THE episode’s title sequence opens with a view of Gotham City-like place with shadowy skyscrapers looming in the background and ambulances racing by with sirens wailing. The camera then pans to a burly host clad in a military combat vest, with stubble and sunglasses, hands on his hips, standing next to a large bullseye.

This is not the trailer of a Batman movie nor of the Anil Kapoor-helmed TV show 24 but one of several non-fictional crime shows currently running on Pakistani news channels. The hosts of these shows identify so-called social evil in any city, carry out their own investigation and inform the police, who are happy to carry out a raid.

In a recent episode the show’s team stopped college students coming from what was described as a brothel in an apartment block, threatened to expose their wrongdoings to their parents and run their footage on TV. The scared boys handed their mobile phones to the host who proceeded to note the phone numbers of people running the brothel. The host also conducts SWOT-style raids with policemen in tow. At the end of each episode the host admonishes the public for keeping silent and urges them to speak up against evildoers lurking in their mohallas.

Coupled with themes that tap into the moral panic alongside the bizarre — such as mobile text messages are leading young people astray and stealing real hair from graveyards for hair transplants — announced by hyper-excited voiceovers and graphics, all these elements make for vivid visuals and charged drama. The anchorpersons claim their shows are a platform for the common man to obtain justice, whereas for detractors these shows are perpetuating vigilante justice.

“Pakistan is our country and we have to help our people,” says Sherry, the burly host of a crime show. “The poor have nowhere to go and police can do only so much. The people trust us more. They first get in touch with the media as they feel that we are effective in solving their problems.” Sharea Faisal SP Ali Asif, who has been featured in some crime shows, also concurs with Sherry’s view. “There is a [negative] perception of law enforcement agencies but when they see us on television, the medium is such that it confirms that we have indeed done a [positive] job in the form of raids and arrests. It reinstates the public’s faith in the police.”

He may have a point. But the issue is that the shows are going further, as a member of the editorial committee at a TV channel points out, and many of these anchorpersons are blurring the lines between crime shows and policing which is a problem.

“Robberies are a common occurrence. So should one carry out one’s own investigation, nab the culprit and douse him with petrol and burn him alive?” wonders Wusutullah Khan, broadcast journalist and columnist.

“These shows have become the prosecutor, court and judge. This means the police and the government should be disbanded. Raising an issue is a news channel’s job but taking the law into one’s own hands is not.”

Khan is unimpressed with the argument that these shows are quite popular. “Who is deciding what the viewer likes and dislikes and how it is being measured. A few hundred telemeters in a population of 180 million are a faulty way of measurement. If these shows are so popular then why is it that when one goes to social gatherings people express their disdain for these shows? Why are these likes not being expressed on the social media? And if the hosts say that they receive appreciative calls then they need to tell us how many critical calls they receive. Are these not parameters for viewers’ likes and dislikes?”

Khan also points to an ironic situation in this debate: “Instead of confronting the police why they have not been able to eradicate a crime in their locality, the hosts instead express their thanks to the police for letting their team tag along. It seems the police were so innocent that they had no idea what was happening in their area till these hosts showed up!”

Another important aspect of such shows is that they highlight police and crime show team barging into people’s houses without warrants. “How can you do this? When will this stop?”

First published in Dawn newspaper on January 14, 2014


PTCL goes One Pound Fish style


Muhammad Shahid Nazir, who became hugely popular on YouTube after someone uploaded his video selling fish in Queens market in London by singing: Kamaan Peepal Have a Fish One Pound Fish, is currently being featured in a PTCL ad on TV.

The catchy ad which borrows the tune from One Pound Fish goes like this: Kamaan Peepal (C’mon People) , Kamaan Peepal, Have Land leenk(link), very sasta Leenk (very cheap link), ahlways chalta Leenk (always working link). The commercial aims to entice customers into reconnecting their closed land link connections by even giving them a sizeable discount. In this ad the One Pound Fish Man is seen in various avatars such as a chef, a call centre operator, an executive and each time he is surrounded by giggling youngsters.

The jingle is catchy, its tempo is fast and its lyrics are a mixture of English and Urdu, indicating that the ad is more rooted in contemporary times as this is how people are increasingly talking to each other.

