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LAHORE: Punjab Information and Culture Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, whose primary responsibility is to get good press for his government, has himself attracted bad press by using indecent remarks against film and stage actors at a public forum.

People from all walks of life chided the minister for his below-the-belt remarks against film and theatre actors.

As he banned on Thursday display of, what he says, indecent film signboards within and outside cinema halls, Mr Chohan had made this announcement a day earlier in a public meeting that was attended by women among others.

Explaining his mind about the removal of ‘vulgar and indecent film signboards inside and outside the cinema halls’, the minister said pictures of `half-naked’ women were displayed inside and outside cinema houses. For that`purpose’, he said, people go and watch porn.

After explaining ‘vulgarity’ in cinema houses, the minister turned to theatre and told the audience that the information and culture department told him that ‘theatre” was not under his domain. Saying that he was trying to bring this (theatre) in his jurisdiction, the minister added, “I would ensure that Nargis became Haji Nargis and Megha was on fasting for 300 days a year instead of 30 days (in Ramazan).”

The footage of the minister’s speech went viral on social and electronic media.

Shockingly, the audience cheered and clapped whenever the minister spoke against the actresses and the showbiz industry. Mr Chohan said that not only Indian movies the Pakistani theatre was also equally responsible for damaging the culture and showbiz industry in Pakistan. He said cinema owners should remove vulgar and indecent posters of women within three days. In case of violation, cinemas would be sealed after warning.

Both Nargis and Megha, famous stage actress of yesteryears, responded sharply to the remarks by Mr Chohan. Ms Nargis told a private TV channel that the minister should have chosen decent words while speaking about a woman, who has left the showbiz industry and is leading a peaceful family life abroad. “I reserve the right to approach court,” she warned.

Soon after, Megha also appeared on a private TV channel and said the minister should be ashamed to use indecent language about her.

Minister Chohan, known for using hard language and calling names of his opponents on TV talk shows, also attracted criticism on Thursday for using abusive language against the team of a private TV channel for running the clips of his old statement against railways minister Sheikh Rashid. While removing mikes, Mr Chohan uttered four letter words against the media team. This was captured on a mobile phone and its footage went viral causing embarrassment to the PTI’s newly installed government in the centre and Punjab.

Punjab Senior Minister Aleem Khan had to extended apology to the public, saying, “Chohan is a new minister, he will learn soon”.

Following backlash against him on social and electronic media, Mr Chohan also released his two video messages tendering apology to Nargis and Megha.

Addressing Nargis in a video message, Mr Chohan called her a “shining star of film and theatre industry” in Pakistan. He said Nargis was an ambassador of Pakistan in the world.

In the video message for Megha, he said she was an asset of the country. “We all need to work together and break the hegemony of the Indian film industry that left Pakistani film industry far behind with its better stories and depiction as well as use of latest technology,” he said.

Prime Minister Imran Khan might be feeling the heat of the controversies created by the statements and actions of his team in Punjab. He is coming to Lahore on Saturday for the first time after assuming the office of country’s chief executive. A host of issues (created by his hand-picked political team in Punjab) are waiting for his direct intervention.

Mr Khan is expected to meet and address the Punjab chief minister and his cabinet explaining his vision of Naya Pakistan and addressing the issues being created by his political team (within a first few days of the government).

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2018