Is Abb Tak’s Uzma Tahir the new Maya Khan?

Published: December 24, 2013
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Uzma Tahir displays a complete lack of understanding of transgenders and homosexuality.

There’s a new trend catching on – TV aunties raiding your homes with their camera crews and demanding to know who you’re sharing your apartment with.

Say ‘cheese’, Pakistan!

Uzma Tahir is a woman on a mission. The host of the program ‘Khufia on Abb Tak, takes in a deep breath and valiantly nose-dives into Karachi’s sordid core where men dress like women. It’s an exhaustive, but fruitful, day’s work of ramming her microphone into people’s faces and inquiring,

“Ap Naila ke saath kab se hein? Tumhein pata hai ke who kaun hai? Khuwaja sera? Mujhe toh pata hai yeh khuwaja sera hai”

(How long have you been with Naila for? Do you know who she is? A transgender? I know she’s a transgender)

Two-thirds of the way through the episode, she confesses her desire to stop. But nay! She wants Pakistani parents to see what the people do in the privacy of their homes, so they may better educate their own children against these ills.

First lesson for you kids, no trash-TV!

Well, I happen to be an adult. So I cringed, closed one eye, held my tablet computer at an arm’s length from my face and cautiously pressed the ‘play’ button. As I did, I deservedly exposed myself to a hurricane of jaw-dropping ignorance, head-dizzying sensationalism and ear-splitting apocalyptic music.

Displaying, with pride, a complete lack of understanding of transvestism, gender identity disorder and homosexuality (not to mention mental health and AIDS), Uzma and her team embark on a mission to cleanse Karachi’s shadowy underbelly.

Knock, knock.

“Who’s there?”

“Morality!”

The show is replete with footage of transgender people and those around them being mocked and manhandled, exposed on camera against their will, associated with homosexual prostitution and told that effeminate behaviour is evidence of a person not being straight.

At one point when her prey claims to be receiving therapy for a psychiatric disorder, she snaps,

 “Yeh kaunsa pagal hota hai joh dimagi halat kharab ho toh khud bata raha hota hai? Usse pata hai ke mere saath yeh problem chal raha hai? Pehli baat toh tum yahin se ghalat ho”

(What kind of a mentally ill person reveals himself that he is a mentally ill person? That he knows that he has an ongoing problem? Firstly, you’re already wrong from now)

I wonder, does Uzma know that there is more than one kind of psychiatric disorders? And that people suffering from them aren’t always unaware of their conditions?

I, for instance, suffer from mixed anxiety-depressive disorder (watching this episode didn’t help) and am painfully aware of this condition. So there you go – another ‘pagal’ telling you he’s a ‘pagal’.

Weird, right?

And I thank Uzma, among the long list of things I need to thank her for, for her role in perpetuating stigma and ignorance surrounding psychiatric disorders.

Are the viewers concerned about the ethics of this chappa (raid) culture? The show attempts to win your approval by supplementing it with two ideas:

1) The private activities of these citizens directly affect you. Yes, you, reading this blog – you and your children, personally.

2)  The TV raids are worth it, if they occasionally lead to the arrest of people engaged in criminal acts like prostitution.

The first idea is pushed by repeatedly cautioning the viewers about how these ‘degenerates’ are spreading AIDS through the population.

Coming up next – Uzma Tahir raids a local mithai (sweets) store and yells at the owner for spreading diabetes. Because this is truly a health concern and not moral outrage dressed in scientific half-truths.

The second idea is used to attain the public’s silent consent while violating their privacy with utter impunity.

The minds responsible for unleashing Maya Khan and other morality brigades upon our people, do so with the assurance that nobody would dare question their methods out of fear of being labelled an apologist for homosexuals and perverts.

The proponents of such shows believe that they’re taking a stance against immoral sexual behaviour. Instead, they’re signing an agreement to allow aunties armed with cameras to barge into their homes and usurp control of their personal lives in the greater interest of morality (or their brand of it), and then have you arrested for whatever they suspect you are doing.

But the rich and rich-enoughs needn’t worry.

These programs prey exclusively on those who are too poor to afford a small legion of security guards and lawyers or too meek to comprehend how awfully they’re being treated.

