Pakistani filmmakers release short film to show life under siege in Kashmir

This YouTube screen grab shows a still from the short film "Article 370," written and directed by Ibrahim Baloch.
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Updated 05 August 2020

Pakistani filmmakers release short film to show life under siege in Kashmir

  • ‘Article 370’ is directed by Ibrahim Baloch and tells story of a Kashmiri woman who waits for her husband to return home after India imposes lockdown in disputed Kashmir
  • Article 370 of India’s constitution granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, providing a semblance of autonomy to the region

KARACHI: Pakistani writer and film director, Ibrahim Baloch, is poised to release a short film on Wednesday about a married Kashmiri woman whose life is shattered after the administration in New Delhi abrogates Article 370 of the Indian constitution on August 5, 2019 and strips the disputed Kashmir region of its autonomy, putting the region under lockdown.

Talking to Arab News, Baloch said he wanted to release the film, ‘Article 370,’ on the first anniversary of India’s unilateral decision to integrate the internationally recognized disputed Himalayan territory with the rest of the country. 

Trailer of film, 'Article 370'

A poster of 'Article 370', a short film written and directed by Pakistani Ibrahim Baloch and released on August 5, 2020 to mark the one year anniversary of India stripping the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir. (Photo courtesy: Ibrahim Baloch)

“I started following the situation in Kashmir after India announced its decision and realized that it was primarily debated from a political perspective,” he said on Tuesday. “I was more interested in the human side of the issue. So after doing some research, I came across stories of Kashmiri women in Srinagar who gave birth during the lockdown imposed by the Indian administration.” 




A poster of 'Article 370', a short film written and directed by Pakistani Ibrahim Baloch and released on August 5, 2020 to mark the one year anniversary of India stripping the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir. (Courtesy: Ibrahim Baloch)

Article 370 of India’s constitution promised special status to Jammu and Kashmir, providing a semblance of autonomy to the region. However, India revoked the provision last year, giving Baloch the idea of working on a story on the only Muslim-majority region under India’s rule. 
Shot in the part of Kashmir administered by Pakistan and called Azad Kashmir, Article 370 focuses on the life of Gul-e-Rana, a married Kashmiri woman. 
Talking to Arab News, Mariyam Nafees, who played the lead role, said that she was deeply inspired by the story. 
“This film depicts the reality and current situation of Jammu and Kashmir,” she said. “The twenty-minute visuals in the movie that show the suffering of a family in the region are full of human emotions. Projects like these are not undertaken too often.” 
“Gul-e-Rana is a pregnant woman who goes through a tough situation while waiting for her husband during the lockdown,” Baloch said. “I am confident that this film will resonate with people across the world since it projects a human story. Our aim was not to take sides but to highlight the plight of the people by telling their tales passionately.” 


Thumbs-up: Pakistani woman defies risks to hitchhike across the country

Updated 14 September 2020

Thumbs-up: Pakistani woman defies risks to hitchhike across the country

  • Leaving corporate security behind, Maria Soomro has traveled solo around the country since the pandemic began
  • She documents her travels and uses YouTube and Instagram to provide tips on how to solo travel as a woman

RAWALPINDI: A few months ago, while doing a stable job in the banking sector, Maria Soomro decided to act on her gut instinct and leave behind the monotony and routine of her daily life to follow her dream of hitchhiking around Pakistan. 

30-year-old Soomro hails from Karachi and has been working in the banking sector since completing her university education. The corporate job gave her 40 days of annual leave which she utilized for travel, though she felt that something was missing. 

“I wasn’t fully able to immerse myself in enjoyment or the experience,” she told Arab News over the phone while traveling through Gilgit-Baltistan. “When I travel, I go to remote villages, off-the-beaten-path type places and get to know the locals, actually spend some time understanding where I am and who I am surrounded by. Five or 15 days don’t allow for that.” 

The idea of spending time doing what she loved as opposed to sitting at a desk kicked Soomro into high-gear. “I opted to turn the documenting of my travels, which I had been doing since 2015 on Instagram (@MariaSoomro_) and eponymous YouTube channel, into my full-time job.” 

Maria Soomro smiles for the camera in a ride she hitched near Burzil Pass, part of the historic caravan route between Srinagar and Gilgit on her Instagram page on September 11, 2020. (Picture courtesy of Maria Soomro) 

In March of this year, Soomro headed out on her hitchhiking journey. Being a solo female traveler in Pakistan is a steadily growing trend, though a woman who hitchhikes is almost unheard of.

 “Budget traveling is my focus. The largest chunk of your budget ends up being spent on accommodation and transportation, and both of these things can be covered when you’re hitchhiking,” said Soomro. 

But her travel ethos is another reason hitchhiking was so attractive. To her, there is no better way than this to know the places one is traveling through. 

“This is a shortcut to get to know local communities, be it Pakistan or another country. When you ask for a lift, you get a special introduction to their home, their points of view, and you learn from them,” she said, adding that one can build contacts as a bonus who can be assets to solo travelers. 

Soomro estimates that her hitchhiking adventure has allowed her to meet over 300 people, all of whom, she maintains, contact through social media. “The more people you meet the more stories you hear and the more people you can share your own story with,” said she. 

Maria Soomro shares tips and tricks on solo travel including how to keep one's tent from blowing away in a shot she shares from Golden Beach, Balochistan, on her Instagram page on June 14, 2020. (Picture courtesy of Maria Soomro) 

Instead of merely asking for a lift, Soomro has taken each ride as an opportunity to educate on what hitchhiking is, why she is doing it, and why she is traveling Pakistan. 

“It’s not very common here and I want to change that. The general consensus is that Pakistan is not safe, in particular for women, to travel alone.” 

When asked about how safe she has felt while traveling, Soomro said she follows “her gut instinct, assessing each ride” but also stressed the importance of “being prepared,” such as carrying personal protection equipment like pepper spray and knife. 

“My advice to Pakistanis who want to follow into my footsteps would be to take time to understand this kind of travel first and do not go straight for hitching,” she said. “Travel in groups and learn the areas you want to visit, know how roads work and, like any other passion, take time to educate yourself.” 

Soomro is doing her part in educating travel hopefuls on her YouTube channel and Instagram page with tips on how to hitchhike, where to go, and how to pitch a tent to withstand winds and what type of rides to expect around the country at present. 

“There are very few people who follow their passion in the world, and I am one of those crazy people since I thought I could do it,” said Soomro. “I am a free bird and travel is a part of me. I can’t imagine my life without this.”