Pakistan Hit by Fever of Turkey’s Popular Cultural Export


*Originally published in Turkey Tribune.

It is 9pm in Pakistan. An estimated thousands sit intently to watch what will unfold in a mansion scenically facing a shore of the Bosphorus, and in lives of the people who dwell in it. A handsome, philandering blonde, his sturdy uncle’s young gorgeous wife, her conniving mother and the mansion’s elegant governess. Characters that have eased into a part of their own lives.

These Pakistanis sit in anticipation of what will unfold in the Ziyagil Mansion. And so was the routine for them since months, until ‘Ishq-e-Mamnuu’ ended last December.

What began as a venture by a new channel last year eventually evolved into a nation-wide mania of ‘Ishq-e-Mamnuu’ (Urdu for ‘Aşk-ı Memnu‘).

ishqe-mamnu

The first of its kind in the country, the UAE-based channel Urdu1 became available in Pakistan in June 2012 by broadcasting two foreign TV dramas dubbed immaculately in Urdu, one Spanish and the other Turkish.The latter’s fresh storyline, cast and their convincing performances set in the ambience of Turkish culture and the picturesque locales of Istanbul, within a matter of months ensconced itself in a large Pakistani urban audience. 

A diverse audience composed by people belonging to both sexes of all ages, occupations, backgrounds, stripes and walks of life. And Toygar Işiklı’s masterly music production only augmented its appeal for them.

During its run on TV, it was not an uncommon sight to see many Pakistanis jestingly meeting each other in the Turkish style of greeting with a peck on each cheek, the two genders swooning over Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ, Beren Saat and Hazal Kaya and women raving about Firdevs Yöreoglu’s and her daughters’ fashion. Hearing ‘Aşk-ı Memnu’s theme music as ringtones and heated discussions on the drama, with the obligatory dental clicking for poor Adnan Ziyagil, in various cafes, lounges, restaurants was an even more ordinary scene.

It was, literally, the talk of the town.

tumblr_m76wxbXjHx1r6nm6ao1_500fsdfConsidering Pakistan’s long-standing cultural, historical, bilateral and exceptional brotherly relations with Turkey, Pakistani interest in the Turkish state and nation is rather natural. Turkey frequently occupies a place in Pakistan’s political discourse; as an ideal political model. Recently, amid the fluttering of Pakistani and Turkish flags all over Lahore and much fanfare and excitement, the provincial government of Punjab inaugrated Pakistan’s first Metro Bus service in the city modeled on the Turkish system of this public transportation. It was also attended by the deputy prime minister of Turkey.

Add to this, the creation of frenzy owed to ‘Aşk-ı Memnu‘ . The massive following of the drama furthered the fascination with Turkey, its people, language and culture. Inevitably causing a shift in people’s travel preferences, wanderlust towards it and a surge in plans for Turkish vacations. It would come as no surprise, if soon Turkish tourism is compelled to welcome eager and swelling Pakistani throngs.

Televised the entire week, ‘Ishq-e-Mamnuu’ propelled the remarkable skyrocketed ratings for the channel, blurring behind well-established rival entertainment channels. This disconcertedness forced them to jointly file a petition in court against the Urdu1. While equally upset were and still are the numerous local producers and veteran drama actors and actresses, openly clamoring for protectionism for the entertainment and drama industry in Pakistan, with direct reference to ‘Ishq-e-Mamnuu’ whose sensational rise has posed a threat to them and their own soaps and TV shows.

50bf1c73654cf-Untitled-2In contrast to this, one notable veteran Adnan Siddiqui, who also played a role alongside Angelina Jolie in the film ‘A Mighty Heart’ , had a different approach and reaction.  Succinctly writing a note on ’Ishq-e-Mamnuu’ which acknowledged it’s attributes, he called on the Pakistani entertainment industry to accept it (the Turkish soap) as ’a production which is a learning mechanism to provide our industry with better quality for work’ and to learn from its causes of swift success to espouse professionalism and up their standards in conformity with international ones.

Presenting and dealing with subjects ranging from alcohol consumption, adultery to abortion under its themes of glamour, deception and betrayal, it came as surprise that it stirred no significant controversy involving conservative groups in Pakistan.

