Udaari: Child abuse is disturbing, but it exists in Pakistan, PEMRA!

Published: May 16, 2016

Ahsan Khan plays a stepfather with wrong intentions for his stepdaughter. PHOTO: FACEBOOK

In a country where TV channels romanticise rapists and glorify them as misunderstood bad boys and heart breaking heroes; where rape scenes are beautifully choreographed and turned into pieces of art, comes a drama revolving around the issue of child abuse, Udaari.


It is written with great sensitivity and moral courage by Farhat Ishtiaq: the maestro who gave us Humsafar and Diyaar-e-dil. It’s produced by Momina Duraid and the Kashf foundation, an NGO aiming towards the economic empowerment of low-income women.

It showcases Imtiaz (Ahsan Khan) who marries his friend’s widow Sajida ‘Sajjo’ (Samiya Mumtaz) and starts developing evil intentions towards his own niece, Meeran (Urwa Hocane) and his step-daughter Zebo.

A few episodes highlight Imtiaz’s disgusting intentions towards these young girls. In one of the episodes, he’s seen acting upon his filthy intents and is seen trying to grab Meeran’s hand, but she manages to run away and save herself.

Having failed with one girl, Imtiaz then turns his attention to Zebo. One of the episodes showcases him staring lecherously at her, while commenting on how she has grown up and how pretty she has become – an interaction that is interrupted when his wife returns home, which probably ended up saving the little girl.

When I heard about the PEMRA notice to Udaari, it shocked me for a second. The first thing I did was watch the episode again, which still didn’t strike me as offensive. It was disturbing, but that’s the point of this drama, isn’t it? What disturbed me even more than the episode were the comments on the articles about the drama.

It was then that I realised something; all those people raising a hue and cry over this drama are definitely clueless about certain issues.

When Meeran runs away from Imtiaz, she goes to her mother Sheedan (Bushra Ansari) and tells her what Imtiaz tried to do to her. Sheedan then heads over to Sajjo’s house, someone she considers a sister, and tells her about Imtiaz and his actions. Sajjo, instead of listening to her, blames Meeran for trying to incite relations with her husband.

This concludes with the women vowing to never talk to one another from then on, ruining their friendship altogether.

Personally, I don’t feel there is much to object to here.

Our society nowadays deals with such issues at regular intervals. Women or girls stay quiet and hide the fact that somebody tried or actually managed to abuse them; they are scared of people not believing them, public humiliation, being looked upon as victims and most of all, people blaming them for it instead.

So what are the objections about?

Was it the lusty manner in which Imtiaz looked at his step-daughter? Did that scene in the drama make you incredibly uncomfortable?

Well, it was supposed to make you feel uncomfortable.

The whole point of it was to evoke emotions of disgust for a man who could look at a little girl like that. It was supposed to make you want to go and snatch Zebo out of Imtiaz’s clutches.

It isn’t ‘ruining pure relationships,’ it is warning people and reminding them to be more careful. It is trying to teach people not to trust anyone with their children – that monsters hide in the most plain and beautiful clothing.

The reason why this bothers me is because I have a friend that was physically harassed when she was eight-years-old; she was returning home from school when a drunk man on the stairs of her building grabbed her, touched her all over and kissed her on the lips.

This bothers me because she was too embarrassed to tell anyone about it.

This bothers me because my friend still has nightmares about it.

This bothers me because it happened in a city in Pakistan.

This bothers me because there must be so many more little girls who have been through this.

And this bothers me because in spite of such huge numbers of reported and God knows how many unreported abuse cases, people still have the audacity to say that dramas like these are creating a bad image of Pakistan.

Are you in favour of PEMRA's show cause notice to ban Hum TV's Udaari?

