Slackistan banned in Pakistan

Published: January 25, 2011
A scene from Hammad Khan’s upcoming Slackistan. Photo: Express

A scene from Hammad Khan’s upcoming Slackistan. Photo: Express

The highly-awaited indie film Slackistan, which deals with the lives of 20-somethings in Islamabad, has not been cleared by the Central Board of Film Censors in Pakistan, effectively banning the original film from being shown in Pakistan until cuts are made.

However, even if the cuts the Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) have asked for are made, the film will receive an adults-only ‘18+’ rating.

According to a press release issued by Slackistan director Hammad Khan, “The CBFC have demanded that the filmmaker remove all dialogue references in the film to the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden, as well as any mention of Islamic beards and related religious attire.”

In addition to references to the Taliban and bin Laden, the censors have reportedly objected to “the term ‘lesbian’ in one of the scenes, as well as all instances of bad language in English and Urdu uttered by characters in the film” and showing alcohol being consumed.

According to the Motion Pictures Ordinance 1979, “A film shall not be certified for public exhibition; if, in the opinion of the Board, the film or any part thereof is prejudicial to the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or amounts to the commission of, or incitement to, an offence.”

The ordinance also states: “No person shall make or arrange a public or private exhibition of a film by means of cinematograph unless the film has been duly certified for public exhibition by the Board.”

Khan is quoted as saying in the press release:

“The censor board’s verdict is oppressive, arbitrary and steeped in denial about life outside their government offices. Maybe the establishment’s view is that young Pakistanis saying words like ‘Taliban’ and ‘Lesbian’ represent a more potent threat than the bullets and bombs that are, day by day, finding increasing legitimacy in the country. Apart from being an undemocratic restriction on the filmmaker’s right of expression, the verdict shows the disdain with which the authorities regard local film culture and liberal ideas, in the face of growing extremism and intolerance.”

Slackistan has been shown at several film festivals abroad.

Last year, the Central Board of Film Censors also refused to clear Tere Bin Laden, musician and actor Ali Zafar’s debut Indian film. At the time, exhibitor Nadeem Mandviwalla told The Express Tribune, “This is a mindset in our governments that we don’t support legal ways. We want to screen Tere Bin Laden in Pakistan legally but it has been banned and now cable operators and makers of pirated DVDs will let people watch the film illegally.” The film’s title was also changed to Tere Bin for its Pakistan release.

Complete text of the press release below:


Hammad Khan’s independent film about westernised twenty-somethings in the Pakistani capital city of Islamabad, ‘Slackistan’, has generated a string of objections from Pakistani authorities, preventing its release in cinemas across the country.

The Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) have demanded that the filmmaker remove all dialogue references in the film to the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden, as well as any mention of Islamic beards and related religious attire.

The film contains several scenes, images and dialogues which make reference to the Taliban and the surrounding religious extremism and insecurity around the lives of the young people in the city.

The censors have also objected to the term ‘lesbian’ in one of the scenes, as well as all instances of bad language in English and Urdu uttered by characters in the film.

Further objections relate to the film’s characters clutching and sharing alcoholic drinks in the film. All suggestion of alcohol being enjoyed has been prohibited from the film.

The CBFC have also stated that, even if all cuts are made as demanded, the film would still receive a restrictive adults-only ‘18+’ rating.

The filmmaker Khan states, “The censor board’s verdict is oppressive, arbitrary and steeped in denial about life outside their government offices. Maybe the establishment’s view is that young Pakistanis saying words like ‘Taliban’ and ‘Lesbian’ represent a more potent threat than the bullets and bombs that are, day by day, finding increasing legitimacy in the country.”

“Apart from being an undemocratic restriction on the filmmaker’s right of expression, the verdict shows the disdain with which the authorities regard local film culture and liberal ideas, in the face of growing extremism and intolerance.”

‘Slackistan’ has had successful screenings at festivals in London, Abu Dhabi, New York, San Francisco and Goa. Mara Pictures released the film in the UK and were also handling its Pakistan release.

