“This action also serves as a reminder to broadcasters"
Pakistani drama Hadsa has been banned from airing on Geo TV, following backlash.
Viewers expressed outrage as the show’s plot appeared to be inspired by a rape incident on a motorway in 2020.
The victim contacted journalist Fereeha Idrees and asked her for help to get Hadsa taken off the air.
After a formal complaint was issued by human rights lawyer Khadija Siddiqi, Hadsa was banned by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA).
The complaint is in accordance with Section 27 of the PEMRA Ordinance Act, 2002, amended by the PEMRA (Amendment) Act 2007, which calls for an immediate ban and re-broadcasting of Hadsa.
The issue will be handed over to the Council of Complaints for further judgement before a final decision is made by PEMRA.
A statement by PEMRA read: “The ban on Hadsa highlights the authorities’ commitment to maintaining the quality of consent and ensuring it resonates with the cultural and ethical values of Pakistan.
“This action also serves as a reminder to broadcasters to uphold the standards of content creation and to respect public sentiments.
“The decision of the Complaints Council will shed further light on the drama serial’s fate, considering the guidelines set forth by the PEMRA Act and the PEMRA Code of Conduct.
“This incident underscores the regulatory body’s role in monitoring and safeguarding the media landscape in Pakistan, upholding content standards.”
The statement also mentioned that Hadsa was “highly inappropriate, disturbing and not depicting the true picture of Pakistan society”.
It continued: “Furthermore the public is of the opinion that the portrayal of such a heinous act will not only trigger the trauma of that unfortunate victim but will also tarnish the country’s image globally.
“And viewers abroad would perceive Pakistan as an unsafe place for women.”
Lead actress Hadiqa Kiani had been criticised for accepting the role, with one person commenting:
“Cashing out on someone’s pain and trauma is so insensitive of you. I expected so much better. What a shame.”
Another comment read: “Unfortunately your disclaimer doesn’t cut it.
“Everyone is talking about the motorway incident all over again, because of this drama, that of course proves that this is way too close to that.”
Hadiqa insisted that Hadsa is not based on the real-life rape incident while director Wajahat Rauf defended the show.
He said: “The last thing we would want to do is be insensitive towards someone who has been a victim of this brutal crime.
“It is our opinion that it would be far more insensitive towards the victim if we did not adopt a condemnation tone.
“In that case, one might argue that we are not at all familiar with the trauma that a rape victim goes through.”
Wajahat revealed that the writer of the drama, Zanjabeel Shah, spoke to rape victims who were willing to talk about their experience and their coping mechanisms, and this was what had been portrayed in the drama.
Wajahat continued: “A character should be judged after seeing her entire role. Judgement shouldn’t be passed on the basis of a glimpse of social media posts.
“Writers and directors can show temporary weakness to show long-term strength of a character that develops.”