by Shivam Vij
The biggest shocker about the Veena Malik’s nude — more accurately, ‘implied nude’ – photographs in FHM India magazine has been the lack of shock in Pakistan.
Media in India and the world over was abuzz with reports of “outrage” in Pakistan after the magazine’s cover went viral on Twitter. That was in keeping with Pakistan’s image as that of a country taken over by Islamists; a Pakistani woman posing in the buff with ISI tattooed on her arm, that too for an Indian magazine, was obviously too explosive for that country to handle.
But the reaction to the “Pakistani WMD” — as FHM India called her — has been a bit of a dud.
“I am surprised that except for a few news channels and papers, nobody has been bothering about Veena Malik, as though they don’t care what she did,” says Islamabad-based journalist Shiraz Hassan. “Haven’t seen anything from hardliners also.”
Her manager claimed this week that she had privately received death threats, something she did in March as well. But there have been no fatwas, no price on her head, no street protests calling it the ‘dishonouring’ of Pakistan.
Karachi-based Yusra Askari, an NDTV correspondent, says perhaps it’s a case of boredom: “Veena Malik’s pictures have not been as controversial as one would have imagined or the international media leads you to believe. The reaction to the way she conducted herself on Bigg Boss 4 was surely a greater reason of concern among the masses. Probably less shock value the second time around.” Her canoodling with actor Ashmit Patel in Bigg Boss 4had ruffled many feathers in Pakistan.
This time, Veena diffused the situation somewhat by immediately claiming she did not pose nude at all and that she was suing FHM India for putting out morphed images. She said she was “topless but not nude” as she was wearing a thong, later removed by photo editing, and her breasts were covered with her arms. FHM India‘s editor Kabeer Sharma has claimed the photographs were not morphed and he has a video of the shoot to prove that.
The only ones truly upset seem to be Malik’s family members. Veena Malik’s father has said he’s disowning her (just as Rakhi Sawant’s family disowned her some years ago). Malik has said she will explain to her parents that the pictures are morphed.
Even the notoriously over-active Pakistani judiciary refused to step in, saying that even if a case of obscenity was made, Malik could only be tried in India for what she has done in India. Pakistan’s interior affairs minister Rehman Malik, when forced by journalists to respond to the controversy, said he would consider legal action only if it was proved the pictures were not morphed. “The media morphs even my pictures,” he said, “putting me sometimes on a bicycle and sometimes on a donkey.”
In any case, militants tend to prefer political targets to sexy starlets. “No fashion show has ever been attacked, no actor assassinated. The public mood in Pakistan is not baying for Veena Malik’s blood at all and the media has by and large not inflamed passions,” says Muniba Kamal, editor of Instep, a fashion and lifestyle supplement of The News daily.
The timing also helped, says Pakistani columnist Ahmed Yusuf. “For the media, much of which is right-wing, kicking Zardari out of power by any means necessary is top priority at the moment, and hence, most talk shows catered to that requirement.”
There was a reported attempt by the Pakistani Army’s Inter Services Public Relations to whip up passions by sending local journalists an SMS that said Veena Malik’s actions were “the height of humiliation for Pakistan, done by a Pakistani on Indian soil”. On her part, Malik has defended the ISI tattoo saying it was to debunk the Indian penchant for blaming everything in Pakistan on the ISI.
Far more than outrage, there has been humour. The most popular joke: now that Veena Malik has declared her “assets”, she can join Imran Khan’s party, which demanded that politicians declare their, well, assets.
Even the ISI tattoo on her arm elicited jokes; one said, her arm says ISI but the picture is RAW. Many Pakistanis were amused by the tattoo, taking it as a swipe at their notoriously unaccountable intelligence agency.
Comparisons were drawn instantly — even by Pakistanis on Twitter — with Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, the 20-year-old Egyptian blogger who had posted a nude picture of herself on Facebook and then on Twitter. She and her boyfriend said this was a statement against conservative sexual mores in Egypt, and in support of free expression.
Veena Malik did not express any such activist intentions, claiming she is merely an “entertainer”. But one could argue it does challenge sexual hypocrisy in Pakistan, and in India. Miss Pakistan (World) Sonia Ahmed thinks it to be Pakistan’s Protima Bedi moment. Novelist Bina Shah tweeted: ”We get outraged by Veena Malik’s photograph, but we don’t care when women are paraded naked in the street to avenge “honour”? WTF?”
Shah quickly shot down the few voices that said Malik should be stripped of her citizenship. “I know men don’t care about women being stripped and marched naked because they never demand that the perpetrators lose their Pak citizenship,” tweeted Shah.
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