Pashto films destroying Pashtun culture
Poster of Pashto film 'Muhabbat me Zindagi da'.

Laraib Athar 

All over the world film industry represents nation’s ideology. As an important medium of communication, Cinema is supposed to reflect history, cultural, likes and dislikes, social manners and etiquettes of any society.

Pashtun culture is well rooted in Islamic teaching. Pashtuns have a complete code of life known as Pashtunwali. Pashtuns are known for their customs and traditions, hospitality and joint family system. Pashtuns have their language and distinct dresses code, colourful music and a form of group dance known as the Attan.

Sadly, the Pashto movies portray an ‘unrealistic’ image of Pashtun Society. They don’t represent the Pashtuns way of life. These films totally violate Pashtun cultural norms, values, customs and traditions. The storyline of a film represents a typical Pashtun elite who are all the times indulged in merrymaking, encroaching other rights, suppressing people with low economic means. They promote the culture of honour killing and kidnapping for ransom etc.

The representation of Pashtun society, through these films, reflects that Pashtuns as un-civilization. Awais Ahmad ‘Pashtun’ said “These depictions are unacceptable in any decent society. We request the concerned authorities to take action and ban Pashto film industry until the producers, actors, director’s promises for the true and real representation of Pashtuns.”

When someone watches these movies they will start believing that Pashtuns shows no respect towards women. But it’s not the reality. The dress selection is completely awkward and shameful. It is not a true and real representation of Pashtuns. Pashtun women feel embraced even when they see such vulgar dresses.

In real Pashtun Society, women wear a complete dress in which their whole body is covered.
However, most disturbing is that such movies only revolve around women and are treated as an object and sources for men’s visual pleasure.

Women are shown as possessing low moral character and being promiscuous, putting the very idea of respecting women at stake.

It is true that modernity is leading to massive progress and development in the Pashtun mindset, particularly in empowering women to be educated, active and become a productive part of society. Modernity has, however, had an unnatural impact on Pashtun cinema, Pashto dramas and movies, now pose a challenge to cultural norms and values in a way that is not only unacceptable but they are ‘shameful’.

Local actor Rehan Wali says ‘Earlier, Pashto films were totally changed, we use to watch them with family. They were educative, as well as entertaining, but in a respectable way, but now vulgarity, terrorism has ruined them all, that’s why people mostly call Pashtuns ‘Terrorists’.

What is shown in these dramas and movies does not happen in real life but watching such movies and some dramas leave the audience spellbound and they begin to mistake fantasy for reality.

Maryam Tahir, a psychologist says “Pashto films playing serious role in affecting children’s and youth’s minds, nowadays, growing generation mostly adopt things from Media.

Youngsters are influenced the most, impacting their ability to differentiate between right and wrong, good and bad. Inevitably, they develop bad habits such as smoking, drinking and frequenting dodgy places. Over time, these youngsters find a cure to all their troubles by using weapons rather than solving issues through peaceful negotiations, Exposure to the more violent elements of such content might even encourage terrorism, given how violent elements of such content might even encourage terrorism.

Pashto films industry lacks professional scriptwriters and producers. You will never find a character representing Pashtuns as doctor, engineer, educator etc. These movies have totally ruined the Pashtun culture – Women characters wear tight jeans, shirt with open buttons, openly drink and make romances.