Ask-i-Memnu-Bihter-Behlul-bihter-and-behlul-19813315-766-690The slashing of steamier scenes in ‘Aşk-ı Memnu’ under the scanner and sword of censorship paved the way for its social and cultural acceptance but generally, the soap fuelled attraction and greater want for Turkish TV dramas in Pakistan.

The sudden popularity of actors Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ and Beren Saat in Pakistan along with the striking success of ‘Ishq-e-Mamnuu’ has led to many other entertainment channels following the trend set by Urdu1: with “Asi”, that started during ’Ishq-e-Mamnuu’ to have recently ended and replaced by Menekşe ile Halil” by one channel, andGümüş” now being televised as “Noor” by a separate one.

Urdu1 has also replaced ‘Aşk-ı Memnu’ with the dubbed version of “Fatmagülün suçu ne?” which it proudly calls on its official Facebook page ‘A perfect successor to Ishq-e-Mamnu!’  due to its successful maintenance of the highest ratings amongst other dramas during prime time that the former achieved. It has become apparent that ‘Aşk-ı Memnu’ might just have been to Pakistan what “Gümüş” was to the Arab world: a flare that ignited a boom in dubbed Turkish dramas.

15073-ishqememnudrama-1355121560-707-640x480

With Adnan, Bihter, Behlul household names in Pakistan, several other Turkish soaps being shown and the final episode of ‘Aşk-ı Memnu’ having surpassed local blockbusters by garnering record-breaking ratings; Turkey’s current greatest cultural export, which has and continues to captivate millions around the world, should add another country to its map. For Pakistan has been swept, taken and transfixed by the thrilling storm of Turkish dramas!

~ Hafsa Khawaja

Published in: on March 16, 2013 at 9:04 am  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , , ,

The International Community Needs To DO MORE For Pakistan!


Since Pakistan’s involvement in the ‘War on Terror’, terrorism in the country has taken a large leap. It is the single most country that has heavily paid the price for the war through the deaths of thousands of civilians, stagnancy of its economy and by almost becoming a pariah in the world. Yet, on every visit of a high-ranking US or UK diplomat and official to the country, we are told to ‘Do more’ in the fight against extremism.

Besides being beset with economic, social and political problems and instability, today the country is faced with a challenge that it can not cope with without the world: the most destructive floods in its history.

Described by United Nations as the greatest humanitarian crisis in recent history with the number of people suffering possibly to exceed the combined total in three recent megadisasters – the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.”

Leaving 20 million affected, the floods have ravaged Pakistan from the core.

To much surprise, donations from other countries especially those who consider Pakistan as ‘friends’ or allies are ‘trickling in’ rather than having deluged us in this time of need, which they should have. International aid has not kept up compared to the Haiti Earthquake and the 2004 Tsunami.

About $7bn was pledged within a month of the tsunami that struck Asia in December 2004 and according to Oxfam, within the first 10 days after the Haitian earthquake, donors had committed $742m and pledged a further $920m. For Pakistan, the figures over the same period were $45m and $91m..

Pakistan has so far received aid-committment of 984.52 Million USD from International Community and commitment does not signify it being delivered or donated, it has been merely pledged.

The figures of a few of the donations for the Tsunami can be known as :

“ Nations all over the world provided over US$7 billion in aid for damaged regions, with the governments of Australia pledging US$819.9 million (including a US$760.6-million aid package for Indonesia), Germany offering US$660 million, Japan offering US$500 million, Canada offering US$343 million, Norway and the Netherlands offering both US$183 million, the United States offering US$35 million initially (increased to US$350 million), and the World Bank offering US$250 million. Also Italy offered US$ 95 million, increased later to US$ 113 million of which US$ 42 million was donated by the population using the SMS system.”