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Fatima Azhar

Fatima Azhar

The author is a student of Media and Arts who writes to make herself feel better and others feel bad. She tweets @fatmaaazh

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

  • Kiran

    Hello Fatima

    A really well written piece. I was thinking the same thing, how come Pamra took no notice of all the other dramas glamorizing rape, extra marital affairs, domestic violence and then this one drama is so offensive. When you think about it, this drama has been presented with a lot of sensitivity, they have got the message through without crossing any lines. Instead of congratulating the team, the drama is being criticized.

    Morning shows have been discussing this topic for years now, so are other reality shows. Some of them even gave complete details of the victims ordeal, then what is so wrong with a drama discussing the same issue with the intention of creating awareness ? Specially when are doing it in a responsible manner.Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    PEMRA is only doing what the Shariah commands.

    Pakistan was created in the name of Arabic Islam, and in tribal Arabic customs such matters are kept a secret.

    Incest-related abuse is “vigorously debated” all over the world regardless of race, except in the Muslim countries, as it can destroy their image of being the perfect and pure humans who can do no wrong.Recommend

  • Palwaha

    I am really happy that someone found courage to talk about the dirty secrets of our society. If not common, it still happens to many of us out there that a family member, non-member try to take advantage of one’s innocence. It is a a dark truth but a reality. First the kids in our culture are not encouraged to talk about matters like these to elders. Even if they find courage and do, instead of demanding an answer from the culprit, the family would find no courage and feel helpless if the culprit belongs to the elite class. They are more worried about what “flana n dhimkana” would say, than the well being of their own baccha. I must say, great accomplishment to the writer and it sure is a balzee move.Recommend

  • Nabila Bhatti

    A very critical issue of our society has bee addressed. Well done Farhat Ishtiaq, the director, artists and the whole team. Thank you writing this piece Fatima Azhar.Recommend

  • Fatima

    I agree with you but still have certain reservations when you use the words like female and girls. There is a broader issue to be dealt and that is not related to a single gender rather children as a whole. So it would be good if we use the word children (both boys and girls) to raise awearness. “Women or girls stay quiet and hide the fact ” if you could use the word children here

  • UzairH

    Yes, it is a shame that in Muslim countries image is so much more important than reality that the reality is kept at an inhuman level just to hide the truth and protect “honor” and image.Recommend

  • Hasan

    Shame on PEMRA if it is trying to put this sensitive issue under the rug. And bravo to the people who have the heart and the courage to bring this issue to light. Child abuse is a sensitive and important issue that touches the heart of all humanity … to rise and speak up against the exploitation children for lust.Recommend

  • Hunter

    Anyone Who actually Lives In Pakistan Already Knows This Stuff They are Mostly Shown not for the Purpose of Wide Spread Awareness But for The TRP The Shows gain By Showing Such Sensual Stuff.
    The T.Vs Channels Shouldn’t show such stuff in a Country where Most of these Shows are seen by Housewives and Underaged Children.
    Wanna Show the Truth?Change the World and Ideology of People?
    Here’s a Suggestion Put up the Script on the Screen with a Grumpy Voice Reading It And Telling about the Story That will work just fine in showing the Truth Better then Showing this Rapist Stuff On T.V Pemras Doing it’s Work Yeah they should ban all of those that show such Stuff and the Sony and Mucic Channels as well Which act as Feeders for this Hunger but then again if they are Objected to this kind of Criticism it’s hard to keep that committement and in the end they have to give in Cuz the Media Starts Propaganda against them which is More Hightened by Such Ignorant People who don’t understand the Image that it depicts of their Country or What they are showing their children Might as well Just keep Old Cartoon Network and Pogo Until the Media Industry Fixes it’s Content and Makes it Showable to Regular Pakistanis Of all Genders and AgesRecommend

