Pakistan at the Oscars

Pakistan at the Oscars

Since the turn of the millennium, we’ve slowly become Hollywood’s most fashionable villains. During the cold war there was always a Russian villain in some Hollywood movie, then during the gulf war it was always an Arab. Now, they largely stem from this region of the world, Afghanistan, Pakistan.



Not just in overtly political films but in action and entertainment movies as well. Pakistan is mentioned in Thor as a place of covert training for rogue intelligence agents. It’s the primary land of antagonism in Iron Man, in fact the villain even speaks a sentence or two in Urdu.



At this year’s Oscars too, that self-congratulatory Hollywood award ceremony, our country was represented on the big screen through an allegedly truthful film depicting the hunt for, and eventually killing of, Osama bin Laden.



The film is called Zero Dark Thirty. The depiction of Pakistan in it is both wrong, factually, and disturbing in the sense that we are all shown as these faceless, gormless, morass of suspicious looking, unreliable people. We are the new evil, people dressed in a Shalwar Kameez and sporting a stubble are now never up to any good.



Sometimes we speak to each other in Arabic, sometimes in Hindi. We all live in rundown places, Islamabad itself looks like a bombed out city from back in the world war days. And there is obviously no indigenous liberal, intellectually driven movement of people reading, writing or even trying to solve any of our problems, of course.



Deceitful, stupid, backwards, in league with the terrorists; that is what you get about Pakistanis from watching American movies these days. The strange thing is, that this not so subtle propaganda, to keep the American public convinced that the extrajudicial killings happening here through drone strikes or special operations are justified, isn’t just consumed by people in the States either.



It’s consumed the world over, even in Pakistan itself. We have a generation of kids growing up now, who’ll see Hollywood films and their own compatriots depicted as traitorous villains in them. That is the true power of an entertainment industry as imperial indoctrination. Convince not just your own people of the other’s character deficiencies, but convince the other of their own shortcomings too.



Ten more years of this and our middle-class and above kids will grow up convinced of our own intrinsic evil, and that the only way to save themselves is to avail that green card option abroad, and say goodbye to this villainous land forever.

Ali Moeen Nawazish

Youth Ambassador, Geo and Jang Group

  • Cromwell Devlin

    Pakistan choose to provide sanctuary for OBL , Mullah Omar and the Taliban. Pakistan is the number one exporter of murder in the world. How would you expect such a society to be portrayed Mr Nawazish ?

  • Jamal

    ..and they still need Pakistan to win the war and if they need then they trust Pakistan. Don’t worry about stereotypes, they are all over the places.

  • Umair Asif

    I dont know why we over looked this film….I think this is a good step u have taken. We should spread words about this propoganda in media and social network etc.

  • ibbi

    We will have to follow the Chinese in this. China cut the MIB 3 scenes because they felt it was portraying the wrong image, Our country has been termed terrorists and this is no small thing.

  • Nur

    This is a really weak article in terms of fleshing out/describing actual scenes from the movie. Having seen the movie, frequently visited Abbottabad and grown up in Rawalpindi+Islamabad, i find the film did justice to Pakistan given the subject matter. It firstly focused on capturing bin Laden which means they had to interrogate people who spoke primarily Arabic. The street scenes were as authentic as I could tell and they did a good job given that they could not film in Pakistan. Frankly I think its delusional of us to think that its unlikely anyone is going to be attacked on the streets, because that is exactly what is going on these days. They also did not accuse Pakistan of protecting bin Laden. In fact they question why the Pakistani govt would even protect such an individual, saying it does not make sense. Do go back to that scene and rewatch Maya’s discussion with her superior. I think their line of questioning gives Pakistan some benefit of the doubt and lays no judgement. I would praise them for showing the Marriot bombing and depicting the losses Pakistan has suffered during this war.

    The two scenes I do have issues with are here:

    1) The protests outside the embassy were for drone strikes and not because of covert CIA operations. They depicted that scene inaccurately.

    2) During the raid the MIddle Eastern looking member of the team started shouting in Arabic at the people approaching OBLs house. This was clearly confusing and shown to be a mistake since no one was listening to him and people continued to approach in the dark. When he start shouting “Go back!” in English, then people turned around and left the scene. But it is unclear why the seal team 6 member was speaking in Arabic in the first place.

  • Syed Taha Hasnain

    Interesting topic. I, too, have been noticing the sheer lack of knowledge about the middleeast, south asia in the North American entertainment media. I was watching season either 1 or 2, of 24 (Emmy-award winning series) and it showed apparently an Arab terrorist with a name REZA (which is an Iranian name/spelling for Arabic Ridha or Urdu Raza) speaking Arabic (really, he was speaking Farsi, and weirdly enough his associates were speaking Arabic–but apparently, in the series, it was the same language).

    Lol, it reminds me of Senator McCain, former US presidential candidate and apparently a foreign relations expert, speaking of hard struggle on “Iraq-Pakistan border”.

    I guess, one thing we have in common with the US is our news media and politicians are more entertaining than our TV series and movies!

  • macroPE

    Because what we Pakistanis are doing now is not shameworthy?!

  • faisal

    What do you expect from the Hollywood? “God’s chosen people” stereotype everyone.

  • Rizwan Shakir

    It is indeed a time to think upon all this happening around us and revisit the decisions that the elite policy makers have taken and don’t have any resemblance to ground realities at all. I think the most important is that YOU set up awareness campaign about this propaganda on mainstream “National” channels, the channels who are also indulged in promoting the other cultures every half an hour or so through news bulletins, Morning shows, Dramas, Cultural Shows, Award Shows etcetera. You must know that the majority of Media channels, including the one you represent (though you may not be an active supporter of this bull shit) are ruining the moral values and culture of this country in the name of Entertainment and for increasing “Ratings”. If our country’s own media is propagating the other countries’s cultural values, it means that our culture is just a piece of shit, nothing else. That’s why they don’t bother to show it often on TV. We should stop complaining about the others because we ourselves, are digging the roots. ALLAH show us the straight path. ALLAH Hafiz.

  • Ali Asim Rizvi

    This is true indeed.
    See the documentary ‘Reel Bad Arab’. Its American but it shows how Hollywood has always portrayed Arabs as bad guys and Arab lands as nothing but deserts.

  • Farrukh Kiani

    Their damage is a National Tragedy, ours is a Collateral Damage. It is not acceptable anymore.


    Zero Dark Thirty is a torture aggrandizing trash of American Exceptionalism, a crypto fascist ideology — it deserved the boot that it got at the Oscars.


    “Deceitful, stupid, backwards, in league with the terrorists; that is
    what you get about Pakistanis from watching American movies these days.”

    Thanks to what happened in Abbas Colony.

  • سواتر ومظلات المديميغ

    Pakistan now face Australia on Sunday.

  • Farooq Hashmi

    Truth is a bitter pill to swallow.and it’s bitterer for many of the Pakistanis.They expect of the outer world to portray their devils as angels.But when the outer world does not come to their expectations, they get infuriated at it. Through painting a dark picture of some Pakistani terrorists in the movie,Zero Dark Thirty,Hollywood has acted counter to Mr.Nawazish’s expectations. hence victim of his wrath.