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Reader Comments (58)

  • Waqqas Iftikhar
    Jan 25, 2011 - 4:04PM

    welcome to big brother land….positively orwellian this…Recommend

  • Jan 25, 2011 - 4:05PM

    They should release the film as a torrent and then see it go wild & viral!Recommend

  • Dr. Ali Ahmed
    Jan 25, 2011 - 4:07PM

    wasn’t it a pakistani production, how come it got “indi’

    anyways, downloads zindabad, the producers should upload this movie as a social venture instead of just hoping for as business enterprise,Recommend

  • Jan 25, 2011 - 4:18PM

    Kool — looking forward to some torrent link :pRecommend

  • Talal
    Jan 25, 2011 - 4:21PM

    @Dr. Ali Ahmed:
    Indie means Independent, not Indian.Recommend

  • Sam
    Jan 25, 2011 - 4:22PM

    Dr Ali Ahmed doesn’t appear to be the sharpest tool in the shed.

    Indie refers to the film’s status as an “independent” production.

    And since you are a doctor, I would assume you are offering your services for free as a ‘social venture’ as opposed to making money off the mis-fortune of others?Recommend

  • Topak Khan
    Jan 25, 2011 - 4:27PM

    You will loose revenue but PLEASE RELEASE IT ON DVDRecommend

  • kiran
    Jan 25, 2011 - 4:29PM

    i agree with Faisal khan .. release it online .Recommend

  • Meera Ghani
    Jan 25, 2011 - 6:18PM

    How very sad and unfortunate not to mention hypocritical. Has anyone ever seen the movies being showed in our local cinemas?

    Dark times ahead for Pakistan, where its okay to incite hate and violence under the guise of “freedom of speech” but movie with certain words is not tolerated and a directors freedom of expression is curtailed. Goes to show how we’ve completed lost track of whats right and whats wrong and how skewed our social norms and values have become. It seems that in Pakistan everyone wears their religion on their sleeve. This obsession with piety and religiosity can only lead to unprecedented extremism and rampant lawlessness, which will not only be the end of the so-labeled “liberals” but everyone!!!Recommend

  • Jan 25, 2011 - 7:20PM

    Cant wait to watch the movie, is the torrent available somewhere?Recommend

  • Saad Durrani
    Jan 25, 2011 - 7:38PM

    Complete non-sense. A lot of Lollywood films have alcohol being “enjoyed”. Release it as a DVD or a legal torrent download through easypaisa transfers.Recommend

  • Malik
    Jan 25, 2011 - 9:02PM

    This will only make the movie popular. Why is censor board so keen on Taliban and Osama bin Laden?Recommend

  • Jan 25, 2011 - 9:06PM

    yep hearing “lesbian” would be bad for the audiences, but then chanting “shia kafir” just pushes you up the morality ladder… denial-istan zindabaad.Recommend

  • nayeem
    Jan 25, 2011 - 9:20PM

    yup release it online. cant u guys release it abraod or something? like going through a studio?Recommend

  • Danish+S.
    Jan 25, 2011 - 9:24PM

    Watched this movie at a South Asian Film Festival in New York (thank god they don’t have such stifling laws as they have in Pakistan) late last year. I have to admit, I enjoyed parts of the movie and was bored on others. The movie is pretty well made; there is a strong plot and some good acting, however, it is a very slow paced movie in general. As far as the movie being banned in Pakistan, I personally didn’t find any objectionable stuff in the movie, at least nothing that I have not already seen in Pakistani dramas (except for some strong language). The only thing I can think of being offensive to the Censor Board is the use of alcohol in the movie. However, as we all know, alcohol is not that uncommon in Pakistan anymore. Before, it was more or less confined to the upper class but now it has become quite wide spread. What do the censor board think, by not showing that in movies they can somehow control/curtail its usage in society? Absurd!Recommend

  • Waqar Hussain
    Jan 25, 2011 - 9:59PM

    Perched on the sofa in my room, as i read this news-piece on the laptop,, i can also hear one man speak in the microphone in the street outside my home addressing little crowd in some sort of a religious gathering. His addressed is all about:: Gustaakh-e-rasool deserves to be killed, america is conspiring against islam,palestine, kashmir, iraq, afghanistan, aljihad aljihad,,, our government is hands-in-gloves with the kafir imperialist america,,need for the khilafah,,blah blah…. Ban on slackistan and speech of maulana outside my home in the street all points towards one and the same thing.
    The darkness is fast closing in on us- Not only from this maulana’s hate-spewing microphone but also from the cold-conservative offices of CBFC.Recommend

  • Majid Maqsood
    Jan 25, 2011 - 10:07PM

    It makes no difference bec those who have interest of movie will download it, it can only hit business and making the people fool. Lex bin or alcohol are not new things in country. there is no any census or taboo to talk, otherwise our society is full with lexbin and it should be talked as things may go in right direction.Recommend

