Pakistani TV cameras slowly start rolling again with new coronavirus guidelines 

This photograph taken on October 18, 2017, shows Pakistani actress Fatiam Shah Jeelani (C) and actor Imran Ashraf filming the drama serial 'Mein Maa Nahi Banna Chahti' (I Don't Want To Become A Mother) in Karachi. (AFP)
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Updated 04 July 2020

Pakistani TV cameras slowly start rolling again with new coronavirus guidelines 

  • Pandemic has hugely disrupted the entertainment industry worldwide and many popular television shows have had to suspend production
  • Heads of major Pakistani networks say production has slowly resumed since June with strict coronavirus safeguards in place

KARACHI: Heads of major TV networks have said they have resumed, or plan to soon resume, shooting new projects after filming was largely halted in mid-March to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The pandemic has hugely disrupted the entertainment industry worldwide and many popular television shows have had to suspend production.

In Pakistan, too, production of new TV shows was halted around March, and major networks have since shown reruns of old shows or used content that had been shot before the pandemic began.

The shooting of several on-air series, like Sabaat, Meherposh, Kashf and Raaz e Ulfat, was not yet wrapped up when the pandemic hit in March. Similarly, Hum TV’s Ramazan-special series featuring Osman Khalid Butt, Mira Sethi and Youtuber Arslan Naseer did not air because the shoot was incomplete.

Since June, however, heads of major networks say production was slowly resuming with extensive coronavirus testing, daily symptom checks and other safeguards in place to allow actors and crew members to safely return to work.

Sultana Siddiqui, President of Hum TV, told Arab News that given that more people were indoors due to the coronavirus and thus had more time to watch TV, her network was planning to resume production on a smaller scale, with fewer people on set and social distancing measures in place. 

Jarjees Seja, the CEO of ARY Digital, said many of the network’s shoots had to be pushed forward because the artists had been infected with the coronavirus.

One such serial was the on-air ‘Mera Dil Mera Dushman,’ whose shooting had to be halted as the lead actor Yasir Nawaz contracted COVID-19. Shooting had resumed since mid June, Seja said, though he admitted that new safety measures would mean slower productions and less TV shows.

 “The criteria of planning, production and results would be entirely different from the previous one,” he said.

He declined to give a figure for losses faced by the drama industry or his channel but said ARY’s losses were less than the network had estimated.

Geo Entertainment Managing Director Shadab Tayyab said the network had only resumed 20-25 percent of its shoots, adding that actors were suffering the most.

“The established actors are safe for a while but the emerging actors will be in a difficult situation if they don’t get work for a longer period,” he said.

TV One’s Seema Tahir said fresh production had started at a “slow pace” but would pick up properly after August or September with strict coronavirus-related guidelines to ensure the safety of actors and crew.

She said the pandemic would require networks and production houses to undergo a “paradigm shift” in the story lines they pursued, and fewer productions would be the new reality.

“In this new setup, if we have to work with fewer locations and cast, the story lines of present day dramas would become irrelevant,” Tahir said. “If in real life, we will no longer be doing big events like wedding functions, it would be inappropriate to show them in dramas.”

Pakistan’s new 'political map' projects decades-old position on Kashmir, experts say

Updated 05 August 2020

Pakistan’s new 'political map' projects decades-old position on Kashmir, experts say

  • Maps are not without significance in international law and global litigation over territorial disputes, top legal expert says
  • Opposition urges government to circulate map among all embassies and international forums to convey official position on disputed territory

ISLAMABAD: The government of Pakistan has exercised its executive authority by formally laying claim to the disputed Himalayan territory of Jammu and Kashmir in a new political map, experts said on Wednesday, adding that the move was in line with the country’s decades-old position on Kashmir since it had always maintained that the region was illegally occupied by India.
Prime Minister Imran Khan unveiled Pakistan’s new map on Tuesday, showing the entire area of Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan as its territory. The decision was made in response to a similar step taken by India which released its own political map in October last year depicting Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, both territories governed by Pakistan, as being part of India.
The Muslim majority Himalayan valley of Kashmir remains disputed between the two South Asian neighbors since 1947. Both claim it in full but rule only parts of it. Both countries have also fought at least two full-scale wars over the territory, making the world community describe the region as a potential nuclear flashpoint.
Last year, India revoked the special status of the disputed Himalayan region’s autonomy.
“By issuing this map, Pakistan has exercised its executive authority to document its position regarding its territorial dispute with India,” Ahmer Bilal Soofi, a top Pakistani expert of international law, told Arab News.
He said that Pakistan’s action was well within the framework of international law and in keeping with the relevant United Nations resolutions promising plebiscite in the region.
“Pakistan has also reiterated its stance [through the map] that India’s illegal annexation of occupied Kashmir through last year’s presidential decree is not recognized by it,” he said, adding that territorial claims over disputed regions could be exercised through legislation, executive action and judicial pronouncements.
“Pakistan’s decision to use the executive authority in this case may also be followed by its legislative action,” he said.
Soofi said the new map would help Pakistan contest its case over Kashmir at international forums, including the UN.
“Maps are not without sanctity and significance in international law and global litigation over territorial disputes,” he said.
Pakistan’s foreign office said the new map was “essential for firmly rejecting the political map issued by India” last year, adding that New Delhi had made “false territorial claims on Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.”
“The political map emphatically reasserts Pakistan’s stated position [on Kashmir],” Aisha Farooqui, the foreign office spokesperson, told Arab News.
“Pakistan’s consistent stance on Jammu and Kashmir, anchored in the United Nations Security Council resolutions stipulating that the accession of the state will be through a UN-supervised plebiscite, is further reinforced as the map reaffirms this position,” she said.
The country’s largest opposition party in parliament, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), also endorsed the new map while urging the government to utilize all international avenues to get the dispute resolved peacefully.
“The government should clarify if it will be using the same map at international forums like the UN, or is it just for domestic consumption,” Muhammad Zubair, former governor of Sindh province and a senior PML-N leader, told Arab News.
He said that Pakistan should circulate the new map among all the embassies and international forums to tell the world about its position on the disputed territory. “The new map will be useless if it is only for optics,” Zubair said. “Let’s see how the government proceeds ahead with it.”
Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, an Islamabad-based academic and expert in international relations, termed Pakistan’s decision to unveil the new map a “wise move.”
“This is a complete map of Pakistan showing our rightful claim over the disputed Kashmir region,” he said, “though it only seems to be for domestic consumption at the moment.”