And for Haiti :

  Haiti aid pledged by country

 

Country/organization Funding, committed and uncommitted, $ $ per person  % of total
Others 639,381,379    26.40
Private (individuals & organizations) 593,639,219   24.51
United States 466,879,506 1.484 19.27
Canada 130,733,775 3.894  5.40
World Bank (emergency grant) 82,107,356   3.39
Japan 70,744,798 0.556                2.92
Saudi Arabia 50,000,000 1.944 2.06
Spain 47,664,745 1.061 1.97
European Commission 43,290,043   1.79
France 33,844,153 0.543 1.40
United Kingdom 33,070,138 0.537               1.37
Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) 27,976,462   1.16
Norway 25,298,044 5.257 1.04
Sweden 25,039,684 2.707 1.03
Germany 21,645,022 0.263 0.89
Brazil 16,884,782 0.087 0.70
Denmark 16,288,032 2.978 0.67
Australia 13,489,209 0.634 0.56
China 10,813,535 0.008 0.45
UN & agencies 10,000,000   0.41
Italy 9,302,037 0.155 0.38
Switzerland 8,932,039 1.180 0.37
Finland 8,005,607 1.503 0.33
Russian Federation 5,700,000 0.040 0.24
Netherlands 5,050,504 0.304 0.21
India 5,000,000 0.004 0.21
United Arab Emirates 3,209,113 0.698 0.13
Ghana 3,000,000 0.126 0.12
Ireland 2,886,002 0.639 0.12
Donors not specified 2,219,169   0.09
Indonesia 1,700,000 0.007 0.07
Czech Republic 1,154,401 0.111 0.05
Belgium 1,151,876 0.108 0.05
Poland 1,089,466 0.029 0.04
New Zealand 1,000,000 0.234 0.04
Morocco 1,000,000 0.031 0.04
Guyana 1,000,000 1.312 0.04
Estonia 1,000,000 0.746 0.04
Luxembourg 722,900 1.487 0.03
Greece 290,000 0.026 0.01
Inter-American Development Bank 200,000   0.01
South Africa 134,904 0.003 0.01
WORLD TOTAL 2,422,202,996 0.35 100

 

For Pakistan’s floods, such are the contributions.

 [The above picture illustrates the donations for Pakistan's floods]

Richard Holbrooke, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, had said: “The people of Pakistan will see that when the crisis hits, it’s not the Chinese. It’s not the Iranians. It’s not other countries. It’s not the EU It’s the US that always leads.”

But in contrast to his statement the The Guardian writes of how Saudi Arabia has overtaken the US as the largest donor to Pakistan’s flood relief effort.

Despite being engaged in relief activities for its own flood-wrecked areas, as always China has so far provided 120 million yuan (17.5 million USD) worth of humanitarian supplies to Pakistan in three batches.  It initially announced that it would provide emergency aid worth 10 million yuan (approx. US$ 1.48 million) to help the flood-victims. The People’s Liberation Army donated another 10 million yuan to Pakistan. The Chinese Red Cross has also given US $50,000 in cash to Pakistan. And this is only to write a few of what it has done for the flood-hit.

Iran on the other hand :

Iran had committed over 400 tonnes of relief goods; out of which 330 tonnes had already been delivered by the Iranian transport aircrafts as of 24th August 2010. These goods included tents, floorings, clothes, canned food, bread and medical supplies. Iranian red crescent society has also been on the ground along with Pakistan Red Crescent Society as a part of its ongoing relief operation inside Pakistan to more than 100,000 flood vicitms.  Iran has also offered to setup field hospitals and community centers for flood victims in Pakistan. In response to UN’s appeal for help at New York, Iran committed US $10 million towards the flood relief. In addition to this fund, Imam Khomeini Relief Committee was directed to collect private donations from Iranians and donate it to Pakistani government. Iranian interior minister also visited Pakistan as the head of a humanitarian mission assessing the needs of Pakistani people in order to facilitate the distribution of Iranian aid to Pakistan.  Iranian interior minister during a meeting with Pakistani interior minister informed the latter that Iran is the third largest donor nation in terms of delivered aid.  

“The UN appealed for $460m to cover the first 90 days of the emergency. It said today that half the target had been reached, but warned that it was able to reach less than a quarter of the 6 million people in urgent need for food and clean drinking water. The cost of providing clean water alone is about $2m a day.”