  • Hunter

    So What After Seeing the Show Your Gonna Cry about how the Male Actor is Such a Savage and the Female Actor Is So Innocent and Helpless?Then What?Gonna Paste some Pictures of Other Actors That are Depicting the Same Problem In Different Poses along with a Long Text on Facebook.This Sort of Rubbish doesn’t do shit Other then Lowring the Intensity of Guilt you feel for being a Part of this society and not being able to Uproot these Problems Honestly I just Pity people like you who are trying to find more ways to increase their Misery But Nothing Else.Cuz those who see and those who make and those who sponser can’t do shit and people who do such things are sick and Disturbed down to their very core.They are un-effected by such stuff and Would rather ignore it then Pondering upon it or trying to Get Redemption.Recommend

  • Silver Black

    PEMRA is doing what the Pakistani society demands not Shariah, because PEMRA took notice when people complained. If people are not happy then a minute self proclaimed “liberals” on net cant do squat. This is a democracy and democracy is the rule of majority, people wanted democracy that’s exactly how it works.

    Pakistan was created for Muslims to escape the atrocities of English and their second in command Hindus, who still butcher people for eating meat in the so-called “incredible” India.

    If you had ever been to Pakistan you would have known that Pakistani’s in general have no affection for Arabs, it is just the Holy places in Makkah and Madina that are important for us. Rest assured we don’t care about them any more than you do. Islam originated from Arab world and that is a fact, but it doesnt mean that by following Islamic teachings we are trying to replicate Arabs, our life styles are worlds apart.

    As for incest, pedophilia, adultery,rape and other perverted sexual activities, they have been strictly forbidden in Islam and that is sufficient for SANE people to not engage in such deplorable acts. Lastly for TV if people don’t want to watch such genre programs then no one can force them.Recommend

  • Hunter

    Why do you want them to show Such Stuff to a Nation which I can say is Crippling to Hold onto its Original Islamic Values and trying not To Get much Messed Up By ths kind of Manipulation. Contrary to the Popular Belief This Kind of Stuff doesn’t Increase Awareness But also flames those Creatures Desires who had been thinking about it for a while.It’s Like Seeing the Interview of a Notorious Serial Killer If you are Thinking About being one.The Person Seeing if he posses such mentality would find something to relate to finally and take his first step that he may never have taken Otherwise but after seeing Something like what he can relate to he Reaches new heights of Confidence that he may have reached Otherwise.
    Bottom Line Don’t Try to Find Redemption of Your Soul from Trying to Sabotage People Belief in what the Truth is Supposed to be And try to Do Some Thinking before Believing that showing something likewise will always have a positive effect. Awareness and Freedom of Media Shouldn’t be Confused with What is Right and What Is Wrong.Because if this all is gonna be Considered as Awareness and Freedom then they should just start showing Movies like Cannibal Holoucast and Faces of Death as Prime time Movies on Our Television Screens These movies also Show the Truth and Question what we know and consider to be the Truth Because in the end Regardless of the Material arnt we doing a greater good to humanity by expanding their View and Forcing them to Question the Society and what it considers to be the Truth.Recommend

  • arifp

    Well said!Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    I agree with PEMRA’s ban. First of all, there are no TV SHOWS type entertainment that we enjoy in the West. You like a show, you follow it season by season, you watch it wherever the hell you want and it is just a time spent between YOU and the show alone, no one else involved.

    In Pakistan, there is only form of entertainment and that is the prime time drama made for the whole household. Your grandmas, nieces, kids, uncles aunties everybody sits down to watch the show together. Combined that with no system of tv show ratings, no PG notices and not having specific types of channels for specific kinds of entertainment, and you have a lethal combination. And quite honestly, I dont recall child abuse subject being shown in Western prime time shows.

    Most pakistani household have 1 TV set and Typical Pakistani housewives like to watch TV in front of their little kids as they cant manage to put them to sleep first and then watch bold dramas like Udaari alone. They are surrounded by little kids all THE time and they are far from being tech savvy to watch tv shows on phones, ipads, online etc when kids are not around.

