10 best Pakistani TV dramas you should binge-watch this weekend

Pakistani dramas have made colossal strides over the last decade, raising the bar for quality writing, innovation and realism.

No, we don’t mean the daytime soaps that are full of saas/bahu sazishes(mother-in-law/daughter-in-law scheming) but the prime-time offerings of our major channels.

Ever increasing internet access and the spread of social media have put any show just a click away. A sizable section of the Indian public and the worldwide subcontinental diaspora now make up a hitherto unheard of international audience.

So it made perfect business sense for Indian broadcasting giant Zee TV to take advantage of such a commercial opportunity and dedicate a channel called Zee Zindagi to their transmission. It was these same dramas that introduced not just India but anyone on the globe (who understands even a little Urdu) to our most famous exports Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan.

Unfortunately, political rhetoric seems to have reduced the torch of cross border friendship and goodwill to the kind of flickering diya Paro carried around for Devdas, so maybe it’s time to remind everyone why the diya was lit in the first place.

Now, this list was not easy to compile. Just being popular or “hit of the season” will not get your favourite drama on it. Firstly, a drama has to be incredibly well written: any repetitious dialogues, inconsistent characterisations, or lazy reliance on stereotypes or clichés would be an immediate disqualification.

The ones that did make it to the Top 10 have these things in common: repeat value, iconic characters, a coherent story from start to finish and a strong director.

However, the single most important common denominator was that they were all rock solid entertainment, the kind of show audiences were desperately waiting all week for.

1) Dastaan

Director: Haissam Hussain Writer : Samira Fazal

Cast: Fawad Khan, Sanam Baloch, Ahsan Khan, Saba Qamar, Mehreen Raheel

It’s not easy being number 1. Being good is not good enough, you have to be exceptional. Dastaan isn’t just any serial, or just any romance between two individuals. It is an epic love story between a nation and its people.

Set during the tumultuous time of Partition and Independence, Dastaan told the story of Hassan and Bano, torn apart by events far beyond their control. The sheer complexity and scale of such a project would daunt anyone but was skillfully handled by director Haissam Hussain with the kind of next-level genius that he is well known for.

Marshalling multiple locations, a huge star cast and all the political sensitivities and historical details while still maintaining a critical balance makes this drama stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

Fawad Khan, Sanam Baloch, Ahsan Khan, Saba Qamar and Mehreen Raheel gave superlative performances to match Samira Fazal’s wonderful script.

2) Humsafar

Director: Sarmad Khoosat Writer: Farhat Ishtiaq

Cast: Fawad Khan, Mahira Khan, Naveen Waqar, Atiqa Odho, Hina Bayat, Noor Hassan

Some things are so pure and simple that they outshine everything else.

Humsafar enthralled a nation, launching Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan to super-stardom. Director Sarmad Khoosat and Farhat Ishtiaq gave us more than a love story; here was a map of the human heart, an intimate understanding of the deepest feelings two people can have for each other. Romance, jealousy, despair and ultimately the triumph of forgiveness made this one of the best serials ever made.

3) Daam

Director: Mehreen Jabbar Writer: Umera Ahmed

Cast: Adeel Husain, Sanam Baloch, Aamina Sheikh, Sanam Saeed

This rare gem of a serial is like a long cool glass of water on a hot summer’s day.

Director Mehreen Jabbar’s elegant minimalist style perfectly captured this acutely observed story of friendship and loss. This is one of writer Umera Ahmed’s most mature and complete screenplays; intelligent and nuanced in its understanding of the human condition.

4) Durr-e-Shehwar

Director: Haissam Hussain Writer: Umera Ahmed

Cast: Mikaal Zulfikar, Sanam Baloch, Samina Peerzada, Nadia Jamil, Nauman Ejaz, Umer Naru

This drama is a textbook example of the power of a good director.

What could easily have ended up as a well-written potboiler became an essay on marriage and the changing demands of modern relationships.

Using a clever balance of past, present and near past, director Haissam Hussain kept the momentum going in what might have been just anothermazloom aurat (helpless woman) story.

This technique required a lot of skilled editing and if anyone wants to compare notes on how it’s done, just watch the American serial The Story Of Us, which mirrors this difficult style.

Memorable performances from Sanam Baloch, Mikaal Zulfikaar, Nadia Jamil and Samina Peerzada made this serial seem like a secret door into the past of every woman.

