, said Feb. 14 in Lahore. “The success of these dramas shows that a large number of Pakistanis consume entertainment in a manner no different than that of any other society.”
Ahmed’s more recent characters have included a mother of call girls in the 2011 Hum serial “Akhri Barish,” or “Last Rain,” and a grandmother who runs away from her family to get married.
For many of Pakistan’s 196 million people, the soap operas are an escape from the news networks’ diet of violence and political intrigue. While Pakistan has been fighting Taliban guerrillas since 2004, sectarian groups targeting the Shiite minority have stepped up bombings.

Anila Shaikh, 43, and her teenage daughter Mariam watched each of the 165 episodes of “Forbidden Love” at home in Rawalpindi, just outside the capital, Islamabad.
They were so taken by the show that Shaikh promised her daughter a bridal dress to match the one Nihal picked for her wedding, nuptials that never happened after the spurned and brokenhearted stepmother Bihter shot herself dead.
“I don’t really care who will object to that strapless wedding gown in my family,” Shaikh said at her home in a middle-class neighborhood last month. “I want to see my daughter as beautiful as Nihal looked that day.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report on Taan, Pakistani version of Glee:

Gay romance, Islamic extremism and a soundtrack of classic love songs make for Pakistan's taboo-breaking answer to the hugely successful US television series Glee.
Like its smash hit forerunner, Taan follows the lives and loves of a group of young people who regularly burst into song. But this time they attend a music academy in Lahore, instead of an American high school.
Taan - which is a musical note in Urdu - tackles subjects considered off limits in Pakistan's deeply conservative Muslim society, with plotlines including love affairs between two men and between a Taliban extremist and a beautiful Christian girl.

The plan is for the 26-episode series to air in September or October, and while producer Nabeel Sarwar insisted the program was not a "political pulpit", he is determined to take on the tough issues.

"Nobody wants to have controversy for the sake of controversy, nobody wants to have an assignment to violence, nobody wants to push a button that would result in a disaster for anyone," he said.
"But the truth has to come out somewhere. Where are we going to put a line in the sand and say, 'Look, this is what we are'?"
Taking a public stand to defend liberal values like this is rare in Pakistan, where forces of religious conservatism have risen steadily in recent years.
Risque scenes in foreign films are routinely cut by the authorities and the team behind Taan are acutely aware that they must tread carefully with their challenging material.
In one scene the two gay lovers dance and sing in a small room but never embrace - their relationship is suggested rather than overtly shown. The moment is interrupted when a radical Islamist character bursts in.
Director Samar Raza said representing the lives of gay characters was difficult in a country where homosexuality is still illegal.
"Let's say in a certain scene, there are two boys talking to each other, they are not allowed to show their physical attachment to each other," he said.
"So I bring a third character who says: 'God designed Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve'."
It is not only the sensibilities of the censors the producers must navigate.
While 70 per cent of Pakistan's population is under 35, a huge and potentially lucrative audience for advertisers, it is the head of the household who decides what families watch on TV, explains Sarwar.
"The head of the household during the day is the matriarch and the head of the household at night is the patriarch - they control access to TV," he said.
"You have to find programming that allows the matriarch and the patriarch to join in and participate, but there has to be room for the younger audience."
In a bid to appeal to older viewers the makers of Taan have licensed around 100 classic Pakistani songs, some by legendary artists such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and have reworked them to suit modern tastes, as Glee does.
"We try to find music that resonates with the older generation which control the access to the TV but we contemporise that music so that the younger audience does not feel left out," Sarwar said.
The show hopes that by taking on difficult issues in a light-hearted way it will both reflect the changing nature of Pakistani society and attract a young audience currently hooked on imported Turkish soap operas.
Local dramas struggle to compete with the likes of Manahil and Khalil and Ishq-e-Mamnu (Forbidden Love) - Turkish serials starring Westernised characters with fair skin and dubbed into Urdu.
Turkish soaps are widely watched across the Muslim world, but the popularity of Ishq-e-Mamnu has prompted a lively debate about the "Turkish invasion" of the small screen in Pakistan, with local production companies complaining that they do not have the resources to rival them....

