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Minister for Regulations and Services Firdous Ashiq Awan said “A crowd is dissolved not a board because no board has such a large number of people." She further added: "It was done to support the upcoming film policy and strengthen the film industry.” — File photo

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry for Regulations and Services has disbanded the Central Board of Films and Censor (CBFC) and removed its chairman, Dawn has learnt. The CBFC is working under the Motion Picture Ordinance 1979 having a task to censor films.

According to one source the move was initiated on complaints of local cinema owners that over 150 PPP supporters were a source of nuisance for their businesses, since they were entering the premises every time a new film was aired at the local cinemas in Rawalpindi.

“The complaints were forwarded to the prime minister’s office,” said one official of the ministry.

Details gathered by Dawn indicate that CBFC ordinance had no clause for appointing film coordinators, who were issued passes to enter any cinema house without any ticket to ensure that “a film is shown as per the censor policy of the board.”

“The 160 coordinators were misusing their cards and were basically eyes and ears of the CBFC,” observed the official close to the developments. The official informed that ministry had also disbanded the board of CBFC.

“Even the CBFC board had 60 members other then the 160 coordinators and all were enjoying free entry to cinema houses,” revealed the official.

However, according to the MPO 1979, the board can have five members but the strength of board members was not defined in the ordinance and PPP jiayalas took benefit of the missing clause and expanded the board from five to 60 board members.

The official informed that board members position is not a permanent position in the government but they were enjoying Rs450 transport allowance every time they met for censoring a movie.

“These 60 board members, other than 160 coordinators, had censored only 72 movies from June 2011 to June 2012, which is a question mark on their role,” said the official. The official said that most of the 72 films were from Bollywood and Hollywood, while no Pakistani film could be censored during this period since not a single movie was produced by the local film industry in the same time span. “Are we suppose to have so many people for censoring hardly 70 movies a year?” asked the official.

“The chairman of the CBFC is also removed from his position,” said one official of the establishment division because the contract of the chairman was managed by the establishment division.

Commenting over the role of CBFC, after devolution a Law Ministry, the official said that other than Sindh, which has already framed its own rules for censoring films, around 150 cinemas across Pakistan are still regulated by the CBFC despite devolution.

After the 18th Constitution Amendment the portion of CBFC was dissolved and every province was asked to devise its own rules for films and managing the cinemas in the provinces.

“But for the moment since there is no legislation in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Balochistan, and Northern Areas the CBFC is still running the show because of the mandatory requirement, since cinemas can’t air any movie without the approval of the board,” added one legal wing official. “Once every province will have its own film censor board, the CBFC will be limited to the Islamabad Capital Territory only,” said the official.

However, it is pertinent to mention that ICT has no cinema since its three cinemas – Nafdec, Melody and Sitara Market Cinema were closed down either because of riots or were burnt, during arson and lack of business.

Minister Awan when approached maintained: “A crowd is dissolved not a board because no board has such a large number of people." She further added: "It was done to support the upcoming film policy and strengthen the film industry.”

She said that she had no idea whether any cinema house had lodged a complaint but the current action was done on merit and the censor board stands dissolved.

The new board, she said, would comprise people from the industry “so things will be fine." The minister did not make any comment on PPP jiayalas or their undue interference in cinema houses.