While Pakistan’s powerful urban elites (military establishment and their affiliates in socio-economically advantaged families of Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad) are celebrating Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s Academy Award for her documentary about acid attack victims in Pakistan, ordinary Pakistanis have a different view.
Pakistani filmmaker and first-time Oscar nominee Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy won an Academy Award on Monday 27 Feb 2012 for her documentary about acid attack victims, a first for a Pakistani director. According to her fans “Her victory shines a spotlight on a subject which affects thousands of women in Pakistan and elsewhere, but is seldom discussed at home.” Chinoy dedicated the award to the women of Pakistan. The women’s “bravery and resilience in the face of adversity inspires me every single day,” she said. “They are the true heroes of Pakistan.” (Source).
In Pakistan’s social media (facebook, Twitter etc), there is a race within urban elites and their aspirant, middle class paraphernalia to congratulate Sharmeen and eulogize her imaginary services to Pakistan and humanity.
However, for majority of ordinary Pakistanis, Sharmeen and her Oscar do not mean much. While at Karachi Grammar School and later at Smith College and Stanford University, Sharmeen was able to cultivate her elitist links with powerful lobbies in the US media including but not limited to the Saudi-Ikhwan mouthpiece Al Jazeera, US mouthpiece CNN etc. At the same time, she further reinforced her connections with Pakistan’s military establishment and is also known to have worked with Pakistan army’s pubic relations wing.
Sharmeen is known in Pakistan for a few things:
1. She is a part of an urban elites group (other members include Najam Sethi, Mosharraf Zaidi, Sherry Rehman etc) which remains socio-economically affiliated with and dependent on Pakistan’s military establishment. It is the same group which remains completely silent on Pakistan army’s kill and dump policy against innocent Baloch civilians.
2. She is a part of a powerful mafia in Pakistani and international media which has maintained consistent silence on the systematic and ongoing target killings of three most suffered groups in Pakistan: Shia Muslims, Balochs and Pashtuns. Nor has she paid any attention at all to Ahmadi Muslims, Pakistan’s most persecuted faith group. In fact on more than one occasions she refused to make even a tiny documentary on the suffering of Shias, Pashtuns and Balochs on the pretext that she did not want to annoy Pakistan army.
3. She is known for choosing topics which are no more than minor irritants for Pakistan’s military establishment (e.g., acid attacks on women), yet she fails to write on topics which might hurt Pakistan army’s real interests, e.g., sufferings of Shia, Baloch and Pashtun women whose dear and near ones were kidnapped or target killed by Pakistan army and its various proxies. Her choice of topics is driven by sexy appeal for west, commercial oriented agendas, instead of paying attention to urgent human rights crises in Pakistan.
4. It’s interesting to see urban elites of Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad celebrating someone who used Shame Pakistan campaign in 2011 (on Twitter) only because she got stuck in traffic in Lahore.
5. Elitist show off: When asked about her dress before the Oscar ceremony, Ms. Obaid-Chinoy said, “I am wearing Bunto Kazmi for the ceremony and will be wearing Sana Safinaz and Saniya Maskatiya for Oscar-related events. My jewellery will be done by Kiran Aman of Kiran Fine Jewellery and Sherezad Rahimtoola of Labels. (Source)
6. Read this article published in Pakistan Today: “none of Chinoy’s documentaries has been screened by any Pakistani channel on account of costly fees demanded by foreign channels”
That explains the real aim of Sharmeen and other similar elite film makers. If her aim was to create awareness and reform within Pakistani society, she would have made her documentaries in Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi etc and released them at nominal fee to local TV /cinema circuit. But that was never their real aim. They sell Pakistani women’s miseries to foreign audience to augment their personal wealth and fame.
Compare Sharmeen Chinoy’s made for English speaking audience movie to Iranian Oscar-award winner movie (A Separation) which was made in Farsi (Persian) and was made available to Iranian domestic viewers. The content (language) and intent of two movies are so different.
7. Here is a statistical evidence. According to Sharmeen, more than 100 people, mainly women and girls, are disfigured in acid attacks every year in Pakistan. Now compare it with the magnitude of other more urgent and intense sufferings ignored by Sharmeen. In the last 57 days alone (from 1 Jan to 27 Feb 2012), at least 112 Shia Muslims have been killed and more than 118 injured or maimed in various attacks across Pakistan by Pakistan army-sponsored Jihadi-sectarian militants. Dozens of Pashtuns and Balochs have been killed in the same period. Thousands of Shias have been killed since late 1970s due to Pakistan army’s support to Saudi-funded Jihadi-sectarian groups. However, this topic (genocides of Shias, Pashtuns, Balochs by Pakistan army and proxies) is not sexy enough for Sharmeen whose interest in human rights and people’s sufferings remains as selective and shallow as that of other members of Pakistan’s urban elites.
8. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy has been tasked by Pakistan’s military establishment to promote ISI’s new puppet Imran Khan in Pakistan’s political scene. Sharmeen is often seen visibly and also behind the scene promoting Imran Khan and his political party (PTI, which is known for links with Jihadi-sectarian groups such as Jamaat Islami, SSSP-ASWJ and Difa-e-Pakistan Council DPC). Sharmeen was seen clearly promoting Imran Khan’s rally in Lahore in October 2011, exaggerating the intensity and impact of the ISI-manufactured rally. For example, this is what Sharmeen wrote on Twitter on 30 Oct 2011 as a running commentary on PTI rally:
sharmeenochinoy Sharmeen Obaid
The numbers are impressive- people still believe in the system and democracy! Thank you #PTIjalsa –
Along with another right-wing PTI propagandist Dr. Awab Alvi (of Teeth Maestro blog), Sharmeen is a co-organizer of TEDxKarachi, an elitist organization for commercial exploitation of ideas, which is also used for mutual congratulations and promotion. Sharmeen invited Imran Khan as Chief Guest on 27 May 2011 in the TEDx Karachi event in which Imran Khan used vilest language against leaders of two most popular political parties, PPP and PML-N. In one of such events, Imran Khan also termed President Zardari as worse than a dog, a comment which was much appreciated by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy.
9. Sharmeen is known to have intense hatred of non-elite segments of Pakistani society except when she has to sell their stories and pictures to earn fame and money in elitist circles in Pakistan and abroad. Otherwise, her hatred of Sindhis, Balochs, Pashtuns, Shias etc is commonly known. For example, two years ago, she organized a so called cultural festival in Karachi (in April 2009) in which she displayed an insulting picture of the Daughter of the East, Daughter of Sindh, Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. People of Pakistan, particularly Sindhi political activists, were legitimately insulted by such offensive picture, their protest was misrepresented by Sharmeen and her affiliates in the PTI-JI duo. For example, PTI propagandist Awab Alvi published an entire blog on how PPP workers had attacked Sharmeen and a great arts festival. Here is the insulting picture (showing Shaheed BB sitting in General Zia-ul-Haq’s lap) which was sponsored by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.