Five of the most powerful women in Pakistani dramas

Honouring iconic characters on International Women's Day
Photo: SAMAA Digital
Photo: SAMAA Digital

Bollywood star Sonakshi Sinha once said: “Thapad se darr nahi lagta pyar se lagta hai.” This line of dialogue can be applied to reflect on the content of Pakistani dramas today where the thappad is ubiquitous.

Women are either slapping each other or are often portrayed as victims of domestic abuse. Strength, it seems, only emerges after they first experience abuse.

However, once upon a time this wasn't always the case. Pakistani dramas portrayed strong, confident women who were often independent either financially or mentally and sometimes both. Here are five such female characters who are more relevant for this decade than many gracing the screens.

Zara from Tanhaiyan (1986)

Tanhaiyaan or The loneliness came out in 1986 and was directed by Shahzad Khalil and written by Haseena Moin. It starred Shehnaz Sheikh, Marina Khan, Asif Raza Mir, Badar Khalil, Behroze Sabzwari, Azra Sherwani, Qazi Wajid, Durdana Butt, Yasmeen Ismail, Jamshed Ansari, Amir Hatmi, Subhani Bayounus and Sultana Zafar.

The daughters of illustrious parents, Zara and Sania, are left orphaned from a car crash. Strong-willed Zara wishes to repossess the family home which comes under the possession of the lenders from whom her father had borrowed money for construction.

She moves to Karachi to live with her aunt to find a job. Over time Zara manages to navigate the professional world, wielding enough power and respect to achieve her goal and more. Zara’s response to her business partner’s affections is also interestingly portrayed in this drama. She decides not to accept his proposal on the spot and consults her confidant Zain along with her aunt on the topic.

While Saad presses for an answer, Zara firmly asks for more time. Such thoughtfulness is not routinely seen today when young women are either quick to accept or are pressured into accepting proposals. You can watch the drama here.

Anjum from Aroosa (1992)

Aroosa was produced by PTV, directed by Qasim Jalali and written by Zubeda Khatoon.

Anjum, an educated woman is married to Barrister Taufiq. They have a daughter named Aroosa. Taufiq is a widower who happens to be partial to his sisters’ opinions and rights. Anjum is his second wife who wants to raise his daughter Arifa along with their daughter Aroosa. But, the sisters-in-law frequently plot against Anjum whose relationship with Taufiq is already strained.

Taufiq’s hands over custody of Arifa to his elder sister and threatens to do the same with Aroosa. Anjum demands a divorce. Soon the sisters are tormented by raising both of Taufiq’s children who suffer neglect.

Meanwhile, the servants bring Aroosa to Anjum. Anjum proves that educated women are capable of working out both domestic and professional conflicts with confidence and without negativity.

As the years pass, Aroosa grows up and wins everyone's heart. Taufiq's elder sister wants Aroosa to marry her son just because of her father's wealth. At last Aroosa weds Shehryar who lives next door.

Saba from Sham se Pehle

Sabahat or Saba’s feudal grandfather permits her to study only if she agrees to marry according to the family’s wishes. She isn’t the first girl to do so as her aunt too is a doctor. But her choice distances her from the family.

Saba is determined to change the family mindset and bows to conditions. She leaves her house job incomplete to marry Zawar Shah. Though the marriage is against her wishes, she agrees to it both because of her passion to study and for other girls to be allowed to pursue an education.

Zawar Shah is a cruel feudal lord who treats Saba with scorn and disrespect. He abuses Saba who ends up in hospital with injuries. Saba refuses divorce, but separation ensues during which she wraps up her qualifications.

Zawar Shah soon ends up in hospital with Saba presiding over his care. Soon Zawar Shah comes to realize the power of education and empowered women.

You can watch the drama here. (LINK:

The officers from Pas-e-Aaina

Actor Rubina Ashraf and her co-stars take on roles of women police officers in this drama. Ashraf is a principled officer determined to fight for and uncover the truth.

Her portrayal of a police woman in the late 1990s was trailblazing and inspirational. It quashed stereotypes of which some notable ones were that the police was corrupt, women cannot be criminals and what is considered a suitable profession for women.

The series episodes were written around real life stories and portrayed them in a constructive manner often seeking resolution through legal remedies.

Soha from Bilqees Kaur (2012)

Orphaned Soha lives with her married sister and family. Unfortunately, Soha finds herself on the receiving end of uninvited attention from her brother-in-law and tries to escape to her best friend's home.

She confides in her best friend and her family of her brother-in-law’s intentions. Coincidentally, she also receives a proposal from Sultan at the same time. Soha accepts the proposal to protect her sister’s married life.

With her best friend’s family acting as her own, she is married to Sultan and arrives in New York. Soha becomes the focus of her dominating mother-in-law Bilqees Kaur but, she neither mourns for long nor retaliates. Soha navigates Bilqees’s conniving ways by finding her weaknesses while working away in her restaurant. She strikes a friendship with her sister-in-law whom she coaxes out of repression with a makeover. Bilqees too ultimately is convinced of Soha’s abilities.

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