Read more:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn story on the moral brigade flexing its muscles in Pakistan:

Dawn has reliably learnt that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has directed all telecom operators to discontinue all kinds of voice and SMS bundle packages, including daily, weekly, fortnightly and monthly packages by the 2nd of September and submit a comprehensive compliance report in this regard.

This ultimatum appears in the form of a letter, signed by Muhammad Talib Dogar, the Director General (Services) PTA, and refers to an earlier directive which classified these bundle packages as “contrary to moral values of society”, recommending that their use be discontinued.

The letter’s content and authenticity, a copy of which has been sent to the regulatory heads of all telecom operators, has been confirmed by Mobilink’s Director Communications, Omar Manzoor. “We are reviewing the notice and will respond within the stipulated timeline,” he said.

It is pertinent to mention here that there has been an ongoing debate in Parliament on this issue for some time now. However, this decision is likely to create ripples across the sector and provide further strain to an industry already overburdened with heavy taxation.

Mobile internet packages are likely to remain unaffected.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s Saad Haroon is the second-funniest man in the world. The title was bestowed on him at the American comedy club Laugh Factory’s first international competition in October, during which Haroon got more than 7,000 votes in a public poll, beating comedians from France, the UAE and Spain. Haroon, who has been touring in the United States, will perform at the Holiday Inn Dubai Al Barsha on Wednesday, December 17, in a show hosted by Dubai Laughing Comedy Club.

Haroon’s 10-year career has been full of firsts: he created Blackfish, Pakistan’s first improv comedy troupe; he headed the first English-language political and social satire show on national television; and his Saad Haroon: Very Live! tour made him the first Pakistani comedian to perform standup routines in English across Pakistan. Ahead of his show in Dubai, Haroon tells us why, now more than ever, social and political satire in his country has become necessary and relevant.

How did you get into comedy?

I started around 2001, at the time the 9/11 attacks occurred. It was a depressing time for Pakistan – all the war and terror. We were going through a tough time. I wanted to do something that would keep people happy on a daily basis. I was working with my father back then and started to do comedy on the side. It was like I was leading two separate lives. At the time, I thought I’d be a good desi boy and sooner or later give up comedy. But I quit my job instead. I’ll be sharing a chunk of those stories from that journey on my show.

How is political and social satire received in Pakistan?

Pakistan has definitely gone through some hard times recently. As far as politics goes, people will talk about anything. It’s like we are honest to a fault – we call a spade a spade. Generally, when you are part of a society, you tend to gloss over things, but I’m proud that in Pakistan no one glosses over anything. We are still a young country, we’ll see how this honesty ends in the national character and scheme of things.

But is any topic off limits on stage?

There are definitely social taboos. You can say things about politics and you may or may not get into trouble depending on what city you are in and its affiliations. So it does get tricky. Of course, Pakistan is a very religious country, so people don’t appreciate humour about religion. You’ve got to respect sensitivities – performing in the UAE is the same way. My approach is to talk about things in a certain manner and make people laugh.

Offstage, what’s a typical day in your life like?

Very boring. Out of bed at 8am and then it’s just answering emails, writing and correspondence. I don’t have a manager, so I have to handle everything, right from writing, producing, directing, acting and getting through the show. It’s a full-time job.

When you won the title of the second-funniest person in the world you said that even if you had come last you would not have been disappointed. What would have been the consolation?

Just getting nominated would have been the consolation – at least someone is confident of my ability. And in a competition such as this, you meet all kinds of comedians, each with a different style. Just the whole experience was worth it. There is no good reason why I do comedy. It’s a very chaotic and neurotic profession that I’m addicted to.

If you were to run into an alien on Earth, what joke would you tell?

Gosh, I’d just say run and don’t look back. That’s my sad interpretation of what’s going on. I’d ask them what they were doing here and tell them to run for their life.