By Bushra Hassan.
Pakistani Media, Indian Content and it’s ban is not new for us Pakistanis and once again Indian Content has been banned in Pakistan. This time a blanket ban has been observed by Pakistani Media has no Indian content is allowed by PEMRA to be aired.
There was a time when Pakistanis had a lot to watch and entertain themselves through different Indian and Pakistani content broadcasted on their favorite TV channels. Especially on weekends when family used to watch CID followed by Crime Patrol with absurd chases and relevant plots were much better than any other show. Dramas with love stories, heavy jewelry and Sarais that every girl got awed by, and reality shows that were loved by many but Indian Channels got banned.
Then came the era where Turkish dramas got popularity and Pakistanis got a new direction to follow but soon that craze ended as there is no match for the addiction of Indian content and Pakistani Channels started broadcasting Indian TV shows.
Not only few channels, like Geo Kahani, 8XM etc, used to broadcast the Indian content, but cable operators were far ahead in running Indian content on their local channels. The Indian movies were of highlighted focus that cable operators had been concentrating on or giving priorities via their own local channels. A movie released could be enjoyed the next day sitting on our favorite couch, relaxed, with a cup of coffee.
But now, after the blanket ban, not only we do not watch any of the Indian content on any channel, but we are also unable to listen Indian songs even on radio while coming back home in car after hectic day at office. The blanket ban on Indian content is so far for indefinite period, but being cultural members of this region, it cannot be denied that people do have strong bond with each other regardless of any border line of political restrictions.
Regardless of this ban and shutting down the Indian songs, dramas and movies through myriad screens, yet DTH (Direct-To-Home) satellites, YouTube, torrents, illegal streaming sites and DVDs are all the alternate ways that people are still practicing. Inspite of ban, Indian songs would still be wedding choices and Indian actors / actresses would still remain the favourite celebrities of many people.
Culture and art always prevail regardless of boundaries and people across the border collectively share many aspects of culture, taste, music and trends. Cultural aspects are not at all dependent upon government notifications and it requires decades to cut people off from following any traditional or cultural trends.
This is true that there is a lot of content that needs to get banned within Pakistan. Cable operators who broadcast multiple in-house channels from pirated CDs and give them much more time than PEMRA’s sanctions, must be held accountable before respective law. 6% of total airtime is allowed to be given to foreign content, but yet there are some channels that give even more than 10% airtime. Digital Satellite Services offered through smuggled DTH (Direct-To-Home) sets like Tata Sky are equally illegal. These areas do cost PEMRA revenue, where PEMRA needs to take action but for years, PEMRA didn’t speak a word against all these moves but as soon as Indo Pak tensions on political and state level escalated, a line also got sketched between people of two countries who have more or less similar art or theatre taste.
Personally I’m strictly against bringing culture and theatre into politics or governmental rifts, and I also dislike PEMRA’s decision of banning Indian content. But I am also against the award shows that were on-aired on our auspicious occasions like Eid which is supposed to be totally about Pakistan and Muslims. Furthermore, Pakistani actors/actresses are doing wonders throughout the world, and casting Indian talents in advertisements was a major thing that I hated. I believe that under the consequences, Pakistan had probably no other option but to put blanket ban on Indian content.
The way our Pakistani actors got treated in India recently by the hands of extremists groups and silence of Indian government indirectly supporting Indian extremists for being against Pakistani actors, were some of the reasons that actually have made our side to counter such Indian moves. Behaviour with our charismatic stars Fawad Afzal Khan, Mahira Khan and other artists was something that could not be digested easily.
Indian Film and Entertainment Industries came into immense pressure and were forced by Indian extremists to not include Pakistani artists in Indian cinema projects. Pakistani artists also received life threats due to which they had to step back from Indian projects. Pakistan condemned such incidents on high and demanded immediate justice with their actors. Also, Indian celebrities across the border wanted to express and promote art collectively along with Pakistani artists but they could not raise their voices due to the threats they themselves were receiving.
Under the circumstances, Pakistan probably had no other option but to ban Indian content. What I believe is that such matters should not be brought onto front but the way Indians were treating a Pakistani individual even on theatre and art level, banning Indian content becomes somehow justified.
On the other end, enough damage has been done so far via proxy culture wars across the border and there is no second opinion that it is India that has concluded the whole situation in this way. People on both the sides, support good entertainment whether through dramas, movies or stage theatres. Art and sports are the only ways through which it can be done to promote peace in the region.
The writer is a Research Analyst and holds a strong command over Entertainment Industry.
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