A summary of Ertugrul's impact on Pakistan

A summary of Ertugrul's impact on Pakistan

From smashing records on Youtube to the celebrities' concerns for the local industry, here's what's gone down since Pakistan fell in love with the Turkish drama.
Updated 26 May, 2020

Dubbed the Muslim Game of Thrones, a drama about the makings of the Ottoman Empire has sent Pakistan wild this Ramadan, smashing television records but exposing the country's lack of original content.

The Turkish-made series has earned praise for its focus on historical figures from the Muslim world who have been framed as role models for Pakistani youths, and the Urdu-language version of the show has racked up more than 240 million views on YouTube alone.

"I prefer to watch it with kids, so they can have real-life superheroes instead of fictional ones," said Hassam Mustafa as he settled down at his Islamabad home to watch the series with his nieces and nephews after breaking his fast.

Resurrection: Ertugrul has gripped audiences with its daring protagonist, cliffhangers and high production values since it began broadcasting on the first day of the Islamic holy month, which is due to end Sunday or Monday.

Resurrection: Ertugrul has proved a smash hit in Pakistan -   AFP / Aamir Qureshi
Resurrection: Ertugrul has proved a smash hit in Pakistan - AFP / Aamir Qureshi

Usually state broadcaster PTV fills its Ramadan programming with live charity fundraisers, quiz shows and religious content.

But with the virus stifling television studios, Prime Minister Imran Khan issued special instructions to the broadcaster to air the series in a bid to boost Islamic culture and values among young people.

"Over here, we go to Hollywood then Bollywood and back again -- third-hand culture gets promoted this way," Khan told a group of YouTubers recently, referring to the influence of foreign shows.

The five-season series tells the story of Ertugrul, the father of Osman I who founded the Ottoman Empire, which ruled parts of Europe, Western Asia and North Africa for more than 600 years.

"The response has been incredible, it's really great to see how the show is resonating with Urdu speakers around the world," said Riyaad Minty, digital director of TRT, which produced the series.

PTV said viewership has been unprecedented, with the drama fetching ratings five times higher than average.

'Cheap re-run'

Featuring heartthrob heroes, westernised heroines and picturesque scenery, dozens of Turkish soap operas have made it onto Pakistani television channels since 2012.

But a dependence on imported content is a source of frustration for some Pakistani artists, producers and directors who bemoan prime-time slots being given to a foreign show.

PTV once used to produce the subcontinent's best soap operas but has suffered in the face of rising competition from private channels.

"It is a good opportunity for PTV management to look at themselves, shake their conscience and wonder how they are unable to produce a prime-time drama," Aehsun Talish, a Pakistani drama producer, told AFP.

The channel has profited from advertising breaks during the broadcasts but experts warn it is on shaky ground.

"It's a cheap re-run, a temporary filling. If we truly want PTV's revival we will have to bank on local talent," Samina Ahmad, a veteran television actress, told AFP.

Turkish soft power

Turkish television has become a major vehicle of soft power, with viewers in the Muslim world becoming voracious consumers of the country's soaps.

A Pakistani family enjoys the show Resurrection: Ertugrul in the capital Islamabad- AFP / Aamir Qureshi
A Pakistani family enjoys the show Resurrection: Ertugrul in the capital Islamabad- AFP / Aamir Qureshi

Resurrection: Ertugrul is another strategic asset for Turkey, said South Asia analyst Michael Kugelman from the Wilson Center think tank.

"There's strong backing among many in Pakistan for pan-Muslim solidarity, which translates in many cases to support for strong Muslim leaders from Malaysia to Turkey and many places in between," he said.

Turkey has backed Pakistan on the international stage, particularly in the dispute with New Delhi over Kashmir, and the two nations have enjoyed strong relations.

Egypt, however, fearing Turkey holds a desire to revive the Ottoman Empire and rule the Arab Muslim world, quickly issued an Islamic legal ruling against the hit show.

Saudi Arabia stopped its state broadcaster from airing all Turkish soap operas in 2018.

But Pakistan is set for more Turkish dramas, with the prime minister already lining up another show for screening.