5) Shehr-e-Zaat

Director: Sarmad Khoosat Writer: Umera Ahmed

Cast: Mahira Khan, Mikaal Zulfiqar, Mohib Mirza, Samina Peerzada

Mahira Khan and Mikaal Zulfiqar shone in this tale of spiritual awakening.

This story took on some tough subjects like our easy acceptance of materialism, our lack of empathy for those around us and the secret to true contentment in what can only be described as fable for modern times.

Even more than Humsafar, this serial showcased director Sarmad Khoosat’s uniquely artistic and allegorical directorial style.

6) Meri Zaat Zara-e-Benishan

Director: Babar Javed Writer: Umera Ahmed

Cast: Faysal Qureshi, Samiya Mumtaz, Adnan Siddiqui, Imran Abbas, Samina Peerzada

This was one of the milestones of Pakistani television, featuring brilliant performances from Samiya Mumtaz and Faysal Qureshi. This tragic story hit at the heart of how the concept of modesty and virtue can be used against a woman. There is no redemption, no absolution in this story, it serves as reminder that some things just cannot be taken back. Anyone watching this will be reminded of what a great director Babar Javed used to be.

7) Aunn Zara

Director: Haissam Hussain Writer: Faiza Iftikhar

Cast: Osman Khalid Butt, Maya Ali, Sabreen Hisbani, Hina Bayat, Adnan Jaffar, Yasir Mazhar

There is a myth that comedy is easy, when in reality it can be the hardest thing to pull off. This romantic comedy made it deceptively easy: a sparkling script from writer Faiza Iftikhar, handled with skill and creativity by Haissam Hussain won hearts on both sides of the border.

Selfish but sweet Aunn and his couldn’t-be-bothered-to-sharmaofy, very practical bride Zara were a very modern breath of fresh air, bringing younger audiences to a genre that had been long designated to “aunties and uncles”.

Fabulous performances from Osman Khalid Butt and Maya Ali make this serial stand out from the crowd. This serial proved that budget should never be a limitation on quality because strong performances, a good script and great camera work can overcome anything.

8) Roag

Director: Babar Javed Writer: Faiza Iftikhar

Cast: Faysal Qureshi, Sumbal Iqbal, Asif Raza Mir, Mohib Mirza, Yamina Peerzada

Writer Faiza Iftikhar proved her amazing versatility by being able to write this harrowing tale of child rape just as flawlessly as she did the lighthearted Aunn Zara.

This many-layered story explains in detail the fallout from such a tragedy and builds to a shocking climax, while pointing out the way our society fails victims.

Brilliant performances from Faysal Qureshi, Asif Raza Mir, Sumbul Iqbal and Mohib Mirza make this thrilling viewing. Babar Javed and Furqan Khan directed this remarkable serial.

9) Pyaray Afzal

Director: Nadeem Baig Writer: Khalil ur Rehman Qamar

Cast: Hamza Ali Abbasi, Aiza Khan, Sana Javed, Firdous Jamal, Saba Hamid, Sohai Ali Abro, Umer Naru, Anoushay Abbasi

It is a fact that most serials are female-oriented but this beautifully written drama from Khalil Ur Rehman Qamar brought the male protagonist to the fore: introducing us to Afzal Subhanallah.

Flawed, broken, but forever the naïve optimist, it should have been obvious that Afzal would break our hearts. Hamza Ali Abbasi shot to stardom with his wonderful performance under the expert guidance of director Nadeem Baig.

Bolstered by great performances from Firdous Jamal, Saba Hamid and Aiza Khan, this serial maintained a level of exceptional quality. There are those who will ask why is it then at No. 9, when it could have been higher up on the list? The simple answer would be that it is a relatively small payback for killing off our Afzal.

10) Zindagi Gulzar Hai

Director: Sultana Siddiqui Writer: Umera Ahmed

Cast: Sanam Saeed, Fawad Khan, Mansha Pasha, Ayesha Omar, Waseem Abbas, Samina Peerzada, Hina Bayat

This serial was a phenomenon that made its stars insanely popular in both Pakistan and India, boosting the steady trickle of cultural exchange into a river of cross-border friendship. Powerful performances from Sanam Saeed, Samina Peerzada and Fawad Khan made this serial an international favourite.

Honourable mentions

There were so many good dramas that almost made the cut but had to be pushed aside because they were needlessly stretched, or lost out on production value or editing.