At Philanthropy, it has been surveyed on what the attitude of people towards such events depends on such as :

“Randy Strash, strategy director for emergency response at World Vision, said that donors tend to focus more on how many people have died rather than how many people are in need of aid. The United Nations has estimated that 20 million flood victims may need help; an estimated 1,600 have died.

The death toll, said Mr. Strash, “represents for many their barometer of how bad a disaster is.”

While countless died in the Haiti Earthquake, one must remember that those suffering and struggling to sruvive in Pakistan exceed the numbers of those who died in the previous catastrophe and they need to be immediately helped.

 

The difference between the two disasters in Haiti and Pakistani have already been compared in all aspects but the glaring dissimilarities are mentioned as :

[The picture below illustrates the total donations to Haiti for its earthquake]

Number of sheltherless people:

In Haiti: 1.8 million

In Pakistan: 6 million

_________________________________________________________________________________________

International pledges 2 weeks after flash appeal as percent of total appeal:

For Haiti : 82% of the required

For Pakistan : only 57%.

________________________________________________________________________________

Donation per affected person received after 2 weeks of flash appeal  :

Haiti : US $ 157.16

Pakistan : US $ 15.24

 ________________________________________________________________________________

Reconstruction Pledges:

 For Pakistan : (Aug. 22) World Bank US $ 0.9 billion Asia Development Bank US $ 2.0 billion (loans)

 For Haiti : (March 31) Donors pledge US $ 9.9 billion of which US $ 5.3 billion is pledged over 2 years (requested US $3.9 billion).

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Pakistan is a country much dependent on it s agriculture which roughly contributes 22% to GDP and employs 45% manpower.   

 

In an article at ‘Time’, the alarming predicaments that Pakistan will have to deal with are written about :

“World Bank president Robert Zoellick said the floods had destroyed crops worth around $1 billion. By conservative Pakistani estimates, the figure is at least double.

Pakistan’s economy was already fragile, dependent on a $11.3 billion support package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Before the floods, the country was struggling to meet the fiscal-discipline requirements of the package.

Pakistan has a bloated public sector, a narrow tax base and a chronic balance-of-payments problem. “Now, it alters all the calculations, all the projections, all the scenarios,” Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Pakistan’s Finance Minister, tells TIME. “It is still too early to assess the full impact of the disaster, but the damage is colossal, it’s still unfolding. It will run into billions and billions of dollars.” And according to figures collected by the government of Pakistan — a fraction of what’s needed. “

The money and aid that has already been donated by countries and people is only for the immediate relief of the 20 million people affected by flooding and it is yet to be estimated what the rehabiliation of the displaced people (which might take 5 years in view of the experts) and rebuilding of the infrastructure (which has been set back decades) will cost in the second round of flood relief programmes.

The damage upon the country’s economy is worth $43 billion it has been told by the Government.

Founder and Chairperson of Pakistan Youth Alliance, Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi rightly points out in his blog :

“Pakistan has a been a frontline-ally in the war against terrorism and has borne more damage than anyone else, of civilian/military casaulties and financial losses due to security situation. And we kept on hearing “DO MORE” from International community, like 30000 dead Pakistanis (including top-notch Generals, politicians, religious figures) werent enough. I urge the International Community to DO MORE. To DO-MORE, this time not for your interests in the region or your-cold wars with other super-powers, DO MORE for humanity.”

It is time that all proclaimed friends of Pakistan to actually do something for the nation that has undergone much in its 63-year old history and yet helped many. From being a young nation yet advocating the cases of liberation Libya, Northern Ireland, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Indonesia while championing the Arab cause of Palestine through the eloquence of it first Foreign Minister Sir Zafarulla Khan to facilitating many in its own land including the Afghan refugees, Kurds who escaped Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny, Iranians that left their land post-revolution while providing diplomatic passports to the members of the Algerian government in exile fighting for their country and so on.

Just a day before, it was part of the new how Ban Ki-Moon is concerned about the response from countries for donations to Pakistan are becoming sluggish and have virtually stopped.

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY : WAKE UP AND DO MORE FOR PAKISTAN!

- Hafsa Khawaja

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