PESHAWAR, May 2: Leading advertisers in the provincial capital have smudged female faces on their billboards after the provincial government issued a warning that action will be taken against advertisements featuring women.

“We were left with no option but to paint all women faces so that the government or its supporters do not pull them down,” said managing director of a leading advertisement agency.

He told Dawn that last time his company faced losses of about Rs10 million when their boards were pulled down by MMA activists.

Women faces on billboards on the GT Road, University Road, Soekarno Square, Saddar Road and other important spots have been covered with grey paint.

NWFP Chief Minister Akram Khan Durrani and Information Minister Asif Iqbal Daudzai had warned multinational companies last week to remove billboards with women’s faces. Mr Daudzai had said that they would persuade the companies to remove all such boards voluntarily, otherwise the government itself would do the job.

When asked if they would spare billboards after smudging female faces, the advertiser said in lighter vein: “We have covered their faces just like the MMA’s woman MPAs cover their faces before the assembly session.

“We face financial losses because multinational companies launch uniform publicity campaign across the country. We have to ask them not to send advertisements with female pictures,” he said. “Why should they prepare separate ads for the NWFP.”

MMA activists led by a Jamaat-i-Islami MPA had, in May 2003, pulled down and smashed all the billboards bearing pictures of women. FIRs were registered against them but none of them was brought to the book. This incident had also led to transfer of the then NWFP chief secretary and the provincial police officer by the federal government. Thereafter there had been no billboards with female faces in the provincial capital. However, about a year ago such billboards started re-emerging.

Last year, MPA Mian Nadir Shah had tabled a draft law in the assembly against use of female photographs in advertisements. That bill known as the NWFP Prohibition of Use of Women Photographs Bill 2005, has still been pending debates in the assembly.