Is Abb Tak's Uzma Tahir the new Maya Khan?

I’ve had more than my fill of self-righteous, masala journalism that attacks the poor, minorities.

Faraz Talat December 24, 2013
There’s a new trend catching on - TV aunties raiding your homes with their camera crews and demanding to know who you’re sharing your apartment with.

Say ‘cheese’, Pakistan!

Uzma Tahir is a woman on a mission. The host of the program ‘Khufia on Abb Tak, takes in a deep breath and valiantly nose-dives into Karachi’s sordid core where men dress like women. It’s an exhaustive, but fruitful, day’s work of ramming her microphone into people’s faces and inquiring,
“Ap Naila ke saath kab se hein? Tumhein pata hai ke who kaun hai? Khuwaja sera? Mujhe toh pata hai yeh khuwaja sera hai”

(How long have you been with Naila for? Do you know who she is? A transgender? I know she’s a transgender)

Two-thirds of the way through the episode, she confesses her desire to stop. But nay! She wants Pakistani parents to see what the people do in the privacy of their homes, so they may better educate their own children against these ills.

First lesson for you kids, no trash-TV!

Well, I happen to be an adult. So I cringed, closed one eye, held my tablet computer at an arm’s length from my face and cautiously pressed the ‘play’ button. As I did, I deservedly exposed myself to a hurricane of jaw-dropping ignorance, head-dizzying sensationalism and ear-splitting apocalyptic music.

Displaying, with pride, a complete lack of understanding of transvestism, gender identity disorder and homosexuality (not to mention mental health and AIDS), Uzma and her team embark on a mission to cleanse Karachi’s shadowy underbelly.

Knock, knock.
“Who’s there?”


The show is replete with footage of transgender people and those around them being mocked and manhandled, exposed on camera against their will, associated with homosexual prostitution and told that effeminate behaviour is evidence of a person not being straight.

At one point when her prey claims to be receiving therapy for a psychiatric disorder, she snaps,
 “Yeh kaunsa pagal hota hai joh dimagi halat kharab ho toh khud bata raha hota hai? Usse pata hai ke mere saath yeh problem chal raha hai? Pehli baat toh tum yahin se ghalat ho”

(What kind of a mentally ill person reveals himself that he is a mentally ill person? That he knows that he has an ongoing problem? Firstly, you’re already wrong from now)

I wonder, does Uzma know that there is more than one kind of psychiatric disorders? And that people suffering from them aren’t always unaware of their conditions?

I, for instance, suffer from mixed anxiety-depressive disorder (watching this episode didn’t help) and am painfully aware of this condition. So there you go - another ‘pagal’ telling you he’s a ‘pagal’.

Weird, right?

And I thank Uzma, among the long list of things I need to thank her for, for her role in perpetuating stigma and ignorance surrounding psychiatric disorders.

Are the viewers concerned about the ethics of this chappa (raid) culture? The show attempts to win your approval by supplementing it with two ideas:

1) The private activities of these citizens directly affect you. Yes, you, reading this blog - you and your children, personally.

2)  The TV raids are worth it, if they occasionally lead to the arrest of people engaged in criminal acts like prostitution.

The first idea is pushed by repeatedly cautioning the viewers about how these ‘degenerates’ are spreading AIDS through the population.

Coming up next - Uzma Tahir raids a local mithai (sweets) store and yells at the owner for spreading diabetes. Because this is truly a health concern and not moral outrage dressed in scientific half-truths.

The second idea is used to attain the public’s silent consent while violating their privacy with utter impunity.

The minds responsible for unleashing Maya Khan and other morality brigades upon our people, do so with the assurance that nobody would dare question their methods out of fear of being labelled an apologist for homosexuals and perverts.

The proponents of such shows believe that they’re taking a stance against immoral sexual behaviour. Instead, they’re signing an agreement to allow aunties armed with cameras to barge into their homes and usurp control of their personal lives in the greater interest of morality (or their brand of it), and then have you arrested for whatever they suspect you are doing.

But the rich and rich-enoughs needn’t worry.

These programs prey exclusively on those who are too poor to afford a small legion of security guards and lawyers or too meek to comprehend how awfully they’re being treated.

Pull off this stunt at a villa in Defence, Karachi and colour me impressed!

Why not give the demonised transgender community a break and go peddle these moral lessons to an industrialist or high-ranking military officer’s home. It’d be a fun change haranguing a social class that actually has teeth to bite back.

I cannot speak for all TV viewers but I’ve had more than my fill of self-righteous, masala journalism that misconstrues private citizens’ bedroom activities for national news. I reckon it’s safe to change the channel.

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Faraz Talat

The writer is a doctor based in Rawalpindi and writes about current affairs and societal issues.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Asma | 10 years ago | Reply I believe there are few people who really need such treatment, but as far as this particular case is concern the channel is only interested in selling MASALA. Certainly, none of us hold any such right to interfere in someone's private life unless it is effecting other people and promoting unethical behavior.
Erfan | 10 years ago | Reply @Bilal: well said bilal
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