It’s been over a month since the Central Board of Film Censors, under the Capital Administration and Development Division, was devolved into the Punjab Censor Board and Sindh Censor Board.
Earlier, the Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) worked under the federal ministry of culture. After the passing of the 18th Amendment, however, the screening of films became a provincial matter, and the power to give clearance to the screening of films went to the Punjab Censor Board and the Sindh Censor Board.
The rules and regulations, however, are yet to be finalised and both these boards have so far just been dealing with the censoring of local films.
“The CBFC is still giving permission to Indian and Hollywood films for screening after censoring them. This means that the CBFC gives clearance certificates to any film to be screened across the country. The rules are yet to be made, and it may be possible that an Indian or Hollywood film is allowed to be screened in Karachi and banned in Lahore, as two different censor boards will censor the film,” an official in CBFC who did want to be named, told The Express Tribune.
So far, though, the situation is different. He said that Punjab and Sindh are both censoring local films, and if a film gets a clearance certificate from either of the two boards, it can be screened countrywide. “They are no rules which can stop the screening of a film cleared by Punjab Censor Board in Sindh, or vice versa. This will happen only after rules of business are made,” he said.
The Express Tribune has learnt that so far no film has been censored by the Punjab Censor Board. “We are responsible for censoring films, but we can only censor them when they reach us. We haven’t received any film so far, which means no film has been made recently,” an official said.
Sources in the CBFC said that though it was responsible for allowing the screening of foreign films, the Sindh Censor Board is also censoring foreign films. “We are still functioning, but our job is just related to foreign films. Many people are saying that we have become dysfunctional, which is not true. The Sindh or Punjab Censor Board so far can only censor local films. They will censor foreign films only after the rules are made,” a CBFC official said.
Interestingly, at the time of Pakistan’s creation the censorship of films was a provincial subject and different boards were functioning at Lahore, Karachi and Dhaka under the Cinematograph Act of 1918. According to the CBFC records, films certified by one board could not be exhibited in another province without undergoing the process of censorship in that province. Sometimes, a film passed by one board was declared unsuitable for exhibition in the other provinces by their respective boards.
In order to bring uniformity in the decision of the boards, and to mitigate the inconvenience and financial hardship suffered by film producers/importers, the subject of censorship was centralised through enactment of the Censorship of Films Act of 1963. The head office remained at Rawalpindi from 1963 to 1975. As a first step, two branches of the Board were established at Rawalpindi and Dhaka, considering the geographical configuration of the country. Subsequently, on persistent demand of the film industry, one more branch of the Board was established at Lahore. After the fall of Dhaka in 1971, a new branch was established at Karachi in 1972.
In September 1979, the Motion Pictures Ordinance was promulgated which repealed the Censorship of Film Act of 1963, and the Cinematograph Act of 1918. And now, once again, after 64 years the censorship of films has become provincial subject.
“The work on Balochistan Censor Board is under progress. The CBFC is censoring Pashtu films as the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Censor Board has not yet been established,” CBFC officials said.
Pakistan Film Exhibitors Association Chairman, Zoraiz Lashari, said that uniformity should be there when it comes to the screening of films. “One film should be allowed screening throughout the country if passed by any censor board. Let’s wait till the things finally complete,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2011.