How Pakistani morning shows are keeping women 'where they belong'

How Pakistani morning shows are keeping women 'where they belong'

Our hosts keep women's minds from exploring anything beyond activities in line with our patriarchal society.
Updated 20 Oct, 2015

Oh boy, I'm running late, my chai is still brewing on the stove, my stomach is grumbling ... these morning weddings, I tell you, they can create a sense of panic in the attendees.

You see, my favourite celebrity, who got married and didn't invite me, is recreating the events from her shaadi. I will watch with anticipation as she goes through all the rituals and traditions once again, just for the audience, just for me.

Lights, camera, dulhan!

If, at any moment, my level of interest drops, all I have to do is switch the channel ... to another wedding. For the uninitiated, let me explain.

Breakfast television in Pakistan roughly translates to bright blasts of energy with an overjoyed female host at the helm of affairs. She is the wedding planner, counsellor and gossip monger all rolled into one. So effervescent is she that in comparison, your own morning mood and 'moo' will appear as being hungover.

These morning shows cater mostly to housewives, a big part of the population that stays back home to bring up kids and build their identity around family life. They deserve as much respect as any other professional.

It is no mean feat to work tirelessly without much incentive or gratitude. Yet, most of them make for great managers: overlooking everything from birthday parties to funerals for as long as a lifetime.

A different kind of power resides with these women – they are the builders of society, preparing people you and I will have to face tomorrow, both professionally and personally.

However, with a fast-moving world, these women need to be exposed to more discourses of life to broaden their horizon, and television is one school they regularly feed from.

A simple google images search on 'morning shows' throws up visuals of revelry surrounding weddings-all from Pakistan only.

A.M. transmissions in the west tend to talk about traffic updates, community news and such. In Canada, people mostly tune in to watch the weather forecast to decide the kind of jacket they will wear that day.

Many channels and countless nonfictional shows in Pakistan remain religiously focused on keeping women 'where they belong': in front of the dressing table or in the kitchen, as is obvious from the plethora of cooking shows beaming across our screens.

The female audience of these shows has been tricked into believing they are learning something new each day.

The topics are limited and, even if a few programmes have tried to tread off the beaten path, they've all had to resort to doing their 'dulhan week' for the sake of ratings.

This subliminal misogyny by TV producers cannot be overlooked.

Over the years, a need has been created for such content through this method: offer a handful of options repeatedly and the audience will soon become addicted to the one which is the least worse.

See: Most people are okay with downtrodden women on TV: Sakina Samo

The bridal industry generates huge revenues, judging alone from the presence of a parlour at every corner of our streets. The average fee that each of these salons charge for face decoration is pretty hefty too, so much so, that it is advisable that the father of a newborn baby girl open up a separate savings account for her right away, in order to cover the costs of her shaadi 'looks' in time.

And, perhaps, all that is justified too, considering how hard the Pakistani makeup artist has to work towards accomplishing the herculean task of painting a new face over the bride's existing one.

The artist is thus both, a plastic surgeon and a desi avatar of Leonardo Da Vinci. These makeup gurus are invited on TV shows frequently to display their talent.

Thanks to the advent of private channels, our average homemaker has also graduated from knowing only Pakistani or desi Chinese dishes a few years ago, to adding Indonesian and Malaysian cuisine (amongst others) to her résumé.

The idea remains the same though: submit to your fate in the kitchen and channelise all effort towards pleasing your 'sasural' (in laws) through swelling their 'tonds' (potbellies).

Maybe, today will be my lucky day. Maybe, by some twist of fate, it will not be raining marriages on morning TV shows and instead, it will be the home remedies day.

A subset of which is weight loss day, which is really a misnomer because the last time I drank a concoction for seven days in a row, I lost nothing but my mind.

Maybe now they'll come up with a new way to feel bad about our bodies.

Our hosts have been given the task of keeping women's minds from exploring anything beyond activities perfectly in line with our highly patriarchal society. Yes, they may dedicate a show to talk about the Kasur child molestation case, but only as an afterthought, not as precaution.

