This unique series observes post September 11th Pakistan, raising issues about the country that are both revealing and insightful.
A Mosaic Films Production/ ARTE, 2002
Pakistan Pictures is a unique series of observed documentaries exploring aspects of Pakistani life, which is surprising, insightful and revealing, with an extraordinary degree of access and intimacy. This series uses material from the original Pakistan Daily, following the stories and characters in greater detail, raising issues about Pakistan following the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center.
Executive Producer: Colin Luke
Producer: Melanie Anstey and Adam Alexander
Director: Ruhi Hamid
Amber Shams, a young woman journalist working for the monthly magazine of a leading English language newspaper in Pakistan, is investigating a new cultural phenomenon. Well-off middle-class housewives, used to dressing in a more western style, are adopting the practice of wearing the hijab, the Muslim head-dress, traditionally worn by the poor and ill educated. The contrast between Amber’s life style and that of the hijabis she meets is very striking. Even more contrasting are the life choices of three models including Pakistan super model Tanya Shafi, who are taking off their veils and much else besides to earn a good living as Western style models.
Under pressure from the West, President Musharraf of Pakistan announced a clamp down on the religious militants, the people felt responsible for supporting the Taliban. It was a huge U-turn in Policy. Pakistan Pictures visits Peshawar to interview Samiul Al Haq, one of the mullahs, currently under house arrest, for preaching in support of the talibanisation of Pakistan. We go inside the Madrassahs, the religious schools accused of nurturing Islamic militants, and follow eight year old pupil Ehsan Allam as he makes his way to his school in Peshawar. Are Madrassahs like his encouraging militants or do they sympathise with the latest Government crackdown?
Our guides to this story are two journalists. One is the respected commentator Ahmed Rashid, author of the best seller “The Taliban”, and the recent book “Jihad”, and the other Ejaz Haidar, the columnist on the Daily Times whose own son is Ehsan’s age but goes to a very different kind of school.
Earning a Rupee
The war with Afghanistan, the conflict in Kashmir, the fear of war with India and the horrific death of an American journalist – none of these are much good for business confidence in Pakistan. But poverty is at the root of many ills and a thriving economy might help prevent some of the horrors of recent times. Pakistan Pictures follows the urbane and free wheeling publisher and newspaper editor Najam Sethi as he attempts to set up a new daily newspaper for a new Pakistan. His task is contrasted to Pakistanis at all ends of the scale from poor Afghan refugees through to a wealthy Karachi businessman Khurshid Hadi who has brought Pizza Hut to Pakistan. What chance for the economy to thrive after all? Is the solution to look for Western investment and Western ways of doing business or to turn towards South Asia and look for new links with an old enemy.
Movers and Shakers
Pakistan has not enjoyed a good image in the West and much of that has to do with the failure of various regimes and the ill considered foreign policy of recent years. Recent events though have given the optimists renewed hope. Many from the English-speaking elite in Pakistan regard the consequence of what happened on September 11th as a new beginning for their country. Pakistan Pictures investigates two emerging opinion formers, ex-advertising executive turned politician, Javed Jabbar, and lawyer turned journalist, Sabeen Jatoi. Javed is the founder member of a new political party. Sabeen is interested in parties but has resisted taking part in politics. She knows the dangers only too well as her politician father was assassinated. But Javed and Sabeen share the belief that now is the moment to put their country back on track.
Givers and Takers
Pakistan Pictures follows the sophisticated and witty Ardeshir Cowasjee, who comes from a family of shipping tycoons but is best known in Pakistan for being a maverick columnist. He is not afraid to speak his mind in a country where press freedom is limited. Military rulers, corrupt politicians and militant mullahs all fear the lash of his tongue. Four armed men guard the door to his home, as being outspoken in Pakistan can carry a death sentence. Pakistan Pictures follows him as he visits a school and the kidney wing of a hospital both of which he has philanthropically funded. Ardeshir is contrasted with the “Mother Theresa” of the Muslim world, Abdus Sattar Edhi who lives very simply and is considered by some in Pakistan as overdue for a Nobel peace prize. The Edhi charity he founded runs over six hundred ambulances, and many hospices and hostels. It also arranges the funerals of the destitute. These two very different characters show how philanthropists and charity workers fill the gaps in the social services caused by the failure of successive Governments.