  • Jan 25, 2011 - 11:08PM

    After all, don’t we often claim that rules are being broken every single day and not being followed? If the censor board has acted ‘as per the rules’, lets sacrifice till the rules are amended. period .Recommend

  • Jan 26, 2011 - 2:40AM

    After all, don’t we often claim that rules are being broken every single day and not being followed? If the censor board has acted ‘as per the rules’, lets sacrifice till the rules are amended. period ..Recommend

  • Fizza Hassan
    Jan 26, 2011 - 9:32AM

    And here I was looking for a torrent of Slackistan. I want to watch the movie!Recommend

  • Jan 26, 2011 - 10:32AM

    So using these words is “prejudicial to the glory of Islam…” but the mujras in the local films are fine? I am sure we can find them on youtube and show it to the censorship wizards.

    As far as consumption of alcohol being shown in the film is concerned, that is done in the telly-series so many times. What is their problem?

    Live and let live!!Recommend

  • saad
    Jan 26, 2011 - 10:56AM

    wen the country issued more than 33 lisences this year for wine houses they forgot everything…..pure hypocritic act
    and 4GOD SAKE 4get talibans atleast in the movies….y r v all just revolving our lives around the talibans …….Recommend

  • Rukhsana Shama
    Jan 26, 2011 - 11:39AM

    This is absolutely absurd, absolutely ridiculous and absolutely irrational decision showing the double standards of our society. Recommend

  • Fasih Ali Khan
    Jan 26, 2011 - 11:53AM

    Pakistani society is already going on wrong directions. No one should be allowed to Increase the momentum of it this way. We’re Muslims, Please let us be what we are.Recommend

  • Adnan Khalid
    Jan 26, 2011 - 12:20PM

    This is BS :(Recommend

  • jazzup
    Jan 26, 2011 - 12:50PM

    Folkistan is better.Recommend

  • Dr. Ali Ahmed
    Jan 26, 2011 - 1:36PM

    sorry guys, m not into showbiz, thanks for enhancing my knowledge base,Recommend

  • asif nadeem
    Jan 26, 2011 - 3:51PM

    the produce must produce some “Gujjar” type stuff. this country is not for those who can think and express themselves……..if u dont agree then looke taseer’s murderRecommend

  • ahmed
    Jan 26, 2011 - 6:04PM

    Mocking beards and islamic attires is tantamount to mocking the middle classes of Pakistan. If such a piece is banned i am glad for itRecommend

  • Ayesha
    Jan 26, 2011 - 7:49PM

    It is amazing that the same censor board gives certificates to sleazy Indian movies to play all across Pakistan. And please don’t forget Ironman in which the open hints were all targeting Pakistan. I am a mother of two teenagers in Islamabad who attend similar schools as the kids in the movie. Really the scenario is not much different from what is being depicted in the movie. Its time that we wake up and face what is hitting us rather than just go with the all is well as long as we keep our eyes closed.Recommend

  • Boris
    Jan 26, 2011 - 8:59PM

    It does not sound like there will be much left after these edits.

    None of this is surprising. What should we expect from Pakistan, given recent events such as the killing of a politician for daring to question the blasphemy laws and the general prevalence of Saudi worship? I’m almost surprised that no heads are rolling already.

    Sounds like an interesting film, these are fast changing times in this new Internet Age, and it’s good to document the dilemmas facing all segments of society.

    Good luck to all Pakistanis, except those terrorising their neighbours.Recommend

  • Shayan Ahmad
    Jan 27, 2011 - 12:18AM

    This post made me look for its trailer on youtube. Whatever i have assumed from the trialer is that this movie neither revolves aroud the Taliban / Alqaida nor it provokes the use of Alcohol. Characters are talking the way a usual Islamabad univresity student tenants talk. Well i wish that Mr. Hamad and his team should consider the objections of CBFC as they followed the law and should cut those parts and release it countrywide. I hope couple of scenes would not disturb the plot of the movie.Recommend

  • Salman Ahmad
    Jan 27, 2011 - 2:23AM

    I am glad it has been banned. This kind of movie is only fit for YouTube.Recommend

  • GH
    Jan 27, 2011 - 11:59AM

    Pakistani Society is Clearly Divided in Two Extremes!!Recommend

  • JButt
    Jan 27, 2011 - 12:15PM

    Pakistan censor board people’s worth is to censor Punabi films with mujras. They don’t understand sophisticated stuff.Recommend

  • Sara
    Jan 27, 2011 - 12:42PM

    I thought only Hindus try to make moccery of word Pakistan.

