ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Wednesday banned the airing of a TV drama titled Hadsa.

The decision came after a complaint from a lawyer who argued that the show being aired by Geo TV centred around the 2020 motorway gang-rape case. The move was prom­pted by concerns and criticism surrounding the show’s subject matter.

The regulator noted that the general sentiment among the public is that depicting such a serious crime could not only reopen the wounds of the victim, but also have a negative impact on the country’s international reputation. There is also concern that viewers from other countries might perceive Pakistan as unsafe for women due to the portrayal of such a distressing incident, it said.

“The viewers expressed dissatisfaction with the storyline and concept of the drama series Hadsa, which is based on a real incident that occurred on the Lahore-Sialkot Motorway,” the electronic media watchdog said.

Said to be based on motorway rape victim’s ordeal, show widely criticised for dramatising real events

Barrister Khadija Siddiqi, a high court advocate, had filed a complaint through Mohammad Ahmed Pansota. The complaint called for action under Section 27 of the Pemra Ordinance 2002 and other relevant legal provisions against the mentioned TV drama series.

Barrister Pansota said he was approached by the rape survivor who sought legal recourse against the broadcast of the drama series. Alongside Barrister Siddiqui, he filed a complaint with Pemra, urging its immediate suspension.

Similarly, the UKS Research Centre lodged a complaint with Pemra against the drama series, emphasising the need for an immediate halt to its screening. Members of Hopscotch, a media monitoring group, also submitted complaints. They demanded a public apology from the production company, writer, director, producer, and the entire cast for causing mental distress to the survivor.

The group claimed that employing this narrative without the survivor’s consent invades her privacy and inf­l­­icts emotional pain, given the exp­licit depiction of her ordeal. Hop­sco­tch insisted on compensation for ma­­king her relive the trauma and em­­phasised the media’s responsibility to educate itself on sensitive topics like rape and mental health. The application was endorsed by Sheema Kermani, Tasneem Ahmar, Afia Salam, and many other signatories.

Lack of consent

In September 2020, a woman was sexually assaulted on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway, which prompted protests and sparked outrage. Airing almost three years later, the Geo TV drama received a lot of backlash for perceived parallels to the 2020 case, especially since the survivor’s consent was not obtained.

The show’s creators, however, deny any link to the incident. Hadiqa Kiani, who is playing the lead female protagonist in the play, took to social media on Tuesday to give her point of view. “To know that something I have been a part of is being used to hurt and trigger a survivor is something I cannot stand for,” she wrote.

While discussing the distressing portrayal of rape and sexual violence on screen, she emphasised the importance of including trigger warnings, Dawn Images reported.

“These warnings would serve as a precautionary measure for those who have encountered such heinous acts,” she wrote.

Wajahat Rauf, the producer and director of the drama, highlighted the sole resemblance between it and the 2020 rape case was the location of the incident, occurring on a highway.

But these explanations did not placate social media users. Jour­na­list Quatrina Hosain expressed reservations over drama title. “Rape is not a Hadsa or accident. It’s an act of deliberate violence. It’s a crime,” she wrote on X.

Responding to Mr Rauf’s claims, journalist Fareeha Idrees posted an account of her talk with the survivor, saying she was witnessing her trauma again through the show, and that even if the drama was not based on her story, “it is morally wrong to dramatise the story of a victim.”

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

Iran’s counterstrike
Updated 15 Apr, 2024

Iran’s counterstrike

Israel, by attacking Iran’s diplomatic facilities and violating Syrian airspace, is largely responsible for this dangerous situation.
Opposition alliance
15 Apr, 2024

Opposition alliance

AFTER the customary Ramazan interlude, political activity has resumed as usual. A ‘grand’ opposition alliance ...
On the margins
15 Apr, 2024

On the margins

IT appears that we are bent upon taking the majoritarian path. Thus, the promise of respect and equality for the...
Noshki killings
Updated 14 Apr, 2024

Noshki killings

It must be asked why Baloch separatists continue to target civilians as well as security men despite large deployment.
Upholding the law
14 Apr, 2024

Upholding the law

THE recent discord in Bahawalnagar offers a chance to reflect on the sanctity of the law and its enforcement across...
Tragic travels
14 Apr, 2024

Tragic travels

FOR those embarking on road and boat journeys, the probability of fatal accidents has seen a steady rise. The recent...