Life in a circus

 
January 24, 2020

Why should the Council of Islamic Ideology be assembling to watch a movie to decide whether it can be released for public consumption? The country’s main censor board and the provincial censor...

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Why should the Council of Islamic Ideology be assembling to watch a movie to decide whether it can be released for public consumption? The country’s main censor board and the provincial censor boards, comprising individuals from many walks of life, had already approved Sarmad Khoosat’s film ‘Zindagi Tamasha’, which was originally due to go before audiences today. Problems arose after the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan stated that it planned to stage a protest against the film, despite the fact that the group had – like other people in Pakistan – watched only brief trailers of the film. Khoosat has also, more alarmingly, said that he has been receiving threatening calls and messages regarding the movie. While the TLP has – without having seen the movie – labeled it anti-religion, Khoosat has said that the purpose of the film was to build tolerance in society and that he had no intention of mocking religion or clerics.

The main question is how a single group or mob can be allowed to intervene in the question of whether or not a movie should be released. The production company has no doubt already spent millions on the venture and the farce we have seen now will only deter people from investing in the film industry or coming out with anything creative in the entertainment sector. Following threats of protests by the TLP, the government referred the movie to the CII and asked the producers to delay its release. This is a dangerous step. It means that any group that has the threat of violence on its side can arm twist the state into stopping a TV production, a book, a theatrical performance or a movie from reaching people. A well-established mechanism involving censor boards already exists to scrutinize movies and determine if they are suitable for mass viewing. It is impossible to understand why this role has suddenly been handed over to the CII, a statutory body, the decisions of which are not legally binding – and why the government has permitted itself to be effectively blackmailed by a group apparently seeking to project itself back into the limelight.



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