Media instead of providing active criticism became an extension of the will of the state and secondly, indirectly, by latching on to a militaristic, masculinist narrative the media became instrumental in defining a kind of national identity that suited the hegemonic project of the military.
Masood Ashraf Raja teaches postcolonial literature and theory at University of North Texas. He also edits Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies. Author of Constructing Pakistan. Foundational Texts and the Rise of Muslim National Identity 1857-1947, Once Upon a Country (Novel) and The Eastern Breeze(Poems), Masood Ashraf Raja contributes for Viewpoint as well. In an interview with Viewpoint, he discusses jihadification of television drama and film under the Zia dictatorship and post-Zia period. 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?
I think Pakistani national identity, even the Pakistan movement, is tied to an idealized supranational Muslim past as opposed to an integrated sense of Muslim identity as Muslims of India. The Muslim subject that is articulated and retrieved from history, by people like Iqbal, is also this Pan-Islamic figure from the past. The martial TV plays tend to further stabilize this view of a masculinist historical identity. That is why even after Zia’s regime, the trend to represent Pakistani history with its uninterrupted lineage to the glory days of Islam continues.
So, my point is that this masculinist, militarist view of national identity was not really initiated by the dictators but forms a core principle within the body of the national narrative itself. The Soviet-Afghan “jihad” seems to have further accentuated this view of the nation. For more details on this subject, please take a look at two of my articles that you can download from my website: http://postcoloniality.org.
“The King Buzzard: Bano Qudsia’s Postnational Allegory and the Nation-State.” Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature. Vol. 40 (1) 2007: 95-110.
“Jihad in Islam: Colonial Encounter, the Neoliberal Order, and the Muslim Subject of Resistance.” The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences Vol. 26 (4) 2009: 47-71.
In the 1990s, Kashmir became a popular PTV theme. When Mohasra, Wasal, Angar Wadi, Muqadama-e-Kashmir and host of such plays were telecast, militant outfits like Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, 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’.
Yes, I think the PTV plays boosted the jihadist mentality in an indirect way: by glorifying war and by positing the other as an “infidel” force necessary to be reduced through Jihad. Overall, the narrative of the nineties depended upon retrieving a purist, Islamist identity and Kashmir and Afghanistan become the places where this narrative can unfold. Also, in terms of Pakistani policy, sending volunteers to both these areas was acceptable and hence the local organizations could actively raise funds and train people for both these so-called jihads.
Films like Khak-our-Khoon (based on Naseem Hijazi’s novel), Pehli Nazar, Ghazi IlmudDin, International Gorillay (themed on Salman Rushdie affair) were also produced 1977onwards. 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?
Of course all these films are produced in a certain discursive space and the discourse of Pakistani nationalism, after the eighties, becomes increasingly militarized and Islamized. I think it is easier to understand this if we look at the construction of Pakistani identity in discursive as opposed to hierarchal top-down mode.
Do you think the Lollywood productions and the PTV dramas that promoted Jihad, in the 1980s and the 1990s, or plays like Sonahary Din that helped build a positive image of the Pakistan Army in fact helped Pakistan Army maintain its hegemony and contributed to the militarization of the society? If yes, how?
I think the TV and movies did stabilize the military rule in several ways:
First, the media instead of providing active criticism became an extension of the will of the state and secondly, indirectly, by latching on to a militaristic, masculinist narrative the media became instrumental in defining a kind of national identity that suited the hegemonic project of the military.
(From Viewpoint Online)