Advertisers in Pakistan are increasingly using pop culture celebs to make their ad campaigns more memorable. PTCL used filmstar Reema in their previous ad campaign.

Even though I still have land link connection of PTCL and this ad is clearly not aimed at me but because of Shahid Nazir’s happy face, his sense of enjoying his moment before it goes away forever and the catchy tune makes me pause my remote every time his ad is shown on TV. And this ad I believe could one day be considered an iconic ad because of the above mentioned factors.

Link to the PTCL ad: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xxu4zp_ptcl-tvc_shortfilms?search_algo=2#.UTEE6Rk7bF8

Ashk: What it did right

From left to right: Neelam Munir, Fawad Khan, Mehreen Raheel, Resham

While the recently concluded drama Ashk on Geo was trashed by the viewers for reasons as varied as repetition of Fawad Khan’s role as a brooding husband to being long-winded to inappropriately showing a married man living with his girlfriend, I however found the following redeeming points in Ashk:


  1. The title song sung Ashk Hai ya Ishq Hai by Sajjad Ali was haunting and captured the angst of someone caught between being alive or dead.
  2. The character of Mehru played ably by film star Resham was inspiring: for here was this woman who stuck to her ground for wanting to marry Bilal, a man below her caste and class.
  3. The character of Rohail (Fawad Khan): a modern day Muslim man who drinks beer behind his mother’s back and hits the pub with his buddies and is mostly unapologetic about it. More importantly he is not shown as this evil person who stereotypically drinks and sleeps with his girlfriend even though he is married. His was a nuanced character who was basically a decent guy and had normal flaws like other men.
  4. The character of Zaibu (Neelam Muneer) who gets back at her husband by apparently having an affair.
  5. The depiction of the mazar (mausoleum) culture as patronized by all classes in the hinterlands of Punjab was also novel since our prime time dramas penned by the likes of Umera Ahmed condemns this folksy brand of Islam, not appreciating the fact that this mazar culture was a pioneer of Sufi Islam in the Indian Subcontinent.
  6. The attachment of Malik’s family especially his daughters Zaibu and Mehru to their long-time servants Ajjoo and Deenga was endearing and touching.
  7. The lush cinematography capturing the contours of a village filled with lovely green farmland, the sunsets and the sunrises, the typical havelis and the mazar. All this made it a visual treat.



When Pakistani singers became actors – Fawad Khan and Fakhr-e-Alam

Fawad Khan, the actor, hit the jackpot when his recently concluded serial Humsafar became an unprecedented hit. According to Hum TV insiders its average rating was 9.2, a humungous number by TV standards. But it seems that some of his fans are unaware that he is primarily a singer and was associated with the band EP. Here we look at other Pakistani singers who ventured into acting be it TV or films.


Fakhr-e-Alam in Very Good Duniya Very Bad Loag:

Motor-mouthed, witty and the charming Fakhr-e-Alam was known to the public initial years as the Bhangra Pao guy, a song that was hailed as the first Punjabi rap song. He appeared in 2 films Very Good Duniya Very Bad Loag and No Paisa No Problem. Although the films did nothing to take of his film career but he seemed to be having fun while performing the roles in the films which you can observe in the two links uploaded below one is a film promo and one is a masquerade song. Great fun overall!

youtube link to promo of Very Good Duniya Very Bad Loag:


youtube link to Hai Raat Badi Madhosh, song in No Paisa No Problem:

When Pakistani singers became actors – Fawad Khan and Arif Lohar


Fawad Khan, the actor, hit the jackpot when his recently concluded serial Humsafar became an unprecedented hit. According to Hum TV insiders its average rating was 9.2, a humungous number by TV standards. But it seems that some of his fans are unaware that he is primarily a singer and was associated with the band EP. Here we look at other Pakistani singers who ventured into acting be it TV or films.