At Mustafa's home, his nieces and nephews follow the Turk leader's sword battles with excitement in Resurrection: Ertugrul.

"This historical Turkish drama has provided us with a nice escape from stereotypical Pakistani dramas, which always centre on the affairs of 'saas-bahu'," he said, referring to relationships between controlling mothers and their daughters-in-law.


Pakman May 24, 2020 03:04pm
One of the best production makes Muslims and Turks proud.
Laila May 24, 2020 03:05pm
I think it's excellent, we can watch shows like Ertugrul, which are informative and learning. We need it, as our dramas are more like soap operas with the same old saas bahu domestic issues. But it's sad, that some of us feel the need to now claim Turkish heritage, history and lineage as our own. There is no blood or cultural ties to Pakistan and that is OK. We have our own vibrant culture and lineage and we should not try to white wash that or denounce it. Instead we should embrace it and learn from Ertrugrul positive messages like strong active people empowered female characters, morality and how to make entertaining yet informative shows. Enjoy the show but don't claim it. Eid Mubarek to all. And my condolences to those left behind after the recent plane accident. You are in my prayers and thoughts.
Aws May 24, 2020 03:19pm
We soon become Bollywood free, very very happy on that. It is not our culture, we don’t resemble them, we are tall,fair and Muslim, our culture is totally different to theirs
karachitee May 24, 2020 03:29pm
Saas baho, marriage divorce, or magic these are the topics of our drama industry.1970-1990s dramas was much better in content than today's. Rating in private channels destroyed this whole drama industry. Veteran artist should say No to these type of dramas rather than criticizing others. For Pakistani audience we don't have choice to switch to other channels because same content with different character being played on other channel.
kp May 24, 2020 04:48pm
Only that few pakistani starts thinking may be they are Turkish. Nothing but Identity Crisis
Abdali Durrani May 24, 2020 05:15pm
It's far superior to the Game of Throne. This TV serial is awe-inspiring and teaches us values that has deep routes in our religion and culture.
Reality May 24, 2020 06:02pm
I removed that in early 1980s Pakistani soap operas were popular in a large section of Indian viewers. Then Indian soaps became better (still pot pourri of Saas bahu but technical Cally better). Then there was no viewership for Pakistani serials which apparently were left behind. Guess Islamic world especially Pakistan is desperately seeking positive identity.
ABCD May 24, 2020 06:11pm
Ertugrul is a game changer. Every patriotic Pakistani must watch it during Eid.
sid May 24, 2020 06:19pm
The majority of Pakistani dramas are based on family issues which people are all too well accustomed to already. Ertugrul takes audiences away from their current realities and into an era where good triumphs over bad. Hint Hint
Abdullah May 24, 2020 06:42pm
Pakistan was know for original dramas, alas, now Pakistan has neither world class dramas nor film industry. Art is officially dead in Islamic republic of Pakistan. The future generations will be brought up on a diet of imported dubbed content in the name of shared Islamic values sold and off as entertainment.
Sachin May 24, 2020 07:38pm
From Al-Pakistan to turk Pakistan?
Ashok May 24, 2020 10:21pm
Pakistani producers should take the excellent level of drama quality of Ertugrul and make similar ones. The 'saas-bhau', ones will always be popular but now we should look for export quality dramas like the Turkish ones. Don't fear them but out perform them. Then our dramas will be seen in Turkey.
Vijay May 24, 2020 10:27pm
@ABCD Pakistan is now claiming Turkish heritage?
Faiz May 24, 2020 11:28pm
Was it about Muslim history or Turkish history?
hussain May 25, 2020 01:55am
could you please stop comparing Ertugrul with game of thrones. Ertugrul is based around the real character, ofcourse much of it is fictionalised, my comparing the two I believe it demeans the story of Ertugrul.
ukasha rajpoot May 25, 2020 06:33am
Good piece of work, indeed. Good thing is to switch our people from those typical dramas with the same old boring problems. Bad thing is, its not our culture and we are different people with different backgrounds. Another aspect of these trukish shows in particular is their political white wash, which in fact conceals a lot of stuff, which from a neutral turkish perspective is very damaging. That's the only reason arabs don't want to see any turkish show at all. Well the global village is not all that village indeed.
