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ISLAMABAD: The Federal Cabinet has directed the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to bring a summary for import of all foreign films except Indian films as security agencies have opposed screening of Indian films in Pakistan, well informed sources told Business Recorder.

On September 7, 2021, Information and Broadcasting Division briefed the Cabinet that the Prime Minister’s Office directed the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to examine the possibility of allowing import of non-Indian Punjabi films in consultation with relevant stakeholders.

Accordingly, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting consulted the relevant stakeholders from private sector including the Film and Cinema industry and relevant Federal Ministries.

According to the Ministry of Information, it had been a long-standing demand of the Pakistan Film Producers Association to allow import of non-Indian Punjabi movies as such movies would revive the Pakistani cinema industry and it would also give impetus to production of local movies.

Keeping in view the above discussion, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting formulated the following conditions/criteria for import of non-Indian Punjabi films: (i) language of film must be pre dominantly in Punjabi;(ii) 60 per cent of the film shooting should be done outside of India; (iii) film ownership rights are held by a foreign producer, excluding Indians;(iv) certificate of origin of the film must be from a foreign country, excluding India; (v) all other aspects of National Security as mentioned in the Code of Censorship notified by the Government of Pakistan; and (vi) conditions for import notified through MOI&B’s notification of January 31, 2077 are fulfilled. The criterion was shared with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Interior for their views and comments.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs observed that most of these movies are made by Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) who would eventually earn revenues from ticket sales in Pakistan. The sales of revenue would, in turn, accrue to their country in the form of taxes and remittances paid by NRIs. Moreover, these films primarily violate the ban on Indian films and dramas as imposed by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

The Ministry of Interior responded as “after getting input from security agencies, it is opined that status quo should be maintained and any content linked with India should not be allowed for screening in Pakistan.”

Summarizing the case, the private sector stakeholders had shown enthusiasm at the proposal of allowing non-Indian Punjabi films while the government sector stakeholders were not in favour of changing the current policy on Indian content and allowing non-Indian Punjabi films into Pakistan.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had analyzed the case based on input and was of the view that the Non-Indian Punjabi films might be allowed to promote the cinema industry and act as catalyst for indigenous film productions, subject to the condition/criteria.

The summary was placed as an agenda item in June, 2021 and was deferred. The MoI&B resubmitted the summary with approval of the Minister for Information and Broadcasting.

After detailed discussion, the Cabinet directed the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to resubmit the case to cover all foreign films except Indian.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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