A new TV drama series on Pakistani state television is changing the public narrative about Islamic radicals. The series is a change from the common criticism of America and the drone strikes, which are often blamed for creating terror.
"Here, the scoundrels are bearded mountain men with distorted ideas about Islam, and the heroes are the security forces and civilians dying at the hands of the extremists," the Washington Post writes. "The glossy, 11-part program is the latest rally-the-public effort by the army, long Pakistan's most powerful institution and now a favored target of homegrown militants."
According to the Post, "the state and the public remained ambivalent about fighting insurgents until they took over the bucolic Swat Valley, not far from Islamabad, the capital, in 2008." The army, a popular state institution in comparison with the administration, has also seen its reputation damaged by videos of soldiers executing prisoners and allegations of support for the Afghani Taliban. The series attempts to present both the successes and failures of Pakistan's war on terror, contrasting the recruiting strategies of the Taliban but admitting the failure of the state to present youth with opportunities.
It also takes the focus off of America, instead looking at sensitive topics like battle scenes and the real-life stories of those affected by terrorism. "We are trying to keep our product as close to reality as possible," said executive producer Khawar Azhar, whom made the series in partnership with the army. "If the suicide attacks are still taking place, if the schools and security establishments are still being bombed, then it is clear that the war is not over."
Brig. Gen. Syed Azmat Ali, an army spokesman, said there have been a flood of emails and calls to army headquarters about the series. "They keep calling," he said. "And everyone who rings is in tears."