The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday issued notices to Pakistan Central Censor Board (PCCB) chairman and the federal government for submitting replies in response to a petition by Mr Mubashir Lucman. This was the second time the court was pushed to issue notices, since the court’s previous orders did not attract any response. The petitioner accused the PCCB of issuing illegal licenses for smuggled Indian movies being exhibited in cinemas across the country. Perhaps forgetting that there is a difference between speaking to a talk show audience and a court of law – reliance on evidence for passing judgments separating the two - the petitioner speculated that the Indian movies were promoting terrorism and lawlessness in the country. It would seem that not a day goes by when the headlines don’t read a story of a disenfranchised youth going on a killing spree after witnessing couples singing and dancing around trees on the big screen. Experts suggest that the madness is induced by the astonishing, unexplainable quick costume changes during songs, and the gut-wrenching tales of love and deceit that define the Indian cinema.
The court must be appreciated for picking the best out of the worst. It has decided to focus on the legality of the issue, and leave the rest for those who rely on it for bread and butter. Contrary to the general impression, the LHC is not at all for banning the exhibition of any films in Pakistan. Instead, it is only interested in ensuring that the concerned law is followed. Like any other, these imports too need to be properly taxed and regulated. There is no ulterior motive of freeing the land of ‘foreign culture’ or its movies, at least as far as the LHC is concerned. It is unfortunate that the PCCB has been so far reluctant to answer the court’s legitimate questions. If the petitioner’s claim of fraudulent practices by PCCB is correct, the court must rectify the situation by enforcing procedural rules and punishing those responsible. Such malpractice isn’t just bad for business, but also raises controversies that provide an avenue for hate-mongers to push their own skewed agenda. The fact is that the population loves the cinema. If the film is fun, no one questions where it came from. The same was the case with the people on the other side of the border until the Pakistani film industry experienced a regrettable decline. So, let us not allow individuals to politicize the issue. Sometimes, it’s just alright to sit back, relax and see the movies for what they really are; just movies.