Rarely will there be a serious discussion on reproductive health, community service, tolerating the 'other' or human rights.

Also read: In Pakistan, new TV show lifts veil on sex taboos

In a country plagued with as many issues as we have, it is imperative to empower the 'gharwaalis' so they, too, can evolve into independent thinkers, in order to add more value to a society whose foundations are shaky at the moment.

Morning shows get this invaluable two-hour window of opportunity every day, but they are hell-bent on keeping women in a perpetual state of giddiness, mirroring the emotions of a new bride.

So, when the aunty from upstairs goes on and on about the new lawn print out in the market and how she will have to resort to robbing her husband's wallet for it, I am reminded of a Jaun Elia couplet:

Kiss liye dekhti ho aaina,
Tum tou khud se bhi khoobsurat ho

(Why do you stare in the mirror,
You are more beautiful than even yourself).

As for me, I will just let my remote find BabyTv, which still has more value for grownups than the inane circuses underway on our morning shows.


M.Saeed Oct 20, 2015 01:54pm
Some of the morning shows are just 45 minutes of commercials with 15 minutes' interlude of actual show.
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Mudassar Siddiq Oct 20, 2015 02:04pm
Our Morning Shows is one of those issues which are not discussed on media candidly but it is definitely one of the most ugliest work by our TV Producers
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KaKa Oct 20, 2015 02:21pm
Morning shows are nothing but nonsense...these shows are out of ideas ages ago.
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ghinva Raza Oct 20, 2015 02:37pm
very witty,new bride syndrome!! serious issue!! the way these ladies behave idiotically on air & women in general would like to follow like rats behind pipe piper!! no inlaw or a husband will be happy by this "new found newly bride syndrome" absursd waste of time.. in my personal opinion there was a time not so long ago NADIA Khan Show, (minus the reboot show) not a huge fan of hers.but it was far more modest,decent & actually personally I looked up to it in the mornings during the hassle of collage & then work. but now it has been never ending stupidity!!
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Anita Dubey Oct 20, 2015 02:51pm
This is just a phase, a rather long one though and it shall pass too. The day religion takes a back seat and education becomes paramount for women, Pakistan will be on a path to emancipation.
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Muhammad Majid Oct 20, 2015 02:51pm
All morning shows , ordinary and below average.
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saboohi Oct 20, 2015 02:53pm
These morning shows r total waste of time. These shows potray that women r incomplete without make up and the most important problem on their life is petty issues of in laws or not getting married.
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Sunny Oct 20, 2015 03:05pm
Thats why I switch to PTV World English, that have a decent morning show.
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FH Oct 20, 2015 03:05pm
Though I agree with the author on how these morning shows are mind numbingly stupid and portray a picture of Pakistan I am no more familiar with! However, I do think there is nothing wrong with educating women and MEN on how to loose weight and groom themselves, or learn to cook; it is a skill after all!
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Wahab Oct 20, 2015 03:06pm
Wonderfully written. I just hope people may finally be aware of how easily manipulated they can become.
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Suhail Oct 20, 2015 04:44pm
These morning shows have done nothing but destroyed our true Islamic values. Vulgarity, nonsense and misbehaving is on top. Plus, these shows represent more of an Indian culture then of Pakistani. We sing their songs, we talk about their actors and actress, we dance their dance. Who we really are, what is our identity. May Allah guide us to the right path and have mercy on us.
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Lobo Oct 20, 2015 05:30pm
"Lights, camera, dulhan!" hahahhaahhaha
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saba Oct 20, 2015 06:08pm
our Pakistani women will end up being brain dead if they don't stop these stupid shows. The content is usually not giving any education to these poor housewives. They will eventually spend more of there husbands money on clothes and fair and lovely type of cosmetics. all the beauty tips are about getting fair complexion and being slim.. get out of these stereotypes for God sake..
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algoritmi Oct 20, 2015 06:24pm
@Anita Dubey Dear, religion (Islam) is not a baggage that you can put it in closet. It's a way of life. Only rituals of religion are something that are between you and God. There are are so many other things that religion of Islam teaches like wake up early, speak truth, be trustworthy, kind, humble etc. be clean, learn to brighten your minds, work hard, earn for living, care for others etc. These are all parts of religion and way of life and nothing is difficult to follow.
