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UPDATE 1-Pakistani drama hailed for portraying strong women put back on air

(Recasts with show back on air, adds Zee5 comment)

Karachi, Oct 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Pakistani drama praised for its progressive portrayal of women was put back on the air on Friday after being removed from a streaming platform earlier this week following complaints to authorities.

The 10-episode series, which launched in August and tracks four women who set up an undercover detective agency to expose unfaithful husbands, has won plaudits for showing strong female characters taking control.

It also shows women swearing, drinking and taking drugs, and tackles subjects seen by many in conservative Pakistan as taboo, including sexual abuse, marital rape and homosexuality.

Earlier this week the series, called “Churails”, or “Witches”, was removed from Zee5, an entertainment platform that was streaming it in Pakistan, without explanation.

“The show was taken off the platform in Pakistan purely in compliance with a directive that we received,” a spokesman for Zee5 told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in emailed comments.

“We have now addressed the matter and reinstated the show on our platform”.

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority said it had contacted the platform after receiving complaints about the programme.

Writer and director Asim Abbasi hailed the show’s return.

“The witches who wouldn’t burn... not for now, anyway. #Churails back on in Pakistan,” he posted on Twitter.

Pakistani film critic Omair Alavi said Zee5 had taken a “huge risk” in selecting “Churails” as the first in a series of Pakistani-directed shows because the drama was “miles apart from what the viewers were accustomed to”.

Women’s rights are a contentious issue in Pakistan.

This year, Islamists pelted marchers marking International Women’s Day with stones, shoes and sticks.

Organisers said they faced a backlash from conservative elements in the country, which a 2018 Thomson Reuters Foundation poll found to be the world's sixth most dangerous for women. (Reporting by Zofeen Ebrahim, additional reporting by Annie Banerji in New Delhi, Editing by Claire Cozens and Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit news.trust.org)

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