Za Pakhtoon Yum: A mind-altering foray into Pukhtun life and culture

Published: October 26, 2014
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The drama portrays the Pashtuns’ true love and respect for their culture, language and country. PHOTO: ZA PAKHTOON YUM FACEBOOK PAGE

The drama portrays the Pashtuns’ true love and respect for their culture, language and country. PHOTO: ZA PAKHTOON YUM FACEBOOK PAGE The drama portrays the Pashtuns’ true love and respect for their culture, language and country. PHOTO: ZA PAKHTOON YUM FACEBOOK PAGE

So far, our dramas have revolved around the vicious circle of poverty, a miserable daughter-in-law suffering at the hands of her evil in-laws, societal customs, dowry issues, giving birth to a male child or the perfect ‘rishta’ (proposal). Indeed these are issues which need to be addressed in dramas or movies, but there are other issues that require our attention as well.

With the passage of time, we, Pakistanis, have come across many complex issues segregating our society into small groups, each intolerable for the other. We have issues ranging from the Shia-Sunni to the Punjabi-Pukhtun, anti-women empowerment to pro-women empowerment, even from the pro-Malala to the anti-Malala groups. These issues are addressed in one way or the other in Urdu dramas within a specific cultural framework. But as far as Pukhtun dramas are concerned, they rarely address these issues in order to raise awareness amongst its audience.

Despite the liberalisation and easy access to media, we have not witnessed any significant change in the so-called orthodox issues in Pukhtun dramas and movies, whose plot remains to be family enmity filled with killings, bloodshed and misinterpretation of women. The misconstrued notion that militancy arises from the hub of Pukhtun culture needs to be addressed. The attitude of Pukhtuns towards militancy and liberal women is also, more often than not, misinterpreted. Their dramas and movies entail songs, dancing and a hero with a gun and a blood-stained face. They are not war-mongers or hateful people and this is not what their culture is about. In actuality, they are peace-loving, patriotic and hospitable people. So why this ugly depiction of them and their culture?

It may be easier said than done, but raising awareness is far from easy; it requires an effort, commitment and an initiative towards the right direction. The one person who has taken the initiative to portray the Pukhtuns and their culture in a realist light is Azeem Sajjad, writer and director of ‘Za Pakhtoon Yum’ (I am a Pukhtun). Not only has he set the wheels in the right direction, he has also set a benchmark for upcoming dramas and movies, and hopefully, it will change the repetition of exhausted plots.

The drama has raised different complex issues regarding the Pukhtuns and their culture. The first and most important issue addressed in the drama is the misconception that terrorism is associated to religion and the region. The drama explores how innocent people are trapped by impostors, possessing a manipulated knowledge of Islam, for the sake of ‘protecting’ and ‘reviving’ Islam. The drama starts with the murder of a folk singer in a tribal area monopolised by a terrorist group who identify themselves as the ‘defenders’ and ‘true preachers’ of Islam.

Photo: Za Pakhtoon Yum Facebook Page

Secondly, Sajjad has focused on the role of patriotic citizens – students, writers, singers and/or people from other professions showing how well aware they are of their responsibilities towards their country, all-the-while performing their duties in their own unique manner. In the drama, the tribal head (Bahadar Khan) raises his voice against terrorism being carried out by the group and ends up being martyred in the process. His daughter Laleen, a medical student by profession, takes it upon herself to carry forward her father’s formidable task. She observes the situation and concludes that the Taliban are nothing but a foreign agenda and do not represent Islam from anywhere. She devotes her life to creating awareness amongst the people of her tribe in order to reveal the true face of the Taliban and struggles to get rid of the impostors of Islam. In one of the scenes, she is seen educating terrorists about the true spirit of Islam whilst being in their custody.

Photo: Za Pakhtoon Yum Facebook Page

Nowadays, the image of our police force is clouded with allegations of corruption, dishonesty and inefficiency, a vision this drama endeavours to fix in order to restore faith in our police force. SP Adam Khan, in his role, does exactly that; his duty to serve his nation is sacred to him. He loses his only child in a battle against terrorism, but his rebellious nature keeps him going until the end.

Photo: Za Pakhtoon Yum Facebook Page

Above and beyond all the other preconceived notions people may have of a Pukhtun society, the one it tackles head-on acknowledging the importance of educating women in a Pukhtun society. It ventures into its viewers minds and undoes the knot of misconstrued ideas they may have of the way Pukhtuns treat women. Zarmina, wife of SP Khan, plays the role of a well-known columnist and plays a considerable role in the drama.

