Pakistan Idol Makes Some Music Dreams Come True, Crushes Others

Screenshot of Pakistan Idol

Screenshot of Pakistan Idol promo

For the first time, Pakistan has its own version of the popular Idol singing competition. The first episode of Pakistan Idol was broadcast on December 6, 2013 by Geo Television Network under the tagline “Jo Hai Dil Ki Awaz”, meaning the sound of the heart. 

The series, which aims to find undiscovered Pakistani singers between the ages of 15 and 30 years old, follows the same format as the original British series Pop Idol, with a panel of judges selecting singers who will eventually compete on live television. The winner is determined by viewers who cast votes via telephone, text messages and online.

The Idol format has been wildly successful in other parts of the world, with an estimated 460 million people – or roughly 15 percent of the planet's population – having watched some version of the singing competition.

With TV presenter Bushra Ansari, singer-songwriter Hadiqa Kiani, and rock musician Ali Azmat in the judges’ seats and actor Mohib Mirza hosting, the show seems to have already captured the imaginations of many in Pakistan:

Tens of thousands of hopefuls auditioned for their chance at stardom, according to the series. 

Nadeem F. Paracha, a journalist and columnist for Dawn newspaper, praised the show:

@FarrukhKPitafi: Watching #PakistanIdol on Geo Entertainment right now” Pretty good, in a kitsch way. Healthier than anything else on TV.

— Nadeem F. Paracha (@NadeemfParacha) December 6, 2013

But like the original Pop Idol, whose judges were notoriously candid with their harsh criticism of contestants, Pakistan Idol has already irked some viewers, with some complaining that the judges’ comments are “rude”. 

Farhan Janjua at wrote:

In various instances from 2nd and 3rd week audition episodes of Pakistan Idol, judges are seen passing extremely rude remarks and comments — many of which are easily interpreted as offensive and insulting — it appears they didn’t get the memo that there’s a line between being blunt about one’s singing ability and mocking someone for who they are. Unfortunately, the judges of the first season of Pakistan Idol appear to have taken this line for granted.

Journalist, columnist, author and TV host from Pakistan Dr Shahid Masood also appeared to be unhappy from the insults of the judges:

They way the judges are taunting and making fun of contestants in Pakistan Idol is disgusting. First just Bushra and now Ali and Hadiqa too!

— Dr Shahid Masood (@Shahidmasooddr) December 15, 2013

Adil Najam, an academician and professor of international relations, earth and environment at Boston University, tweeted: 

Nothing funny about being mean. If ‘object’ of your humor not laughing with you, then you are laughing at them. Not good, #PakistanIdol.

— Adil Najam (@AdilNajam) December 14, 2013

Others weren't convinced about the inclusiveness of Pakistan Idol. Saleha Khan pointed out that the show passed over the war-torn province of Balochistan, the largest and poorest of Pakistan:

Screenshot showing Pakistan Idol judges

Screenshot of Pakistan Idol judges

The judges have also raised the ire of some with their recent rejection of a talented young women from Punjab named Maria Meer, who became a sort of social media celebrity after her appearance on the show. 

Roha, a member of Kuwait's national women's cricket team, tweeted: 

Faizan Lakhani, a journalist based in Karachi, tweeted: 

Even before the controversy surrounding Meer's rejection, web designer and photographer Fursid doubted that music was at the heart of the show:

#PakistanIdol is not about music. I mean, look at the judges, the songs etc. It's just about rating & entertainment purely.

— FurSid (@fursid) December 7, 2013

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