Tit for Tat Bans, But Pakistan Reconsiders Action Against Bollywood Movies
NEW DELHI: As relations between India and Pakistan plummeted after the Uri attack, Pakistan moved to institute a complete ban on Indian TV and radio content a few months ago, including banning Indian films from cinema halls. The move was in retaliation to a similar move in India, as the Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association -- a body of filmmakers -- declared that Pakistani actors will not be allowed to work in Indian productions.
As cinemas across Pakistan take a hit, the Pakistani government has moved to constitute a a committee to consider a request by distributors to resume the import of Bollywood films. Distributors in Pakistan are hoping to get the necessary permissions before the release of Shahrukh Khan starrer ‘Raees’ that also stars Pakistani actor Maira Khan and releases in India on January 25.
The panel looking into the request is led by information minister Maryum Aurangzeb. Indian films feature on the list of banned items under Pakistan’s import laws, but under practice, were being issued a No Objection Certificate from the Commerce Ministry at the request of the Information Ministry since 2006. Through these NOCs, about two-three Indian films were making their way to cinema halls in Pakistan every month.
Following the Uri attack, both India and Pakistan stepped up rhetoric and hardened positions. After bodies in India threatened to kick out Indian actors, Pakistan followed suit with a directive banning Indian TV and radio content from being aired in the country. Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) had already toughened its stance on channels airing Indian content, having said on August 31 that strict action would be taken against channels that were airing more Indian content than the prescribed limit of 6% of total content. In October, this directive was converted into an order for a complete ban.
As India and Pakistan are spar over entertainment, arts and culture, the real casualty is the constituency of peace in both countries. The narrative that has emerged is that anyone who deviates from the narrowest agenda, is “anti national” and must be brought in line.
In India, for instance, filmmaker Karan Johar had to issue a public apology, promising not to work with Pakistani actors in the future. Johar’s film “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” found itself in the centre of the India Pakistan spat as it starred Pakistani actor Fawad Khan. Cinema owners said they were not willing to risk screening the film after the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) -- a regional right wing group -- threatened to attack venues showing the film.
Meanwhile, relations between India and Pakistan continue to be tense. Speaking at the Raisina Dialogue-II, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit out at the neighbouring country for supporting terror. "Pakistan must walk away from terror if it wants to walk towards dialogue with India," PM Modi said, adding that "It also has to be Pakistan's journey to make.”
“"A thriving well-connected and integrated neighbourhood is my dream... My vision for our neighbourhood puts premium on peaceful and harmonious ties with entire South Asia. That vision had led me to invite leaders of all SAARC nations, including Pakistan, for my swearing in. For this vision, I had also travelled to Lahore,” PM Modi said. "But, India alone cannot walk the path of peace. It also has to be Pakistan's journey to make. Pakistan must walk away from terror if it wants to walk towards dialogue with India” the Indian PM added.
At the same event, PM Modi had more encouraging words for China. "In our engagement with China, as President Xi and I agreed, we have sought to tap the vast area of commercial and business opportunities in the relationship. I see the development of India and China as an unprecedented opportunity, for our two countries and for the whole world," PM Modi said.