    A few amongst us, who are still slaves in their mentality. There are some persons who without quoting reference and context calim that the Quaid-e-Azam wanted a secular country. Which is a white lie. I am quoting 2 quotes of Quaid e Azam:

    “Pakistan not only means freedom and independce but the Muslim Ideology which has to be preserved, which has come to us as a precious gift and treasure and which, we hope other will share with us”
    Message to Frontier Muslim Students Federation
    June 18, 1945

    “We should have a State in which we could live and breathe as free men and which we could develop according to our own lights and culture and where principles of Islamic social justice could find free play.”
    Address to Civil, Naval, Military and Air Force Officers of Pakistan Government, Karachi
    October 11, 1947 Recommend

  • Waqqas Iftikhar
    Jan 27, 2011 - 2:47PM

    @again the talk of ‘two’ extremes…..pray what is the damage, death toll and injuries from what are described as ‘liberal extremists’? no excuse for this nor for any of the other religion-rooted intolerance going around….no excuse whatsoeverRecommend

  • Prince Karim Agha Khan
    Jan 27, 2011 - 5:49PM

    I dont want the State to tell me what to do and see.Recommend

  • SharifL
    Jan 27, 2011 - 6:43PM

    What a shame. But the answers, may friend, are blowing in the wind. One day we may be asked not to have a shower without any clothes, because it is forbidden in certain books. Good night Pak film industry and welcome to lawlessness in the name of the same book.Recommend

  • moise
    Jan 27, 2011 - 7:07PM

    We all know actors from Islamabad can’t act. They need all this controversial thing to sell their movies and dramas.Recommend

  • shahrukh kazmi
    Jan 28, 2011 - 9:55AM

    @Saad Durrani: well how can saad durrani be wrong, He is always right :PRecommend

  • *Let there be light*
    Jan 28, 2011 - 10:00AM

    Showing Munni Badnam Huie is no problem for Sensor board in pakistan,but Slakistan is,bunch of monkeys they failed lahore film industry.And now we have to watch Munni and Sheela from India which is ok for them,but our industry should not produce any such thing.Recommend

  • Rashid
    Jan 28, 2011 - 10:20AM

    What a pitty, Most of the Moderate New Islam (term) muslims will be in favour of this film, (Mostly Women), What is the freedom, they even do not know the meaning of that, freedom of living,,, I am very dissappointed with the women of this age as they always keep saying about freedom and respect without any due cause. Let me tell you something this is Islam that bound us to respect woman, not the freedom of expression / western culture. I know this is not the topic, but I am totally against this sort of ignorance which is forbidden in Islam. I appreciate the Board for this nice work and I am sorry for the guys who were requesting the torrent.

    you want to westernize yourself, what is the reality we know everything about western culture, there is nothing excpet vulgur, do’nt care, no respect, many divorces, etc… but we want to go for that… why……. Recommend

  • Osama
    Jan 28, 2011 - 11:17AM

    Even the Name “Slack” is brining insult to my country. Forget Lesbian, Taliban, Alcohol… It should be banned for its abusive Name… Who gave these people the idea to make such movies !!!Recommend

  • Danish
    Jan 28, 2011 - 11:22AM

    There is no ban on mujra videos prevailing all over the country but a sensible movie like this has been banned. I just don’t get the psyche of our people….Recommend

  • Salman
    Jan 28, 2011 - 12:25PM

    I think we should stop making efforts to make issues out of things that matter to only to a real civilization. This is not a real civilization and such things are simply not possible here. Moderate people who live in peaceful non-mulla/fundo households should make an exit and just say goodbye and watch their country’s descent into disaster from a distance so at least it can be recorded with accuracy for the future abroad. An educated, moderate, peace-loving individual will never detonate themselves as a substitute for self expression because their life is valuable to them. It is because the mullahs know the worthless nature of their vulgar lives that they can be consumed by the rage caused mainly by class division and blow themselves as an act of self-expression (a savage’s idea of ultimate self expression); this has nothing to do with God.

    Having said that, I saw the trailer for Slackistan and found it embarrassing. The film seems not about being liberal in Pakistan. It wants to be ahead of that game. Its about a fantasy these people have of themselves. You can catch it in the rehearsed American facial expressions, in the ironic, self deprecating hipster poses assumed around the paraphernalia of substance abuse that is confused for liberalism. These poor things just want their American college friends to know that they can party too when they’re back home in Isloo, that in fact they can party more and better than their American counterparts. This, they feel will mobilize local and American youth on the streets in protest (with cigarettes and a case of Bourdeaux) to save their country and all the partying that needs to lived through.

