Farooq Sulehria in an interview with Ayesha Siddiqa
19 Aug 2010
Lollywood is no different from the rest of the society. There has been an increasing radicalization of the society which is reflected in the cinema as well. Lollywood is more influenced because of the socioeconomic class. The lower-middle and middle classes reflect a bias for the Islamiscts.
Ayesha Siddiqa is an independent social scientist with expertise in civil-military relations and political-economy. She has a doctorate in War Studies from King's College, London. She has authored two books on the military and Pakistani politics. Her book ‘Military Inc.’ was banned under the Musharraf dictatorship. She was the first Pakistan fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a Ford Fellow. These days she is writing a regular column for the Express Tribune. In an interview with Viewpoint, she discusses Jihadification of Pakistan Television and Lollywood. Read on:
Q: In the 1980s and the 1990s, the PTV aired plays like Sunahary Din, Alfa Bravo Charlie, Nishan-e-Haider series etc that glorified the Pakistan Army. If PTV being state-owned institution was bound to glorify the army in the 1980s when there was a military dictatorship, why the trend continued in the 1990s when there were elected governments running the country?
A: Military's domination of the society does not end with the end of direct military rule. In Pakistan's case the military represents one of the two key poles of power politics. Continued domination in power politics, in turn, is linked with control of the society which depends on intellectual control. These plays are one of the many ways employed by the army to maintain its control over the society. In fact, this is one of the many methods for exercising military hegemony as defined by Antonio Gramsci. Intellectual control helps dominate or shape the national discourse. On the one hand the military weakens political forces, and, on the other, it trains the youth and the general public to accept military as a credible social and political force.
Q: Alongside the plays glorifying Pakistan Army, the PTV serials like Akhari Chattan, Shaheen, Tareekh o Tamseel which glorified Muslim past or Panah 1 and Panah II that depicted Afghan ‘resistance’ against Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, were a permanent PTV feature in the 1980s. Do you think this Jihadification of the PTV drama contributed to a militaristic culture in the country? If yes, how?
A: These plays are amongst the various methods adopted to make the society conservative. I would argue that the conservatising of the society is a cyclic process. The injection of conservatism for strategic reasons during the 1980s set a cycle in which people's minds were influenced. The generation that came about then was not capable of producing anything else than the plays and films you mentioned. Furthermore, conservatising the society was a major need of the security establishment to produce Jihadis needed to fight at various sectors.
In the 1990s, Kashmir became a popular theme. When Mohasra, Wasal, Angar Wadi, Muqadma-e-Kashmir and host of such plays were telecast, militant outfits like Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, HizbulMujahideen (HM) etc were busy recruiting youth for ‘Jihad-e-Kashmir’. Do you think these PTV plays played a role in boasting the recruitment drive for what was called ‘Jihad-e-Kashmir’.
These plays did play a role in impressing the society and creating space for the jihad in Kashmir.
Q: Films like Khak-our-Khoon (based on Naseem Hijazi’s novel), Ghazi IlmudDin, International Gorillay (themed on Salman Rushdie affair) etc were also produced in the 1980s. What explains the Jihadi bent of Lollywood in the 1980s since film industry was not bound to listen to the authorities unlike the PTV. Was there a market for such films that offered the producers of such films an opportunity to make money. Or if producers of these films were ideologically motivated?
A: Lollywood is no different from the rest of the society. There has been an increasing radicalization of the society which is reflected in the cinema as well. Lollywood is more influenced because of the socioeconomic class. The lower-middle and middle classes reflect a bias for the Islamiscts. This is the kind of people who are involved with Lollywood. Not to forget the viewers who are more inclined to see films eulogizing jihad and Jihadis.
Farooq Sulehria is working with Stockholm-based Weekly Internationalen (www.internationalen.se). Before joining Internationalen, he worked for one year,2006-07 at daily The News, Rawalpindi. Also, in Pakistan, he has worked with Lahore-based dailies, The Nation, The Frontier Post and Pakistan. He has MA in Mass Communication from Punjab University, Lahore. He also contributes for Znet and various left publications in Europe and Australia.