Marasim

Director: Owais Khan Writer: Zanjabeel Asim Shah

Cast: Ahsan Khan, Saba Hamid, Sonya Husain, Urwa Hocane

Ullu Baraye Farokht Nahi

Director: Kashif Nisar Writer: Amna Mufti

Cast: Nauman Ijaz, Uzma Hassan, Saba Qamar, Noman Masood, Irsa Ghazal, Sohail Ahmed and Yumna Zaidi

Diyar-e-Dil

Director: Haseeb Hasan Writer: Farhat Ishtiaq

Cast: Abid Ali, Sanam Saeed, Mikaal Zulfiqar, Ali Rehman Khan, Hareem Farooq, Osman Khalid Butt, Maya Ali, Ahmad Zeb and Mariyam Nafees

Main Abdul Qadir Hoon

Director: Babar Javed Writer: Sarwat Nazir

Cast: Fahad Mustafa, Alishba Yusuf, Faysal Qureshi, Aamina Sheikh, Asif Raza Mir, Saba Hamid

Udaari

Director: Mohammed Ehtashamuddin Writer: Farhat Ishtiaq

Cast: Bushra Ansari, Ahsan Khan, Samiya Mumtaz, Farhan Saeed, Urwa Hocane

The ones that got away

Kuch Pyaar Ka Pagalpan, Aik Nayee Cinderella, Rehaii, Sadqay Tumhare, Azar Ki Ayegi Baraat, Ek Nazar Meri Taraf, Mera Saaein, Pani Jaisa Piyar, Vasl, Jal Pari, Saat Pardon Main and Jackson Heights

We dare you to watch just one episode of any of these dramas without waking up two days later and finding you have binge-watched the entire serial. Yes, they are that addictive. So hold on to that diya, Paro, there is still oil in the lamp.

Now that we have posted our list, get those thinking caps on and tell us your favourites in the comments below.

PSO denies any imminent fuel shortage in the country

The Pakistan State Oil (PSO) on Thursday denied any imminent fuel shortage in the country and assured smooth transition to new fuels in due course of time.

“Pakistan State Oil refutes the impression that is being created by some circles that there will be shortage of fuel in the country in the next few days owing to the decision of the government to import higher grades of Mogas and compliance of the same by all Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs),” said a statement released by the national oil company.

The statement added that as opposed to the claims made; the company has sufficient quantities of Mogas and assures the public that there will be no shortage of fuel for its customers at PSO outlets across the nation.

“PSO does not operate on short term gains or minimise its stocks and will continue to honour its commitment of fuelling the nation under all circumstances irrespective of commercial benefit to itself as our topmost priority and commitment is to keep the wheels of the country running.”

High Octane Blending Content (HOBC) sold in Pakistan is RON 97. The local refineries, except for Attock RON 87, will be producing RON 90 petrol from the beginning of November 2016 as well, the statement added.

The policy steps taken are a paradigm shift for Pakistan’s oil industry and provision of clean fuels will assist the climate change plans of the country.

PSO assured the people of Pakistan that the transition to new improved quality fuels will be a smooth one, it was further pointed out.

Younis returns to squad as Pakistan opts to bat against Windies in second Test

Pakistan won the toss against West Indies and opted to bat in the second Test in Abu Dhabi on Friday.

Younis has replaced Babar Azam, whereas Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz have been replaced by Rahat Ali and Zulfiqar Babar, Cric Info reported.

“I am very happy the way Pakistan won the Test, the way Azhar scored a triple hundred and joined that elite group. I was watching the match and was very excited when on the last day there were ups and downs. The way West Indies fought and Darren Bravo scored that fighting hundred,” Younis Khan said.

Lineup for both teams is as follows:

Pakistan: Azhar Ali, S Aslam, Younis Khan, A Shafiq, Misbah-ul-Haq (Captain), S Ahmed (Wicket keeper), M Nawaz, Y Shah, S Khan, Z Babar, Rahat Ali.

West Indies: K Brathwaite, L Johnson, DM Bravo, M Samuels, J Blackwood, R Chase, S Hope (Wicket keeper), J Holder (Captain), D Bishoo, M Cummins, S Gabriel.

ATC directs police to implement arrest orders for Imran, Qadri in PTV attack case

ISLAMABAD: An anti-terrorist court in Islamabad on Friday directed the police to implement its orders in relation the arrest warrants of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehrik chief Tahirul Qadri in the Pakistan Television (PTV) headquarters attack case.

