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I hate early morning flights so when I received the invitation to attend a special screening of the last episode of blockbuster drama serial Sinf-e-Aahan at the ISPR – along with information that I’d need to fly from Karachi to Islamabad at 7am that too on the third day of Eid – I did what any sane person would do: I politely declined to attend.

The kind folks at ISPR though were more accommodating than I had imagined them to be and were quick to change my flight to 1pm so I also relented. Little did I know what was to follow were the most eventful 24 hours I have spent in Islamabad/Pindi.

Joining me on the 1pm flight was the lead cast of Sinf-e-Aahan including Kubra Khan, Yumna Zaidi, Syra Yousaf, Dananeer Mobeen and excluding Sajal Aly and Ramsha Khan, who were unable to travel due to some personal commitments, producers Samina Humayun Saeed & Sana Shahnawaz, director Nadeem Baig and surprise guests Mahira Khan and Bilal Ashraf; who too were invited by the ISPR in recognition of their outstanding work in Aik Hai Nigar. In case you didn’t know or haven’t understood by now, both Sinf-e-Aahan and Aik Hai Nigar have been co-produced by ISPR and this event we were invited to was essentially being held to honour the teams of both these projects.

With team Sinf-e-Aahan before boarding the plane

So, Mahira and I seem to share a similar trait. Inadvertently… or maybe advertently I am always late at the check-in counter and so was Mahira that day. Which meant both of us were seated at the tail end of the plane, right below the tail it felt, with Mahira seated right behind me.

I must say though, what a star but without an iota of the usual antics of a star. If you were on that flight you’d be so pleased to see Mahira intently chatting with fellow passengers, obliging them and even the flight attendants with selfies and overall just spreading smiles and happiness. So utterly sweet!

Anyway, we land in Islamabad, I rush to PC, check in, change and exactly 10 minutes after entering the hotel I leave for the first big meeting of the day. A one-on-one, OK no, three-on-one meeting with DG ISPR Major General Babar Iftikhar at his office (with a fantastic view) in the ISPR building in GHQ. You’ve got to admit, it’s pretty cool that the DG was open to the idea of meeting us – me and three of my other colleagues – all of whom run digital entertainment/fashion portals.

“People say what’s the ISPR got to do with TV/film productions or making songs; isn’t it merely supposed to relay information on the army’s behalf?” he says addressing what I thought would be the first question I’d ask after we settled down except he dived into it before I could even bring it up.

“It’s part of strat-com – strategic communication – which essentially means engaging all forms of media platforms, traditional as well as untraditional to counter propaganda and false information. Sometimes messaging that’s done in a more subtle manner and wrapped in entertainment is far more impactful and fruitful,” he added.

A picture with DG ISPR Major General Babar Iftikhar after the coffee, barfi and a very fruitful meeting

General Babar is also fully aware of the necessity to engage youth through media tools, that’s something we already know given his fantastic initiative NASFF – a short film festival through which students shortlisted from universities across Pakistan have gone to the New York Film Academy in Australia on year-long courses with the second installment of NASFF already in the works. It certainly is very welcoming that he is also cognizant of how important it is to engage relevant media platforms – such as ours which are more focused on entertainment industry related content – for greater and more far-reaching effect of entertainment industry specific projects.

Our meeting with him lasted a good hour during which time we discussed what direction the ISPR can take with regards to its future collaborations with the entertainment industry. Candid, informal, enjoyable, partially filled with laughter and a promise for a video interview… that’s how this meeting went and eventually ended with my colleagues and I taking leave and thinking to ourselves that the DG really is a pretty cool guy!

Here, I’d also like to mention and thank Brigadier Imran Naqvi, Director Productions ISPR. An extremely passionate and hardworking individual and a true friend of the media, Brigadier Imran warmly received us and facilitated this very important meeting with the DG.

During the time that we were enjoying our chat with DG – by the way over some pretty fine coffee and yum barfi – the leading ladies of Sinf-e-Aahan had made their way to GHQ as well. After they were done interacting with and taking pictures with eager fans belonging to army families, all of us made our way to the Army Auditorium to watch the final episode of Sinf-e-Aahan where two more surprises awaited us.

Team Sinf-e-Aahan arrives at GHQ

First surprise, a chance meeting with Lieutenant General Nigar Johar who is also the first Pakistani woman to reach this rank and also the first Pakistani woman to have become Surgeon General of the Pakistan Army. General Nigar was warm, kind and very gracious, as you’d expect her to be. A true role model and inspiration for young girls across the country, it was indeed a great pleasure to meet her for a short conversation. Just as we took our seats after meeting her and began eating our popcorn, there was some brisk movement at the main door and suddenly it was time for surprise number 2.

A chance meeting with General Nigar; a role model and inspiration for all of us

Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa entered the auditorium and walked straight up to greet the cast and us seated across the room. Not only did he meet and appreciated all the cast members of Sinf-e-Aahan, but he also warmly met Mahira Khan and Bilal Ashraf and congratulated them for their solid performances in Aik Hai Nigar. He then graciously met and shook hands with us – members of the media – as well before settling down on his seat.

By now you’ve all seen the last episode – filled with several emotional, feel-good and heart-touching moments. Imagine watching it with the actors who have played all these wonderful characters and with the head and other high ranking officers of the Pakitsan Army on whom the entire drama is actually based. Surreal…. It was surreal indeed.

This wasn’t it, though. Gracious hosts don’t let their guests leave without serving them food and so we – the cast members, us media people and the other guests, were all moved to the dining room for a scrumptious dinner in General Bajwa’s company. The Kabali Pulao and Chicken Karahi were good but my favourite was the Barbecue Platter. Quite delicious!

The evening and dinner ended with distribution of shields amongst the cast, producers and director of Sinf-e-Aahan as well as Mahira Khan and Bilal Ashraf. General Bajwa then took the podium to congratulate all the artists for their commendable job and in fact told the audience that he was able to catch up on a few episodes of Sinf-e-Aahan which he said he thoroughly enjoyed. He also revealed that he has been asked to increase the vacancies for females in the army following the overwhelming response Aik Hai Nigar and Sinf-e-Aahan have received. Certainly goes on to show the power of good storytelling!

All in all, as I said in the beginning, it was quite an eventful trip. The crux of which is that any content that we see on our mini screens (cellphones), or small screens (TV) or big screens i.e. movies will definitely end up having an impact on our thought process and our outlook towards society and its issues. Good content, will have a positive impact and bad content, will have a negative impact – it’s all as simple as that.

Projects such as Sinf-e-Aahan and Aik Hai Nigar have done a great service by introducing the audience to female heroes and inspirational women who we seldom see on our screens. The female characters we do usually see on our screens are either victims of assault, violence or conflict. No one says we shouldn’t tell those stories too but it would be in everyone’s interest if we don’t JUST tell only those stories.

A welcoming change thus, must be encouraged and appreciated. ISPR too must be appreciated for playing a vital role in improving the quality of content we see on our screens and also for its contribution in creating meaningful content that gives hope and inspiration to young and impressionable minds.

Hope the good folks at ISPR will continue with their good work and next time not offer me the 7am flight. Because I wouldn’t want to miss trips like these!


  • Avatar Shoaib says:

    Following the events on 9th April, none of my family members are interested to watch any episodes of this drama.

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