Pull off this stunt at a villa in Defence, Karachi and colour me impressed!

Why not give the demonised transgender community a break and go peddle these moral lessons to an industrialist or high-ranking military officer’s home. It’d be a fun change haranguing a social class that actually has teeth to bite back.

I cannot speak for all TV viewers but I’ve had more than my fill of self-righteous, masala journalism that misconstrues private citizens’ bedroom activities for national news. I reckon it’s safe to change the channel.

Do you think it was ethical for Uzma Tahir to expose a private relationship between a man and a transvestite?

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Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • -SHAGY-

    Huhhh!!!!!! We are just mindless copy cats…whatever the rest of the world is doing we try to follow that without consideration of our local culture, and lifestyle! whatever anyone does is their personal business, whether its at their home, office, park or any other place they go to and with anyone they like…are the TV channels really running out of ideas for their shows? let me give you one…religious riots? incompetent preachers? just pick any news headline and you can make a whole series out of the issues we are facing.Recommend

  • ovais

    Before the liberals and facist comment on how backward islam and our society is. I being a slightly conservative would like to say that this is completely wrong. they shouldnt have been exposed like that .
    but then if we study quran we can see that Allah unleashed one of his worst Azaab’s on the People of Hazrat Lut because they were homo sexuals. Quran is clearly against it. I personally dont know what is the right way to deal with this. Maybe by doing tableegh or educating them its wrong and how much Allah dislikes this . This maybe is not the right way. But in no way this mean that homosexuality is allowed in islam.Recommend

  • ali

    WHo the hell is this Uzma Tahir? and how she obtained this right to get into the apartments ………pathetic journalism………just to secure her monthly salary (not more than 150000) she can do anything…Recommend

  • 007

    Only people at PEMRA did their job properly, half of Pakistan’s problems would have dissolved into thin air.Recommend

  • Taimoor

    Just lolz.Recommend

  • Zaman

    Its shocking to watch her raid people’s privacy so brazenly. Her ignorance has superseded that of Maya Khan. Shame on you b****.
    Wusaatullah Khan has rightly dealt with her in his wonderful column.Recommend

  • Kanzah

    Instead of educating people go ahead and expose them to public humiliation. Well done Recommend

  • Jebrael Üzeyir

    The minds responsible for unleashing Maya Khan and other morality brigades upon our people, do so with the assurance that nobody would dare question their methods out of fear of being labelled an apologist for homosexuals and perverts.Recommend

  • Alann

    Such news channels should be forced to close down by not watching them, thus hurting them where it hurts most – TRP!
    This channel’s icon and even name! (with a slightly modification) is stolen from one of India’s popular news channels Aaj Tak.
    Recommend

  • Alchemy

    “These programs prey exclusively on those who are too poor to afford a small legion of security guards and lawyers or too meek to comprehend how awfully they’re being treated.”

    Spot on!Recommend

  • shah

    Pakistanis are a land of busybodies…what else can one say.Recommend

  • C. M. Naim

    Glad to see your post. A friend sent me the links to the show. It was painful to watch it. She can get away with being so vicious and crude only because she was dealing with the people who are already oppressed and victimised in many ways. And she went in the company of one of the oppressors, the Police. If she had any guts or self-respect she should have spoken to the bigger group, that of the “clients”. But that’s where neither she nor the police dare show any courage or moral outrage.Recommend

  • Fawad

    Definitely the new Maya. One thing i failed to understand is why this fever of rating gets over these hosts? I mean this one time one of the hosts tried to show the existence of ghosts by using a voltmeter and now this? Are they out of their minds?Recommend

  • Asad

    Who is going to make these so-called journalists understand what ethics really are? As with Maya Khan, there will definitely be a big chunk of the population who will agree with the program. When things start getting out of hand, this on will also get some anchor buddy of her’s do an explanatory show with her in which they’ll clarify that the didn’t do anthing wrong and the show was made with the help of paid actors. And, like Maya Khan and Kamran Shahid’s show, that will be a load of manure, which will again be believed and accepted by the general population.Recommend

  • Uzma Ki-Ma

    People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones…what moral or religious high ground is the presenter trying to take, if these people are wrong then surely she should also be covering her head and buttoning her collar and not walking around with so many men!Recommend