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Obi kanobi Oct 20, 2015 06:37pm
The ultimate goal for a woman we are told is to land a husband, even for those women studying to become doctors and lawyers. These shows are perfect on how to look good, cook a variety of dishes, loose weight and for those seeking light entertainment in the morning
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Syed Waqar Ali from Toronto Oct 20, 2015 07:24pm
Morning shows in our TV channels should aim at diversifying knowledge of the womenfolk who live within the four walls of their homes. They don't know many things. Majority of them are kay quain kay maindak. Please open the world of knowlege to them. If it can be done, it will be a great service to our women folk.
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just_someone Oct 20, 2015 07:32pm
So these shows started after I left Pakistan (about 13 years ago) but I have watched them maybe like 2-3 times and based on my short viewing, I think this is a bit harsh. Shows like this exist in the US also and they discuss things like fashion, the best new household product, etc. yet no one thinks that women are being made to sit home and learn 'their place' through these shows.. At the same time, I have female cousins in Pak who are well educated and started working after college. These are the same women who were exposed to these shows but werent indoctrinated by them (we arent a rich, affluent family). So again, I think this is harsh. Im sorry to say: In Pak everyone finds a reason to argue for why they are being held back rather than just working to move forward!
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Jawad Oct 20, 2015 09:03pm
I enjoy every morning show that's probably the only good thing after Pakistani dramas in Pakistan where we see women.
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amir Oct 20, 2015 09:27pm
Nothing but fantasies and illusions. Does not represent majority of our women in the society only the elites.
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Mehru Oct 20, 2015 09:38pm
Talk about the shows where they give away motorcycle ,cars and lawn suits,after ridiculing the person,just to add masala to their shows.
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A. Ali Oct 20, 2015 09:48pm
enigma, a mystery if our women really want to live and stay like that... no offense.
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Muhammad Maaz Oct 20, 2015 09:53pm
I don't know what these Morning shows are trying to show our Womens specially the old ones. "How to have a Perfect make up-How to hide all your flaws- How to become the King Kong of Family and specially that famous one"Appnay shoar ko Qabu kasay kiya ja skta hy"!
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Rehan Oct 20, 2015 10:06pm
These morning shows kill brain cells. By far the worst thing on TV right now.
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Educated Muslim Pakistani Woman Oct 20, 2015 10:19pm
@Anita Dubey Where is religion coming from in this discussion? Actually it is that these women do not practice our religion of Islam, that's why they act so irrationally and unnaturally. Our religion is very pragmatic and emphasize on educating all human beings.
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Tehreem Oct 20, 2015 10:51pm
This is so well written. You just expressed everything i have ever wanted to say. Bookmarked. This is a serious and very good peice of writing. Great written expression. And all points are very well raised.
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Gulsher Oct 20, 2015 11:26pm
We bring the bad from West and make it Worst for ourselves. TV culture
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Gulsher Oct 20, 2015 11:27pm
@Educated Muslim Pakistani Woman Agreed.
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Hasan Oct 21, 2015 12:11am
Ahh. .. finally someone breaks the silence against these waste of life (not just time )shows . I never get chance to come across them but I keep hearing from my mom what hideous matter is being shown and discussed in the morning shows . Gone were the days when nadia khan pioneered the idea of a morning from ary dubai with the best doctors dieticians teachers religious scholars, but that too ended up in these "chhichoora pan." May be it's not just about directors and producers of these private channels ,the audience too has an appeal for such poor quality entertainment. Anyway .well written !!!
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Naima Rasheed Oct 21, 2015 02:22am
I totally agree with the author.These morning shows are doing more bad than good to the viewers.The hosts and most prominently Nida is seen convincing the audience that they should look up to the hosts and celebrities who are donned up in designer dresses and wearing heavy make ups and advising you on how you can look equally beautiful in just 500 rupees a month.What a display of stupidity!! Moreover, when it comes to celebrating the marriage of ordinary women from a sanctuary or a shelter house,there is denial of their own lectures and long list of advises. The women who is the bride is dressed in so ordinary dress and there is least effort to make her feel special while the host is again the star of the event.