Arif Lohar in Musulman:

Arif Lohar, the super-talented Punjabi folk singer and for those disconnected Pakistanis yes he is the same dude who sang Ek Chambay Di Booti with Meesha Shafi in Coke Studio, has also had his shares of experiments in Pakistani films. In Musulman he is mostly a happy-go-lucky sardar who loves to sing. A role right up his alley.

youtube link to song Jhumka featuring Arif Lohar in film Musulman:


Arif Lohar in Zindagi

Here Lohar is a poor musician trying to get a break in the unknown big city.

youtube link to a scene from Zindagi:

When Pakistani singers became actors – Fawad Khan and Ali Haider


Fawad Khan, the actor, hit the jackpot when his recently concluded serial Humsafar became an unprecedented hit. According to Hum TV insiders its average rating was 9.2, a humungous number by TV standards. But it seems that some of his fans are unaware that he is primarily a singer and was associated with the band EP. Here we look at other Pakistani singers who ventured into acting be it TV or films.


Ali Haider in Tum Se Kehna Tha:

This is back when Ali Haider’s album Qarar was all the rage and Marina Khan’s goofy antics on-screen were bearable. These two came together for this drama serial based on the Sandra Bullock cutesy movie “While you were sleeping” and directed by Sahira Kazmi. A light-hearted serial that wasn’t trying too hard, Haider’s acting is pretty decent. Besides these two there was Farhan Ali Agha (he is in a coma in the entire serial), Salma Kanwal (a stage actress who was struggling to make into TV and is now seen in Yeh Zindagi and Kash mein Teri Beti Na Hoti), Manzoor Qureshi (a handsome leading actor back in the 1960s but now seen in fatherly roles such as Mora Piya), Badar Khalil (does she need any intro) and Seemi Pasha (then one of the top models).

youtube links to Tum Se Kehna Tha:

Ali Haider in Chand Sa Mukhda

Writer: Tahira Wasti

Director: Iqbal Ansari

Cast: Tahira Wasti, Shahood Alvi and Urooj Niaz

A light-hearted romantic play with lots of Ali Haider music and starring the majestic gold-haired matriarch Tahira Wasti, who recently passed away.

youtube links to Chand Sa Mukhda:

 Where is Ali Haider now:

Ali Haider has renounced pop music and is now singing only devotional and religious songs like Junaid Jamshed, Najam Sheraz, Shiraz Uppal etc.


Kya Karain – What is the Pakistani youth thinking?

First aired: March 19, 2011

This episode: May 8, 2011

Beamed at: BBC Urdu/Express News

Timings: 6:30 p.m. every Saturday

Creators: BBC Urdu

According to the United Nations Development Programme, an estimated 103 million Pakistanis are under the age of 25 years, which is 63 per cent of the population. Hence it makes sense to engage with this large number to find out their views and opinions on major issues through the electronic media. Unfortunately current programmes for youth on television are either in the form of overtly romantic sappy dramas, boy/girl losing-their-love music videos or as guests in talk shows who are then sermonized by pompous and unwise adults. 

Probably with this in mind, BBC Urdu and Express News have been presenting Kya Karein, Naujawan Aur Aaj Ka Pakistan (What to do? Youth and today’s Pakistan) every Saturday with Wusutullah Khan and Mohammad Hanif as hosts. Each week they go to campuses of leading colleges and universities and find out from them what in their opinion are the problems facing Pakistan and what do they think are the solutions. Pertinent questions but the variety of answers offered by the students makes for interesting viewing.

In this episode Wusutuallah Khan (an old BBC hand and for a short while was brought to Dawn News when it had gone Urdu) spoke to students of National College of Arts in Lahore. Wusutullah pointed out that NCA was the only academic institution that had closed down in the 1980s for four months during the height of anti-Zia agitation. It is also one of the few public sector educational institutions that comes under the federal government specialising in arts studies and hence students from all over the country come here giving them an opportunity to interact with people from all corners of the country which would not have been possible if they were studying in their provinces. 

Interestingly Baloch students thought this policy of integration was not enough and complained over the fact that Balochistan despite being the largest province had only one of medical college and one engineering university, deeming it unfair and a source of frustration for them. A student from Kohat bravely said that Punjab was not letting people from other smaller provinces come forward as it was scared of their talents.

An informative programme, except that the students did not often answer the questions that Wusutuallah was asking them but instead rambled off to discuss other issues, as if they badly needed to get something off their chest. Also if you have become tired of watching never-ending serials, inane morning shows and reality programmes then this is worth your time and it is short too.