Pornography in Pakistan

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Any material in written form or pictorial, factual or fictional, aimed at arousing human sexuality through explicit sexual content can be referred to as pornography. Apart from treatise on sex which existed in ancient texts like kamasutra and Koka Shastra and were available in written form since centuries, very little indigenous pornography, be it verse, prose or illustration survived in the subcontinent. This was primarily due to the clandestine character of the subject which remains tabooed till today. Secondly, no effort has ever been made to collate and preserve such material from a psycho-social point of view. However man’s fascination with sex remains a hard fact and some of the most revered names in poetry and prose did create pornographic literature. Some of the poetry of Nazeer Akbarabadi is explicitly pornographic.

There were also poets in the early twentieth century who wrote hazal or obscene verse. Syed Iman Ali Khan of Bilgram (a.k.a Sahib-e-Kiran) Kallan Khan who wrote under the poetic name of Bechain and Saadat Yar Khan Rangin were all ‘hazalgo’ poets who described their boastful exploits of sexual intercourse with prostitutes.

Although extremely rare, yet books in the Urdu language with sexually arousing content with handmade illustrations were available in the subcontinent since the seventeenth century. A book by Kaviraj Harnam Das published from Sialkot in the nineteen twenties had two parts. The first part dealt with the physical and behavioral characteristics of women from various countries of the world- like the headings would go like this; Kashmir ki aurat, Inglistan ki aurat, Iran ki aurat etc. The second part contained stories where brides and other girls would narrate accounts of their first sexual encounter. The details were fairly explicit and the book was embellished with pictures of women.

Translations of texts of Kamasutra, Koka Shastra, Premshastra etc were also available in the market which were primarily meant for sex education. Nevertheless these were also considered as right material to have sexual pleasure. The introduction of photography in the 1800’s and the invention of motion picture in 1895 broadened the scope of pornography which could reach masses in much more graphic detail. Pictures of actors and actresses in intimate positions were now available to many. Although such material enjoyed mass appeal particularly among the youngsters, however, due to lack of social acceptance it continued to remain secretive.

It is believed that Shaukat Thanvi used to write pornography with the pseudonym of Wahi Wahanvi. Tigdam, Rukhsar and Bura Aadmi were some of his popular titles. Maybe it was him initially but soon this was a brand name for pornographic novels. It is said that so many others began writing with Wahi Wahanvi’s name as the author. Later Pyarelal Awara, Raheel Iqbal and several others entered the field and pornographic novels were quite available at ‘aana’ libraries. The librarian would charge eight to ten aanas for such novels whereas other novels were available for two aanas. These novels were issued to trustworthy customers who would then hide the book and would read the text in seclusion usually at night when others were asleep. Wahi Wahanvi would use explicit language whereas Raheel Iqbal would give the description using similes and metaphors.
These novels generally had a weak plot while the major emphasis remained on sexual exploits and its graphic narrative. Pirated editions of English pornographic novels were also available in the market which attracted those who could read and understand the language.

Since the fifties and sixties those returning from the West would also bring pictorial material with them which would then travel long distances where one would pass on the same to others who would then like, all the near and dear ones, to have a look before it was returned. Similarly blue prints were also available on 8mm film for which a projector was required. This material was equally popular among both the sexes. Cultural troupes from European countries and even Turkey and Iran would frequently visit Pakistan where semi-nude girls would perform on the stage.

Inter-Continental and other such hotels would also occasionally invite female dancers from other countries who would amuse the audience with erotic dances. Some cinema halls like Irum in Lahore Khursheed in Rawalpindi and Palwasha in Peshawar also had the reputation of running imported blue films mostly in their late night shows. Semi nude, probably superimposed clips of actresses Rozina and Aarzoo were popular in the seventies. Also in the seventies, many pictorial magazines like Chitrali were also available in the market. Though not very explicit on heterosexuality yet semi-nude pictures of actresses would abundantly glaze the pages of these publications. While not very expensive this was the poor man’s choice to have some ‘recreation.’ In 1976 came the VCR revolution. Now people could watch Indian movies of their favorite stars and blue films too in a cozy atmosphere. VCR was an expensive machine and not many could purchase it, however, it was available on rent which initially ranged from Rs.300 to 400 for 12 hours. Groups of like-minded would contribute the amount and watch blue films for almost the whole night. As video cameras were also available in early eighties, it was now possible to make blue films at home.

The blue prints of two NCA girls Hala Farooqui and Ayesha Shahbaz along with their boyfriend were perhaps made for private consumption; however, the film made its way into the rental circuit and was hugely ‘popular’. Similarly in 1991 the video of striptease performed by two girls hailing from Multan namely Zarina Ramzan and Qamar Ashraf in a South London nightclub also gained immense ‘popularity’ in Pakistan. The Lahore theater with a very strong sexual content began to flourish in the eighties. In the nineties came the internet revolution and now everything one could dream of, was available in one’s bedroom. Simultaneously, the internet cafes also mushroomed.

In the privacy of one’s cabin one could watch pornographic material of sorts. Later webcams and mobile phones brought another revolution. Now real life sex could be recorded displayed and shared on the net. This practice was widely misused when net café owners installed secret cameras to film couples having fun in the privacy of their cabins. In some instances the footage was then released on CD’s of those caught on camera. However these ‘reality based’ clips had great demand in the market. Similarly sexually explicit mobile conversations, privately filmed footage and some photoshopped content is presently the main attraction for many. Print material is almost outdated now and every conceivable aspect of pornography is available on the net; from full length movies to stories of sexual pursuits written in the nastaleeq script, to chat forums and ‘groups’; things for which one had to toil some decades ago are now just a click away from any corner of the world.

As precious as gold and as secretly guarded as a moonstone, the sole possession of the privileged few, that clandestine material is now available to all and sundry 24/7. However, the sex drive continues to create the desire to observe and delve deeper into the alluring world of varied sexual behavior of others.

From centuries old oral recitation of verses to prose laden with sexual content to online sex and physical intercourse with a digital celebrity in the 3-D virtual world pornography continues to thrive in Pakistan.

– Waseem Altaf

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