Photo: Za Pakhtoon Yum Facebook Page

This drama exhibits the versatility present within the country and should be appreciated for trying to correct the contentious view, fueled by misconceptions, held by many about a very large population of Pakistan. It forays into the real life of a Pukhtun, his love for his country, respect for culture, language and yes, women too. It has been scripted and presented in Urdu so it can be viewed and understood by everyone and not just one ethnicity in particular. The power and influence of the media is unquestionable; why not make it a source of awareness as well as a medium for entertainment?

Sara Jabeen

Sara Jabeen

A phd scholar of economics at PIDE, Islamabad.

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

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    I liked the synopsis. How/Where?When do i get to watch it?Recommend

  • Parvez

    I’m so glad you decided to write this and educate me.Recommend

  • Nayar Rafique

    One of my friend at university asked me that you have many friends from KPK, how did you find them? My reply was if we rank them according to intelligence there’s no match of Pakhtoons , they are brave,loving, caring and they have courage to face challenges and yes they are facing since ages, the only thing missing is the light of education in majority Pakhtoon areas which let a minor class to misinterpret or wrongly present the true pakhtoon culture and society. Believe me i got some brilliant, most sincere and true friends from this brave nation. I love them the way i do for every Pakistani. Yes, its a wonderful effort to show the masses in Pakistan and around the world that what actually Pakhtoons are, their tradition, their culture are not only Guns and Bullets rather they are loving,caring, patriotiotic and brilliant people. A good effort.Recommend

  • Fahim

    Sounds Great..!!! Nice effort to use the media for showing the positive aspects of Pakhtoon society and culture. Looking forward to watch it soon.Recommend

  • Khattak

    I am a Muslim , but I am also pashtoon. We the pushtoon has been u by the Pakistani goverment over and over again and then throwing us out like trash. Pakistan=hypocrisie. By the way I am a Pakistani.Recommend

  • Sindh

    Great, I like Pashtun people and I don’t like giving into stereotypes but there should also be a Pashto movie telling Pashtuns that not all of us are “Daalkhors” and that the average “Punjabi”(including other ethnic groups) aren’t their oppressors.Recommend

  • http://think-islam.blogspot.com/ PostMan

    Don’t you worry my friend. For something to be taken from one, one needs to have that thing first. You don’t have anything – courtesy, decency and intelligence included. Recommend

  • Pakistani

    Nice try Captain India.Recommend

  • Maha Rukh

    Great work by the Writer Director and Hero of the Project…..The captain of the ship…Azeem Sajjad
    Love Always…Recommend

  • Prashant

    Abuse your own and when confronted, blame India.Recommend

  • Prashant

    No, you are an Indian, no Pakistani can be so critical of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Jan Baloch

    It would be better if the Punjab establishment actually demonstrated these things, instead of having Pashtun filmmakers mindlessly make a film about it. I’m a Baloch, and I love ordinary Punjabis. They’re good people, and I have nothing against them. But I do despise the Pakistani state, which has been dominated by a Punjab elite for far too long. I can understand the anger of the Pashtuns.Recommend

  • ajay gupta

    & why is the writer afraid to show her face? defeats the very purpose of the blog, doesn’t it? about pathans progressing?Recommend

  • L.

    Hmmm. Why do ppl like yourself act like you are so “educated” on us? Is there a degree at indian national university which tells you of Pakistani sentiments or what they are like? Who are you to sit there and comment on 190 million people, when you yourself, have never been to the country?! And having been on this website for quite sometime now, one must be very dumb or just dim-witted to conclude that pakistanis arent critical of their own country- cos thats all we do here. Recommend

  • Prashant

    “Is there a degree at indian national university which tells you of Pakistani sentiments or what they are like?”

    Please correct me if this is not sarcasm and if it is, do you have the copy rights over it? My response to Khattak was meant for the likes of Captain Pakistan.

    “Who are you to sit there and comment on 190 million people, when you yourself, have never been to the country?”

    So, if I have never been to US, I do not have the right to comment on US and what made you think that this was meant for millions in Pakistan?

    “And having been on this website for quite sometime now, one must be very dumb or just dim-witted to conclude that pakistanis arent critical of their own country- cos thats all we do here.”

    I commend you for being smart enough for not using a word stronger than dumb to describe me else it might not have passed the mods at ET but your assumptions of me are not necessarily the facts.

    Have you ever seen the comments by Pakistanis on other sites where they think every issue where in Pakistanis and Muslims are at the receiving end are due to Western/Indian/Zionist conspiracy.

    In my opinion, neither India nor Pakistan are as self critical as they should be.Recommend

  • L.

