Stories about Swat Valley

Same Shaan and same Waar-like plot, so what’s new, Yalghaar?

The much awaited Yalghaar is based on the true story of Pakistan Army’s Swat Operation in the Piochar region, and is, in a way, dedicated to the bravery and sacrifices of Pakistani soldiers. Hassan Rana, the director, explores what happens in the lives of those involved in the operation.  The Lolly production has quite a star-studded cast, such as Shaan Shahid, Humayun Saeed, Bilal Ashraf, Ayesha Omar and Armeena Rana Khan. The list does not end there, as Adnan Siddiqui, Gohar Rasheed, Umair Jaswal, Sikander Rizvi, Ayub Khoso and Sana Bucha also make appearances. It seems as if the director did not want to leave anyone out while ...

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The good, the bad and the ugly of Pakistani dramas in 2016

This year’s Pakistani dramaverse was filled with a lot of unlikely hits and misses. While some storylines I expected to be worth the wait were substandard, there were many others that performed exceedingly well. Our storylines this year also proved that Pakistani audiences are maturing and the drama market is the best way to reach into the very core demographic of the Pakistani household. Udaari This show was a powerful crime-drama that highlights the crucial issue of sexual abuse in the country. The drama entails a cast full of stars such as Ahsan Khan, Urwa Hocane, Farhan Saeed, Samiya Mumtaz, and Bushra Ansari playing key roles. The plot follows Meera (Urwa) and Zebo ...

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Sang e Mar Mar: The sorry tale of honour in Pakistan

Pakistani dramas have always attracted massive audiences. Their quality and subject matter has always been above par – especially if we consider the dramas that have been produced by our Indian counterparts and compare them with the likes of our classics such as Ankahi, Dhoop Kinaray, Aanch, Tanhaaiyan, Dhuwaan, Alpha Bravo Charlie, Uroosa, Parosi and many more. Since our entertainment industries have always been in some sort of a competition, it is safe to say that India wins with Bollywood and Pakistan wins with its dramas. Armed with strong scripts, excellent performances, crisp production value and acute directorial skills – ...

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For better or worse, Janaan is a step in the right direction

The Macmillan Dictionary defines a romantic-comedy as, “A funny movie, play or television program about a love story that ends happily.”  Janaan is just that, but it’s not funny in the ordinary sense of the word. The film, directed by Azfar Jafri and co-produced by Reham Khan, is a latter-day ode to Pakhtun identity and heritage. It is a story about Meena, played by Armeena Khan, who returns from Canada to attend her cousin’s wedding in Swat, but falls in love with her adopted cousin. On paper, it sounds appreciable to the Pakistani viewer, and for the most part, the outcome on the screen is adequately gratifying. The stunning introductory shots ...

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The loving humanitarian efforts of an American in Pakistan

Due to frequent media images of violent anti-American protests as well as repeated travel-safety warnings from the State Department, most Americans avoid visiting Pakistan. However, Todd Shea, the founder of Comprehensive Disaster Response Services (CDRS), has adopted Pakistan as his home and is running several welfare projects there. I learnt about Todd Shea on Facebook several months ago when I was browsing through a list of ‘People you may know’. Pleasantly surprised to learn about the humanitarian work he was doing in Pakistan, I began to closely follow CDRS activities on social media. The 2005 earthquake and the great need to help its victims brought Shea to ...

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Pakistan’s soldiers, Pakistan’s army fathers, you carry my name

The delicious bread – Peshawari naan – was longer than I was tall. Seven-years-old, in a sundress and an oversized sunhat, I was a very British child in Peshawar. Hairpin roads, every pothole palpable in our Ford Transit, we lurched into 1975 Pakistan through the Khyber Pass. Descending the Hindu Kush, we finally entered the dusty, garrison town. At the end of the 7,000 miles drive from England, my Pakistani parents, younger then than I am as I write this now, navigated toward our final destination. From my window, I struggled to pronounce the English signposts – for a long time “Pesh-ware” was ...

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Travelling through Pakistan with my (fake) husband

I am travelling to Pakistan with a stranger I met on a layover in Hong Kong. Within minutes of meeting each other, we knew we could travel together. We hatched a plan over lukewarm Tiger Beer while sitting on smurf-sized chairs in Hanoi. Out of respect for Islamic values, and as precaution, we decided to pretend to be husband and wife from elsewhere, anywhere but America. We rendezvoused in Guangzhou and entered Pakistan from Western China down the Karakoram Highway. As I stood at the airport waiting, I thought, Do I know what he looks like? I wondered for the briefest moment if ...

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The serendipitous serenity of Swat Valley

Swat was a land alien to me, until I got the chance of visiting the beautiful valley with my brother and a friend. We decided to take a bus to Mingora and then travel on our own from there. The image I had in mind of the valley was a Kashmir-ish land, in internal turmoil, as the people struggle to keep their cool with the military and radical presence. I was prepared for an unwelcoming vibe from the locals. However, while we bargained with a local Hi-Ace driver, Abdul Rashid, to give us a short tour of the land, his demeanour and polite behaviour made ...

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Yes, because we need Selena Gomez and a Jonas brother to promote Malala’s campaign

By now, most of us are well aware of the white saviour narrative that has become a ubiquitous component to the Malala Yousafzai story. By now, we have seen Malala be rightfully lauded around the world for her bravery and dedication to the cause of equal educational opportunity. By now, we are mindful of the polarising sentiments that constitute a response to Malala’s name in this country. So when a promotional video for the We Are Silent campaign, a joint venture between The Malala Fund and Free The Children, hit the airwaves last week, it was not surprising that the Malala story was once again being ...

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When did Malala become a geo-political and defence expert?

Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old girl who was shot last year by the Taliban gained international fame for her memoir – a multi-million dollar book titled I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. However, in Pakistan, a large proportion of the populace has labelled it to be a controversial book as well as a disgrace to the country. Co-authored with British journalist Christina Lamb, I am Malala, has propelled its readers to talk either in favour of it or against it. Although many of her fans were excited to read it, the book ended up disappointing a major section ...

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