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Life on the Edge: The Prince
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Life on the Edge: The Prince
Rafeh Malik, the young prince of a powerful Pakistani family, was given the poverty-stricken village of Ratrian on his eighteenth birthday. He is attempting to implement the UN's Millennium Development Goals in the village, yet soon finds out that resources and determination might not be enough to challenge the status quo.
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Produced by tve.

Purchase the DVD for this program at Bullfrog Films.

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Segment 1

VOICEOVER
This is the beginning of a fairy tale. It might not end like one. The prince has come to sell his people a dream.
RAFEH MALIK
A group of the world's nations have come together and agreed on eight basic targets for development that all countries should achieve. We can achieve these targets.
VOICEOVER
The question is, are they interested?
TITLE
The Prince
VOICEOVER
Our prince is Rafeh Malik. His kingdom is Ratrian, a poverty-ridden village in the North of Pakistan. He inherited the village from his vast family estate on his 18th birthday. Rafeh is the only scion of a powerful family, both in terms of the land they own and the political influence they wield. Any attempt by him to change the status quo here will lead to a dilemma: how to modernize without alienating his father, his friends, maybe even the villagers. He spends most of his days and nights about two hundred kilometers south in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital. He's an outward-looking man. His friends include TV journalist Shehryar Mufti. In their many evenings together, an idea came up. Why not try and implement the Millennium Development Goals in Rafeh's own village? The MDGs are eight ambitious development targets signed by world leaders in 2000. The deadline: 2015. The prince has some catching up to do. We asked Shehryar to film Rafeh's progress.
SHEHRYAR MUFTI [Television journalist]
So you do think that your family's political legacy might actually depend on the success of this project?
RAFEH MALIK
Oh yeah. Political legacy entirely will depend on its success.
SHEHRYAR MUFTI
So aren't you afraid that this might not work? Aren't you scared?
RAFEH MALIK
I am scared, but I'm willing to take the risk.
SHEHRYAR MUFTI
First you've got to get past your dad. How do you think that's going to happen?
RAFEH MALIK
Well, I'll sell him the idea; tell him how it is. It'll be quite difficult.
VOICEOVER
A visit to Rafeh's family home lends some insight into his dilemma. Life for Rafeh's family here has never really begged for drastic change. For generations, this house has been the headquarters from which Rafeh's family has practiced politics. Today his father, Malik Atta Mohammad, is hosting a meeting of other influential men from nearby villages. This is also a training session of sorts for Rafeh, although his lack of facial hair renders him almost out of uniform. The guests are uneasy at the presence of what they see as a film crew representing the "Western media." They're also uneasy that development agendas like the MDGs may reflect a misplaced sense of superiority in the West.
MALIK ATTA MOHAMMAD
What the West is projecting; I do not know what they have in their mind when they are trying to propagate this policy. Because I met a lot of NGOs; so they say we have told them how to wash hands and how to -- in Islam, you see, we are supposed to wash hands five times a day. We call it ablution, 'wuzu.' So we do it five times. So who the hell are they to tell us how we should keep ourselves clean? We know how to keep ourselves clean!
VOICEOVER
Malik Atta doesn't openly oppose his son's plan. But he does question how he can make it happen.
SHEHRYAR MUFTI
In a way, for you to take this initiative now would almost be an admission of guilt, in the sense that: why hadn't you done it earlier? Do you think that'll be a problem?
RAFEH MALIK
It's not a problem that we could have done it earlier. But over the years, certain things came one way or the other; we weren't able to fully implement them, due to political repercussions.
VOICEOVER
These are the people of Ratrian. Their standard of life, even in comparison to that of other village-dwelling Pakistanis, is pretty low. Rafeh's uncle's political connections paved the way for an erratic electricity supply here a year ago. Life otherwise hasn't changed much for these people for generations. The only local source of water is an occasional hand pump. This young man is idly walking the dung-ridden streets of Ratrian at the peak of the school day. There is a school in Ratrian, but he's not playing truant -- the teacher is.
SIGN
Welcome
VOICEOVER