    So my issue is as they watch such bold subject matters on prime TV WITH their children, then kids get exposed to wrong ideas of life from a young age no matter how important or truthful that subject is! I like many kids who grew up in Pakistan can vividly recall lying in our moms laps while she watched her 9pm favorite PTV drama that she had bee anticipating to watch all day.

    Kids are innocent and vulnerable and they dont deserve to be matured earlier than they are supposed to be. If I had been exposed to a drama like Udaari when I was a kid, I would have been terrified of almost every distant relative of mine and thats a wrong MESSAGE. This would have then followed by an uncomfortable QnA session with parents.

    Hence, you have to look at this ban in view of Pakistani society compromising of an entertainment starved nation, lack of education, vulnerable children and desi housewives not being able to manage children while watching TV.

    So while Udaari is a great drama, till the Western TV Show system or a TV rating system is not introduced in Pakistan or Pakistani housewives are not educated about how to watch such dramas without children, the ban is understandable in view of our kids safety! We need these tools in Pakistan because of the way of tv show infrastructure is set up!

    Let kids be kids but also let adults learn about evils of society. Im all for lifting the ban from this show as long a tv channel just for bold subjects is introduced so that would give pakistai women the choice what they ca and cannot watch with their children.

    And I dont understand why child molesters cant just be persecuted by law, thrown in jail etc instead of having to make a prime time drama about it for the masses – SAD!Recommend

  • Anonymous

    ‘Ban is understandable in view of our kids safety?!’ – Your really full of it. or maybe you’ve never experienced anything like this so you think you can live in your bubble and have your kids live in it too.. Well, good for you!
    This happened to me. I grew up in Pakistan, not in a uneducated rural family. but a well educated family in Karachi. but it still happened and I was scared to tell anyone cuz I didn’t know what the hell was happening. I wish someone had educated me on this, I wish someone had told to TALK about it and not keep quite. I wish I could ‘understand’ at that time that it was not normal.. So I beg to differ, In view of our kids safety, a ban is totally NOT understandable!
    You are right, kids are innocent and vulnerable, that is more of a reason to teach them about this. You need to teach your kids to not be afraid of every relative.. but RECOGNIZE when to stay away from someone. If we don’t teach our kids how to differentiate between how someone approaches you, little boys and girls will keep going through this horrible experience. And let’s face it, PERMA banning it and people like you closing your eyes to it really won’t stop child molesters from reaching to kids.
    The only way we can have some control over this issues is if we get out of our comfort zone and open up about this issue, acknowledge it as a huge problem in our society and educate our children on boundaries and when to speak up.
    One thing that actually really made me sad about your post is when you said “this would have then followed by an uncomfortable QnA session with parents” – Are you really that worried about your own comfort zone that you’d rather have your kids fall prey to worse kind of mental and physical torture out there?!

    All in all, I believe ‘in view of our kids safety’, parents need to start having uncomfortable QnA sessions with their kids!!
    Banning Udaari won’t make your kids any safer.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    You just presented an argument in a completely opposing context to the one I had expressed my opinion in.
    You are right but at the same time you did not see my point about ‘ children loosing their innocence’. Its a sad era we are living in where we are now forced to make judgement calls on how early our children should loose their innocence.

    May God protect us all.Recommend

  • Anonymous

    You are right, I don’t understand you. Please explain to me how children lose their innocence by being aware of what’s happening in society around them. Evil exisits. The sooner they know this the better they will protect themselves.
    In my opinion, children are loosing their innocence faster by watching indian movies, item songs, even some pakistani dramas are almost on the same level. They are all blasting on every tv screen all day long. Again, You keeping your child in a bubble does not change the fact that some sick person out there will still try to get to them.Recommend

  • Anon

    Children rather lose their innocence when they are molested without knowing how to act and who to tell, just because this topic is all “hush-hush”! I’d rather want my child to recognize the malicious intent of people! And the ‘uncomfortable’ Q&A session would at least help clarify the concepts of good touch and bad touch! A concept many learn after facing a very traumatic ordeal!Recommend