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Ostrich behaviour: Disallowing films & video games

March 31, 2013

IT seems that Pakistan has in the world of fiction and fictionalised narratives joined the ranks of countries such as the former Soviet Union as the ‘bad guy’. Increasing amounts of material prepared in primarily the Western world present the country as a place of violence, home to lethal extremist groups and espousing dangerous ideologies. Unfortunately, this is not too far from the truth; the country’s circumstances and positioning in the conflict in the region are such, that it provides ample material for those imagining chaos and crime. As a result, particularly in the world of fiction and gaming, there have been a number of cultural products in the recent past that offer up a view of Pakistan that is unpalatable to those wanting to see the country cast in a positive light in the world’s imagination.

Yet the state’s response to this situation is ludicrous. Smarting under the blows to its ego, it has begun to disallow such material. Earlier, it was the video games Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Medal of Honour: Warfighter. Recently, the film Zero Dark Thirty — a fictionalised account of the hunt for Osama bin Laden — failed to pass the censors’ scrutiny and was disallowed from being screened in local cinemas. Now, the latest instalment of the Hollywood GI Joe films, Retaliation appears to be following the same route, with officials from the Central Board of Film Censors saying that there’s no chance it will be allowed through. Who is the state trying to fool by burying its head in the sand in this manner? Will such measures help, particularly given the size of the pirated DVD market? If the country wants its image improved, what it needs to do is get its house in order.