Catwoman, Wonderwoman, Black Widow — all of them can just back off as Pakistan’s very own super heroine, the Burka Avenger, is all set to save the day. The desi superwoman is a mild-mannered teacher with secret martial art skills, who uses her flowing black burqa to hide her identity and fight thugs seeking to shut down the girls’ school, where she works.
The action-based cartoon, Burka Avenger, is a brainchild of pop singer and former band member of Awaz, Haroon Rashid, and will make its debut on Geo TV in early August. The cartoon is definitely a mirror to our society which suffers at the hands of extremists — those blowing up schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to oppose girls’ education. But limitations only give birth to heroes like Malala Yousafzai and, now, the Burka Avenger.
Haroon asserts that the purpose behind the cartoon is to emphasise the importance of educating girls and also highlight other major issues within the country. “Each one of our episodes is centred on a moral, which sends out strong social messages to kids,” Rashid told The Associated Press in his first interview about the show. “But it is cloaked in pure entertainment, laughter, action and adventure.”
While the West may raise eyebrows over the burka of the Burka Avenger considering it a symbol of oppression, Haroon explicitly states that by no means does it signify a dictatorial custom. Rather the dress was chosen in order to give a more local feel to the show. “It’s not a sign of oppression. She is using the burka to hide her identity like other superheroes,” said Rashid. “Since she is a woman, we could have dressed her up like Catwoman or Wonder Woman, but that probably wouldn’t have worked in Pakistan.”
The Burka Avenger’s true identity is Jiya, whose adopted father, Kabbadi Jan, taught her the karate moves she uses to defeat her enemies. In addition to Jiya, three young kids, twins Immu and Ashu and their best friend Mooli, serve as the show’s other stars. Each of the 13 episodes contains original music by Rashid as well as other popular Pakistani singers including Ali Zafar, Ali Azmat and Josh.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2013.