manzer May 25, 2020 07:42am
This is a great drama, another great drama by the same creator is Yunus Emre. It is amazing how the same person has created 2 very different, yet both excellent, dramas. There are no sword fights in Yunus Emre and the whole drama revolves around a Sufi and his khanqah.
jaredlee007 May 25, 2020 10:15am
I am ENJOYING watching Ertugrul series. It is enhancing my knowledge.
Random Indian May 25, 2020 11:11am
New parentages being discovered!
SATT May 25, 2020 01:06pm
Now Pakistanis will start naming their children Ertugrul.
Saira May 25, 2020 03:21pm
@Laila I totally agree with you, but we can not undermine that there is actually a deep cultural and blood relation as well. Apart from the Mughals who were central asian Turks there are also many other influences from this region. If you travel to Turkey and central Asia the cultural and historical influence is very evident also on the optic level.
Ashutosh May 25, 2020 03:22pm
Now Pakistani see themselves as descendants of Great Turks instead of Greak Arabs !
Yamin khan May 25, 2020 04:59pm
Imports are not bad if they benefit the country and its people... we(PTv) can earn huge money from YouTube by which it can pay salaries of its employees.... BURDEN REDUCTION ON NATIONAL EXCHEQUER...... Pak artists lack the capability to produce such shows...
Indian May 25, 2020 07:28pm
Since when Turkish movie industry added under Pakistani movie industry? Make your own to be prod of!
Babar Hussain May 26, 2020 10:21am
It is an excellent opportunity for the "local" talent to learn and for PTV to enchance its viewership as well. We somehow get threathened by anything that is better than what we can produce. There is no identity crises, its simply that people like the Turkish drama becasue of its production value.
Pedro Sam May 27, 2020 12:01am
@Aws - Racist comment. Tall fair Muslim.
Trollslayer May 27, 2020 12:30am
@Saira Mughals were Uzbeks not Turks. IndoPak Muslims have as much in common with Turks as they do with British imperialists.
sultan May 27, 2020 12:49am
Turkish always had global ambitions to take over the Islamic world...
omer khan shaheen May 27, 2020 02:42am
Great choice PTV, for showing us a culturally and religiously familiar drama that we can connect to. Keep it up.
Alya Aziz Mughal May 27, 2020 01:56pm
@Saira I would like to disagree.. Mughals were Turko Mongols and they were inspired more by Persian Culture which was dominant in central asia at that time. Turkey is a very different country
Laila May 27, 2020 02:47pm
@Saira I respectfully disagree with you about the blood impact, dear. Scientific fact. I know Turks and dont see any similarities between our cultures or looks. Neither do they. Even our practise of islam is different style. Turkey is secular. You've mixed Turkic and Turkish with each other. Can you specify cultural similarities? We also had other empires incl hindu, colonial Britain. Yet we dont claim them. Empires ruled, they didn't all go out and mixing with the locals and change the ethnic makeup. If you do a DNA test, you will find predominantly South Asian heritage. Not Central or Western Asian. If you look up Mongolian (mughal) or any of the Central Asian people, we don't look like them. Generally speaking, as exceptions always exist, but exceptions don't make the rule. You'll be surprised, if you study history and genealogy. Our language, food, dress are all closely tied to next door India. There is no denying facts. We are South Asian, not Central or West Asian, dear Saira.
Laila May 27, 2020 03:00pm
@ukasha rajpoot the reasons SOME Arabs don't wants to see is political. Egypt has issued a ban and I believe Saudi Arabia has too? Because Egypt and KSA fear that this drama is Erdogans way of trying to revive the Ottoman empire. So yes political and most historical shows are biased, whether it's about crusaders or Salahuddin or whatever. Turkey is a very nationalist country and Erdogan has his own agenda. I think its still beneficial to watch such shows but at the same time also study history books and facts to get a more accurate picture.
Shakeel Ahmad May 27, 2020 09:01pm
The best show filled action, historical facts, and great depiction of Muslim values.