Burqavaganza Satire: The Drama About the Drama

Posted on May 24, 2007
Filed Under >Omer Alvie, Culture & Heritage, Society, TV, Movies & Theatre
86 Comments
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Guest Post by Omer Alvie

[This satirical account is inspired by the real-life drama about the Ajoka play Burqavaganza in the Pakistan capital; See The News Editorial; Gulf News op-ed; a Daily Times report on the original play, and other press coverage.]

So this is how it all happened. Ajoka, a non-commercial theatre group committed to the cause of social change in Pakistan, unveiled its new play Burqavaganza last month in Lahore. The satirical play, written by Shahid Nadeem, addresses the issue of the burqa (veil) and highlights the double-standards and hypocrisy of the feudal/tribal mindset. The aim was to use humour and satire to challenge the cultural status quo and to provoke people to think for themselves.


The audience thoroughly enjoyed the show and the play received positive reviews in the press. But the most surprising response to the play came from a rather astute group of individuals belonging to the MMA (more popularly known as Mullah Military Alliance). Inspired by the success of the Burqavaganza, five extremely talented MNAs decided to perform their own impromptu over-the-top ‘drama‘ in the National Assembly. The play imaginatively titled Fanativaganza (by yours truly), was a staged rebuttal to the Ajoka group’s play.

Substituting the use of satire, the inspired MNAs opted for provocative language and violent hand gestures to ridicule the writer of Burqvaganza and the Director of the Ajoka theatre group. Apparently, to these five highly sensitive and pious individuals, the Burqavaganza play was clearly un-Islamic, enough to be classified as blasphemous. Although, it has to be clarified that these days, any critique, criticism, aspersion, censure, swipe or nitpicking of the norms and practices of these religious extremists will likely lead to a blasphemy charge, even if it is a comment regarding the general unruliness of their beards.

One minor clarification here, they cannot be called religious fundamentalists. This is because they fail to grasp the fundamentals of the religion they claim to be following. ‘Nutters’ is more appropriate and generally my preference.

The MNA performed drama did not get a positive response from the public or the press, but it did manage to get a standing ovation from the Minister of Culture, who subsequently announced a government ban on the Burqavaganza play to show his appreciation for the drama queens of the national assembly. He was so moved by the MMA performance that he additionally promised further government actions against the key members of the Ajoka Theatre group. I have to admit, as a Pakistani citizen, hearing this news brought a lump to my throat. It wasn’t that I was emotional, it just happened to be part of the process of me regurgitating my last meal, as I got sick to my stomach.

It is clear now that the government’s attempt at promoting ‘enlightened moderation’ in reference to religion has not been very successful. Actually, that is an understatement; it has been an unquestionable, resounding failure. I do admit though that they have managed to create an era of (religious) ‘moderated enlightenment’. When your faith is judged by the size of your beard or measured by the length of your veil, you are in serious, serious trouble!

Omer Alvie is a Pakistani residing in the UAE and writes, often satirically, on his blog The Olive Ream. He also writes about the Pakistani blog scene at Global Voices. This post was first published at The Olive Ream.

86 responses to “Burqavaganza Satire: The Drama About the Drama”

  1. Watan Aziz says:

    One minor clarification here, they cannot be called religious fundamentalists. This is because they fail to grasp the fundamentals of the religion they claim to be following.

    When your faith is judged by the size of your beard or measured by the length of your veil, you are in serious, serious trouble!

    Worth repeating.

    One minor clarification here, they cannot be called religious fundamentalists. This is because they fail to grasp the fundamentals of the religion they claim to be following.

    When your faith is judged by the size of your beard or measured by the length of your veil, you are in serious, serious trouble!

    Again and again.

    Incidentally, neither the beard nor the veil is part of the law of Qur’an.

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