  • InternetkilledTV

    Seriously, who watches TV anymore?Recommend

  • Anshuman Tripathy

    LoL..aaj tak should sue this channel for ripping off its name and Logo :pRecommend

  • @aamawam

    Uzma is not even a journalist. She is some extra for soaps.
    Pakistan seems to be obsessed with getting into other’s life. Who the hell gives such people right to sneak into private lives no matter how dirty or cringe worthy it is why cant they just leave it alone. GOD!Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    “What kind of a mentally ill person reveals himself that he is a mentally
    ill person? That he knows that he has an ongoing problem? Firstly,
    you’re already wrong from now”

    Just because she isn’t aware that she is mentally ill doesn’t mean that others with mental illness are not!Recommend

  • Dr. Alam

    Disgusting, one should visit her house at 3:00 at night and Ask her questions about her personal life.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Television is a difficult medium to regulate and I feel regulation is not the answer. Its an evolutionary process…..what is good will endure and what is bad will die. I feel we should repose some faith in the ability of the viewing public to descern good from bad.
    I for one have drasticaly reduced my TV watching and had no idea of this Uzma Tahir and her stupid antics.Recommend

  • skan

    The funniest part about this show was they kept censoring condoms that were usually present in these peoples homes! All in the interest of, you know, AIDS-prevention,Recommend

  • Samir tariq

    Thank you so much for writing this piece and letting these so-called moral brigade aunties (and the real culprits behind these cheap media gimmicks…the producers and owners of the channels) know that there are people out there with voice of reason and basic human values. It reminds me of the famous story/analogy (usually associated with various mystics) about Shams Tabriz…when on the streets of konya he found a large group of people who were about to kill a prostitute, pelting her for the crime of “morally corrupting” the society, Shams Tabriz demanded that the first stone be thrown by the person who has never sinned in his lifetime…..suddenly everyone found himself embarrased and speechless knowing well they dont qualify….i wish someone shows these anchors and reporters their true reflection before they dare barging in on someone else’ life like this…..Excellent piece farazRecommend

  • Mustafa Jatoi

    actually when media channels handed cameras to nonprofessional
    and to crazy face familiar persons than result would come like this, actually
    she want high her ranking with dirty tricks and violating the dignity of poor,
    deprived and marginalized class, i ask one question all these anchors had never
    did such type of any activity or they have no girl friend or boy friend?? do
    they completely follow shairat law?? if they do this they called it their
    social life and their universal right but if some lower class do that they
    called it evil thing of the society, really how shameful act this isRecommend

  • Raaz

    Strangely after Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed ,Lot and his daughters lived in a cave….Lot’s daughter fed him wine and impregnated themselves with their intoxicated father……
    But God never punished Lot and he’s just called a righteous person……Recommend

  • Nobody

    So is violence, terrorism and misogyny but the 3 are rife in Pakistan. Instead of micro managing what people do in their personal life, Pakistan need to worry about ACTUAL problems occurring every day around them. Not who’s sharing a bed with who. Micro managing is one of many reasons Muslim majority countries are in turmoil right now.Recommend

  • Jeddy Khan

    Abb Tak channel is going to be watched now. All the other channels have exactly the same. Maya Khan did it for Sama TV. Geo ha Amir Liaquat Hussain. All this is being done for ratings at any cost.Recommend

  • Proletarian

    The pious right-wing population is filled with voyeurs. They love seeing people get ‘exposed’. It makes them feel so nice and special, in a naughty sort of way.Recommend

  • Proletarian

    True that. That chaapa method of journalism can make everyone seem like sleaze.Recommend

  • Ovais

    @Nobody08:disqus I said that i am not sure of the correct way to deal with it. I just said its completely haram in islam and should be stopped. I would have personally tried to talk to them explain how unislamic this is and how much Allah gets angry at this. Yes showing it on public television is not a good thing but maybe it can scare the other people who indulge in this. But still i believe its not the right way but in no way i can say its ok for them being gay and muslims.Recommend

  • Ovais

    I wont reply @ET editors isnt this disrespectfulRecommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Nice observationRecommend

  • NS

    The crux of the blog is in “Pull off this stunt at a villa in Defence, Karachi and colour me impressed!”Recommend

  • Umm Sarah

    @raaz
    Seriously ET,this person does not know his/her limits but you should.
    He uttered complete nonsense about a prophet and you allowed it.What is the moderation policy ,is his right to freedom of speech(although hateful and a total lie)more important than the respect for our prophets.
    You people have a responsibility to your readers ,plz keep in mind that there should be a standard to be adhered to when publishing comments too.I just can’t understand why would you tolerate such trash.Religion aside ,this post is highly vulgar.