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naveed Oct 21, 2015 03:12am
these shows are one of the good barriers against the mental and intellectual growth of women in Pakistani society.
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Saadia Adnan Oct 21, 2015 04:58am
Thank you for breaking the silence or rather giving voice to a silenced dialogue which has been existing in many minds over the years as the new industry was taking shape in the guise of morning shows in Pakistan. What good other than shunning the entity of critical thinking in those poor "house wives" who are glue to TV screens to watch these morning shows? For many these morning shows are perhaps the only window to other life and what view is shown to them through this window is very very important. Where this opportunity could have been used for developing their self esteem to help them become better human beings; it is been used to make them believe even lesser than their being; as objects to be played by consumerism; as objects to be manifested and played to please others. These morning shows are opportunities so grand, yet being wasted so pitilessly.
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zafar Oct 21, 2015 05:03am
I stopped my subscription of Pakistani channels because of these shows and lack of any meaningful content. This content is so bad that I sometimes long for the "good old days of PTV"!
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Nafisa Oct 21, 2015 05:12am
#OnceUponATime I used 2 watch morning shows full stop.
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Ahmad Oct 21, 2015 05:24am
I tried to go through the article but your remarks about cooking shows really made me stop. I moved to US about a couple of months ago and if it hadn't been for those cooking shows I'd probably be living off of 2 minutes noodles. Beauty, ma'am, is in the eye of the beholder.
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Omrna Oct 21, 2015 08:06am
Morning shows or Mourning shows ?
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javd Oct 21, 2015 08:38am
@KaKa nonsense content for nonsense viewers
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Mohamad USA Oct 21, 2015 08:50am
These morning shows have no substance. Same rhetorics repeated again & again. Has commercial viability though. . One anchor got into real trouble as the team got carried away with that 'shadi dobara' episode. This will go on as long as the channels make money....
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manzoor Oct 21, 2015 09:09am
but the point is no channel has taken any initiative to change the trend and show something more can keep the same host but the segments can be re-designed for good....
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Farooq anwar Oct 21, 2015 09:29am
Mediocrity at its best in these shows and put very bad impression. Content is very disgusting cheap programs only happens in Pakistan they taken the women by granted.
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anon Oct 21, 2015 09:57am
Everyone knows that commercial t.v caters to lowest common denominator, but before crucifying patriarchy just take a look who runs the show ? Is it a man, are the guest predominantly male ? Can a third wave feminist complete a sentence without uttering patriarchy or misogyny ?
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Saad Siddiqui Oct 21, 2015 10:33am
I completely dislike morning shows, the only show worth watching is hosted by Farah on PTV, because she brings new news and is informative. The private TV channel shows are rubbish, they just want to do mock weddings and dance and laugh uselessly. Nothing informative, nothing innovative. Please someone stop this nonsense .
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M Mahmud Oct 21, 2015 10:52am
So so true... our society need to be educated abt civic sense, e.g. keeping public bathrooms clean, not throwing garbage on the streets, respecting pedestrians while driving, etc. and morning shows can go a long way in educating our masses through the housewives who watch these shows. They can also teach people not to indulge in wasteful expenses and esp women to not gossip and backbite as is rampant in our culture. PEMRA should take steps to start educating our society.... there's a difference in being 'literate" and being "educated"..... it is our duty to stop the moral decay in our society. Every society has different problems, and the media SHOULD target the issues that need attention in ours.
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Ali Abbasi Oct 21, 2015 11:40am
Pakistan's morning shows are perhaps quite literally the worst thing to have ever graced our TV screens in the entirety of the country's history.
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Hassan Oct 21, 2015 11:53am