Today’s hearing of the case was presided by ATC judge Kausar Abbas Zaidi who inquired why the police had not been able to submit an implementation report on the court’s arrest orders.

Expressing his displeasure over the police’s failure to submit the implementation report, the judge directed authorities to carry out the arrests of Imran Khan, Tahirul Qadri and 68 others by Nov 17 and present them in court on the said date.

The 70 were booked after a mob of protesters belonging to the PTI and PAT stormed PTV headquarters and forced its staff to take two of the state broadcaster’s flagship channels — PTV News and PTV World — off the air on Sept 1, 2014.

According to eyewitnesses, at the time nearly 400 PTI and PAT workers had stormed the PTV building, across the road from the main entrance to the Pakistan Secretariat. The attack had come soon after demonstrators were repulsed from the secretariat compound.

But the occupying force was dispersed without incident by a contingent of army and Rangers personnel, who arrived on the scene within an hour of the state-TV being taken off-air.

Transmission was restored shortly after noon as the occupying force dispersed peacefully, shouting pro-army slogans and hugging military and paramilitary personnel who arrived at the scene.

This was the first time that PTV’s transmission had gone blank since October 12, 1999, when former military ruler retired General Pervez Musharraf took power in a bloodless coup after toppling the government of then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The protesters were also charged with attacking government properties including the Parliament House building. The incidents took place during the 2014 sit-ins staged by PTI and PAT members and supporters, with both parties calling on Prime Minister Nawaz to step down.

Imran Khan and the federal government have been locking horns over the Panama Papers leaks. And today’s hearing comes at the heels of PTI’s planned siege of the capital city on Nov 2, that is aimed at ramping up pressure on the government to take concrete measures to address the party’s concerns over Panama Papers. The party has also submitted a petition in the Supreme Court, seeking Prime Minister Nawaz’s disqualification.

Police deployment for PTI protest may cost over Rs400m

ISLAMABAD: The capital’s police department has asked the government for a Rs400 million rupee grant to cover expenses expected to be incurred by law enforecement and paramilitary troops during their engagement with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf’s (PTI) planned “siege” of Islamabad, police officials told Dawn on Thursday.

This demand, which has been sent to the interior ministry, only accounts for a 10-day deployment, officials said, adding that additional funds would be required if the sit-in is prolonged.

The letter issued in this regard came from the Central Police Office, and was addressed to the interior ministry by Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) Nisar Ahmed Khan. Its subject reads: “Request for supplementary grant of Rs460.719 million in connection with tentative long march/dharna of PTI”.

In it, the AIG posits that according to reports, the PTI is planning to shut down the capital on Nov 2 and, according to statements of prominent leaders, they will be looking to assemble a large number of people for the purpose.

The available strength and resources of the capital city’s police department are insufficient to provide security and maintain law and order in Islamabad during the event, the letter states.

The capital’s police department has already requested an additional deployment of 25,000 personnel and arrangements in this regard are being made with help from the concerned authorities in Punjab, Sindh, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and the Frontier Constabulary (FC).

So far, officials said, 14,000 personnel had been arranged from the FC, Punjab and Azad Kashmir police.

Similarly, the capital city’s administration, in response to the police request, has asked that the community centres in sectors G-6 and G-9, the Hajj Complex and the Sports Complex be provided to lodge the additional manpower that will be summoned to the capital.

Funds will be required for the force summoned to Islamabad for expenses such as transportation, meals, placing of containers and roadblocks along with other related requirements, sources said.

In addition, the police department has complained about the non-payment of funds to the tune of Rs51 million, which were spent the last time the PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek staged a dharna on Constitution Avenue in 2014.

“It is pointed out that a liability of Rs53.319 million relating to previous dharna/protest is also outstanding/payable [to] Islamabad police, for which funds have already been demanded,” the letter reads.

It breaks down the expected costs under various heads. It asks for Rs10.7 million in terms of rent for residential buildings, Rs18.56 million for fuel charges, Rs1 million for stationery, Rs64.2 million for hiring vehicles, Rs5 million for miscellaneous expenses, Rs93 million for food and Rs 268.3million for other expenditures.

The letter asks that the interior ministry approach the finance ministry for the provision of additional funds through a supplementary grant of Rs460 million, along with an advance amount of Rs50 million.