Imran is celebrity-turned-politician at the margins fighting for relevance. As the captain of the first national cricket team to beat India, he has grown accustomed to parades and showers of roses. Trying to convert his popularity into political power has been a much more difficult proposition. He faces an uphill battle—feudal political parties, presidents aligned against him, and a police state in the hands of unelected leaders. He makes wild gambles, banding with students and lawyers, regional separatists and religious extremists in the hopes of creating a critical mass of opposition—a multi-party boycott of the national elections and the current powers that be. Truth be told, though he may be right in principle, in practice his protest runs the risk of leaving him standing at the side of the road when the parade passes by. Used to being the center of attention, now he has a hard time telling whether the crowds are there for Imran the political leader or Imran the sports star. And in spite of all his talent to lead large development projects (building a hospital and university for the poor), he cannot seem to build the political machine and talent to lead effectively. His children give him some refuge from all this confusion, and he retreats to family as a way of finding clarity. But you cannot help but see the storm clouds gathering above his head, even on a clear day duck hunting or hiking with his two boys. At his events we see larger and larger crowds attending, and it does feel like there is something in the air, a movement beginning. The question remains whether Imran has the clarity and the right mission to lead it.imran over the flag
Abdullah cuts to the chase. He is a trucker and has traveled the entire country. He doesn’t love his work—at times he cannot stand the monotony of it and how long it keeps him away from his family. But with all his money wrapped up in debt on his truck, he is chained to the road. Long drives are alleviated by good company—his brother, his uncle, and cleaner—there is a kind of family on the road. They all keep the journey lively with jokes and ghost stories and folk songs. But the real surprise comes when they are asked to reflect on t country and its place in the world, and then trucker wisdom outpaces all expectations. As he says, “We are the drivers, we’ve seen everywhere and everything.” If you have a question about Pakistan, he’s experienced it firsthand. He has seen the country, he has tasted all its character and flavor, and can offer some unique reflections on what he has observed: why the UN never helps Pakistan, what the US really wants, why India and Pakistan need to become brothers again, why Saudia needs to mind its own business. When he settles into Quetta, the picture completes itself and he reunites with his family. We’re finally given a window into why he works so hard and why he believes so passionately that the country needs to find a new direction.
Vinnie says she’s a minority in this country. As a woman, she certainly breaks the mold. She is one of the country’s top models, and as such, she dresses as she likes, works when she likes, travels where she likes, spends time with whomever she likes, and parties how she likes. Wherever she goes she is hounded by paparazzi, and whatever she does she gets flak and derision from conservative colleagues. In Pakistan, living this way may itself be considered an act of bravery. And still, there is a larger purpose to her work that elevates her above her counterparts and a mission that drives her every enterprise. She launched a clothing line and a fashion channel for television, and each project in her mind is a subliminal, subversive act of feminism. Her goals are to set a new example for women in her business. And everything she puts out into the world points to a woman that is bolder, braver, and, beyond anything else, public. Nevertheless, she rarely gets any respect. She butts heads with the manufacturers of her fabric in Faisalabad and cannot seem to get the confidence to take a leadership role on the set of her TV show. Something is out of balance at all times, and off kilter and unprepared, and it’s often hard to tell whether it is (as she says) that she is demanding too much from the country, or whether her expectations are too low.VANEEZA
Arieb is music. He plays music on buses, in cafes, at home, on trains, with friends, with family, with strangers. He is preparing for his first album, but cannot seem to settle on a song list or even a sound. He has traveled the world and has seen the horrors of war in the Balkans, and the harmony of music has been a nice healing tonic in the wake of this violence. But, coming home to Pakistan, he looks for a way to share the same message in this midst of the current crisis. As he searches for answers, he travels the country encountering other musicians, thinkers, friends, poets, and family, all of whom offer different perspectives on the questions he hopes to address. He comes face to face with prominent poets, conservative Muslim missionaries, and Sufi mystics. Some challenge him, some intimidate him (like his father), and others embrace him. The question is: can he translate his experiences to his audience once he takes the stage?ARIEB
Laiba is a journalist with a big heart and uses it to reach out to the people near Peshawar. Her TV program focused on the lives of families in the frontier—Taliban widows, Afghan refugees, and orphaned Pakistanis. She travels deep into Taliban-held territory, a dangerous place even for a Pashtu local. And she is rightly loved for her courage, both by her subjects and audience alike. But at work, she never seems to find the kind of appreciation she is looking for. She is ignored by her colleagues, mistreated by subordinates, and fired she believes because she wouldn’t submit to sexual harassment. And it breaks her big heart. Divorced from her work, Laiba is forced to pound the pavement in search of a new outlet for her compassion. In the end, the recent military action in Swat takes her to her village birthplace. Hoards of refugees are squatting there in her family’s home and she finds a new community to serve and a new purpose.LAIBA
Ibrahim has just returned home to Southern Punjab, the breeding ground for Pakistan’s homegrown extremists. He fought for six years with the Taliban along the Afghan border and escaped overseas for three years to start his life again. Now, he has come home, and life has been more difficult than expected. There is a mosque on every corner, and madrasas recruiting soldiers to join the struggle. It’s a difficult part of the country, full of poverty, religion, and a respect for violence. He tries working in local NGO’s and the family business, but it is hard for people not to look at him warily with the weight of his past on his shoulders. His story is exceptional—rising through the ranks of the Taliban and bringing him face to face with Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar. And yet, all that adrenaline crashed when he realized he was a pawn in a dangerous game, ruining the values of the religion that brought him there in the first place. With his next path continually eluding him, he hangs on a knife’s edge between returning to the jihad and finding a home. Where is he going and will he ever get there?IBRAHIM