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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

PEMRA and the fate of Indian shows

News Analysis |

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has decided to approach the Supreme Court against an interim order of the Sindh High Court to allow Urdu- 1 to air Indian teleplays. This news came after Urdu-1 managed to pull some strings and get permission to air these shows by the Sindh High Court.


In the interim order, the court has directed that the operation of the show-cause notices dated July 10, 11 and 12 were suspended and Pemra was restrained from issuing any further show-cause notice on the same facts and grounds as that of earlier notices.

The fate of transmitting Indian shows in Pakistan and Pakistani shows in India has always depended upon the relationship between the two nations. The escalation along LOC or the accusations of terrorism leads to a strain in relations and also a ban on others TV serials and films. Indian movies and dramas are popular in Pakistan. Similarly, Pakistani dramas are gaining popularity in India as well hence both industries benefit greatly from the audience present on the other side of the border. Thus, these shows aired in across the border amounts to massive chunks of their overall revenue.

Read more: Pakistan’s culture of Politics thrives on the many Nihal Hashmis

Pakistan’s Line of argument

The airing of Indian content on electronic media channels was, initially,  banned by the authorities on October 19, 2016, following the brutal killings of innocent Kashmiris, the use of pellet guns in India-held Kashmir and the killing of Burhan Muzaffar Wani.

PEMRA cites various reasons for the ban on Indian serials and movies in Pakistan. These bodies argue that the shows of Indian origin are inappropriate in the light of religious beliefs held dearly by the “Islamic Republic”. One might argue that western shows, often watched by the elites, are more if not equally “inappropriate” yet we do not see any action being taken against them. In fact, another line of argument is that unlike most Indian Dramas, which reflect many similarities in the two cultures, western dramas, shows, and movies include content that generally defames the religion of Islam by portraying its false image.

Read more: Should Indian movies be banned in Pakistani cinema! Why?

The Indian effect

“This decision will definitely affect the cultural exchange between the two countries. I have grown fond of Pakistan due to the love I have got from my fans there. We connected over my show. Does the [Pakistani] government want to cut off the mutual ties that exist now?”-Indian TV star Divyanka Tripathi.

The Indian dramas which are aired and watched by a majority of Pakistani households do often contain content which many in this country would frown upon. Issues such as Indian norms in weddings, the Hindu caste system, the portrayal of some “inferior” groups in the country, and the state of Muslims which is rarely but incorrectly portrayed and viewed often, is absorbed by the population which mostly include naive “sponges” who would absorb any thing. This results in a large population of the country coming out living their lives in ways considered inappropriate in our society.

Krishna had hidden the clothes of some bathing women and when these bathing “low caste” girls begged for the return of their clothes, Krishna demanded that they come out of the water with their hands raised instead of covering their bodies. The Gita

Many people start using Hindi terms without realizing it, and practices such as Diwali celebrations have started to become popular through out the country. Another problem is the constant show of Hinduism as a religion. Many of these shows frequently show the worship of idols, which is forbidden in Islam. Many children cartoons and shows aired from India, which is incredibly popular among the youth, often end up showing Hindu gods as heroes, which often just don’t make sense, such as shows in which the God Krishna is portrayed as a savior and a Godly character.

Read more: Identity Crisis: Who is Pakistani and who isn’t?

The way forward

“Nothing can stop entertainment. People who love Indian shows will find a way to watch them, be it online or through pirated means…The Pakistani government’s decision might affect the channels, but only in a minuscule way. What will be interesting to see is how this decision affects the channels that air Pakistani shows in India.”-Actor Iqbal Khan

Culture and history are two factors which can enhance people to people contact between the two beleaguered countries. The fate of these shows should not be determined by politicians or for that matter by the religious fanatics. PEMRA must formulate policies which may lead to the enhancement of our own film and drama industries. The censor board must play its role and delete content which might be offensive or inappropriate. And finally, PEMRA should allow the airing of most of the shows so that media houses and channels can at least survive if not make a profit, as a business.