Film festival at T2F: The Battle for Pakistan

The film touched on the very sensitive subjects of madrassa teaching and the ideology of extremism.

Saadia Qamar May 23, 2011

KARACHI: Do the ideology of religious extremism, and the teachings at various madrassas across the country truly converge at some point? A thin line separates the two, but a closer look needs to be taken. This was beautifully brought forward through a film screening on the evening of May 20, at the Travelling Film South Asia festival at the T2F.

Directed by Maheen Zia and produced by Tehmina Ahmed, the 40 minute long film called The Battle for Pakistan threw light on the various aspects of madrassa teaching. Said Zia: “We tried to narrow down the concept, and based it more on the reforms in madrassas and their educational curriculum.”

The film touched the very sensitive subject, with forceful divulgence from clerics and bureaucrats holding powerful positions. The film also showed the point of view of the religio-political parties based here in the country and what each has to say about extremism, its birth in the land of the pure, to the proxy fought on our soil and various other indigenous factors responsible for creating the monster called Extremism in our midst.

“Four years ago, when we made the film, it was a great learning experience for us. We travelled to various other areas and felt that we ourselves got our own prejudices examined,” said Ahmed.

Zia said that making the film was a huge task. “People had reservations, as we talked to them on this subject.” Although stating quite frankly that nothing shocked her on her visits to the madrassas, Zia also noted: “I was surprised by the use of technology. Young children in one such madrassa would use microphones and reply to a teacher’s query, who was sitting in the other room. It seemed more of a helpless situation than a hopeful one.”

Zia further told the audience that as people had reservations in meeting them, they would then venture out “wearing big chaddars, to shoot this film”.

About their observations about the small children in the madrassas, Ahmed believed: “Most children in the madrassa came to Karachi from up north.” But was it poverty that forced the parents to part with their young ones? This remains a question that neither of the two could answer accurately.

As to sticking to the theme of reforms in madrassas, Zia said: “After the 9/11 episode, President Musharraf took a stand  to bring about reforms in the madrassas. The clerics didn't want these madrassas to be reformed, but they had to take the reforms into account after sometime. Hence, the film is based on those lines.”

Interesting films from across South Asia were screened at the film festival at T2F.


bilal | 11 years ago | Reply An important piece of work. The issue of madrassah and education reform should be a major priority of the government. How can there not be oversight from the federal government? How can these madrassahs not adhere to some general curriculum and be accountable for what they teach? There is no doubt there are many religious seminaries preaching hate and indoctrinating youth with a jihadi mentality. It may not be the majority of madrasahs, but there are many out there. Those dangerous schools need to be reformed, or alternatively, shut down. This is an existential threat to Pakistan.
Sydel Crossley | 11 years ago | Reply I've watched the film The Battle for Pakistan. It was worth watching.... Great job Maheen & Tehmina....
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