Mustansar Hussain Tarar actually started the whole concept of morning show and his show was certainly of great standard, like everything else TV morning shows of Pakistan have also deteriorated at super speed, Our country is going in reverse, leave Pakistan, come back after five years, you will see a different country, more bruised, more beaten, more abused, backward and poorer. Off course morning shows are not an exception. You switch the tv channels and see around the same ten face on the gazillion new tv channels of Pakistan. Someone tell us Pakistanis its quality not quantity that realy matters.
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Hameed Ajmal Sheikh Oct 21, 2015 12:05pm
These shows are completely wastage of time for useless women who has nothing else to do or nothing else positive to see.These shows are mostly trying to do show business for women with heavy make up and trying to look younger than their age but in fact it is reverse.
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Aftab Ahmed Oct 21, 2015 12:14pm
Oh me Lord!!! Still!!! People are watching morning shows???
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Javaid Oct 21, 2015 12:18pm
patriarchal society ........ The phrase totally put me off .......... I agree with most of what you said about the morning shows but trust me, do not pollute it a rant on the men for no reason.
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Mubu Oct 21, 2015 12:23pm
A hard hitting article and very important points highlighted. The fact, that education should be the highest priority as allows an opportunity for self-building in order enhance yourself and move towards betterment of life. Also, from beauty salons to bridal dresses. The amount being charged is obnoxious! It is becoming insanely expensive to point that each one should opt for “money printing”, machine. In end, housewives are the most pivotal party of the nation, as they are the ones who are “polishing the diamonds”, of our upcoming generation. Occupying their minds with mindless nonsense is an investment of failure. I believe the 'gharwaalis' should be treated like royalty and recognized each and every day because no one can compensate for what they do towards their families and society on whole.
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illawarrior Oct 21, 2015 12:28pm
@algoritmi Most of those things really have nothing to do with any religion. Even most non believers strive to be honest, truthful, clean, considerate, caring, hard working etc
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ali Oct 21, 2015 12:30pm
@anita dubey religion is education
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illawarrior Oct 21, 2015 12:31pm
As with any TV show, viewing is not compulsory. If you don't like it, don't watch it.
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Hassan Parvez Oct 21, 2015 01:59pm
According to the hosts of these morning shows, all women in Pakistan are only interested in makeup, weddings and cooking. in which century these hosts are living? WOMEN in rest of the world have proven that they are not only as capable as men in every field, in fact they perform better then most men, however these hosts are trying to enforce what the Council of Islamic Ideology is doing that is that the place of a women in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is the kitchen, and giving births to as many babies as her husband wants. Their total interest in life should be pretty dresses, makeup and gossips. The ultimate ambition of a women is to get married. She should not be concerned about any other aspect of life. This is what these hosts are teaching to the women of Pakistan.
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Zohaib Oct 21, 2015 02:31pm
its sad to see the women being so aloof from the issues that affect their communities, their families and their country, and on top of it they proudly proclaim themselves to be apolitical as if that is a commendable stance to have in a society that needs more diverse demographics in politics to bring about social change
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Kinza Hajani Oct 21, 2015 03:07pm
I am not a big fan of morning shows, on the first place because of the fact that the host who is appearing with a facade of an ability to link with women at home, does not belong to the class to which they belong. Those hosts do not belong to anything, or "know" any of the atrocities that these women at home go through which these morning shows pretend to consider. The atmosphere of wedding celebrations they set either for celebrities, or "bechari garib larkia" is too elitist. In the way of these celebrations these morning shows reinforce to those "bechari garib larkia", that yes, you are poor, you cannot afford this lavish celebrations with these celebrities around you, and we care for you thus we are putting little efforts in your way. They just not reinforce, but they also create a desire in rest of poor young girls to have such grand lavish wedding which they cannot afford because of their class. Experiences are not homogeneous to all, but they create a facade of homogeneous experiences, and spread they feeling that "look, we care for you". where they don't. It is because they do not belong to our realities.