    If only I had the time, It would not bother me one bit to teach Indians about the reality of my people.

    You have not been to US, hence you have no right to comment on the millions of Americans- ie painting them with the same brush.

    Funnily enough, I never made assumptions on you. I said that if “one was to conclude…”, and you are the one who took it on himself, without me needing to do that for you.

    “Pakistanis on “other” news sites blame…….”

    Now read:

    “No Pakistani can be so critical of Pakistan”

    And I am the one making assumptions -.- Recommend

  • Prashant

    “And I am the one making assumptions”

    It is your choice if you want to see things without a perspective.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    I’d rather have no perspective than a strictly biased oRecommend

  • Prashant

    Seeing things in isolation is not being biased is news to me.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Ha! I’m the one who lived in the country dude, I am the one who has MET the people you claim to know about. You are the one who is wearing biased glasses, not me. Recommend

  • Prashant

    Allright, then be specific rather than being judgemental, I have already informed you what the comment was about and not meant for millions, do not go by just what I am saying but also look at the what the people from across the world have to say about some in your country, I do not need to have interacted with people from a country to know what they think of people like Hafiz Saeed, Osama, Mullah Omar and so on.

    If the Pakistanis stopped being such a nuisance to the people of India by sailing across the seas and spilling our blood in our cities, we the Indians and neither the world would bother to comment about your country.

    9/11, 26/11, Osama being killed in Abbotabad is a conspiracy is not a theory believed by the people from Timbuktu, you want to live in denials, good luck but the rest of the world is not going to keep quiet when terror is blatantly being exported by Pakistan.

    Recommend

  • L.

    I will live in denial and you can keep living under a rock. Ignorance is surely bliss for ppl like yourself.Recommend

  • Hmm…

    That’s her choice,na ? She’s able to put across her point without showing her face- so the purpose is served,all the same. Some people like their privacy & some are more open…people are different.Recommend

  • Prashant

    Really, people like me?

    Not a single reason to prove me wrong and I am ignorant while your are an epitome of knowledge.

    People saying 9/11, 26/11 happened but Muslims or Pakistanis were not involved no matter how much evidence is stacked against their theory, this is not only living in denials but encouraging these blood thirsty beasts to carry on with their acts.

    If raising voice against the innocents of my country losing their lives to the ideology practiced across the borders is living under the rock, I do not see much future for co-existence in the subcontinent as most Indians have the same opinion of some from the land of pure.Recommend

  • L.

    Why in the world do you keep stating things like I said them?! All I questioned was 9/11, never even mentioned 26/11, but trust you to make up stuff.

    You are living under the rock cos you do not know what is happening in the world today. Not cos you “care for the innocents in your country…..”. Regardless, you will surely remember who told you first when you find out the truth. Recommend

  • Prashant

    “You are living under the rock cos you do not know what is happening in the world today .”

    If believing 9/11 being a conspiracy makes me more knowledgeable, I would rather not be knowledgeable.

    You not only make an atrocious claim of 9/11 being a conspiracy without any evidence, making fun of the thousands who perished that day but you also want to accuse those who contest your theory of living under a rock.

    “Why in the world do you keep stating things like I said them?”

    For me, there is no difference between Mohammed Atta and Ajmal Kasab.

    “Regardless, you will surely remember who told you first when you find out the truth.”

    Truth is not hearsay, it is a body of facts backed by evidence and not a belief which a person hopes against all hope that it comes true because he/she is fed up of being up against the wall.Recommend

  • L.

    Oh Lord. I will not deny what I believe about the occasion of 9/11. BUT, you are in no position what so ever to say that what the media has told you is correct. And you accusing me of insulting the thousands who were killed that day is ridiculous.

    Do your research and get back to me on this whole “evidence” statement and then we will figure out what is true “here-say”; you are the one in this conversation with Wikipedia knowledge of this topic.Recommend

  • Froo

    Only a few (>500) Indians have lost their lives in terrorist attacks
    by Islamists from Pakistan (more people have been killed by Maoists) in the last few years while Pakistan has lost around 50000 brave soldiers and civilians.

    You Indians constantly lecture us on terrorism and even label attacks on yourselves as 26/11 in order to gain sympathy from Amrika (the attacks can’t even be compared in terms of lives lost).

