A few days ago a report was released by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) which stated that a ban was placed on the re-runs of ARY Digital’s Ishqiya and Hum TV’s Pyar Kay Sadqay. The reason behind the ban was said to be the content of the dramas that go against the values and morals of the Pakistani society.
Another drama included in the statement was ARY Digital’s Jalan. It was stated that PEMRA had received multiple complaints about the questionable content being shown in the drama. An investigation was ordered by PEMRA into the content of the show based on which it will be decided whether the show will be banned or not.
The question here is: why now?
Done and dusted
Ishqiya and Pyar Kay Sadqay ended their highly successful run just a few weeks back. The shows had trended on social media and Youtube every week. They featured big names and many digital platforms had covered the developments in the show excessively during the weeks that they were on-air. So, it is not like people were not aware of the two shows or the content that was being shown in them.
PEMRA taking notice of the questionable content shown in these two dramas weeks after they have stopped airing makes little to no sense. Putting a ban on the reruns of these two shows on television would hardly affect the shows considering how the shows have racked up millions of cumulative views on Youtube. It is the age of digital. The audience no longer relies on television reruns to catch up to shows that they have missed. A simple search on Youtube brings them to the complete episodes of the show, uploaded in HD format, for them to enjoy at their leisure.
Drama serial Jalan has been under fire ever since it started airing because the drama shows a girl pursuing her brother-in-law romantically. The supposed illicit relationship shown between a brother-in-law with his sister-in-law is undeniably immoral. But when we look at the general themes and tropes that are rampant in our Pakistani dramas, Jalan does not come out as the biggest evil.
In Jalan‘s defense, the illicit relationship showcased in the drama is always portrayed in a negative light. The show doesn’t go out of its way to romanticize the sequences. The ‘wrong’ in the show has never been portrayed as being ‘right’. It is a work of fiction that has taken a few creative liberties to tell a story that might not be a norm in society but is not far from reality as well. Pyar Kay Sadqay and Ishqiya too fall under the same category, arguably.
PEMRA’s priorities sure do come across as quite questionable when it chooses to take action against these dramas that are showing wrong as wrong but has remained silent about the dozens of shows on-air that thrive on showing the women being tortured. According to PEMRA, a father-in-law trying to harass his daughter-in-law is against the values of our society but a woman repeatedly getting physically and mentally tortured by her in-laws is very much according to our values?
Women in Pakistani dramas are constantly shown to be berated, insulted, forced to compromise to satisfy the patriarchal customs of the society, hardly ever shown in progressive roles, never given happy endings in case they do end up being shown in a happy married life etc. yet that content is never questioned for going against the values and morals of Pakistani society. Is the picture of a woman constantly suffering the true reflection of the values of our society? PEMRA apparently seems to think that.
Future actions will decide
With PEMRA deciding to take in account the content being shown in Pakistani dramas and taking strict actions against the dramas that fail to live up to the country’s social, moral, and religious standards, it remains to be seen which dramas will end up passing the test and which ones will be ones getting the ban. It will be interesting to see how PEMRA will take action against the dramas which show physical abuse and constant cryfests of the female characters on the regular.
Because when bans happen, they send out a message. PEMRA’s future actions will decide if its interest truly lies in cleansing the content so that it is replaced with truly positive and inspiring content. Or if it only cares about our dramas putting up a superficial image of Pakistani society being a morally upright utopia.