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Ban on Pashto films sparks controversy

Published Aug 20, 2013 12:54pm
The owners have displayed the certificates at the entrances of the cinemas, saying they had not been violating the law as in the absence of any censor board in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, they were left with no option but to get certificates from Sindh. -File photo by Reuters
The owners have displayed the certificates at the entrances of the cinemas, saying they had not been violating the law as in the absence of any censor board in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, they were left with no option but to get certificates from Sindh. -File photo by Reuters

PESHAWAR: The recent ban on the screening of five Pashto films in the provincial capital has caused a controversy due to the government’s failure to legislate on matters related to motion pictures in the province.

The producers and promoters of these films claim that they have obtained the necessary screening certificates from the Sindh Board of Film Censor (SBFC).

Shama Cinema, Sabrina, Aeena Cinema and Arshad Cinema have been screening the films, including Zama Arman, Bhungi Lalia, Lufar, Shurt and Qurbani, since Eidul Fitr.

Though the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa home department issued directives to the Provincial Police Officer (PPO) and Peshawar’s commissioner and deputy commissioner to check the violation of the Motion Picture Ordinance, 1979, the owners of the relevant cinemas continue to screen the said films showing the SBFC certificates.

These owners have displayed the said certificates at the entrances of the cinemas, saying they had not been violating the law as in the absence of any censor board in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, they were left with no option but to get certificates from Sindh. Following the passage of the Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Act 2010, “production, censorship and exhibition of cinematograph films” have become the provincial subject and each of the four provinces have to make legislation in this respect.Prior to the amendment, the Motion Picture Ordinance, 1979 was applicable to the entire country and the Central Film Censor Board has been functioning under Section 3 of the said ordinance.

However, through the said amendment, the Concurrent List of the Constitution was abolished and the subjects mentioned therein including film censor are now the exclusive domain of the province.

In Sindh, the Sindh Motion Picture Act was passed in 2011 following which SBFC was set up the same year. Similar, the law was also passed in Punjab.

When contacted, Qamar Ali, spokesman for the home department, said until such time when the province enacted its own law, the Motion Picture Ordinance, 1979 was applicable to this province and unless the Central Board gave screening certificate regarding a film, it could not be screened here.

He said his department had received complaint from the Central board regarding the screening of the said five films without certificate from that board.

Mr Ali questioned how a film could be screened on a certificate received from Sindh as that certificate was only applicable to that particular province and not the entire country.

He said the department had issued directives to the concerned officials and now it was up to them to implement the order.

The home department claimed that these films were exhibited in blatant violation of provision of Section 4 of Motion Pictures Ordinance 1979, which clearly states that uncensored films could not be exhibited.

An official at one of the five cinemas told Dawn that the provincial government had been trying to punish them for its incompetence as it could not enact a law and establish a censor board despite their repeated requests to the culture directorate.

“We have been screening the movie as we are having proper certificate from Sindh Board. We have also shown the certificate to some officials who visited the cinema following which they did not insist on stopping the exhibition,” said Noshad Khan, an employee at Arshad Cinema.

He said when SBFC had declared their film fit for exhibition, then there was no reason available with the provincial government to ban these films.

Legal expert Shahnawaz Khan told Dawn that Article 270 AA Sub-Clause 6 clearly stated that despite the abolishing of the Concurrent List, the laws related to it would continue to remain in force until altered, repealed or amended by the competent authority.

He said unless the province enacted its own law, the Motion Picture Ordinance, 1979 would remain applicable to the province.

The expert said only the films approved by CFCB could be screened in the province until the local government legislated on motion pictures.