Even after two censor-board reviews, the fate of the film Zindagi Tamasha remains uncertain. Where a national institution that specialises in the review of content on big and small screens both has not been able to find anything objectionable, the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights will now step in and screen the movie for anything deemed offensive. This committee reserves the right to call on the services of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) if further scrutiny is needed.

It is positive to see some activity on an issue that has been stalled due to the Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), but as far as duties and responsibilities are concerned, canvassing content in a film does not fall under the purview of a parliamentary body, or indeed a religious council meant to make recommendations on proposed bills. Relying on the human rights committee or the CII is a strange choice, when all other films in the past have gone through the censor-board, and this review has been accepted without question. What is lacking in the capability of the censor-board, or what indeed does the human rights committee stand to add in an area which is not their speciality, or even their job?

If there is something lacking in the current censor board, the government must acknowledge this, and look to improve it. Films that have millions invested in them cannot afford to be shelved over what has been officially sanctioned as completely acceptable content. This is bad for the industry and economy both, not to mention the vacuum this might create in the creative arts industry; if films can get blocked over allegations, other filmmakers will not relish the prospect of making anything but the most basic content.

Beyond this one film, institutions must be trusted to carry out their mandated duties, without any interference or overlap from other branches of the state. Strengthening existing systems should be prioritised, and hopefully, the parliament or other bodies will not have to intervene on each other’s behalf.