Bannistan: the name that keeps circulating every now and then on social media, because it defines what it means to be a resident of Pakistan.

In an era of inflation, robberies, the never ending rise of lynch mobs and rape cases, rather than looking for ways to encourage joy and laughter, we’ve pointed our pitchforks towards anything and anyone celebrating to their own beat. Whether it is women dancing in the streets, a bride dancing the night away on her wedding, the most simplest forms of affection and love will irk and anger us because after all, the most important rule in the land of Bannistan is to never let joy prevail.

In the darkest times of humanity, it is our films and dramas that have sustained us and provided us with a glimmer of joy. Like when the Covid-19 pandemic shut down our lifestyles, we turned to films and movies to cope with the fear of surviving this deadly disease. Another poignant example is shown in the documentary ‘The Romantics’ when Aditya Chopra recalls how when there were a few weeks left before the release of his rom-com ‘Rab Nay Banadi Jodi’, the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai took place which wrecked destruction and fear across India. Terrified of the anticipated backlash, Chopra narrated how despite many of his colleagues insisting him to push the film’s release forward, he refused. Because as he declared: this was a more critical time than ever that people had a reason to find joy.


Films aren’t just a form of entertainment, but a powerful medium to give solace to those struggling to find joy. It is also a powerful tool that can reach across masses beyond than politicians to spread messages about social issues. In this time more than ever, we need our films to teach empathy and love to their audiences, but the rules are completely opposite in the land of Bannistan. Because here, what gets the most ratings is divorces, crying bahus, slaps, incest and anything that involves fear and oppression.

A scene from a Pakistani drama ‘Tere Bin’ has been going viral since yesterday because it featured a couple sleeping in the same bed together, along with the caption “Censor board is sleeping?” Because in the land of Bannistan, nothing makes us clutch our pearls more than a man and a woman being happy with each other.

Mind you, this is the first time this drama began circulating widely among national discourse for literally a five minute scene where the two are soundly sleeping next to each other, but several other instances of violence depicted in the same drama had not received the same amount of rage. In the last 30 episodes of the same show, we watch a woman being forcibly married to her cousin, placed under house arrest and barred from meeting her foster parents, slapped by her fiance, slapped by her mother in law, tried to commit suicide. Did you ever hear about such scenes? Nope, because this consistent oppression and cruel manner of stamping out joy is what keeps Pakistanis happy. We hate joy. We hate watching women in consensual, happy relationships.
What is a tragedy in this mess is this limited, but moving scene from Tere Bin is just a drop in the thousands of dramas Pakistanis celebrate and champion to promote family values everyday, which are littered with misogynist messages and scenes depicting violence and abuse.

Our censor board sent several notices to ‘Dil Na Umeed Tou Nahi’ because apparently, it is a sin to depict how vulnerable children from lower class families are easy targets for sex trafficking, but a drama like ‘Mere Pass Tum Ho’ get’s a theatrical screening across Pakistan because it shows us for who we really are, a women-hating nation whose biggest nightmare is a woman getting financially independent and wanting a comfortable lifestyle. Any time there has been an attempt to tell moving stories that championed voices of the oppressed, or tried to encourage dialogues about empathy or love, we stamp it out because it’s alien to us. Label them as ‘un-islamic’ and vulgar because we’re a nation of soul suckers, who can’t thrive properly unless we’re watching the misery of others before us.

It’s imperative now more than ever that we re-think the success formulae of our dramas and movies, especially the kind of messages they are sending to their audiences. Because if a five minute scene featuring a brief intimate moment between a couple is enough to create a national storm, what does it reveal about the way men and women view each other in Pakistan. Pakistani women deserve better stories than what Pakistani audiences are providing them. Our younger generation doesn’t deserve to grow up knowing that a happy couple is a sinful couple, but should remember that like Chopra said, it’s essential that in times of tragedy we try to look for ways to uplift each other.