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M Oct 21, 2015 04:13pm
@FH true, there is nothing wrong with teaching people these things. But there is a lot wrong with teaching them ONLY that.
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Tayyaba Rana Oct 21, 2015 04:19pm
do not agree that patriarchal society is the reason of all this. the problem is with the women. they do not want to take responsibilities. how they are equal to professionals. dear, they have ample time to watch these shows, that's why they are watching. most of the women just do cooking. all the other jobs are done by the maids. even in middle-class families there is a growing trend of having cooks. in family gatherings if women like us start talking on politics & social issues, we face a lot of displeasure, so have to silent as they only want to talk about movies, dramas and shopping. they boast about the fact that how lucky they are chill at home and having great skins blah blah. stop writing such things as we are already suffering due to these kind of women rights. Alhamdulillah the women you are talking already have "extraordinary" rights. husbands earning, susral out, children in the custody of schools and great life with "morning shows".
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Zeeshan Shah Oct 21, 2015 04:27pm
It's easy to target the hosts, because, essentially that's what you see on the television, right? That is hardly the source of the problem. Who do you think drives the "need" in the collective viewership? The pre-existing, sub-conscious need OR the hosts? (Did the chicken come first or the egg?). Some of the hosts are actually amazing women, with a brilliant intellectual side that is kept in the dark, simply because it is not what the viewers want to see. Viewership drives content. Content does NOT drive viewership (Exceptions aside). So. Blame's on you.
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Abdulla Hussain Oct 21, 2015 04:54pm
The result of the poll speaks a volume, these show are sheer waste of time & insult for the under previlaged.
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Faraz Oct 21, 2015 05:20pm
All morning shows are Garbage... Waste of time and money both...
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timetostopthis Oct 21, 2015 05:32pm
The morning shows are supposed to be for women but most of the people criticising it are men. Don't women have a say on things that concern them? How would men like it if women complained about their sports channels?
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Educated Pakistani Women (Facebook Page) Oct 22, 2015 11:27am
Totally agreed with the writer. Here is the best part from the article: "Thanks to the advent of private channels, our average homemaker has also graduated from knowing only Pakistani or desi Chinese dishes a few years ago, to adding Indonesian and Malaysian cuisine (amongst others) to her résumé. The idea remains the same though: submit to your fate in the kitchen and channelise all effort towards pleasing your 'sasural' (in laws) through swelling their 'tonds' (potbellies)."
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anwar Oct 22, 2015 05:26pm
@zafar very well said and done sir.ptv is the best.
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anwar Oct 22, 2015 05:29pm
@M Mahmud well said sir but pamera website is not working
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anwar Oct 22, 2015 05:30pm
@Tayyaba Rana good one
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Shafiq Nov 06, 2015 08:13am
The poverty of imagination and creativity in Pakistan television is astonishing. The highly paid links and commentator show are invited to the mediocre and the inane. They can have dozens of other topics to educate and entertain the population of the country but they lack that adventurous mind set to explore the issues. Why not show the Punjabi ,how their fellow countrymen in the wilds of Bloachistan live, why not spend time on making a programme about the fisherman's life near Karachi,where at least a majority is living in poverty. What is is wrong about informing the population the extend of the deprivation of the 60percent of our population live. Only ten percent section of the population consumes the lions share of tv time. Where are the programme s to build a nation ? We have seen the emphasis on Mullah culture dominating the media with ever deteriorating consequences in the country. The mass media has failed in its responsibility to educate and show the population the riches of the country as well as the deprivation in the country. Unfortunately this is the country where I have seen the educated and well off so ignorant of the need to feel for their poor brothern. They don't consider poor countrymen their equal. Depraved society with blind leaders unconcerned with the lot of the dispossessed. Shafiq
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