The government is expected to shortly allow screening of Indian movies in local cinemas as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday constituted a committee headed by Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb to look into the matter. The screening of Indian movies in Pakistani cinemas was blocked in October last year following escalation of tensions with India over the latter’s unprovoked ceasefire violation along the Line of Control. The ban was imposed by the Film Exhibitors Association of Pakistan. Other members of the committee are Adviser to the Prime Minister on National History and Literary Heritage Irfan Siddiqui, the commerce secretary and an intelligence officer. The terms of references of the committee were not mentioned in the official notification.
Pakistan had included the Indian movies in the list of banned items in the last decade under its import policy order. As per the procedures adopted over the years, the commerce ministry, under para-19 of the import policy order, issued no-objection certificates (NOCs) at the request of the information ministry for import of Indian movies.
The information ministry, in consultation with the commerce ministry, has prepared a procedure for allowing import of two to three Indian movies per month through NOCs for their screening in Pakistani cinemas.
Under the para-19, the power to condone the contravention in the import policy order was vested in the federal government. However, this power of the federal government was earlier used by the commerce ministry for issuing NOCs for import of Indian movies.
In the light of an August 2016 Supreme Court order, the commerce ministry has made an amendment to para-19 of the import policy order substituting the word “federal government” with “commerce minister with the approval of prime minister”.
As per the amendment, now the prime minister can allow the import of Indian movies.
Following the Uri attack and heightened tensions in India-held Kashmir, Pakistani actors were threatened and unofficially barred from working in Bollywood films. This was followed by a ‘ban’ by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority on Indian TV channels and entertainment programmes aired in Pakistan and cinema owners deciding not to screen Bollywood films.
The unilateral trade liberalisation in goods and services, after resumption of the composite dialogue in 2004, benefited India, whereas Pakistan’s exports stagnated.
Originally published in Dawn January 17th, 2017