When the world needs a hero, one steps forward.
Enter Pakistan’s take on Superman, Batman and Superwoman combined.
Jiya, a mild-mannered school teacher by day, is the Burka Avenger by night: A superhero fighting those trying to shut down girls' schools.
The upcoming animated television series is a fun take on a deadly serious issue plaguing the country. Taliban militants have bombed over 800 girls’ school in northern Pakistan since 2009. Last year, the Taliban attracted global scorn after shooting 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head for her efforts to promote girls' education.
Muhammed Muheisen / AP
Pakistani orphans react while watching an early screening of the first episode of Burka Avenger animated series, at an orphanage on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan on March 25, 2013.
Yousafzai survived and her case garnered international attention to the issue, as well as an up-swell of revulsion at the militants within Pakistan.
The show's creator is one of Pakistan's biggest pop stars, Aaron Haroon Rashid.
“I have strong women in my family and I have always felt strongly about women’s rights,” said the musician, known simply as Haroon. He added that he wants the show to be “an inspiration to girls and it would be good for boys too to see strong women.”
In the West, the burka or other traditional female face and body coverings, are often seen as symbols of oppression. The Taliban, for example, forced women to wear all-encompassing gowns when they took control of Afghanistan in the 1990s.
But Haroon said his character only uses it as a costume to hide her identity.
"I didn’t want her dressed like Wonder Woman or Catwoman,” the signer said. “I didn’t want to sexualize her. It’s not about what she looks like, it’s about what she is doing.”
He even got fellow musician Adil Omar to help pen the show's theme song, "The Lady in Black." The catchy rap song has lyrics like: "Don't mess with the Lady in Black, the Lady in Black, when she's on the attack." And:"She kills extremism and corruption and stops it from breathing."
Omar said he jumped at the chance to get involved.
"I thought the idea for the show was very exciting and groundbreaking,” he said. “It was for a good cause, yet it was edgy and cool, not forced and preachy."
The slick animated TV series premiered in Pakistan on Sunday. Every episode will have a lesson, Haroon says.
“Child labor, discrimination, environmental protection -- but it’s done in a way that is full of action, adventure and comedy,” he said.
Burka Avenger's main foes are a corrupt politician and Baba Bandook, an evil magician with a bushy black beard meant to look like a Taliban commander.
"What business do women have with education?" Bandook asks in the first episode, echoing the views of some in conservative Pakistan.
He then closes the girls’ school with a padlock and orders the females to go home.
Fear not, Burka Avenger hurls a flying pen and breaks open the padlock to reopen the school.
NBC News Wajahat S. Khan and Amna Nawaz contributed to this story.
First published July 31 2013, 9:28 AM