    Recommend

  • SamarYz

    There is ZERO evidence of this LUT story…put your religion back in your pocket!Recommend

  • Aizah

    Next thing you know she’s also going to say they were all actors.Recommend

  • rashid behlim

    Why not give the demonised transgender community a break and go peddle these moral lessons to an industrialist or high-ranking military officer’s home. It’d be a fun change haranguing a social class that actually has teeth to bite back.

    Well saidRecommend

  • sane

    Soon there would be Jerry Springer show on TV ChannelsRecommend

  • Anwaar

    the story of Lut is true its even in the history books other than Islam … however given the conditions of “the State” these stupid programs should be stopped as the only thing they do is achieve a more depressed society….Recommend

  • Guest

    You will not reply or you can not reply. Declaring ‘disrespect’ is not going to help your cause.

    A simple response would suffice; that this is not what the Quran says and the contradiction Raaz is alluding to does not belong to the set of Islamic teachings.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Difficult or not, it has to be done.
    Suppose a TV channel next hosts its own hunger games, and kills off 23 participants one by one on air? Would we just wait for the viewers to change the channel, and allow the unethical show to carry on in the meantime?

    An extreme example, of course. But often the regulatory body has to act quickly to minimize harm. And a show breaking private citizens’ right to privacy for national entertainment, is a pretty good place to draw the line.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Except that Jerry Springer doesn’t call his show ‘journalism’, nor does he showcase citizens’ private matters against their will. They come on willingly.Recommend

  • Ovais

    You want me to reply so he can come back and reply and insult my religion again .. i prefer not to reply thats the role of the moderators to stop hate speech which it was. I am no one to comment on what is right or wrong in bible. I just say this is not part of islamRecommend

  • Parvez

    So who will regulate it ? The TV channel, which should do it, will not because of its ratings and profit. The government has a department to do this but knowing the ineptness prevailent, it may just be better they stay away because they are more likely to make matters worse.
    Also in principle censorship is wrong.
    Yes, possibly a NGO with a conscience could take the TV channel to court for violation of citizens rights…….now we have to start looking for someone with a conscience and how many Faraz Talats do we really have ??Recommend

  • Syed Mubeen Hussain Sabzwari

    whatever is written in Quran is the right way! and for that, kindly read it.Recommend

  • abhi

    I think it is really not bad that these things are exposed, why to keep something secret.Recommend

  • Editor @ Trango.co

    Am really concerned about the 53 people that clicked “Yes” on the above poll.Recommend

  • Bilal

    No, the people of Lut were not hated by Allah just because they were homosexuals. In fact, they wanted to rape some of the guests (Angels) at Lut’s house. These were corrupt people. Yet, Allah ordered no punishment for them, as Allah Himself showered rocks on them. Hence, people need to stop worrying about others’ homosexual activities as Allah will judge them. Gay people do not choose to be gay. The way YOU, sir, did not choose to be straight. So, no, gay people don’t need others telling them what’s right or wrong. Please spend time with poor people by feeding them with all your wealth if you want to follow and spread Islam’s message to its core.Recommend

  • Bilal

    hahaha love this comment!Recommend

  • No Judging

    Expose what? The stuff happening between two consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes? Why do you care what other people do? What if someone exposed you for the times you have done something “sinful”? Do you think God will be happy that someone barged into your personal space to interrogate and belittle you for committing a sin that has nothing to do with anyone else? Please.Recommend

  • Erfan

    @Bilal:
    well said bilalRecommend

  • Asma

    I believe there are few people who really need such treatment, but as far as this particular case is concern the channel is only interested in selling MASALA. Certainly, none of us hold any such right to interfere in someone’s private life unless it is effecting other people and promoting unethical behavior. Recommend