Pakistan bans condom commercial for being too racy
By: ASIF SHAHZAD
ISLAMABAD : Pakistan’s media regulatory agency has banned a condom commercial starring a sultry Pakistani model after it received hundreds of complaints the ad was too racy, a senior official said Thursday.
The 50-second television commercial shows a Pakistani couple wondering why their neighbor’s new bride, the model and actress Mathira Mohammed playing herself, is working so hard to keep her husband happy. When asked about his secret, the neighbor smiles and holds up a pack of condoms made by Josh, which means excitement in Urdu.
‘‘Bring Josh into your life,’’ the neighbor says, just before explosions flash behind boxes of condoms on the screen.
Pakistan’s media regulatory agency banned the commercial Tuesday after reviewing it and determining that it violated the group’s code of conduct, said Mohammad Saleem, a senior regulatory official.
‘‘We don’t take any arbitrary decisions,’’ Saleem said.
Though mentioning strawberry-flavored condoms, the ad otherwise isn’t racy by Western standards. A conservatively dressed Mohammed greets her new husband’s mother, feeds him by hand and knocks on the neighbor’s door to get ice for a cold drink.
Josh is a subsidiary of DKT International, a nonprofit organization founded to promote family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention through social marketing, according to Josh’s Facebook page.
DKT, which is funded by both the United States and Britain, has been working in Pakistan since 2012 in attempt to help women meet their needs for contraception, the group says on its website. A telephone number listed for the group rang unanswered Thursday.
Pakistan has the sixth largest population of any country in the world with roughly 180 million people. If the current rate of growth continues, the population will double by 2050, DKT says.
Pakistan’s rapid population growth has strained the country’s health and education systems, and its faltering economy has not been able to provide jobs for millions of people entering the work force.
One of the things holding back contraceptive use in Pakistan has been the conservative norms of the majority Muslim country. Some Pakistanis complain that the country is growing even more conservative as hard-line versions of Islam gain greater influence. The lack of contraception results in hundreds of thousands of unwanted or unplanned pregnancies every year, according to demographic experts.
A controversial TV host, Aamir Liaquat Hussain, raised eyebrows on Sunday when he surprised a couple during a broadcast by giving them an infant girl who had been abandoned outside a charity in the southern city of Karachi. The husband, Zulfiqar Hussain, said he and his wife had been trying to have kids unsuccessfully for at least 17 years.
‘‘I am grateful to God for giving me this child,’’ Hussain’s wife, who was dressed in a full-length burka, said during the show. The wife, who was crying with joy, did not identify herself.
Zakir Samad, a spokesman for the charity where the child was abandoned, Chhipa, said the organization puts cradles outside its offices so people can drop off their unwanted children. He confirmed the charity worked with Hussain to hand the girl over to the shell-shocked couple.
Some critics questioned whether it was simply an attempt by Hussain to boost ratings and advertising revenue during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.