In Pakistan’s Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, along with tribal areas on the Afghanistan–Pakistan border, the Pashtuns make up the second-largest ethnic group with over 15% of the population in the country. They are playing an active part in the development of the country by contributing their services in all possible fields. From Jahangir Khan (international squash champion) to Shahid Afridi (the only player to take over 350 wickets and score 8,000 runs), from Jamal Nasir (an actor, writer, artist and philanthropist) to Rahim Shah (famous Pakistani singer), from Malala Yousafzai (youngest Nobel Prize winner) to Saba Khan (the first-ever female fighter pilot of Pakistan), all have played a significant role in making Pakistan proud worldwide.

Yet, Pashtuns are facing racial profiling in the mainstream media of Pakistan. They have been the most unmistakable survivors of such practices. Developed on the scrubland of social numbness and under-investigated, one-dimensional characters, their depictions in Pakistani movies and dramatizations throughout the years are more aesthetically hostile than socially. During the 90s they, for the most part, filled in as chowkidars clad in Turkish petticoats with a weapon tied on their shoulders or as a nitwit who consistently would be the aim of the joke. If not really, they would only be seen on a shallow level, as strong brutal figures with thick facial hair. Each psychological militant appeared in the media in a post-9/11 world is quite often a Pashtun and that is a picture that is additionally sustained by the local Pakistani substance.

Recently, a popular sitcom of ARY Digital, Bulbulay, depicted a Pashtun character asking Nabeel (played by the show’s producer himself) to receive a gift from him. Nabeel responds by saying, “Iska gift kya hoga? Ya naswar ya bomb!“(What could his gift be? Either a naswar or a bomb!)

The following dissent on Facebook and Twitter became slanting in Pakistan under the hashtag of #BoycottARY. Concerns were recorded at Pakistan’s National Assembly. This incited the show’s maker to give a reaction. Nabeel’s video, notwithstanding, rather than being an obvious statement of regret, generally comprised of euphemizing the bigot manner of speaking that the show has been unfeelingly supporting. Clearly, the video neglected to pacify the suppositions of the outraged ethnicity who is continually exposed to the most backward and injurious portrayal on the prevailing press. More upsettingly, specific sensationalist newspapers/showbiz characters communicated their solidarity with the Bulbulay producers, totally dismissing what the discourse was about.

Bulbulay isn’t the primary show from Pakistan to extend such preferences, nor are Pashtuns the main survivors of such practices. There are scores of models from neighbourhood TV, film and theatre who civility their scholarly apathy, settle on harsh generalizations of ethnicities like Pashtuns, Punjabis, and Sindhis for their own comfort.

Pashtuns are mostly given roles of watchmen, gunmen or of halfwits who cannot comprehend obvious things. For instance, the Pakistan telecommunication network Ufone’s advertisement where a Pashtun servant bought Donkey instead of a mattress, as both words have similar pronunciation in Urdu i.e. Gadha (donkey) and Gadda (mattress).

Ironically, actors who are acting as Pashtuns in drama, advertisements and films, are not Pashtun themselves. All they need to do is put kohl in their eyes, a round white cap and talk in fake accent with imbecility. This is the image of Pashtuns which is widely accepted throughout the mainstream media of Pakistan.

However, the social media, being a twofold edged blade, has exemplified to be a stage for individuals to voice their interests and record their protests, thus making ready for the mainstream society and the media to shape the manners in which we take a look at bigotry and our ways to deal with against prejudice. The internet extraordinarily gives a free stage to the specialists and substance makers from the distorted ethnic gatherings of the nation to advance their speciality and their accounts in a manner that really speaks to them without the layers of generalizing that the predominant press has covered them with. And the recent trends are a witness to the rejection of such stereotypical practices.

The producers and writers should understand there is a fine line between comedy and cracking insensitive jokes which might offend a certain community and make them enraged. It is high time our media industry understand the chaos their insensitivity can cause. Making jokes about someone’s appearance, culture and way of talking can lead to spreading hate in society and give birth to racial discrimination. In order to make Pakistan prosperous, it is very important to give equal and fair representation to each community, so nobody feels left out or attacked.


About Author

The author is a social science researcher and content writer based in Islamabad. She can be reached @GKYTweets on Twitter.

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