It's padlocked and desolate. The only signs of life here are pages of notebooks and textbooks strewn about. Even the hand pump here is dry. With an estimated ninety percent of livelihoods here depending on sharecropping, poverty is rampant. The tenants earn enough in food not be malnourished. But having money in their pockets is, for most, a distant fantasy. They don't blame their local royal family for their poverty, at least on camera, but they do believe the family has the power to change things.
SHEHRYAR MUFTI
So what if they decided to get these problems solved? Could they?
MAN 1 [Villager]
Of course, absolutely.
VOICEOVER
And so Rafeh calls the men, as well as the women, of Ratrian to talk about life and how it can be made better. Rafeh wants to know what they think it might take to achieve these goals. Despite finding themselves in a completely unrecognizable situation, the villagers begin to open up. Water is a popular topic of conversation, as is the state of literacy in the village.
MAN 2 [Villager]
We need a hospital and a school for girls. If something could be done about the drinking water, we'd be grateful.
VOICEOVER
Women speak openly of their worries for their children.
WOMAN 1 [Villager]
One day it's diarrhea, the next day it's fever, the next day vomiting.
RAFEH MALIK
Their query about electricity and all, I made it clear to them that I couldn't help them with that, that's the government's thing. But I will aid them with that as well, but our major primary concern is about the UN Millennium Development Goals, and implementing them over here. So, I think when I told them this would be a humble beginning, I was being honest with them. I think that was the turning point.
VOICEOVER
Back in the big city, Rafeh begins the critical journey from good idea to solid plan. He makes contact with the Omar Asghar Khan Development Foundation.
ALI ASGHAR [Omar Asghar Khan Development Foundation]
I mean, how do you sit with them? Do you sit on a charpai? You know? Have you got a special position over there? Have you got extra takiyas behind you? Or are you sitting on the ground with them and sort of, you know, talking to them?
VOICEOVER
The village would have to be studied closely by people with no vested interest in it. They volunteer the services of their own organization, an offer that Rafeh accepts. Ratrian will be profiled. This village profile is a missing piece in the puzzle for Rafeh. He has met with people from the government as well as the World Bank. Both have identified a village profile as a critical document central to the whole plan. Maybe even a prerequisite to having one. The Bank has also recommended that he visit a water supply project in nearby Balkassar. At the meeting, several new possibilities are discussed. Rafeh is told of a widely implemented development program. Villages can be rewarded with safe drinking water hand pumps. To qualify, they must end the practice of defecating in the outdoors. It sounds achievable enough, but Ratrian will need help. Several other opportunities are identified and contacts are exchanged. By the end of the meeting, the mood is upbeat.
SHEHRYAR MUFTI
Do you feel you've bitten off more that you can chew?
RAFEH MALIK
I don't think I've bitten off more than I can chew. It's just that I need patience. I need perseverance.
MUMTAZ [NGO team leader]
We're here to help you identify your needs. The point of today is to make a plan, the plan for Ratrian.
VOICEOVER
As activities commence, the villagers seem to be somewhat bewildered. A handful catches on quickly. They proceed to help Mumtaz's team to construct what is the first ever map of Ratrian.
MAN 1 [Villager]
If you're ready to do things, we're ready for them to be done. People come, conduct their surveys, and then just disappear!
VOICEOVER
The village profile is now firmly on track.
SHEHRYAR MUFTI
You're not used to this, are you? Knocking on doors and stuff like that.
RAFEH MALIK
No, things were different; we never really went about it this way.
SHEHRYAR MUFTI
How's your father taking this whole thing?
RAFEH MALIK
Well, so far he's just standing by me.
VOICEOVER
Malik Atta Mohammad speaks for himself.
MALIK ATTA MOHAMMAD
I don't think I can help him much. Of course, the connections that I have, he can benefit from them. And where politically we're opposed, he will face the same music. You see, somebody could say this is a crazy lot, talking about millennium goals when people are suffering. Unless you see something happen before you, something concrete, only then you will believe it. At present it is all in the air.
VOICEOVER
You'd think meeting the MDGs is a matter of resources and will. But it's not that simple. The prince is caught between two worlds. Should he risk disrupting a society that, for better or for worse, has at least functioned for centuries? It's a tough choice.