Banning Maalik is a bad decision


Films are discussed for their artistic merit or entertainment value, but a new Pakistani movie, Maalik, said to be wanting in both departments, has attracted public attention for the wrong reason: ban by the federal government. Notably, Maalik was duly passed by the Central Board of Film Censors, and had been running for three weeks when someone in the Sindh government found it objectionable and ordered a ban (the province established its own censor authority following the 18th Amendment) terming it ‘biased’ for portraying a fictional chief minister and his party in a negative light.

Good sense, however, soon prevailed and within hours the real chief minister of Sindh intervened telling his culture ministry to revert the action, pointing out that it is against the freedom of expression. Then the federal information ministry stepped in to issue a notification decertifying the film.

The ostensible reason is stereotyping of different ethnic communities. Following orders to stop the film’s showings all over the country, officials came out to defend the action saying thousands of people were complaining about unfavourable depiction of Sindhis and Pashtuns and demanding it be taken off screens. Needless to say, diminishing the image of one or another ethnic community is unacceptable.

The government in the Pusthun home province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, however, did not seem to think there was any offensive profiling of the Pashtun people and said it would allow screening of Maalik. What might have provoked the ban is a matter of guess.

Made with the help of ISPR for the picturization of fighting scenes, Maalik reportedly shows violence and financial corruption in politics – subjects frequently taken up by Bollywood filmmakers. It is worthwhile to note also that there is nothing new about armed forces offering help for film projects. Hollywood and the Pentagon have teamed up for a number of films.

Whatever it is, that rankles the government about this picture, the ban is bad news in a country where the atmosphere is already unconducive to flowering of creative and intellectual freedoms. Several subjects are no-go areas. Bringing into disrepute certain entities is a cognisable offence, and expression of thought on belief-related issues can put lives on the line.

This nascent democracy cannot brook restrictions on exposing what a writer, a filmmaker, or an artist might think is wrong in society. Democratically-elected governments are expected to tolerate critical opinion, even ridicule, as long as any of it does not fall within the legal definition of defamation.

Source: Business Recorder