As commercially hit Urdu One drama serial, Baaghi drew to a riveting close last week, a string of opposing narratives groped two major factions into the spotlight.
Lawyer and Internet activist Nighat Dad voiced her concern over Baaghi‘s “well-intentioned efforts to highlight Qandeel’s cause” as having “exploited and misled her parents” by not paying them their dues and pocketing all the revenues for themselves.
On the other hand, producer and General Manager of the show, Nina Kashif responded in a public post on Facebook that the makers behind the show took “proper permission for the drama serial from the parents, despite the fact that there were only a few incidents that were taken from Qandeel’s life.”
Nina also added, “It was signed by them, they asked for a certain amount in return to which we happily agreed, as we, in any case, wanted to give compensation.”
According to a Facebook post that was made public, in a line of many, Nighat pointed out to a sum total of ’50k’ being compensated to Qandeel’s family “as support a year ago, legally covered under a disclaimer.
The question arises: does this exonerate the show’s producers from further responsibility of reimbursing Qandeel’s parents, whatsoever their financial condition, from their royalties?
In a recent interview with Images, writers Shazia Khan and Umera Ahmed have also been adamant that “the drama is loosely based on the life of Qandeel,” which merely takes its “inspiration from the events of Qandeel’s life,” adding that “similar stories of small-town girls with dreams of showbiz have informed some of the minor events of the drama.”
Daily Times reached out to Qandeel’s parents, where a troubled father, Muhammad Azeem responded to our queries in a tottering voice. He said, “A group of five to six people of ‘high status’ parked themselves outside our house and asked for permission for the possible publication of a book. They made no mention of a drama, and whatever money was handed out to us was given as ‘financial help’.”
Upon our question about the confirmation of the presence of their lawyer prior to the agreement and whether they had heeded his advice, they responded: “We were kept in the ‘dark’. Our lawyer was present, and he wasn’t aware of the production of any TV serial either. He told us that these people were here to help us, so whatever money we were receiving, we should gladly accept it (a total amount of Rs. 50,000).” We are illiterate people, he said, adding that the family didn’t know about any drama, neither was told about one. Therefore, they could not make any financial demands and certainly, made none.
Daily Times also contacted Head of Programming Urdu One and producer of Baaghi, Nina Kashif, as she added to her statement saying, “It’s extremely heartbreaking that people have to dig out allegations from underneath the rubble, only to add to the latest scoop. Qandeel is dead, and we are aware of that, but how is all the madness helping anybody?”
She continued on to say, “A contract was read out to the family in Urdu as well as properly signed by them. Usaf Shariq, Head of Films Division Urdu One was present with the family from our side, at the time this agreement was signed. Muhammad Azeem’s (Qandeel’s father) claim of about five to six people approaching them outside their house, is completely and utterly wrong. Usaf was present with Qandeel’s parents, along with two other people from their end as well as Azeem’s lawyer, Safdar Abbas, who is handling their daughter’s murder case. We read the document out in Urdu in front of Advocate Syed Safdar Abbas who was more than happy to let the family accept the given amount of money as compensation for signing off the rights and giving the channel complete creative license for the making of a drama serial.”
Concluding her stance, Nina added that “the contract was signed in the lobby of Hotel One, Multan, where the parents alongside Advocate Syed Safdar Abbas were consciously aware as to the terms and contents of the contract. Their lawyer even made an elated request that his name is mentioned in the drama serial’s credits, rolled out at the end of the show, which we have followed.”
Qandeel, the sole breadwinner of her family, comprising six brothers, is presently lying six feet under mounds of earth. Hiding from the sheath of injustices of her past and stark brutalities of her everyday life, she had changed her name from Fouzia Azeem to a sort of pseudonym that would gladly echo her false identity and speak to the people in her society.
Qandeel was allegedly strangulated by her brother Waseem on July 15, 2016, for “dishonouring” the name of her family. After her death, she has left behind two poverty-stricken parents, who sometimes, occasionally, lament the loss of a son put behind bars.
“My daughter was the only one who supported us,” said Muhammad Azeem. “She not only supported us but also her brother, who killed her.”
In another post on Facebook, Nighat stressed, “Qandeel Baloch’s parents are going through a rough time, they are spending whatever limited resources they have on going to Court regularly from Village (Shahsadruddin) to Multan.” They are sick and tired, she protested, adding that they are still adamant in fighting back against a system that’s already taken so much away from them.
At the time of Qandeel’s murder, the police stripped their house of all her belongings. “They took away her mobile phone, purse and other valuables worth Rs. 1 million,” said a grieving father to an Indian daily newspaper, last year.
Not being able to afford their rent anymore, Qandeel’s parents were forced to move back to their ancestral home in Dera Ghazi Khan, in the middle of 2017.
In the wake of people hurling accusations at each other, on who’s right and who’s wrong, let’s boil it down to our last and final question. But, this time around, on previously rejected humanitarian grounds:
Is a nominal month’s salary, the only responsibility of a show earning massive profits out of Qandeel’s plight, all that it’s liable for?