    All this, however, is still not reason enough to put ban the film in the regressive way that it has been. Recommend

  • Arsalan M
    Jan 28, 2011 - 3:33PM

    For all we know the censor board could be right. It could also very well be an utterly useless movie. But this country (at least on paper) used to be secular and democratic where we the people should have the right to form our own opinions and not be directed by the government and this and that law of what is moral and what is not. By doing so the ‘system’ is just creating its own critics. We would not know if the movie is a bliss or an absolute ** till we are given the freedom of watching and deciding for ourselves. Last I remember our theaters and multiplexes are screening ‘non-Pakistani’ movies throughout the year that are both showing obscenity and alcohol-consumption. How are those movies getting an approval to screen?

    We are constantly crying about our dying industries, whether it is foreign trade or cinema. So if someone has attempted to rejuvenate the Pakistani cinema again, should they not even be given a chance to prove their worth.

    My suggestion to Hammad Khan is that while he would lose out on monetary returns, he should make the movie available online so at least he can get some recognition. The way our minds work, you keep doing something wrong a little too long and we start accepting it as the right thing. Not that I am suggesting that his movie is wrong but if he continues making these movies and releasing pirated version, sooner or later the ‘system’ would stop caring and allow them. After all our ‘system’ now allows non-Pakistani movies legally after losing a battle to control their pirated availability for 15 years. Recommend

  • Rashid
    Jan 28, 2011 - 4:55PM

    @ Thuns up to OSAMA–You are the ManRecommend

  • Jan 28, 2011 - 5:11PM

    The movie’s way to artistic for the censorship board to wrap their heads around. And even then, it makes absolutely no sense to ban a movie simply for its taliban or lesbian references. At best, PG-13 would’ve sufficed.Recommend

  • Hassan
    Jan 28, 2011 - 7:35PM

    I am a moderate Pakistani – educated in UK and now living in Pakistan – but even I am against this movie because of its name. ‘Pak’ has been replaced by a disgraceful word ‘Slack’. I think people who want this movie screened either dont have any brains or lack integrity and self respect. Recommend

  • Jan 29, 2011 - 3:49PM

    What a shame!Recommend

  • JButt
    Jan 30, 2011 - 8:24AM

    The movie promotes smoking which is not good.Recommend

  • Elisheva
    Jan 30, 2011 - 8:45PM

    @Fasih Ali Khan:

    Well, that’s YOUR opinion. If you don’t wanna watch it, don’t. Please don’t regulate others’ morality.Recommend

  • Nadia
    Jan 31, 2011 - 3:06AM

    those of you who can’t see beyond religion, should just get lost in the mountains of afghanistan or some such hole! wake up smell the coffee, theres all kinds of bad things going on in your ‘islamic’ republic of pakilandRecommend

  • Nadia
    Jan 31, 2011 - 3:09AM

    People ARE slack in pakistan, they are lazy and dont want to work – the rich kids live off their parents money and most of them are crooks who have made money running guns or drugs, and you guys should take to the streets and kick those who are running the country into the gound, OUTRecommend

  • Sam
    Jan 31, 2011 - 1:48PM

    I doesn’t know about the movie, however, here different views and observations………….. the thing i understood is in the movie only one face of the Pakistan have been represented which is not captured even 10% of the whole population and their norms and it is dilemma to potrey Pakistan in such manner………….. other than that now people think if they release movie in the name of Islam and muslims, they can cash it very well as i remebered 3 years ago one movie “Khuda key liey” also released representing people using Islam as a tool for their own purpose (only captured 10% to 15% of uneducated people living in Pakistan),
    The point is why don’t we make movies which will increase love for Pakistan and lessen the hatred, over and above its fashion now to pin point Molana’s and people having beard i know here the ppl commenting like that even don’t know the meaning of Molana…….. and why only objections raise for muslims that they have beared why not sikhs and jews…………
    the think is we are confused people and we don’t have any knowledge
    famous quote “I know that i don’t know but you don’t know that you don’t know”

  • Jeddy
    Mar 2, 2011 - 2:03PM

    As if banning any movie has stopped people from seeing them. Indian movies are still popular but they could not be screened for a long time because of General Ayub. That stupid general destroyed our film industry because they could not be shown in India.Recommend

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