    Insha’Allah we will get rid of these extremists but you yourselves need to get out of this victim complex where you blame everything on Pakistan and act as if tens of thousands of your own have been killed.Recommend

  • Prashant

    “Only a few (>500) Indians have lost their lives in terrorist attacks by Islamists from Pakistan (more people have been killed by Maoists)…”

    I will differ with you on number of victims who lost their lives to either the Maoists or those who come from across the borders but you are right India has lost many of its civilians to Maoists and we have no evidence to prove they are being backed by other countries, you will not find Indians blaming the Pakistanis when the Indian paramilitary forces or the civilians are killed by the Maoists in Dantewada or Junglemahal, this is an internal issue of India and a grave one at that, India has to deal with it internally which it is doing.

    “…while Pakistan has lost around 50000 brave soldiers and civilians.”

    The chickens have come home to roost, Is it not time to stop differentiating between good and bad terrorists?

    “You Indians constantly lecture us on terrorism and even label attacks on yourselves as 26/11 in order to gain sympathy from Amrika (the attacks can’t even be compared in terms of lives lost).”

    What else shall India do? Would you want us to risk a nuclear war which is going to have millions killed on both sides of the border?

    “act as if tens of thousands of your own have been killed.”

    As I said, I would differ with you on numbers but why should even a single Indian die because somebody in Pakistan is in a mood to kill.Recommend

  • Prashant

    “BUT, you are in no position what so ever to say that what the media has told you is correct.”

    If you are making a claim, the onus is on you to prove it with evidence. I can provide dozens of links, some by Pakistanis to prove my point. You can live with your assumptions as facts but do not expect the world to buy it.

    What you are saying is also what is being said by a man who says he will conquer India riding a white horse and wearing a red cap.

    If it does not suit, it is not fact and if it suits, it is a fact even if it means changing the very definition of the word “Fact”.

    “you are the one in this conversation with Wikipedia knowledge of this topic.”

    Where does your information come from and may I know which research of yours you are relying on to prove others wrong? Just an assumption which you feel very strongly about, Is not it?Recommend

  • L.

    You do not understand! And on ET, I cannot clarify.

    YouTube, do some for yourself. Recommend

  • Roon

    If I may interrupt, what is it you actually believe about the occasion of 9/11. Al-Qaeda has already admitted responsibility for it and all evidence points towards them. Same for OBL being killed in Abbottabad.

    It is true that 9/11 did have unexpected benefits for some people. For example it saved Bush’s presidency and justified his invasions in the Middle East. But this hardly points to a conspiracy.
    More info here:http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-14665953

    As far as OBL’s death is concerned again Al-Qaeda has admitted that he was indeed killed. Obama refused to release his death photos in order to stir up resentment and provide AQ propaganda material. The biggest evidence (not from the US) being that his wives were there later taken into custody by Pakistan Security forces.Recommend

  • Prashant

    “You do not understand!”

    A person does not necessarily have to be convinced with everything he understands.

    I have seen a lot of stuff on youtube claiming 9/11 was inside job, did not find a single one of them convincing.

    Iraq was a pack of lies by US and you will find many such instances to prove US and the west wrong rather than asking people to believe in something which does not exist beyond the minds of a few conspiracy theorists.Recommend

  • L.

    What I believe about the occasion of 9/11, Roon, and also boston etc. is that to create terrorism was NOT the sole reason for their happening. A large number of things which have happened in recent years were only possible because 9/11 happened. WHOEVER did them, had other reasons behind it. Now you will think “oil”, no there’s more and I honestly encourage you to do research. But its not feasible to discuss this on a social media platform.

    But I, personally, do not trust what the media tells me ONE BIT. Whether they act like controlled opposition or straight forward puppets, they have the power to change the perceptions of billions and I will not allow my self to become victim of this. If people like Prashant want to remain in the dark regarding this topic, then so be it. When the truth comes out, they will wish they had only known sooner.Recommend

  • Prashant

    “If people like Prashant want to remain in the dark regarding this topic, then so be it. ”

    All I got to know interacting with you on this particular blog is that I am ignorant, I live under the rock, I am dumb and I am sorry if I have missed out on something, just because I am not willing to be accused of these attributes unless I am provided with the evidence, the best you can respond to me is by asking me to do research and I wonder what kind of a research is it that you cannot discuss it on ET.

    Being selectively in love with the syndrome of living in denials is not much different to blanket version of it.Recommend

  • L.

    If you want to take it personally, then feel free to do so. I myself am an illiterate in most of the things in the world; but i will not take back the attributes i attached to you, only clarify that it was regarding the topic on hand.

    The rest is up to you.Recommend

  • Hi

    Pakistani should make docomentry into english to bring this issue
    Over big english chanelles so that westren know what realy
    Problem pk is facing due to terrorism.
    Go nawaz GoRecommend