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The fault in our (media's) Pathans

I am sure all of us have heard jokes featuring Pathans (a term used to refer to Pakhtoons or Pashtuns in Pakistan) and have enjoyed them at some point in our life. The gist of almost all of them was that Pathans are either dumb or aggressive. These jokes were even published in newspapers at times. I remember receiving and forwarding such jokes on my mom's phone as a kid. And then reading such jokes on meme pages on Facebook and Instagram.

Then come our Pakistani dramas that portray the same view about pathans. For example, in one of the episodes of the drama Bulbulay, a Pashtun character offers a gift to the male protagonist Nabeel. Nabeel responds by saying, "Iska gift kya hoga? Ya naswar ya bomb!"

Too often, the Pashtun/Pakhtoon characters in dramas and movies are given names such as "Talwar Khan". In Hum Tv's hit Ramzan drama Suno Chanda, the pathan character, who is shown as a non-serious and mischievous person, was named "Jalal". How often have we met Pashtuns/Pakhtoons in real life that have such names?


In media and in real life, Pashtuns are mostly given the roles of watchmen, servants or halfwits who cannot comprehend obvious things. For example, in one of Ufone's famous advertisements, a Pashtun servant bought a donkey instead of a mattress, as both words have similar pronunciation in Urdu, i.e. Gadha and Gadda, so he couldn't distinguish between the two over a call made using another network.




What's also concerning is that, at most times than not, the actors who are acting as pathans in dramas, advertisements and films, are not pathans themselves. Any actor who can speak in an exaggerated Pashtun/Pakhtoon accent, and put on a shalwar kameez, round white cap and scarf on his shoulders, can take on the role of a pathan in media.


It is high time that media becomes cognizant of its bias towards the ethnicity in question and takes steps towards portraying a realistic image of Pashtuns/Pakhtoons. Media cannot entirely subvert the prejudicial norms of the society, but it can definitely play a huge part by presenting alternative narratives and kick-starting discussions around the derogatory and problematic portrayal of pathans.

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What's concerning is that we never see any Pathan actor in a serious role in any of these dramas unless those shows are purely based on their culture. They are always given this comedic role and their accent and clothes is made fun of. Agreeing to you, the writers of these shows can do so much better and represent their cultures in the right way even though most of these writers are not from Khyber but they do try enforcing their little knowledge of these cultures in their shows. This forced representation can prove to be pretty useless and can be taken the wrong way very easily. Another thing I noticed was how these characters are shown as 'dumb' and…

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Representation matters a lot, and while Pakistani media does not present its culturally diverse population, when it does, it’s just for making fun of them. While reading this post, I could only think of how the western media spreads the narrative of blonde girls being dumb, and in Pakistani media, that’s the case with the Pathan’s. As studied in Rebecca Mallett’s paper, and as Stuart Hall says, representation of certain ideologies instils stereotypes among the general public, and these stereotypes then get hold of in the minds of children who haven’t formed their ideologies yet. These stereotypical characteristics about a person, reduce everything about the person to those traits. The Pakistani media is dominated by Punjabi men, and most of the…

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Mujeeb.khan
Mujeeb.khan
Dec 10, 2022

Coming from a pathan background, seeing such depiction in the mainstream media is really disturbing. Knowing the culture and customs from within, it becomes quite upsetting that their traditions are disregarded and they are represented solely through myths. Our media houses' shareholders are predominantly from Punjab and sindh, showing a bias toward a particular ethnic community. Pathan characters are rarely given lead roles in movies or dramas. They are either portrayed as security guards, drivers, and, most commonly, as objects of mockery. The fact that such portrayal is emphasized is due to the skyrocketing ratings; our audience enjoys such themes, and we, as a whole, think find it entertaining to make fun of someone's background or looks.

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It all boils down to the portrayal and how representation occurs through media channels. Most of these portrayals are based on the general traits associated with Pathans (whether correct or not is a different debate). But we also need to look at the production and direction side of media. We know that most drama industry is clustered in Karachi and Lahore. Therefore, the producers, writers, and directors are predominantly Punjabis or Sindhis. This causes misrepresentation of other ethnicities like Pashtuns and Balochis because they cannot put their culture, traditions, and ideologies forward due to this geographical divide.

Scripts are written based on vaguely heard stories which result in unauthentic narratives. This is similar to the discussions we've had in class…

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24020242
24020242
Dec 09, 2022

I think a lot of this ethno-racial mindset is also evident in the comedy show, "Bulbulay" that often caricaturizes (through dangerous generalizations) the ways in which Pathans speak and behave with the people around them. Apart from the age-old trope of invoking the image of a "naswar" with Pathans, they are also portrayed in a really "bestial" manner, always in need of "civilizing". Like you mentioned, this does assume that Pathans are not capable of having the same intellectual capacity as everyone else, but they're also almost always portrayed as being violent as well, and alot of this also comes from regional insecurity (that also obviously has a very racial dimension to it). In terms of historical context (and also…


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