Skip to main content

Pakistan Calling Britain!

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Development Debates

The Royal Society of Arts, Commerce and Manufacturing (The RSA) and launched Pakistan Calling, a film project to promote cross-cultural dialogue in April. Most of the films depict Pakistani civil society organisations and individuals attempting to tackle the country's many problems, and some also touch upon Pakistan’s links with Britain.

Pakistan Calling is a team effort by British Pakistanis, universities in Pakistan and the UK, NGOs and welfare groups in Pakistan, the Samosa and the RSA, who are working together to increase awareness and support for Pakistani civil society organisations and activists.

Karachi cycling club. Picture: Izdeyar Setna

We want to promote cross-cultural dialogue and trust in the UK and Pakistan by profiling the many different faces of Pakistan, supporting filmmakers working in areas such as the arts, welfare, education, human rights, civil society and citizen journalism. We want to build stronger links between Pakistani social projects, Britain and the British Pakistani community. People trying to improve society in Britain have actually got a lot in common with people working to do the same in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s ability to survive the multiple crises it faces owes much to the resilience of its people. In 1947 new institutions like the Edhi Foundation were set up. What began as one man in a van providing medical aid to the poor has now grown into hundreds of hospitals and a fleet of ground and air ambulances. It’s an example that has inspired many others with civil society and welfare groups doing their best to fill huge gaps left due to the inadequacy and failure of state institutions and infrastructure.

Abdul Sattar Edhi, founder of the Edhi Foundation. Picture: Arif Mahmood

Take for example the story of Mumtaz Rafiq. Mumtaz lives an ordinary life. But his ordinary life is a small miracle in itself. Mentally handicapped from birth and mistreated in his neighbourhood, he was helped by the Karachi Vocational Training Centre (KVTC), an NGO working with people who have special educational needs. You can watch a video on Mumtaz at this link.

Films making up Pakistan Calling include I Am Agha, the story of one of Pakistan's 1.5 million street children, an exclusive interview with Channel 4's Jon Snow on Pakistan in the media, Midnight's Grandchildren by the Asian Dub Foundation on identity, race and religion, and Tehmina Durrani on women’s rights in Pakistan.

Many of the films have been made by students in universities in Pakistan and London Metropolitan University, such as setting up clinics in Pakistan the Todd Shea way, which profiles US health worker Todd Shea’s work in Pakistan. Todd Shea is quite possibly the most popular American in Pakistan today!

By looking at the work of brave civil rights activists in Pakistan, whether fighting discrimination, violence and oppression of women in Pakistan, challenging corruption or working to improve existing or set up new education and health programmes, we can inspire young people to raise their ambitions about what can be done through social activism. That includes young people in Britain.

Pakistan Calling is not just aimed at the British Pakistani community, but anybody who has an interest in Pakistan and issues of identity, culture and citizenship. Some of the strongest support for Pakistan Calling has come from Northern Ireland and also the British Indian community. They realise the importance of history, culture and traditions in the context of building goodwill and facing down sectarian tensions and the need to work out shared spaces and understanding of some of the difficult issues we face today.

One review of Pakistan Calling described it as ‘everything you ever wanted to know about Pakistan but did not know who to ask’. You can read more reviews of Pakistan Calling on the BBC, The Express Tribune, Sluggerotoole and New Statesman websites.

Are you a filmmaker or have a story to tell? We want to work with you on the next stage of Pakistan Calling – The Balakot project. The bridge over the Kunhar River at Balakot is a famous landmark. The older bridge was demolished in a heavy earthquake and rebuilt by the Frontier Works Organisation, with help of several international and local funding agencies. The focus of the Balakot project is self-help and collaboration. Our aim is to make connections and develop work between innovative, impactful social projects in Pakistan and groups working on projects in Britain. Especially in the areas of education, literacy, health, community journalism and social enterprise. If you would like to contribute a film or be involved then please get in touch at or submit your video here.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be highlighting our development support to Pakistan and how we’re helping to push for change. We’ll be linking up with partners from across the British Pakistani community who are making a huge contribution to Pakistan’s development and promoting the positive voices for progress in country.

To get the latest Pakistan development news straight to your inbox sign up for our quarterly newsletter.

Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DFID or have the support of the British government.

Sharing and comments

Share this page