Pak cable hands defy HC ban on Indian content

Thousands of cable television operators across Pakistan are continuing to show Bollywood films and Indian TV content despite the Lahore high court ban. The operators are citing their high popularity and demand in the country, with the unstated reason being that these are money-spinners. The Lahore high court had issued an interim order on Tuesday to stop screening imported film unless these had proper documentation and sponsorship of a Pakistani national. The cable operators defiance would easily invite contempt of court notice, except that it would be virtually impossible for tens of thousands of cable operators to be simultaneously hauled up for the “offence”.

While the Pakistani film industry has been struggling, Indian films are big hits at the box office ever since former military ruler Pervez Musharraf eased restrictions on their import in 2006. But while owners of TV channels have made big bucks broadcasting Indian content, a few in mainstream channels believe India, too, should allow broadcast of Pakistani entertainment channels in India. “It should be reciprocal. Indian TV shows and movies have deep impact on the language in Pakistan,” said Jawad Hamid Raja, chief operating officer of AVT channels, a strong media group in Pakistan.

“Hindi words such as ‘namaste’, ‘maharani’ and ‘chinta’ have entered into standard usage in Pakistan. The Urdu spoken in Pakistan is so rich that it can contribute in the same manner in India,” he added. Some Pakistani producers and actors are happy with the court’s order but till still many believe that only competition and open markets will raise standards of Pakistani film industry. “Multiplexes have helped in making niche Pakistani films viable and contributed to a few Pakistani films turning commercial success. The most recent example is ‘Waar’ which is continuing to create box office records,” said Arshad Khan, a Pakistani film actor and producer.

Other actors are on record making a case for Pakistani entertainment. Recently, actor Laila Zubari told a Pakistani newspaper that telecasting foreign dramas should not be allowed as “foreign actors are not paying any taxes to our national exchequer”. The HC ban came on a petition filed by Mubashar Luqman, a controversial TV anchor, who claimed that many movies shot in India must be banned in Pakistan because they use fake documents besides covering the identity of their Indian sponsors.

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