PTV’s ‘Jihadi plays’ help army to maintain control over society

-by Farooq Sulehria

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 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:

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?

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.

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? ….

Read more → ViewPoint

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