KARACHI: Last weekend saw FocusPk – a first of its kind, production and entertainment conference spearheaded by Atiqa Odho – take place at a local hotel, providing a platform for industry experts to highlight and deliberate upon various issues plaguing it.
Amongst the many topics covered was film censorship in Pakistan. The panel, which was moderated by actor Samina Ahmed, included Bushra Ansari, Hameed Sheikh, Imran Aslam,Chairman Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) Mobashir Hasan and chairman Punjab Censor Board Usman Pirzada. Minister for Information Marriyum Aurganzeb was also present in the audience.
The event featured extensive discussions on the problems faced by producers and exhibitors when dealing with the censor boards. Ansari showed a deep concern regarding their lack of familiarity with art. “I suggest the placement of senior artists with the bureaucrats to ensure unbiased and sensible censorship of upcoming films,” she said. Ansari’s advice is important, considering the increasing level of progressive and liberal thought being displayed in Pakistani films.
Hasan, on the other hand, defended the censor board, stating that the panel already comprises of members of civil society, journalists, film critics apart from representatives of Military Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau.
Aslam expressed his apprehension towards how decisions are made in the censor board, claiming that they are often based more on personal whims. His sentiments were seconded by Pirzada, who stated the board has to stop acting on its own likes and dislikes as it is unprofessional.
Speaking about the ban on Pakistani film Maalik, Peerzada said that, as the representative of Punjab censor board, he was never in favour of the ban. “I was never in the favour of banning Maalik in Punjab. I think it was an illogical decision,” he said.
Further, the advantages and disadvantages of having one single censorship board across Pakistan, with standardised rules and regulations, was discussed. The idea was initiated by Sheikh, who pointed out how Balochistan does not even have a censor board and how problematic it is for local producers to travel from province to province in search of censorship clearance. Even Samina Ahmed asked, “Wouldn’t a single body of certification be more amicable for everyone?” to which the CBFC chairman completely agreed. However, there wasn’t as thorough a deliberation on the matter as it should have been.
Speaking with The Express Tribune, Hasan said that this time around, the censor board means business. “The censor board is ready to hold talks with those concerned, so as to explore various possibilities and amendments to the current censorship laws,” he said.
The minister had to leave the session mid-way but left a note expressing her eagerness to work on censorship laws in the future. She has also invited the present speakers for a detailed meeting on the matter in two weeks’ time.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2016.