Arts, Culture & Media

The Pakistan in 'Homeland' is unrecognizable to this Pakistani author

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The fourth season of "Homeland" takes place in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But as Pakistani author Bina Shah watched the first episode from her home in Karachi, she couldn't recognize what was allegedly her home country.

As she wrote for the New York Times on Wednesday, the Pakistan that's portrayed in the series is nothing like the one she knows. "Islamabad is a very well-planned, beautiful and small city. It doesn't have huge crowds thronging in streets," Shah says. "It doesn't have your traditional tea shops and buses plying the streets the way it's being portrayed in Homeland."

Shah says she prepared herself mentally before watching the series. She's used to Pakistan being portrayed as a country with filled with chaos and security issues, yet she was still surprised by the number of things that the series got wrong.

She points out one scene in which protesters gather in front of the US embassy, waving Pakistani flags and chanting anti-American slogans. It's in response to the action that unfolds in the first two episodes, in which Claire Danes' character, CIA officer Carrie Mathison, orders a drone strike that kills several people at a wedding party.

"There is no way that protesters could stand right outside [the embassy's] gates. It's hidden way deep inside a diplomatic enclave, heavily protected," Shah explains.

The main Pakistani charachter is another misrepresentation, she argues. He is a young Pakistani medical student whose family is killed in the strike. "They have him immediately looking up at the camera while Carrie is looking at him and ... the connection is made now — he's going to be the terrorist," Shah says.

She's far from alone: Other writers have piled on, pointing out mistakes in the show's version of Pakistan.

Shah thinks that getting details wrong can have major consequences. "Homeland" may be entertainment, but it does influence perception and could, as she argues, stoke fear and misunderstandings.

"Pakistanis have suffered tremendously in the war on terror," she says. "We've had thousands of people killed, maimed and injured. All Pakistanis do not go on to become terrorists."