Balochabad; the voice of Baloch girls: Zaibulnisa Baloch

I have just watched Balochabad, a Balochi feature film based on female education in Balochistan. It is a film that depicts social issues like child marriage and domestic violence against women. Previously, filmmakers were shackled from the confines of commercially driven content and films were only featured to entertain the audience through humor. However, Balochabad is an intense film which is directed by Shakir Shaad who is a poet and writer. It is the first ever Balochi film which includes a female actress. Anita Jalil is a theatre artist, radio RJ and first-ever female Vlogger of Balochistan. There has been never a time where Baloch females have been a part of film industry in Pakistan apart from diaspora female baloch actors which is like a drop in the ocean. Dominate patriarchic system restricts and discourages female participation in films. Hence, male actors have always role-played as women.

To have a glance in the back, a film Hammal-o-Mahganj was released in 1976 included the participation of women in the film. It had to face lethal hostility by masses. Widespread protests erupted with angry public reactions which outrightly denied the release just because of the inclusion of women actors. It is considered a taboo for women to socialize with men in Baloch society. Cultural and ethical norms are so pervasive that breaking barriers is a herculean task.

However, Balochabad is a fresh breath in the air. It broke the ice by not only casting a female actor but the whole film is based on the saga of the plight of women in Balochistan. A theme that is required sincere attention. In the film Jaan Bibi (Anita Jalil) is an educated resident of Balochabad who works in a radio program and consistently raises her voice for female education. Moreover, Khuda Baksh sannata (Allah Baskksh Haleep) is a concerned citizen who joins hands with Jaan Bibi to fight against child marriage and domestic violence against women and fearlessly takes a firm stand for a girls school in the town.

Child marriage is a societal practice in Balochistan and most of the peripheries of Pakistan since time immemorial. Girls are married at a very young age exceedingly jeopardizing their life with severe health repercussions. Most of the time, young girls are married to older men which leads to face pregnancy-related complexities. Many die in the process while countless lose their children in the course of delivery. According to UNDP reports, Pakistan is ranking top among various developing countries in child marriages and deaths related to it. Therefore, it is applauding that the film has addressed this life-threatening issue which will yield an impact to a wide-scale on people in the society.

Moreover, an issue of domestic violence is also a part and parcel of the film. Domestic violence is a common practice not only in Balochistan but throughout Pakistan. It pains me when women are ill-treated, beaten and domesticated. Balochabad has attempted to show the misery of women when they are disrespected and tortured over petty daily life issues. Various documentaries and reports have now and then rung the doors of human rights organizations over this pertinent issue. Asima Jahangeer has been one of the staunch defenders of women against violence and a celebrated voice of human rights in this regard.

Most importantly, female education is the main cry of Balochabad film. It depicts how Jaan Bibi has to fight his ultra-conservative-tribal-chief father Mir Tajul (Safaraz Muhammad) for a girl school in the village. Female education is an important issue of Baloch society which needs ample attention. Girls face gender discrimination from birth till death. They are denied basic rights like education. Therefore, girls do not have a proper role to play in society. Primarily, girl education is considered unhealthy. She is barred to go outside. Ethical norms and cultural barriers do not allow girls to work side by side with their male counterparts. Thousands of girls had to suppress their desires for education and job life owing to deep-rooted male chauvinism and patriarchy. I just wishfully hope that films like Baochabad are a start to go a long way for the fight for equivalence. A day should come when gender stereotyping becomes meaningless and girls become equal citizens of society. Without the dark, one cannot discover the stars.